Wednesday, April 07, 2010

“That's Mr. Charles, isn't it? This is a cocktail, isn't it? They'll get together.”

And next thing you know, its time for 1941’s Shadow Of The Thin Man, the last of the Van Dyke directed films. After this one, the franchise would change quite a bit for the last two films. And no, Myrna Loy does not look like that horrible, horrible monster in the poster.

So, Nick & Nora are back in San Francisco (again) and happen to arrive at a race track just as a whole bunch of cops swarm the place investigating the murder of a jockey who squawked about fixed races. Nick tries to stay out of it, despite the urgings of an eager reporter and friend and the deputy director of the racing committee. Well, Nick gets caught up in it anyway when the reporter gets arrested for the murder of another reporter, and by now you should be familiar with the drill.

Nick Charles: William Powell again, who’s ability to know when its time for a cocktail borders on the supernatural at this point. Still awesome and still likable.

Nora Charles: Myrna Loy is more proactive in this one, needling Nick into taking her to a wrestling match (where the next murder happens). She and Powell are still awesome together. How awesome? They made fourteen movies together, counting the six Thin Man films.

Nick Charles, Jr.: Richard Hall is a minor presence in the movie and doesn’t get in the way of the plot. The one scene where the Charles family sits down for a meal and Nicky orders his father to drink milk instead of a cocktail is priceless.

Paul Clarke: Barry Nelson is the reporter friend who gets framed for murder. Your standard ‘30s-‘40s supporting character male.

Molly: Donna Reed (yes, THAT one) is Paul’s fiancee and the secretary for Link Stephens, the crook who runs the gambling rackets in town.

Major Jason I. Sculley: Henry O’Neill is trying to put a dent in the local crime scene and unhappy that Nick refuses to help out at first.

“Whitey” Barrow: Alan Baxter is a crooked reporter in Stephens’ pocket, whitewashing stories involving the racketeer. Whitey’s also blackmailing Link’s girl and owes some people money, so its no major surprise that he ends up dead.

“Link” Stephens: Loring Smith is a crime lord who runs most of the shady gambling businesses in town.

Fred Macy: Joseph Anthony is Link’s lieutenant, a smug little bastard who’s alibi isn’t as air tight as it seems.

Claire Porter: Stella Adler is Link’s girl who’s been fooling around with Whitey on the side. Turns out she’s hiding more than she lets on too.

“Rainbow” Benny: Lou Lubin is a small time bookie working for Link and Whitey owes him a lot of money. He’s pretty much the guy everybody’s looking for.

Lieutenant Abrams: Same Levene is back as the cop on the scene. His comic mugging for the camera makes a welcome return.

Maj. W.S. Van Dyke II for the last time on a Thin Man movie. Solid as always, though sadly “One-Take Woody” would commit suicide in 1943 while suffering from terminal cancer. Poor guy.

This time it was Harry Kurnitz & Irving Brecher on screenplay duties and things progress along as usual. By this point, the formula of the films was really entrenched and you’d have to try hard to screw it up. I also liked the gag about how Nick’s ability to sense alcohol nearby was essentially supernatural by this point.

David Snell’s score does the job and that’s about all I can remember.

Shadow of the Thin Man marks the end of the W.S. Van Dyke era of Thin Man films. Myrna Loy would take a break from acting to support the Red Cross during World War II and it would be a few years before the next film. Things get shaken up a little bit.

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