1. The Thin Man (1934)
Of course it's The Thin Man. William Powell again, making his fourth appearance on this list, teamed with the Queen of Hollywood herself, Myrna Loy, and rewrote the rule book. Director Woody Van Dyke (known in the trade as "One-Take Woody" for his breathless, no-nonsense directing style) put it best when presenting a fabulous radio version of the movie on the Lux Radio Theatre:
"There was something else about the book that struck me. Here was something new and fresh, and very charming. A romance between a man and his wife. It's the story of a couple of kids that understood each other, and had a blessed confidence in each other. Beneath all the casualness and all the wise-cracking, there's a lovely wholesome relationship. Something really deep and sweet and inspiring. Well, we decided to make the picture. Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich wrote a swell script. William Powell and Myrna Loy played the parts, and how. They played them beautifully because Powell was just Powell and Loy was just Loy. Both of them wisecracking all the time, and clowning right through the picture"
The story begins with Clyde Wynant (the "thin man" of the title), an eccentric, grouchy inventor going missing. His daughter (Maureen O'Sullivan) enlists Nick Charles (Powell), a recently retired detective now married to wealthy heiress Nora (Loy), along with their precocious fox-terrier, Asta, to look into it. Soon, bodies start to appear, and the concensus seems to be that Wynant is responsible, but Nick isn't so sure.
The entire film, reshoots and all took 16 days. This in a time when the average film took a month to shoot. The script, cast and director just clicked from the off. Van Dyke hit it on the head when he said that this was something fresh.
Nick and Nora Charles are the best thing that ever happened to detective movies. Deeply in love, and permanently sozzled on martinis, their chemistry is movie gold. Never before had audiences seen a married couple so in love, so quick with an affectionate retort, and quite so joyfully plastered whilst solving their crimes. Their playful, yet utterly devoted relationship was a smash with audiences of the time. It was such a hit that it spawned five sequels, and was even nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
As is obvious from the list, Powell was a seasoned performer of detective movies, but it was in 'The Thin Man' that he excelled. As the late Roger Ebert said, Powell "is to dialogue as Fred Astaire is to dance. His delivery is so droll and insinuating, so knowing and innocent at the same time, that it hardly matters what he's saying". It was Powell and Loy's second movie together (the first being 'Manhattan Melodrama'), and they got on so well, that they made fourteen different films with each other. It's clear to see why. The screen pops when they're together.
If you haven't seen The Thin Man, you're in for a treat. Pour yourself a long line of martinis, "from here to here", relax, and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Killer Lines (So many...):
Reporter: "Say listen, is he working on a case?"
Nora: "Yes, he is"
Reporter: "What case?"
Nora: "A case of scotch. Pitch in and help him"
Nora: "Pretty girl"
Nick: "Yes. She's a very nice type"
Nora: "You got types?"
Nick: "Only you, darling. Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws"
Nora: "I read where you were shot, five times in the tabloids"
Nick: "It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids"
Nora: "You know, that sounds like an interesting case. Why don't you take it?"
Nick: "I haven't the time. I'm much too busy seeing that you don't lose any of the money I married you for"