The Thin Man Goes Home


Rating 3

Directed by Richard Thorpe

Written by Robert Riskin and Dwight Taylor, based on an original story by Robert Riskin and Harry Kunitz

Characters created by Dashiell Hammett

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Harry Davenport, Lucile Watson, Edward Brophy, Lloyd Corrigan, Donald MacBride, Gloria De Haven, Anne Revere, Leon Ames, Helen Vinson, Donald Meek, Minor Watson, Morris Ankrum, Anita Bolster, Irving Bacon and Ralph Brooks

Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) take a train from New York City to Sycamore Springs, the small town where Nick grew up, to visit his parents and celebrate his birthday. Nick’s father, an eminent local doctor (played by Harry Davenport), has always disapproved of his son’s lifestyle, drinking and chosen profession.

Nick is there for a vacation, but when Peter Berton (Ralph Brooks), a young would-be artist, is shot dead on the doorsteps of the Charles’ family home, he gets to work investigating the murder and unravelling the tangled web of secrets hidden by the inhabitants of the seemingly quiet and sleepy local community.


The fifth film in the series, ‘The Thin Man Goes Home’ was released in December 1944, three years after ‘Shadow Of The Thin Man’. Production was originally due to start in 1942, but Myrna Loy refused to make the film at that time, instead leaving Hollywood for New York City to marry for the second time and concentrate on her wartime work for the Red Cross. It was intended to have Irene Dunne assume the role of Nora Charles, but in the end production was delayed until Loy was once again available. She was divorced during the making of the film. William Powell and Irene Dunne later played husband and wife in the 1947 film ‘Life With Father’, for which Powell received a best actor Academy Award nomination.

There are new writers and, for the first time, a new director (Richard Thorpe, the original director of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, who was sacked two weeks into the production of that film) and producer, Everett Riskin, the brother of writer Robert Riskin. He took over from Hunt Stromberg, who produced the first four films. Stromberg had been one of the so-called “big four” executives at MGM (the biggest of the Hollywood film studies) during the 1920s and 1930s and was once the most powerful producer in Hollywood. He left MGM in 1942 to become one of the first independent film producers. Robert Riskin was a hugely successful screenwriter, whose credits included the classics ‘It Happened One Night’, the first film to win all five major Academy Awards (best film, director, actor, actress and screenplay), ‘Mister Deeds Goes To Town’, ‘Lost Horizon’ and ‘You Can’t Take It With You’. He was married to the actress Fay Wray, of ‘King Kong’ fame.

The franchise was starting to become a little tired at this stage and the first thirty minutes of the film is not especially good. The jokes are a little forced and the two leading players are a little old for the portrayal required of their characters by the screenplay. This is particularly true of William Powell, who was 52 years old when the film was released. He was only thirteen years younger than Lucile Watson, the actress who played his mother. However, once the murder has occurred and the investigation begins the film picks up enormously, even if it is not quite up to the standard of the earlier films.

All in all, ‘The Thin Man Goes Home’ benefits from its new setting away from the big city (either New York or San Francisco) and is an enjoyable addition to the series.

Review posted 1 March 2009


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