Song Of The Thin Man


Rating 2¾

Directed by Edward Buzzell

Written by Steve Fisher and Net Perrin, with additional dialogue by James O’Hanlon and Harry Crane, from an original story by Stanley Roberts

Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Keenan Wynn, Gloria Grahame, Leon Ames, Patricia Morison, Philip Reed, Jayne Meadows, Ralph Morgan, Don Taylor, Bruce Cowling and Dean Stockwell

Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) attend a charity function on a ship moored in New York Harbour that is used as a night club where gambling is permitted. A musician is murdered and Nick soon finds himself forced to investigate.


‘Song of the Thin Man’ was the sixth and final film in the series, released in August 1947, three years after the fifth film, ‘The Thin Man Goes Home’, and 13 years after the original film, which was based on the famous 1934 Dashiell Hammett novel. As with the preceding film, there are new writers and a new director for this final excursion. Edward Buzzell also directed the late-period Marx Brothers films ‘At The Circus’ and ‘Go West’, both of which contain moments of the free-wheeling anarchic comedy that made them famous, but are a pale shadow of the brothers at their very best. Amongst the various writers credited with contributing to the screenplay is Nat Perrin, who provided additional dialogue for the classic 1933 Marx Brothers film ‘Duck Soup’.

This sixth outing displays very obvious signs of wear and tear. There is even a suggestion in the screenplay that Nick and Nora are “past it”, with the generation gap depicted via their failure to understand the slang talk at the jazz parties they attend in search of clues to help solve the murder. Herein lies one of the problems with the film, with its entirely unrealistic portrayal of the “younger generation”, which is just as false here as it would be later on when film and television turned its attentions to 1950s and 1960s youth culture. Of more concern is the fact that at each of the after-hours jam sessions where the various jazz musicians congregate there is not a single black person to seen anywhere.

On the plus side, the screen chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy shines through and the affectionate banter between Nick and Nora still occasionally sparkles. There are even a few great lines of comic dialogue that very nearly match the superior quality of the earlier films. Even below par Powell and Loy are a notch or two above the rest of the pack. The climactic scenes in which the identity of the killer is revealed seem rushed and do rather fizzle out, but all things considered, the film is thoroughly enjoyable, even if overall it is clearly quite a long way below the series at its very best.

Gloria Grahame is featured as a jazz band singer in one of her first film roles. One of the screen’s great femme fatales, she was nominated for an Academy Award in 1947 for her performance in the film noir ‘Crossfire’ and won an Oscar in 1953 for ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’. Keenan Wynn had a long and busy career, including his role as Willard ‘Digger’ Barnes in the hugely successful television series ‘Dallas’. Dean Stockwell, who was just eleven years old at the time of ‘Song of the Thin Man’, plays Nick Charles Jr. In a career that has so far lasted more than 60 years, he has appeared in cult classic films like ‘Paris, Texas’ and ‘Blue Velvet’ and is currently featured in a recurring role in the critically acclaimed television series ‘Battlestar Gallactica’.

Review posted 4 March 2009


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