David Knights' Weblog

January 9, 2019

Movie review: Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 12:28 pm
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This is the fourth entry in the Thin Man series and the weakest of the four so far.  Not that its bad, it isn’t.  It just doesn’t have as much of the interplay between Nick and Nora, which is the heart of these films.  This may be, in part, due to the presence of Nick and Nora’s child, Nicky, who was a baby in the last film, but who appears to be about 5 in this film.  The film also stars famed acting teacher Stella Adler in one of her only 3 or 4 film roles.  Also, a very young Donna Reed, plays a key role.  This is several years before her breakout in It’s A Wonderful Life and decades before her sitcom.

For this film we are back in San Francisco.  Nick and Nora and their son Nicky are ensconced in the hotel St. Cloud.  This is interesting, as we established previously, Nick and Nora have (had) a home in San Francisco, which they returned to at the beginning of the second film of the series.  Have they sold it?  Is it just a continuity gaff? We don’t know.  When the last film (released in 1939) ended, Nick and Nora were celebrating Nicky’s first birthday.  As this film opens, Nick and Nicky are walking in the park together and Nicky appears to be about 5, which would put the events of the film occurring about 4 years after the end of the last film.  Young Nicky’s play outfit is a soldier’s uniform, and it serves as a reminder that the film was shot in August 1941 as Europe was at war and the US was gearing up it’s military.  The film was released in November 1941, only a few weeks before Pearl Harbor.

The film features a scene of the, at the time, brand new San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge.  It also features a scene at a wrestling match, giving the viewer a view of the early years of the development of professional wrestling.  As usual, the film ends with Nick gathering all the suspects together and figuring out who the killer is.  In the climactic scene, Nora gets to play the hero, wrestling Nick’s gun away from the revealed killer as he was about to shoot Nick.  It turns out the gun was unloaded, but of course Nora didn’t know that.

In the course of watching these films, I did learn two interesting things. 1. The original Thin Man film was nominated for an Academy Award.  2. Though they starred in 14 films together, including the 6 Thin Man films, and had fantastic screen chemistry, Powell and Loy were never romantically involved in real life, unlike a lot of screen couples of the time. (i.e. Bogart and Bacall, Gable and Lombard, etc.)

I’d give this film, 4 out of 5 stars.


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