The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

Directed by Richard Thorpe

Of the six Thin Man movies, it is number five, The Thin Man Goes Home, that is the weakest. The reason is simple: too much Nick and Nora and not enough whodunit. This is the one movie of the six that doesn’t seem to understand what makes the Thin Man movies work.

This movie knows the appeal of the Nick and Nora characters, played by William Powell and Myrna Loy. It also knows what aspects of their relationship are appealing. What it doesn’t get is that the appeal really only exists in context — the whodunit. Without that the movie risks becoming a cake that is more icing than cake and ultimately unsatisfying.

In other words, it overplays the relationship.

Each movie following the first, The Thin Man, adds something new to the Nick and Nora mix and it is always a domestic element, such as the ending of the second movie, After the Thin Man, where we find Nora is pregnant. In the third, they have a baby and so the series go.

In number five, The Thin Man Goes Home, the new element is Nick’s parents. He and Nora go back to Nick’s hometown for a visit with his mother and father. (In this movie, they leave their son at home — that element is dropped.)

This would be fine and a not unwelcome variation except the movie starts getting a little too cute and a little too focused on the antics on the homestead. The actual crime that is to be solved becomes an afterthought.

In previous movies, the introduced domestic element — a child — is worked a bit in the first act but is quickly dropped as the movie allows its engine to run, solving the crime.

The detecting aspect — the solving of the crime — is never the movie’s key. It’s simply an excuse to allow Nick and Nora to be Nick and Nora. But it is still an important part and it is in the way they are themselves going about solving the crime that the real appeal lies. It isn’t Nick and Nora “at home” that appeals; it’s Nick and Nora “at work,” which they are good at but never take too seriously.

The other troubling element in this movie is how it makes Myrna Loy the foil for William Powell. Over the movies the emphasis grows on Powell as Nick being the real detective. Nora increasingly is a Watson to his Holmes.

In The Thin Man Goes Home, however, Loy’s Nora becomes too much a joke with pratfall and almost “dumb blonde” moments. The pairing is attractive as equals, not with one being the other’s fall guy.

Oddly, the same is done with Powell’s Nick. He doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right. There are pratfalls and awkward comic moments that mount and as they do begin to suggest a Nick who isn’t quite as suave as we had pictured him.

So a number of things go wrong in number five of the Thin Man movies. It ends up being the one that I could have done without. Despite some wonderful moments, when it wrapped I found it disappointing.

The Thin Man Series:

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