Its 3:22 am
The cheetah and I have been all over the place filmwise this summer. We have seen a lot of excellent short films as well as outstanding sci-fi dystopian dramas as well. But we felt we needed to get back to our roots so to speak and that means reviewing another classic film from our friends at the Warner Brothers Archives.
Now we have already reviewed one Thin Man film which you can find here. I would have liked to review this series in order but given the fact I’m getting to them all is good enough for us.
“Song of the Thin Man” is the sixth and final one of the series which starred the fantastic William Powell and the lovely Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles,one of the finest pairs of investigators in American film history. While the series is full of quick wit,sassy charm and Asta,it also had some nastiness when you take in the murder mysteries Nick and Nora had to deal with. Its probably the most surprising aspect of the Thin Man series. So how the final mystery play for our dynamic duo?
The film opens with Nick (Powell) and Nora (Loy) on a large party yacht hobnobbing with a high society crowd. Nora wants Nick to have fun with some “normal” people instead of the shady ones he sometimes hangs with. They run across a pair of “pals” of Nick’s whom Nora points out have showed their son,Nick Jr,how to open a safe in 15 minutes.
The entertainment is being brought by a top flight jazz band led by Tommy Drake (Phillip Reed) who is looking to go big after the show having signed with big time promotor Mitchell Talbin (Leon Ames)
The band includes a young rising star in clarinet player Buddy Hollis (Don Taylor) who has a flame for singer Fran Page (Gloria Grahame). Fran doesn’t feel the same way and that causes Buddy to drink a little too much and it affects and creates conflict between Hollis and Drake.
After the show,the yacht’s owner Phil Brant(Bruce Cowling) isn’t pleased and talks to Drake about what happened,Drake drops the bomb that he is leaving Brant and his small pay behind and he rubs it in Brant’s face…..causing Brant to withhold Tommy’s pay knowing Drake is in deep water with gangster Al Amboy for 12k (a LOT of money in those days.)
Drake tries to get an advance on the money from Talbin who isn’t so keen on that idea and with Amboy on the yacht with his boys,Drake makes a daring move. He attempts to steal the money but is shot and killed by a unknown shooter.
Meanwhile Brant is attempting to dance with his girl,the well to do Janet Thayer(Jayne Meadows) of whom her doesn’t approve of. He thinks Brant is beneath his daughter which of course causes drama between Janet and her father. The young couple discuss their future plans which include eloping.
The next morning at the Charles apartment,the murder is in the newspaper and as Nick reads it,Nick Jr. attempts to get out of his piano lesson of which Nora will have none of that. This is quite a funny scene as Nick’s newspaper is called on to help with that piano lesson.
There is a knock on the door and its Phil Brant and Janet Thayer,they are looking for help as they are considered the chief suspects in Drake’s murder. As the two couples talk,someone shoots into the Charles apartment and missing everyone. Nick agrees to help just as the police show up…of which Nick then surrenders Brant and Janet!!
Nick sneaks onto Brant’s yacht,the S.S. Fortune,along with Asta to poke around.He finds that Drake’s debt to Amboy had been paid off which was written on a piece of sheet music. Nick recovers this and as he heads off the boat,he runs into Drake’s band who are collecting their gear. Nick meets one of the musicians,a player named Clinker (Keenan Wynn) who lets on that Tommy had plenty of enemies,including the unstable Buddy Hollis.
Picking up Nora,the couple visit Janet Thayer who has been released from jail,Phil Brant is still locked and she isn’t happy about it. But when Nick shares a clue to Janet about her father,Janet gets a phone call and leaves with Nick and Nora following….which leads them to a unexpected victim.
Nick knows he needs to solve these murders but its Nora who puts him on the right track and leads to a thrilling showdown at the place this adventure started,on the S.S. Fortune where not everything is what it seems……..
What a complete joy “Song of the Thin Man” is. It has all the elements that made this series on the most fun then and even more fun now in seeing how many of Hollywood’s Golden Age stars got their starts.
Three names should jump right out and that would be Keenan Wynn who had a long career as a character actor in many TV shows and films. The other is Jayne Meadows who later married famed comedian Steve Allen. She was the older sister to Audrey Meadows who latered starred on “The Honeymooners” with Jackie Gleason.
Gloria Grahame,who played singer Fran Page,was a staple in many film noirs as the femme fatale. She was nominated for a Oscar in 1947 for her role in “Crossfire”. Her life was a troubled one and she died relatively young at 57 from breast cancer.
As always Powell and Loy were sheer magic together and the banter between them feels completely natural and never scripted. Dashiell Hammett must have been so pleased with this pairing,its really hard seeing anyone else playing Nick and Nora Charles so seamlessly.
“Song of the Thin Man” runs a brisk 86 minutes and special features include a trailer for the film and a cartoon. You can buy this film from the website of Warner Brothers Archives. The Thin Man series is a perfect way to introduce any young film buff into Hollywood’s Golden Age.
The cheetah and I gave this film two thumbs/4 paws straight up.