For Reel

Song of the Thin Man (1947)
January 29, 2017, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward Buzzell
2 Stars
song-of-the-thin-manThe latter half of the series of six Thin Man films moves further and further from their source—both in the sense of those involved behind the camera (W.S. Van Dyke’s passing in 1943 meant that the last two films were helmed by other studio hands) and in what they aspired for tonally. The penultimate entry, The Thin Man Goes Home, further explored Nick Charles (William Powell) by setting the narrative in his suburban childhood home, and the change of location and pace felt like a jump start for a series that threatened to grow tired. Similarly, Song of the Thin Man has new ambitions and is undoubtedly the most unique entry in the series. Unfortunately, if the idea is compelling on paper, the execution is largely lackluster. The conceit is that Nick and Nora (Myrna Loy) are now complete out of their element—the film, which takes place on gambling boats and jazz clubs, is effuse with contemporary lingo and youthful, hip faces. Whereas the married couple were always the suavest people in the room, Song of the Thin Man bravely casts them as out-of-touch. The thought of placing the 1930s pairing within the context of a radical new subculture is inspired, but it means Nick and Nora lack the charm and sophistication of the previous entries by design. The screenplay offers fewer memorable quips, and Loy in particular is hurt by having little to do (Loy’s dislike for the film is shown in the visibly disinterested look she has in nearly every scene). If the film meant to champion the older generation within the new subculture, it loses its mark—Nick and Nora are consumed by it, so much so that even Nick’s reveal at the end of the film is immediately overshadowed by the actions of one of the younger cast members. Song of the Thin Man is arguably the weakest entry in the series, however, it was an apt, bittersweet note to go out on, with Nick and Nora now settled into parenthood, so comforted by the security of their relationship that they watch the world pass them by.