Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

 My little buddy likes to watch me write.  He especially enjoys the music I listen to.  Currently it's Boy With a Coin by Iron and Wine. 

The Thin ManThe Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nick Charles is a retired detective who has quit the profession to devote himself to Nora, his rich wife, and her financial investments.  However, Clyde Wynant, an eccentric inventor is missing and his secretary, Julia Wolff, is found dead in her apartment.  She is found by Wynant's ex-wife who is looking for him.

So who killed her?  That is the premise.  The rest is your basic formula of rounding up suspects and witnesses, each colorful characters in their own right.

Well. What did I think?

It was a good mystery. Mostly it was playful banter between Nick and Nora Charles as they flirt and question and party with suspects, witnesses and innocent bystanders. Let me give a sample conversation which I made up but is not much of a caricature.

Nick: Darling you looking ravishing!

Nora: Why thank you darling. Another drink?

Nick: Not you, dear.  I was talking to the sexy young thing, who is mad as a hatter and may have killed her father, standing next to you and I will have a drink.

Nora: (Giggle) Darling, you are incorrigible, it almost makes me not sorry to be outrageously flirting with the very handsome man who is also a murder suspect. I think I'll have a Scotch.

Nick: Make me a Scotch too and why should you be sorry? We're a modern progressive couple who thumbs our noses at Prohibition.  Why adhere to other social norms? You know I'm not serious. You're the only lovely lady for me.

Nora: That's comforting, but you're not finished with your vodka.

Nick: I will be in two minutes.

Nora and Nick: Laugh, laugh, laugh! 

Nora:  Oh, what about the murder?

Nick: Isn't it obvious who did it?

Nora: Is it?

Nick: Yes. Now let's continue flirting and drinking.

Nora: Yes, let's.

Of course, Hammett is a lot wittier than me but that's mostly what I got out of the story: a lot of conversation that didn't seem to go anywhere. Maybe it was in his contract to write so many words, which would explain the unnecessary dialogue.

I can't say I didn't enjoy it or would never read a Hammett again. It was not uninteresting and maybe the movies are better. It's a question of taste, I suppose.

View all my reviews

Postscript:  Josh and I just watched the movie.  The book is better. 


  1. i read most of Hammett once; he's the kind of author that grows on one; i think i liked his Continental Op stories the best... Powell and Loy made some others together also; Ms M and i have enjoyed them.... we also like some of the movies made about Charlie Chan...

    1. I really do like Hammett but I did find Charles and Nora a little over the top.

      The only Charlie Chan I've seen so far was with Boris Karloff. It was a very good mystery. We enjoyed it a lot. We need to see more. Have a good night. Must really get to sleep now. :)

  2. Hi Sharon - It has been a long time, but I remember enjoying the films. As you allude to, this material might make for a better movie then a book. This does sound like a fun read though.

    Have a great week!

    1. Hi Brian. Myrna Loy and William Powell do make a very good Charles couple.

      I've only seen The Thin Man. I should find some more.

      Have a good weekend!

  3. Dear Sharon - loved reading your review. I have never seen the movie or read the book. Think it is about time I did so. Have a great week-end.

    1. Hi Debbie! Thanks for visiting my blog. Maybe you could read or watch it over the weekend. Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. Sharon, here is what I remember from the Thin Man movies: Damn, those two sure drink a lot!

  5. I vaguely remember the movie, but I've never read the book. Your little buddy is adorable!

    1. Hi Marcia. You know what's funny? My husband and I were watching the movie and when Nora said one line, I remember that I saw the movie when I was a little kid. The line was:

      "In 1902, I was just a twinkle in my father's eye."

  6. I thought your little buddy was a stuffed toy until I read your post that said you actually bought a real bird.

    1. Hi Carol! I'm glad you know it's a real bird. All my "stuffed toys" are alive: guinea pigs, dogs and now a bird. Unfortunately I spend a lot of time cleaning up after these "toys".

      Off the subject, I watched a funny video last night comparing Australian and South African accents.

  7. Sharon,

    I thought the book was OK, but I think that chatter and byplay work much better on film.

    1. HI Fred. That's probably true. And the film gets to the point a lot quicker too.

    2. Sharon,

      I hadn't noticed that, but that's not too surprising, as film adaptations frequently skip a lot of introductory material and perhaps may bring it in later, or at least that's how it strikes me.

    3. Hi Fred. That's a topic for a whole other discussion. Which books are best suited for film due to the material being more visual contrasted with books that need inner dialogue and narration.

      Having said that, I think a lot of Crime Noir make better films because they are about sequence of events rather than the brilliant writing of the author.

    4. Sharon,

      That it is, that it is.

      Yes, it seems to me that works that are plot-oriented do make better films.

    5. Fred, of course that opens up a whole subject as to how films were formulated back then compared to the turn the took in the sixties and how they are now.

      I personally would not have noticed any of that, but my son is getting a degree in cinematography and when we watch movies he points certain things out. For example how we are "trained" to expect a certain outcome as to opposed how people were conditioned to see their movies resolve in past eras. It's interesting.

    6. Sharon,

      I haven't noticed that either, but perhaps it's the source of my preference for older films.

      Is there a book which discusses the changes that took place?

    7. Fred,

      I know there are but I would have to ask my son because he had to analyze films for one of his classes and I'm sure he used various sources of information.

      Some of it, however, Derek and I noticed because of a film we were watching from the sixties (The Heat of the Night) and how we found ourselves expecting certain outcomes (such as someone getting killed after a chase scene) and instead the story went in a different direction.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.