1939 101m MGM b&w
Although the Motion Picture Guide considers this to be a sub-standard outing for the Powell-Loy duo in the legendary roles of Nick and Nora Charles from the pen of master detective writer Hammett, we disagree.
They arrive in New York to spend some of Loy's considerable fortune when they are asked by Smith to come to his Long Island estate' he is fearful that someone is trying to kill him, he tells them, and asks if Powell will look into some puzzling actions by his relatives and friends. The couple, with their baby son (William Anthony Poulsen, a part later assumed by Dean Stockwell as the Charles boy grew older) and nurse, encamp at Smith's rambling estate where the colonel is murdered as prophesied. As Powell consumes innumerable drinks, with Loy hiding the keys to the liquor cabinet in order to keep him on track, two more people are killed. All the while countless wild characters, from show biz types to sentimental gangsters, flit in an out of scenes so fast it's hard to keep the suspects in order without a scorecard.
But the jocular, half-tipsy Powell does his usual round-up at film's end to identify Grey as the killer of the colonel, murder committed for inheritance. More mystery than comedy dominates this sometimes draggy production where the script is less inspired than previous THIN MAN efforts. The atmosphere and sets, along with stellar performances by the principals, can't offset a weak story. This was Powell's first film after a two-year absence from the screen due to illness.
What is overlooked by MPG is that there are some classic character actors in this film, and some classic situations. Sheldon Leonard is the arch-typical heavy he always plays, Marjorie Main is a hoot as Miss Dolley, and many others. Basically, it's great fun.
Credits: p: Hunt Stromberg, d: W. S. Van Dyke; w, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett (based on a story by Dashiell Hammett); ph, Oliver T. Marsh, William Daniels; m, Edward Ward; ed, Frederick Y. Smith; art d, Cedric Gibbons.