Hef's Movie Notes: Shadow of the Thin Man

By Hugh Hefner

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Hugh Hefner introduces the fourth installment of "The Thin Man" series.


Tonight: William Powell and Myrna Loy in Shadow of the Thin Man.

The Thin Man was Dashiell Hammett’s last novel. It was inspired by his romantic relationship with Lillian Hellman—the author of such literary landmarks as The Children’s Hour and The Little Foxes.

Powell and Loy first starred together with Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama in 1934.

Director W.S. “One Shot Woody” Van Dyke saw something special in the on-screen relationship between Powell and Loy and paired them together again in their next film (as Nick and Nora Charles) in The Thin Man.

What was intended as a B-budget whodunit turned into a critical and commercial smash that made stars of both Powell and Loy. It also began a popular six-film series that lasted more than a dozen years until Song of the Thin Man in 1947.

Shadow of the Thin Man was the fourth film in the series. It was directed by Van Dyke, filmed in August 1941 and released on November 21, 1941, hitting theaters just two weeks before Pearl Harbor.

The film was eagerly welcomed, coming two years after the previous outing, Another Thin Man, released in 1939, and screened here last December.

It would be three years before Loy would make another film (The Thin Man Goes Home) in 1945, as she left Hollywood for New York City, where she volunteered for the Red Cross with the start of World War II.

Tonight’s film includes cast members Donna Reed and Barry Nelson in his screen debut. It was also the feature film debut of Ava Gardner, who is briefly seen walking past Powell’s car.

Variety reported: “Much of the farcical flavor that characterized the earlier Thin Man film is reclaimed in the new picture... In the course of which there are three homicides, half a dozen suspects and a bit of gunplay.”

The film cost $821,000. It earned $3.15 million worldwide, for a net profit of $769,000 and a 91-percent return on investment.

Powell was 49 years old at the time, while Loy was 36 years old. He had just met, and married, the 21-year-old actress Diana Lewis, known as “Mousie.” They met at Chasen’s Restaurant. Later, when they went upstairs together, she was singing old songs. “I couldn’t believe that a youngster like her knew the oldies,” Powell said. “I went for her, and she was for me.”

Days later, they eloped and lived happily ever after for another 40-plus years.

So now, from 1941, William Powell and Myrna Loy in Shadow of the Thin Man.


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