Edward Buzzell, 1947
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy
The last of the Thin Man series is certainly better than the fifth entry, The Thin Man Goes Home, but isn’t really a fitting conclusion to the series - it simply feels like a random entry. Nick and Nora are partying at a charity event aboard the S.S. Fortune, a gambling ship owned by Phil Brant. The main entertainment is provided by a jazz band, but the band leader, Tommy Drake, soon informs Brant that he is leaving for a better job offer. Drake owes a gangster a lot of money and when he can’t get ahold of it, he tries to break into Brant’s safe, but is shot in the act. A number of people are suspects, but Brant is at the top of the list. He and his new wife, Janet, plead with Nick and Nora to take up the case and clear his name. Someone nearly kills Brant and Nick has no choice but to turn Brant into the police station to keep him safe. He is also now forced to take on Brant’s case or else he will be kept in prison permanently.
Though there are some entertaining moments in each, the fifth and sixth films of the series just don’t measure up to the first four. This follows the traditional formula of red herrings, lots of suspects, and a conclusion where Nick gathers everyone together to reveal the real killer. Where in the first four films, Nora does little more than egg Nick on and encourage him to solve the case, in the latter two films she discovers an important clue: a painting in The Thin Man Goes Home and some jewelry in Song of the Thin Man.
Powell and Loy are in better form here than in The Thin Man Goes Home, or at least the script treats them better. They are both still a joy to watch and make this a worthwhile rental. Gloria Grahame (In a Lonely Place) has an early appearance here as a singer and one of the key suspects. She is also one of three actors to get an early start with the Thin Man series before appearing in It’s a Wonderful Life, along with James Stewart, who appeared in the second film, and Donna Reed, who appeared in the fourth film. I was shocked to learn that Nicky Jr. is played by a very young Dean Stockwell (Blue Velvet, Quantum Leap). Though I saw his name on the credits, it took me a few days to process the fact that it was the same Dean Stockwell. The lovely Patricia Morison (Kiss Me Kate and Universal’s Inner Sanctum and Sherlock Holmes series) also makes a welcome appearance.
The jazz background feels like filler and a lot of the dialogue really slows things down. While I think the Thin Man films as a whole have aged very well, the fifth and six entries are definitely an exception to this rule. There are simply too many characters and too many red herrings to maintain much of a serious interest about the murder mystery. It’s much the same with most of the other films, but those were bolstered by wit and snappy dialogue. Nick and Nora are the real draw and it is a shame that original screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich didn’t stay on to finish the series. Nick and Nora sadly feel like different characters in the hands of other writers. Song of the Thin Man is only recommended to Nick and Nora fans or anyone interested in early mystery-comedies, though it is a pleasant way to pass an hour or so. You can find the film in The Complete Thin Man Collection DVD box set.