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Funny / The Thin Man

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The 1934 movie:

  • The Establishing Character Moments for Nick and Nora are a masterclass in comedic screenwriting:
    • Nick coaches a group of bartenders on drink mixing techniques:
      Nick: See, the, the important thing is the rhythm. You always have rhythm in your shaking. Now, a Manhattan, you shake to fox-trot time. A Bronx, to, uh, two-step time. A dry martini you always shake to waltz time. [he pours out the drink into a glass, puts it on the tray of a nearby waiter... and then immediately takes it back again and sniffs it ahead of draining it]
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    • Nora makes a grand entrance with a double armload of Christmas presents and a very rambunctious Asta dragging her along helplessly. (The maitres d'hotel tell her "You cannot take the dog in there!"; she protests, "I'm not taking him, he's taking me!") Eventually, Asta gets the better of her and she goes sprawling across the floor, Christmas presents flying everywhere, as Asta bolts toward Nick. Nora tells him that Asta has been dragging her into every "gin mill" on the block in search of him; no sooner are they re-united than Nick is told Asta can't stay:
      Maitre d'hotel: Madam, I'm afraid we shall take the dog out.
      Nick: Oh, it's all right, Joe, it's all right, it's my dog. And, uh, uh, my wife.
      Nora: Well, you might have mentioned me first on the billing!
    • As Nick and Nora head to a table, Nora asks about Dorothy:
      Nora: Who is she?
      Nick: Oh, darling, I was hoping I wouldn't have to answer that.
      Nora: Come on.
      Nick: [completely straight-faced] Well, Dorothy is really my daughter. You see, it was spring in Venice, and I was so young, I didn't know what I was doing. We're all like that on my father's side.
      Nora: [knowing he is kidding her] By the way, how is your father's side?
      Nick: Oh, it's much better, thanks. And yours?
      [Leo, the waiter, brings Nick and Nora a martini each]
      Nora: [to Nick] Say, how many drinks have you had?
      Nick: This will make six martinis.
      Nora: [to Leo] All right. Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo? [gestures to the table] And line them up right here.
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  • The next morning, Nick is none the worse for wear, but Nora has a shocking hangover.
    Nora: [as Nick puts an ice bag on her head] What hit me?
    Nick: The last martini. How about a pick-me-up?
    Nora: NO! [Nick flinches; Nora slowly sits up in bed] I can't lie here, I've got to get up and trim that darn Christmas tree. [but as she tries to get to her feet, she stumbles and falls back onto the bed] What was the idea of pushing me? [Nick gives her a bemused look as their doorbell rings] Who's that?
    Nick: [heading into the living room] That's probably Santa Claus.
  • It isn't Santa Claus but MacCaulay, who wonders if Nick is doing any sleuthing on behalf of Wynant's ex-wife Mimi, as he hasn't heard from Wynant for three months. The phone rings, and Nick and Nora answer it simultaneously; Nora is the only one who talks to the other person, but Nick listens in, hears that the caller is looking for MacCaulay, and hands the phone off to him as Nora enters, the ice bag strapped to her aching head. As MacCaulay talks to the person at the other end, Nick points at an imaginary spot on Nora's blouse, and when she looks down at it, he chucks her under the chin and laughs at her for falling for such an obvious trick. As he turns back to his latest glass of booze, an unamused Nora gives him a Dope Slap, almost making him spill his drink. As she laughs at him, he swings his arm back as if about to strike her, but then MacCaulay turns to look at them, and they immediately try to look innocent.
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  • When Lt. Guild stops by the Jorgensons' apartment after Julia Wolf is murdered to question Mimi further, Gilbert spends the entire interview staring intently at Guild, causing him to lose his train of thought several times.
  • Later that night, Nick and Nora are throwing a Christmas party in their hotel room, and two reporters show up, convinced he can tell them something about Julia Wolf's murder.
    Nora: Nick? Reporters!
    Nick: [hurrying over to the door as the reporters finish draining a cocktail each] Salutations, boys!
    First reporter: You're just the man I want to see, listen, I'm from the American, Mr. Charles, we were wondering if you could give us a statement, we hear that you're here on the Julia Wolf case!
    Nick: I don't know anything about it.
    First reporter: Oh, come on, give us a statement, will you please?
    Nick: Hey, listen, I never try to kid reporters, I'm telling you the truth!
    Second reporter: Then why are you in town?
    Nick: My wife's on a bender. I'm trying to sober her up. [Nora walks past with a tray of empty glasses] Oh, waiter! Drinks, please!
    Nora: Into the kitchen, son, and thaw out some ice.
    Nick: [taking the tray and heading into the kitchen] Grandma, what large glasses you have. [Nora tries to follow him, but the first reporter grabs her elbow]
    First reporter: Say, listen, is he working on a case?
    Nora: Yes, yes!
    Second reporter: What case?
    Nora: A case of scotch. Pitch in and help him!
  • As Nora calls room service for some sandwiches, she asks if a drink on a sideboard is hers.
    Nick: What were you drinking?
    Nora: Rye.
    Nick: [picks up the glass and downs its contents] Yes, that's yours. [he tries to hand Nora the empty glass; she glares at him and swats it away]
  • Dorothy arrives and says she needs to speak to Nick privately, so he leads her into his room, but not without being followed by the two reporters and another drunken guest:
    Drunk: Who's the little brunette?
    Nick: I used to bounce her on my knee! [slams the door in the drunk's face]
    Drunk: Which knee, can I touch it?
  • When Nora walks in on Nick comforting a distraught Dorothy after she falsely confesses to having murdered Julia Wolf, the defiant sneer he gives her is hysterical... as is the matching sneer she gives him.
  • To say Nick has invited a bizarre assortment of guests (and gatecrashers) to the Christmas party would be understating things. After Dorothy and the reporters (and the drunken guest) leave, Nora re-joins Nick; she looks around the room and sees a group of revellers mumbling along off key with a radio broadcast of "O Christmas Tree" (while Asta writhes in agony on one of the beds), a man and a woman bursting balloons on the Christmas tree with lit cigarettes, a sobbing man trying to place a long-distance call to his mother in San Francisco on the hotel room phone, a man with an Irish accent getting into an argument with a prizefighter and his manager, and yet another group of revellers singing along to "O Christmas Tree" as one of them stands on the hearth and conducts them with a set of fireplace tongs. Every one of them drunk as a lord.
    Nora: Oh, Nicky... I love you, because you know such lovely people! [they kiss]
  • The night after their Christmas party, Nick and Nora are Sleeping Single. Well, sort of; Nick is trying to sleep, but Nora won't let him:
    Nora: Nick? Nicky?
    Nick: What?
    Nora: You asleep?
    Nick: Yes.
    Nora: [smirking] Good. I want to talk to you.
  • Joe Morelli shows up at the Charles' hotel room in the middle of the night carrying a gun.
    • In the novel:
      Nick: All right, talk, but do you mind putting the gun away? My wife doesn't care, but I'm pregnant and I don't want the child to be born with-
    • The movie's version is pretty funny too:
      Nick: My wife doesn't care, but I'm a very timid fellow.
      Nora: You idiot! Asta, Asta... [she grabs him]
      Nick: All right, shoot... I mean, uh, uh, what's on your mind?
  • As Lt. Guild interrogates Nick regarding why Morelli was in his hotel room, another policeman searches through Nora's dresser. Nora doesn't notice at first, but when she does...
    Nora: What's that man doing in my drawers?
    Nick: [Spit Take]
    Policeman: [finding the gun Dorothy bought in a pawn shop in one of the drawers] Here you are, lieutenant.
    Guild: [to Nick] You got a pistol permit?
    Nick: No.
    Guild: Ever hear of the Sullivan Act?note 
    Nora: Oh, that's all right, we're married.note 
  • Nora's expression as she watches Nick shoot balloons with the air rifle he got for Christmas. Especially when he tries to line up a shot over his shoulder with a mirror, misses, and breaks the window next to the tree.
  • Nick's confrontation with Joe Morelli and the police is all over the newspapers on Christmas morning:
    Nick: Oh, I'm a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune.
    Nora: I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids.
    Nick: It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids.
  • At one point, Nick and Lt. Guild are about to go interview Nunheim.
    • In one of the funniest background events in the film, Nora is shot from the waist up, so we only see Asta's leash as it suddenly jerks toward a mailbox, a fire hydrant, and a lamppost.
    • Nora insists that she's going with Nick and Lt. Guild and pushes her way into a cab. Nick closes the door after her, slips the driver some money, and orders him to take her to Grant's Tomb. Later on he asks how she liked the tomb. She says she's having a duplicate made for him.
  • When all evidence seems to implicate Wynant in the murders of Julia Wolf and Nunheim, Dorothy breaks off her engagement to Tommy, saying that murder is In the Blood, and she hates the idea of having children who will grow up to be murderers. Gilbert tries to comfort her as only a Know-Nothing Know-It-All can:
    Gilbert: You know, you're wrong about all of your children being murderers. Now, I've studied the Mendelian law of inheritance in their experiments with sweet peas. And according to their findings - and they've been pretty conclusive - only one out of four of your children would be a murderer! Now, the thing for you to do would be to just have three children. [thinks] No... no, that might not work - the first one might be the bad one.
  • At the climactic dinner party:
    • Nick proposes a toast:
      Nick: Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. [drinks, then sits down]
      Nora: You give such charming parties, Mr. Charles.
      Nick: Thank you, Mrs. Charles.
    • Nora falls into a non-sexual Double Entendre:
      Nora: Waiter, will you please serve the nuts? (Beat) I mean, will you please serve the guests the nuts?note 
    • During the same scene:
      Nick: Oh, Morelli, would you mind holding your knife some other way? You're worrying Gilbert.
      Morelli: [looks at Gilbert, then looks down at the knife he's gripping in an extremely aggressive manner and drops it]
      Nora: [to Nick] If that knife's missing later, I'll look for it in your back.
    • And when Nick finally forces MacCaulay into revealing himself as the murderer by drawing a gun, sparking Nick into knocking him out before he can kill again:
      Nora: [throwing her arms around Nick] Oh, Nicky, he might have killed you!
      Nick: Well, what's the matter, are you sorry he didn't?
      Nora: Oh, I'm glad you're not a detective!
      [Nick gives her an outraged look]