It's quite appropriate that the final Thin Man film has a jazz band featuring prominently. At its best, jazz is fluid, light and effortless - much like the Thin Man series itself.After a brief holiday on a cruise liner, Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) are asked to investigate the death of the bandleader on the ship - a pretty unpopular person, so suspects are not short on the menu. Edward Buzzell took over directing duties for this final installment, and while it's no disgrace to the series there are a few signs that it was wise to call it a day for Nick and Nora. For instance, while there's plenty of gag mileage in Nick and Nora being perplexed by the jazz jargon of the day, it's slightly uncomfortable to see Nick out of his element with something as he is with jazz. Times are a changin' and Nick and Nora look to be slightly out of step. Compound that with the fact that Nick Jr (Dean Stockwell!) has grown up to be an annoying kid and it's probably good that this was their last outing.
But we have come to praise the Charles, not bury them, and a lesser Thin Man film is still a fizzingly good time. Buzzell's direction is snappy and quick, hurtling through the as-ever complex plot in well under 90 minutes. There's little time to breathe in the film, but just enough to keep up the twists and turns and admire Nick as his brain is always working overtime to keep himself one step ahead of everyone else.
For if the formula of the series was starting to look a little tired by now, the performances of the stars weren't. Powell never looks jaded or lazy as Nick, always filling him with a quick wit and a sparkle in his eye, such as the scene here where he speaks to his neighbours in the hall after a gunshot has been heard - every witticism thrown out with charm and perfectly weighted irony. And, as ever, Loy matches him every step of the way - one of her lines in particular about hiding under the table is an absolute joy. There's a little sadness watching Song of The Thin Man knowing that it's the last we'll see of Nick and Nora, but at least there's the pleasure of knowing they never let their performances become tired or obvious.
As well as that, Buzzell throws in a last-minute surprise as he ends this film with a little difference to the others. It's still about having all the suspects gathered together, but it's done with a nice twist and a wink. It's moments like this that make sure that this sixth film is a perfect ending for a snappy series that always maintained a superb standard of quality.Nick and Nora - cheers and thanks for everything. It's been a blast.