Dashiell Hammett's fifth and last novel was something of a departure in that it was less a hardboiled thriller than a spray of sophisticated banter in which nobody - least of all detective Nick Charles and his delightful Nora - took the tough guy ethos very seriously. With Powell and Loy fitting the roles to perfection, the film draws happy doodles around the mystery of the missing scientist (lingering, for instance, over an irresistibly irrelevant sequence in which Nick, given an airgun as a present by the understanding Nora, spends a contented hour potting baubles on the Christmas tree). What enchants, really, is the relationship between Nick and Nora as they live an eternal cocktail hour, bewailing hangovers that only another little drink will cure, in a marvellous blend of marital familiarity and constant courtship, pixillated fantasy and childlike wonder. None of the five sequels that followed (1936-47) recaptured quite the same flavour.
Cast and crew
|Director:||WS Van Dyke|
|Screenwriter:||Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich|