Monday, June 27, 2016

Another Thin Man

Year 8, Day 179 - 6/27/16 - Movie #2,380

BEFORE: While I watch the antics of the trained dog Asta, who was apparently named to help out crossword puzzle designers everywhere, in the real world I'm continuing with my efforts to train a stray cat.  I've gone through this process, but usually with a cat under a year old - this one is about 2 1/2, so she's gotten a good deal of outdoor programming that we need to break through, if she's going to become an indoor cat.  This is not an exact science, and considering her age, it could take weeks or even months to domesticate her.  I'm using sort of a Pavlovian method, every time I bring her food or treats I make the same noise, in the hopes that she will come to anticipate the food each time she hears that noise.  And I've gotten her to the point where she will allow me to watch her eat, provided I'm in the next room in the basement.  But each night, I move her food dish a few inches closer to where I sit, so I'm slowly getting her comfortable with me being closer and closer.  Oh, and I'm calling her Oprah - not just because she's a black cat, but she's got big fluffy hair and a diva-like attitude.  

It's funny, when she lived in our backyard, I would come out and feed her and she started to become quite affectionate, rubbing on my hands and allowing me to pet her and rub her cheeks, but ever since bringing her inside, she hasn't allowed us to get close.  Obviously it's the change in environment, and it's going to take time for her to feel safe around us again.  But in a few weeks I'll be off to San Diego, and after I'll be gone for a week, I'm wondering if she'll forget me and I'll have to start from scratch again.  I guess we'll find out how good Oprah's memory is. 

William Powell, Myrna Loy, and "Skippy" the dog carry over.  (aha, Asta's not the dog's real name, after all!)

THE PLOT:  An explosives manufacturer suspects a young man is out to kill him. He calls in Nick and Nora (with new baby) to sort things out.

AFTER: When I was planning my schedule and going through the cast lists for linking purpsoses (obviously I wasn't going to put other films in the middle of the "Thin Man" series, but I still like to know who's coming up in these movies) I couldn't help but notice how much crossover there is with the cast of "It's a Wonderful Life".  There was James Stewart in "After the Thin Man", and tonight it's Sheldon Leonard, who played Nick, the bartender in that film.  ("Look, pal, we serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don't need any characters around to give the joint AT-mosphere!")  And more players from that film are on the way - I'll try to point them all out.

Sure, I get it, if you watch a lot of films from the same era - 1930's and 1940's, for example - you're going to see a lot of the same actors, again and again.  There are a couple of (I assume) character actors named Franklin Farnum and Pat Flaherty, and they've got uncredited roles in just about every film from this time period.  I guess they just hung around the MGM studio and worked in every crowd scene there was, for like two decades.  Seriously, these guys have like 600 or 700 "uncredited" credits on IMDB - where a star like Myrna Loy, by comparison, only had about 139 movie + TV roles.  William Powell, only 96!  Of course, they had bigger roles, they're bigger stars, but let's hear it for the contract players who showed up for every film, every crowd scene - those guys put in the time, and now hardly anyone remembers them.  Umm, except for me.

But let's get back to the "Thin Man" series.  I've had better luck staying conscious for these films since I decided to stop drinking along with Nick Charles.  Seriously, don't try this, matching Nick and Nora drink for drink is not a good drinking game, you'll be passed out before you reach the middle of the film.  

Tonight Mr. + Mrs. Charles are back in New York, out to Long Island to visit a family friend, Colonel MacFay.  Oh, their baby, Nicky, looks to be about six months old (I think, I'm so awful at guessing a baby's age...), so at least some time has passed since the last picture, released three years prior.  The Colonel's been getting weird threats from a neighbor (who talks like a gangster, so he must be one), Phil Church, claiming that he has "dreamed" about the death of the Colonel, and anything he dreams about three times always comes true.  Nick, a former detective, sees this as a shakedown of sorts, and when he goes to see Phil, he receives threats of his own, and a knife gets thrown at him.  

Soon MacFay is killed, and Church is the obvious suspect, and is nowhere to be found (another missing man, I spot a theme!) but Nick thinks something much more elaborate is going on.  Once again, there's no shortage of suspects, really, it's an embarrassment of riches in these films, just about anybody and everybody could have done it, but who really did?  Meanwhile, a bunch of the criminals and lowlifes who Nick arrested over the years, guys with names like "Creeps" and "Wacky", are thrilled to see that he's back in town, and they all bring their kids over (and maybe even somebody else's kids...) to have a playdate.  Seriously, there's a bunch of ex-cons in this film throwing a party with their babies - I don't know if that's humanizing, adorable, or just really odd. 

And this time, Nick and Nora don't go to a Chinese-themed nightclub, they go to a Cuban-themed nightclub.  Totally different, OK?  They probably drink Cuba Libres in this one (that's rum and Coke, I think.)  or maybe Mojitos, that's rum, sugar, lime juice, crushed mint and sparkling water.  I think maybe I missed my calling, I'm very envious of those new movie theaters that serve food and drinks, often themed to go along with whatever movie they're screening.  A movie series like this is just begging to be shown in a revival house that will serve the appropriate cocktail with each film - and if one doesn't exist, just make one up, call it the "Gin Man" or something.  

I didn't really get the explanation at the end about the trick with the gun - in fact I'm very confused as to how it played into the murder at all.  I don't want to say too much here, but I'm going to look it up online to see exactly what it was all about. 

Also starring Virginia Grey, C. Aubrey Smith (last seen in "Rebecca"), Otto Kruger (last seen in "Cover Girl"), Ruth Hussey (last seen in "The Philadelphia Story"), Nat Pendleton (last seen in "The Thin Man"), Patric Knowles, Tom Neal, Sheldon Leonard, Don Costello, Harry Bellaver (last seen in "The Old Man and the Sea"), Abner Biberman (last seen in "His Girl Friday"), Muriel Hutchison, Marjorie Main, with cameos from Doodles Weaver (last seen in "The Ladies Man") and Shemp Howard.  

RATING: 5 out of 10 rap sheets

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