Thursday, June 30, 2016

Song of the Thin Man

Year 8, Day 182 - 6/30/16 - Movie #2,383

BEFORE: William Powell and Myrna Loy carry over for the last time as Nick and Nora Charles, this film series is running out for me concurrently with the last day of June.  Tomorrow it will be July, the start of the big holiday weekend, and the focus will be on World War 2 again, and Myrna Loy will be sticking around.  The classic movie chain's going to continue with a couple of Oscar winners for Best Picture in the next week, some Gary Cooper films, a couple of Jimmy Stewarts, a block of Abbott & Costello, the last couple of Marx Brothers films, and that leads me to Cheech & Chong, believe it or not.  (As long as I'm doing comedy teams...)  

After that, three Richard Dreyfuss films get me to the Comic-Con break, and by the time I get back, there will be less than a week left in July.  I've got an idea about how I want to fill those last days of the month, but who knows, things could change.

THE PLOT:  Nick, Nora, and Nick Jr. investigate the murder of a band leader in New York.

AFTER: Even though they broke the pattern of alternating between coasts - so only the 2nd and 4th films in the series were set in San Francisco - there are still a few things you can rely on in a "Thin Man" picture.  There will be at least one murder, and a family member or friend of the Charleses will be either the victim or accused of the crime, Nick will be able to reach conclusions that no one else can, and there will be a big scene at the end when all the suspects are gathered together.  And there will be at least one trip to a restaurant (tonight it's a jazz club) where there will probably be some kind of brawl, or at least a kerfuffle.  Plus there will probably be one actor you know from "It's a Wonderful Life", tonight it's Gloria Grahame, who later played Violet in that classic Christmas film.  

(I hate to spoil anyone's fun, but they replaced the dog who played Asta for the 5th film, turns out that terriers don't live as long as you'd think.  And most dogs of that same breed tend to look alike.)

The focus here is on jazz - and like Marge in a recently-watched episode of "The Simpsons" from April, I have to admit that I don't "get" jazz.  Oh, I get that it exists, and I understand it had its place and time, but why is it STILL a thing?  We have newer, better forms of music now (and OK, some are worse) - I mean, we don't avoid eating oysters in months without the letter "R" in them, because we have modern refrigeration now, we don't dance the Charleston any more, or drive Model T cars, why do people still perform Jazz?  Musically, it should be like speaking Latin - it should be a dead language by now, why isn't it?  

But we do learn that jazz musicians talk funny, that is they use a lot of slang.  (They were like the hipsters of modern times, except that they actually had gigs.)  And we learn that there were a lot of people who had motive to kill a bandleader - but which one actually did?  Plus we get the bonus of seeing that Dean Stockwell's been an actor longer than anyone realized - he played Nicky Jr. in this film (that kid grew up so fast!)

I think, like jazz, that the "Thin Man" movies had their place and time, but they just didn't make it to the 1950's - it feels like the idea well was running out by this point, the director of the first four films. W.S. Van Dyke, had died in 1943, and the usual writing team didn't work on this one either.  It's sad when a franchise runs out of steam, but even to this day, movie studios make more franchise films than anything else, because they've already got audience recognition.  Take the new "Tarzan" film, for example, it just opened so poorly that it's already considered a failure, but it got made because someone felt the need (or was contractually obligated) to keep a franchise going.

Also starring Keenan Wynn (last seen in "Best Friends"), Dean Stockwell (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), Phillip Reed, Patricia Morison, Leon Ames (also carrying over from "The Thin Man Goes Home"), Gloria Grahame (last seen in "Melvin and Howard"), Jayne Meadows (last seen in "The Story of Us"), Ralph Morgan, Don Taylor, Bess Flowers, William Bishop, Marie Windsor (last seen in "Support Your Local Gunfighter").

RATING: 5 out of 10 hams on white (hold the piccalilli!)

No comments:

Post a Comment