Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Thin Man Goes Home

Year 8, Day 181 - 6/29/16 - Movie #2,382

BEFORE: Nearly done with this series, just one more film to go with William Powell and Myrna Loy before I turn the programming topic over to World War II for the holiday weekend. 

THE PLOT:  Nick and Nora head to Nick's hometown of Sycamore Springs to spend some time with his parents, and end up involved in a murder.

AFTER: Again, the makers of this film series have responded to my criticism quite well - which is amazing, considering that these films were made over 70 years ago.  I don't know how they do it.  Maybe people at the time complained about the inability of children to act with conviction, because Little Nicky is nowhere to be seen this time around.  Nick and Nora didn't want to pull him out of kindergarten - but I guess it's still OK for them to go on extended holiday, back in New York, of course, and leave their son in San Francisco all alone.  (OK, with the maid, but still...)

The films so far had focused on Nora's family, and Nick's associates in the crime world.  But what about Nick's family?  Ah hah, surely there must be a story there.  So the Charleses travel by train up to Sycamore Springs to fill in the missing pieces of the family puzzle.  I think they also sort of ran out of family friends of Nora's to bump off - we don't want to repeat ourselves, now, do we? 

Wouldn't you know, a murder turns up on Nick Charles' parents doorstep.  Literally, the guy rings the bell and then collapses when they open the door.  What could be the reason, and how is it connected to Nick's family and his birthday present?  Will Nick get a chance to show off his detective skills and finally, finally win the approval of his career choice from his father?  How many times can Nora relate the story of the Stinky Davis case before Mr. Charles (senior) realizes that his work is important?   

I liked how everyone in this small town was up in arms, convinced that if a famous detective came to town, surely he must be working on a case.  Also once again, the notion is proposed that murders seem to follow this guy around - so perhaps he's either committing them, or he somehow brings bad luck to town with him.  

But they messed with one of the things that makes the "Thin Man" series stand out - Nick and Nora's prodigious consumption of alcohol.  Behind the scenes, this was due to rationing of liquor during World War II, but they worked it into the plot by suggesting that Nick needed to be sober when he visited his parents.  Which is strange, because I know a lot of people who prefer to be drunk when dealing with their parents.   

Speaking of the war effort, the longer-than-usual gap between "Thin Man" films was due to the fact that Myrna Loy had moved to New York to work for the Red Cross, and to marry John Hertz, Jr., heir to the car rental fortune.  (Yes, that Hertz)  They nearly replaced her with Irene Dunne, and movie fans would have had an absolute fit.  

I was beginning to think this was the only "Thin Man" movie with no connection to "It's a Wonderful Life", but I finally found it - an actress named Jean Acker, who had the (obviously) memorable role in that Frank Capra film of "Townsperson".  And tonight she's listed in the credits as "Tart".  Hey, a role is a role, whatever you have to do to keep that SAG card.   

Also starring Lucile Watson (last seen in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"), Harry Davenport (last seen in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer"), Gloria DeHaven (last seen in "Modern Times"), Anne Revere, Helen Vinson (last seen in "In Name Only"), Leon Ames, Donald Meek (last seen in "My Little Chickadee"), Edward Brophy (last seen in "The Thin Man"), Lloyd Corrigan (last seen in "The Manchurian Candidate"), Anita Sharp-Bolster, Ralph Brooke, Donald MacBride, with cameos from Oliver Blake (also carrying over from "Shadow of the Thin Man"), Tom Dugan, Mike Mazurki. 

RATING: 6 out of 10 ducks in a crate

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