Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Thin Man

Year 8, Day 177 - 6/25/16 - Movie #2,378

BEFORE: As I mentioned, I once had a link that would have connected either Dean Martin or Jerry Lewis directly to "The Thin Man", but as of last week, I could no longer find or remember it.  So I have to rely on an indirect link tonight.  "Doodles" Weaver, who I know from Spike Jones' records, (and who I also happen to know was Sigourney Weaver's uncle) was also in "Double Wedding" and this film's 2nd sequel, "Another Thin Man", with Myrna Loy (last seen in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House") and William Powell.  That's going to have to do for now. 

Part of me now regrets not following the Jimmy Stewart link out of "Bandolero", because then I could have fit in "Harvey" and "You Can't Take It With You", and essentially ended up in the same place.  (Jimmy Stewart appears in this film's first sequel)  But it wouldn't have gotten me here in the correct number of days, and lately that seems to be what it's all about, getting to the right place on the right day.  Like the "Thin Man" series is 6 films long - TCM ran a marathon of them this past New Year's Eve - and that gets me to July 1, another film with Myrna Loy, and that gets me to my July 4 film right on time.  

THE PLOT:  Nick and Nora Charles, a former detective and his rich, playful wife, investigate a murder case mostly for the fun of it.

AFTER: I've heard a lot about "The Thin Man" over the years, it's exactly the type of film that I feel I should be watching, it's part of Hollywood history and American culture, but I never tracked it down before and took the time to learn what it's all about, other than that it centers on a rich couple who like to travel, drink and solve crimes.  (A formula later replicated in the 80's TV series "Hart to Hart")

Perhaps it's because it was late on a Friday night, and I'd had a few drinks myself (2 bottles of hard cider) but I found this storyline very difficult to follow.  I get that there was a missing inventor and businessman, and his concerned daughter got Nick and Nora Charles to help solve the crime (Nick's a retired detective, or something), but after that things got rather confusing, mostly because of the vast number of characters/suspects.  The missing man appears to have re-surfaced and committed a murder, but since he's missing once again, he can't really be proven guilty or innocent.  But is that what's really going on?  

There are missing bonds, a gold-digging wife, and a gangster who's more of a caricature of a gangster than Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney put together, a police detective who doubts Nick Charles' every move, and the mysterious family members of the dead man's wife.  Umm, I think - again I got confused and fell asleep at some point, tried to rewind to where I left off, and I might have missed a bit.  

So it's a big fail for me, up until the big dinner scene where all the suspects are seated at one table, and Nick bounces his theories around while shouting out each character's name, which is then usually followed by, "Would you like another drink?"  So I question whether he had really solved the case at this point, or was just trying to shake some information loose with guesswork.  

My other problem, other than the cartoonish portrayal of a crime-boss, was that sing-song manner of speaking that actors seemed to have back in the 1930's, it was before people figured out that they just had to get in front of a camera and talk in normal human speech to be believable. You can see Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn talking all sing-song in their earlier films, and that's also quite soporific to me.  

The IMDB trivia section tells me this film was shot in only two weeks, and was expected to be a "B" picture, and it shows.  I'm hoping that for the sequels they took a little more time, to improve both the production values and the acting style.  This is another film that's included on that list of "1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" (as of now, I've seen 386), which I admit has been guiding my choices of late, but again, I can't really see the attraction.  Perhaps because this was the first film to have a sequel with the same main cast?  Or is it because it was such an early example of a film made in the detective genre?  

Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, who never wrote a sequel, although Hollywood produced 5 sequels to the film.  And they all used "Thin Man" in the title, even though the words refer to the missing man in the first film, not the detective who carried over to the sequels. 

Also starring William Powell (last seen in "Mister Roberts"), Maureen O'Sullivan (last seen in "A Day at the Races"), Nat Pendleton (last seen in "At the Circus"), Minna Gombell (last seen in "High Sierra"), William Henry (also last seen in "Mister Roberts"), Porter Hall, Henry Wadsworth, Cesar Romero (last seen in "Ocean's 11"), Harold Huber, Natalie Moorhead, Edward Brophy (last seen in "Cover Girl"), Edward Ellis, Cyril Thornton, and Asta the dog.

RATING: 4 out of 10 cocktail shakers 

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