Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Movie: The Thin Man

The Thin Man
From a story by Dashiell Hammett

If you let anything happen to him you'll never wag that tail again. (Nora Charles, to Asta)

My plan was to read The Thin Man prior to watching the movie, but you know that old saying about intentions and the road to hell. In any event, I think the movie stands on its own quite nicely and I'm sure I'll get around to the book one of these days.

My main problem with The Thin Man, and it may have had something to do with the fact that I didn't watch it in one sitting, was that I kind of lost track of who was who, not to mention the general thread of the plot. Which is not really a new thing for me. I'm often flummoxed by intricate plots and that may be why I'm such a fan of the Nero Wolfe books, which seem to me to be more about character interaction than complex puzzles. Apparently I'm not the only one who felt this way about The Thin Man. As Roger Ebert put it, in a review from a few years back, "the plot is so preposterous that no reasonable viewer can follow it, and the movie makes little effort to require that it be followed."

Which is not to say that I didn't like the movie because I actually liked it quite a bit. I've been watching a bunch of the so-called screwball mystery movies of the Thirties and Forties lately and while I should probably have started with The Thin Man series and worked my way to the others let's just say it's better late than never.

Given that I floundered a bit on the plot and that the movie is so well-known to start with I'll skip over all of that and just give a few general impressions. First, that William Powell was just about perfect for the role of Nick Charles, as was the case with Edna May Oliver in the role of Hildegarde Withers and Warren Williams, who starred as The Lone Wolf/Michael Lanyard. Second, that the Porky's movies of the Eighties had nothing on this one when it came to raucous partying and staggering amounts of alcohol consumption.

There were six installments of The Thin Man series and TCM was kind enough to show them all recently. Unfortunately, my DVR maxed out and I've only got installments two and three lined up. As for the others, I'm sure I'll catch them somewhere down the road.

For more background on The Thin Man, here are a few articles from TCM.

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