June 29, 2004

Hollywood: City of Lateral Thinking

Rose and I and some friends watched "The Thin Man" in Bryant Park tonight. It's a delightful (and very drinky) movie, of course, and one that I hadn't seen in a while. So that was all good, as was the pre-movie picnicking and cribbage. But I seemed to recall that there was something lame about the many sequels to "The Thin Man", and a little time with my beloved Uncle Google confirmed it.

As people who have not seen the movie or read the Dashiell Hammett book generally do not know, the title does not refer to the story's lead character, detective Nick Charles. It refers to another character involved in the mystery. Since this character doesn't appear in any future stories featuring Nick and Nora Charles, this would seem to be an obstacle to creating a cohesive series of titles for the subsequent films.

Hollywood was up to the task. The second Nick and Nora film was titled "After the Thin Man", a title which does indicate that it is a sequel to "The Thin Man"...but provides no information about the movie itself at all. The third film in the series was "Another Thin Man", implying that Nick had a soft spot for ectomorphic clients.

Subsequent installments give up entirely, with titles that seem about as well-thought-out as the Pink Panther movies. "Shadow of the Thin Man" was followed by "The Thin Man Goes Home", at which point in the series they apparently decided to just fall in line with the popular misconception that the Thin Man = Nick Charles, given that the set-up for the movie involves Nick returning home to visit his parents. The final film was "Song of the Thin Man". It involved jazz music and (I can only assume) a thin man of some sort. If they meant the title to refer to William Powell, it was wishful thinking of the highest order, as I gather he had gained a little weight between the first movie and the last, and he wasn't what you would have called thin to start out with.

Posted by Francis at 03:53 AM

We just Netflixed The Thin Man, which I hadn't seen since I was so young that all I remembered was Asta. I actually found it to be pretty worthless as anything other than a curio of the 30s. The plot and characters (other than Nick and Nora, who are kind of cute together) are stock cheeseball lameness. But I expected all that. What I was surprised at was how silly the much-lauded "witty repartee" is.

"Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?"

"I read where you were shot 5 times in the tabloids.
It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids."

When exactly was this "sophisticated"?

It didn't even make me want a martini, and that's not hard to do.

Agreed about the sequel titles, however.

Posted by: dlr at July 2, 2004 01:04 PM

Well, we clearly see this totally differently, since not only do I find the movies light, witty and amusing, but I chuckled at the two examples you gave of what you consider unsatisfactory humor.

Posted by: Charles at July 10, 2004 01:31 AM