Monday, January 25, 2010

Song of the Thin Man (1947)

Here is where I intended on posting about Laura (1944), the great Otto Preminger detective mystery. Of the twenty chapters, I saw (with limited interruption) thirteen of them. I moved from the bedroom to the newer DVD player in the living room, and watched chapter fourteen. And that was it. Kaput. There was a thumb print on the disk that could not be washed off. Clear enough to get a conviction. You'd think people who rent classic movies would have a clue.

Song of the Thin Man is the last of the Thin Man series, although Myrna Loy and William Powell would go on to make one more of their fourteen films together. Nick and Nora are on a gambling boat and there's this band leader who is in need of money to pay off some thugs. His boss (secretly marrying the daughter of a rich tycoon) is playing hardball with his pay. Also this clarinet player who is mooning over the girl that left him for said band leader. Naturally, the band leader is murdered and everyone is a suspect. Nick Charles is dragged into it.

The story is not as complex as the earlier films, Myrna (starting to look her age) doesn't sizzle and pop. And one of the jokes was that Nick and Nora were becoming ... old. Keenan Wynn played a hipster musician who lends a hand. He introduces them to the music scene, using hip, mod language that Nick and Nora are too square to understand. Not funny.

I recognized the name Keenan Wynn but could not figure out where I knew him from. He played Winter in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, but I wasn't going to recognize him from that. Then I discovered his dad was Ed Wynn, who I recognized by sight. Photos of Keenan in his later years showed he was "oh, that guy". Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) played Nick Junior.

It's rather bittersweet to know I've seen the last of the Thin Men, and sad it was the least interesting of the films. Dashiell Hammett wrote, as far as I can figure out, only five novels, all between 1929 and 1934. The Thin Man was his last. He concentrated on being a commie, war hero, and writing short fiction. I picked up the book on my last trip to the library. I'm a slow reader (which might be why I do films - I can watch an hour film in 58 minutes), but finished the book in three days. William Powell's character was dead on. Nora was less in the book, and Asta almost not at all. Way, way, way more complex than the film. I enjoyed it. My wife is reading it now and might make her want to see the first movie again.

Ten years after this was a TV show that lasted two seasons. I saw an episode when I did Forbidden Planet. Robbie the Robot had a cameo in an episode so they put it on the disk. Peter Lawford was all wrong as Nick and Phyllis Kirk was awful as Nora.

I enjoyed the swan song of the Thin Man and when deciding if I should buy the box set, it won't be the deciding factor. Periodically amusing, fairly interesting, but otherwise unremarkable. AMRU 3.

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