Monday, July 9, 2012

The Thin Man

The Thin Man
seen on TV @ TCM

Awhile ago, I talked about my drinking habits, such as they are. Basically, I don't drink unless it's a special occasion, like a party. Last week, I was fortunate enough to have attended three different parties, and I drank at all of them, some to greater degree than others. It was what most people at these parties did and was no big deal.

Today, we're more aware of the dangers of drinking to excess, whether it's a celebrity being hauled off to rehab, or PSAs that emphasize having a designated driver.  I believe there was even a recent movie about the guy who founded AA. And this is as it should be. Alcohol is as easy to obtain as a trip to the supermarket or bodega, provided you're of legal age (and sometimes not even then), and it's even easier to abuse.

Back in the day, though, social drinking was looked on with much less of an eye towards responsibility. In watching The Thin Man yesterday, I was surprised to see William Powell's character, Nick Charles, depicted as such an unapologetic lush. I imagine Dashiell Hammett wrote him as such in the original book, but to see it in a movie is another thing.

It didn't spoil my enjoyment of the movie; indeed, it was kinda cool to see such an un-PC character. (One wonders if the remake will handle him the same way.) No, we don't see Nick suffer the painful effects of too much alcohol, but if you want that, you can always see The Lost Weekend, or better yet, The Days of Wine and Roses. This is not that kind of movie, and that's okay. Still, I did find it somewhat surprising. It had been a long time since I had seen The Thin Man and I had forgotten that aspect.

Does anyone else confuse William Powell with Melvyn Douglas, or is it just me? As I watched The Thin Man, I kept wondering whether or not Nick Charles was played by the guy from Ninotchka...

The Thin Man, of course, was one of the earliest Hollywood franchises, spawning a whole bunch of sequels, and in thinking about that now, this seems like an even more extraordinary thing when one considers the kinds of movies that spawn franchises these days. Seriously, can you imagine a franchise being built around a movie like this today - one that values witty dialogue and mature, sophisticated characters, without special effects of any kind?

Says a lot about the way tastes have changed, hasn't it?


  1. I adore this series...I first found the videos at the library as a youngster. I know looking back that I didn't understand all of the wit and alcohol related humor, but I loved what I did catch, and have viewed them over and over. One of the best New Year's Eve parties I've ever been to was where we watched The Song of the Thin Man (which takes place on New Year's Eve) projected on a big screen, then rang in the new year. We had champagne, but none of us drank as much as Nick and Nora. :)

  2. That musta been a fun party.

    Seeing this again has made me want to see the rest of the films in the series.

  3. cool~
    i'll add this to my list=)

  4. Ah! I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets William Powell and Melvyn Douglas mixed up. I've been trying to tell them apart for decades...

  5. Hah! It's not just me then! Good to know.

  6. I confuse Douglas with Powell all the time, can't hardly tell them apart on screen...and they even act the same on camera..oh well, I enjoy them both, whoever they turn out to be.


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