The Thin Man, 1934

The Thin Man (1934, MGM) is a movie that doesn’t need another review or description written about it. Heck, even here on this blog I’ve already written about it here, and here and the blog is only a few months old.  Classic movie bloggers have read and/or written so many articles about it over the years, and I’ll never get tired of reading them. I just needed to say a little something about it here (again) because it is the one movie, along with its 5 sequels, that I will think about constantly for the rest of my life. Just the thought of these movies overwhelms me with happiness. It’s exactly the kind of thing I need right now. The Thin Man has always had the power to move my mood to a happier place. It never disappoints, always keeps me riveted no matter how many times I’ve seen it and never fails to provide me a happy place to escape to. Right now, it seems I need these things more than ever before, and I can vouch for the fact that Bill and Myrna can provide them.

The Thin Man wasn’t the first “old” movie I ever saw, His Girl Friday was. Hell, it wasn’t even the first Thin Man movie I ever saw, but it was the movie that got me hooked on all six of them for a lifetime. Finding it was a happy accident; I was a teenager and my Grandmother had just introduced me to Jimmy Stewart with Anatomy of a Murder. I loved it, and immediately began a quest to watch every Jimmy Stewart movie I could find because…..Jimmy Stewart! Duh! I checked out several of his movies at the library that same week. The first one I watched? After The Thin Man,1936 – the second movie in the six movie Thin Man series.  At that moment, I totally forgot about the quest to see every Jimmy Stewart movie.

“I’m a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune,” Mr. Charles said.
“I read you were shot 5 times in the tabloids,” Mrs. Charles said.
“That’s not true, he didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.”

That kind of banter continues through the film. It’s fun and funny. Oh yes, there’s a murder investigation going on too, but for my money it’s the chemistry between Myrna Loy and William Powell that is the main attraction. It’s the star of every movie they’ve done together (14 of them total). When I see them together in a movie I ache for more. The love and respect they have for each other is always on display and it feels good to be in the presence of it.

There’s no doubt that the script of The Thin Man is helped by having the married couple Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich adapt Dashiell Hammett’s book to the screen for it, but it seems like so much of the dialogue is naturally Loy and Powell. Great lines in a movie are one thing, but real chemistry between the actors like this is something else altogether. In my opinion, that’s what takes the movie to a higher level. Together, Bill and Myrna put their chemistry to work in creating an environment I crave to be in. The Thin Man still makes me laugh out loud even after seeing it dozens of times. Spending 90 minutes with this movie is the easiest way I can think of to cheer me up,. Today, being able to gain that from something as simple as a 90 minute, 86-year-old movie means more than it ever did before.

While it’s obvious the Loy and Powell friendship off screen (they were never romantically involved according to Myrna Loy’s autobiography) enhanced their ability to create this kind of magic on screen, it is also a testament to the talent they both possess. They play off of each other with an ease that I’ve never seen in any other onscreen couple (sorry Bogey and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy). It’s effortless every time and a joy to watch.

I always say I was born 50 years too late because it seems like I would feel so much more comfortable back in the day of Loy, Powell and The Thin Man but then I remember that I wouldn’t be able to watch them over and over again as many times as I want to like I can today. Would I really want to give that up? Probably.

“Those were the good old days,” –party guest
“Don’t kid yourself, these are the good old days.” –Nick Charles to his party guests.

I’m writing this in the middle of a long overdue racial uprising and the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s hard to absorb this line the way I did the first time I heard Nick say it. I remember the hopeful feeling that came over me back then, but it’s hard to let myself feel that right now.  Honestly, I’m currently leading more toward the “those were the good old days” line from the party guest. . At the very least, Nick and Nora will always be here to make it all better for at least an hour or two and don’t think I’m not relying heavily on them for that right now.  So yeah, more posts about The Thin Man are always welcome. Please post a link to yours below.

“How many drinks have you had?” – Nora to Nick
“This will make six Martinis.” – Nick replies.
“Fine”>[to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.

It couldn’t hurt.

Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming by Myrna Loy
iMDB

Brother Orchid – 1940

Lobby Card

IMDb | Streaming on Amazon

“All my life I was such a guy looking for class. I once went halfway around the world trying to find it because I thought that class was in dough, nice clothes and society. Well, I was wrong.” – Little John Sarto

Yes, Brother Orchid is considered a crime drama, but from where I’m sitting, that’s not an accurate description. It’s not a romance or a comedy either as it’s sometimes listed, though there are elements of all of these things in the movie. No, Brother Orchid is so much more than this. Yes, there are gangsters here, but, at least in the case of Edward G. Robinson‘s, Johnny Sarto he’s one with a much bigger…purer…need in his heart than running a “racket” and building a bank account. He just doesn’t realize it.

Brother Orchid stars Robinson, Ann Sothern and Humphrey Bogart, and features others we recognize too, like Donald Crisp and Ralph Bellamy.  This film takes us on the journey with Johnny to find the happiness that he curiously describes as “real class.” It was directed by Lloyd Bacon for Warner brothers and is based on a story by Richard Connell that appeared in a May, 1938 issue of Collier’s Magazine.

Edward G. Robinson as Little John Sarto

John Sarto is the mob boss of a successful “racket” when he announces to his men that he’s leaving it all behind and putting Jack Buck (Bogart) in charge for good. He tells them he’s in search of “real class” and that he’s leaving for Europe right away to find it.

Before he leaves, Johnny has a heart-to-heart talk with his long time girlfriend, Flo. She’s crazy in love with Johnny and lets him use her in anyway he wants to, just so she can keep him. She desperately wants to marry him after years of “going with” him, but he couldn’t care less.  He doesn’t even consider taking her with him and she’s devastated. To make it up to her, because he does like her to be at his beck and call, he calls a friend and sets her up with a job as a cigarette girl at the Crescent night club. This satisfies thrills her and gets her out of his hair so he can get on with his travels

Johnny spends the next five years traipsing all over Europe in search of that “real class.” But he does everything the same old way – He spends money on nice clothes, restaurants and all things that can get him into high-end society…he even buys a race horse. In the end, he’s broke and the feeling of “real class”…happiness…still eludes him. He gives up and heads back to the city to take his mob back.

The old gang, especially Jack Buck, is not gonna let that happen. He loves being in charge and nothing is going to change that now. Johnny could not believe his old gang was disowning him. None of his former “men” would entertain leaving Buck to go back to the way things were. He was crushed.

“I’m gonna organize a new mob and show you guys.” – Johnny says in a panic.

He went to find good ole’ reliable Flo at the Crescent club where he left her five years before. As it turns out, Flo had borrowed money from Clarence Fletcher (Bellamy), a Montana rancher who was in the club one night, to buy the Crescent club outright. In her typically needy, dimwit way, she tries to help Johnny and Jack get back together and start up the old “racket” so everyone could live happily ever after. Buck plays along with her to get Johnny to meet him, but his intention is really to kill him. Buck takes Johnny for a ride at gunpoint and sends him into the woods with his men where they were to shoot him.

Johnny escapes by slapping a branch in their faces as they walked through the woods. While they recovered, he ran as hard as he could. He’s broken down and hurt, but not shot, when he runs straight on to the front porch of a monastery.

Donald Crisp as Brother Superior

Brother Superior (Crisp) takes him in and nurses him back to health. Johnny was about to discover the “real class” he was aching to achieve.

Brother Orchid is the guide that Johnny didn’t have and needed. Once he meets the monks at the monastery, the movie becomes full of the challenges that occur as Johnny starts to feel the change in attitude he didn’t know he needed. He even backtracks to his old life for a second time before it becomes clear that he’s been going about his quest for “real class” the wrong way. Johnny’s experiences are truly inspiring and thought-provoking: Is it really money and status that prove we’re successful? What lengths will we go to get them? How many people will we hurt? Are money and status really the things that guarantee happiness?

Or, is pure happiness accomplished from helping people instead of running over them to gain money and things that simply never satisfy us? Johnny finally gets it. Watching him get to this realization, seeing the tension leave his face and the happiness appear is what makes this movie feel so good to watch. The meaning of the evolution of Johnny is really what this movie is about.

“I thought I was being smart. I guess I wasn’t.” – Johnny Sarto

Again:

“All my life I was such a guy looking for class. I once went halfway around the world trying to find it because I thought that class was in dough, nice clothes and society. Well I was wrong. I sure traveled a long way to find out one thing. This. This is the real class.” – Little John Sarto says as he enters the monastery for the last time, with a smile we didn’t see until now…the one that explains it all.

 

 

The Thin Man – Based on the Book By Dashiell Hammett

The Thin Man – 1934, MGM – Directed by W.S. Van Dyke, starring Myrna Loy  & WIlliam Powell

A scene from the movie:

Nick: “I’m a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune.”

Nora: “I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids.”

Nick: “It’s not true. He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.”

Same scene from the book:

“We had the afternoon papers sent up. Morelli, it seemed, had shot me — twice for one of the papers and three times for another–when I tried to arrest him for Julia Wolf’s murder, and I was too near death to see anybody or be moved to a hospital.”

And that perfectly illustrates the difference between the book and the movie.

I saw The Thin Man movie a gazillion times before I read the book.  It was one of the first classic movies I ever saw when my Grandmother had it on on her tiny black and white TV one day and made me watch it because she was a huge Myrna Loy fan. It wasn’t the first classic film I ever saw, His Girl Friday gets that honor (also with Grandma), but it is my favorite one. I immediately fell in love with Nick Charles and his wife, Nora……(and WIlliam Powell and Myrna Loy)….and still watch this movie again and again after all these years. My love for all six of these films continually grows, but the first one has its own special place in the corner of my heart and I’ll never get enough of it.

The 1943 paperback my Grandfather gave me. Oh how I treasure this! (The original story was published in 1933 in Redbook)

I’m not so sure I would have seen the movie if I’d read the book first. It’s good, it’s just nothing at all like the movie and would appeal to a different audience. The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett and its movie both have the same plot: a retired detective is roped into a murder investigation while he’s on vacation. The movie’s funny, the book isn’t. The writers Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich  turned the book into a movie filled with a lot of laughs and feel-good moments that the book just doesn’t have. The movie is a cosmopolitan 1930’s murder-mystery, with light-hearted moments that can make your heart melt and muscles relax. Yeah, it’s that good.

Depending on what you’re in the mood for, the movie or the book has you covered. Though there are some smiles in the book, it’s more of a hard-boiled crime story that suspense novel fans would be attracted to. In the book laughs are few and far between, and most of them feel forced to me, unlike the movie where I still find myself giggling at the banter between the characters even after all these years of watching it. The organization of the book is completely different than the movie, scenes are in a different order and there are quite a few scenes we don’t even see in the movie. The Jorgensen family is so much more annoying in the book, (probably because they play a bigger role) especially Dorothy. Ugh! Other characters like Morelli and Studsy have a bigger presence too. Nick’s drinking is front and center in the book, just like the movie…

…and spoiler alert:

Asta is a girl in the book.

I’m still not over that.

There’s some merit to each version, but in this case I think the movie is more entertaining. That script is hilarious!  I will always, always, always love the movie and it’s five sequels. They are my go-to classic movies whenever I need to laugh and feel good. Bill and Myrna never let me down. The movie is a more concise, organized version of the story in the book, which leaves lots of room for on-screen mystery, martinis and quips that make the movie so darn entertaining. The book is wonderful if you’re in need of a good crime-drama. I read a lot of those too, but in this case I find the movie to be exactly what I need every time I see it.

I can’t honestly say that if you loved the book you’ll love the movie, or vice versa. But, I’m sure glad I’ve done both. Have you read it? What do you think?

Next on my reading list is The Maltese Falcon by Hammett.  I’m looking forward to reading the book that another one of my favorite movies is based on. Have you read the book or seen the movie? What do you think?