Been & Going

[Why Watch This?] Holiday Edition Part IV: The Thin Man

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

It’s Christmas eve! Why not celebrate with a classic movie marathon? Well, maybe because your family is in town and they’d rather watch crap- but you can learn ’em good by just following our Why Watch This recommendations of classic Christmas movies.

If you’ve ever wondered from where all the plots, devices, and themes in just about every murder mystery made after 1934 were derived, here is your source. It is like finding the source of the Nile, elusive yet obvious, and for most, not worth—gasp—watching a black and white movie to see. Yes, a whole back and white movie. I’m going to present my argument here for why you should watch a whole black and white movie.

And it’s not just murder mysteries that can count The Thin Man and subsequent sequels as grandfather, it’s any sort of wise-cracking rom-com or any movie with a dog, or really anything that has been made since 1934, trust me. Nick and Nora, sound familiar? It should, and this is wheropeninge it all started.

Forget drunk Santas, in The Thin Man, everyone is drunk and loving it! When first we meet Nick, the ex-cop married to an heiress, he is at the hotel bar lining up the martinis. Soon he is joined by Nora, his wife, dragged into the bar by their loveable pooch Asta. The Charles’ are in New York for Christmas, who knows why, they are rich and living it up. Nora lines up the martinis to catch up to Nick, that’s what makes her such a great wife, you see. She’s rich and she participates in Nick’s bad behavior.

The only thing that’s kind of annoying about NorMyrnaa is her obsession with crime and investigation. When an old friend finds them and asks Nick to find her father who seems to have disappeared, Nick is hesitant, but Nora is all over it and pushes him in head first. The ensuing action is Nick solving the disappearance of “The Thin Man” while dodging Nora at every step. He’s dodging her to “protect her” which isn’t patronizing at all. Even for the ’30s. The whole thing culminates at a dinner party (!) where all the suspects are invited. Nick sits at the head of the table asking questions until someone trips up, and bang! Fingers pointed, accusations made, crime solved!

But seriously, why in the heck wouldn’t you want to watch this movie? The chemistry between William Powell (Nick Charles) and Myrna Loy (Nora Charles) is sparkling. It’s no joke, Hollywood recognized it too, they went on to make 14 movies together, not all of them in the Thin Man oeuvre (though 6 Myrna and Bill TM all  were). It’s charming, they drink like a couple of fishes on New Year’s Eve (wait, that’s the sequel! Ha! Literally 1 person just got my joke, thanks honey!).

A few years ago we went to a screening of The Thin Man at The Silent Movie Theatre (name drop) in Hollywood (name drop) and young people were there and everything. They even enjoyed themselves, and not just because they were serving dirty martinis. So, pour yourself one and check this one out. I’m almost pretty positive you won’t regret it.

[Why Watch This- Retro Movie Reviews] How to Marry a Millionaire

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

How-to-Marry-a-Millionaire-Marilyn-Monroe-Betty-Grable-Lauren-Bacall    Despite its title and overall premise, How to Marry a Millionaire, is actually a charming movie. But let me get it out of the way first, in honor of my “Gender in Film” college professor. Sure, yes, oh la-di-da, three models living in a swanky New York City apartment with a scheme to land themselves millionaire husbands isn’t exactly a feminist manifesto. But, I mean really, if they did make a movie of a feminist manifesto, would you want to see it? Probably not.

But as Drew Barrymore pointed out in this film’s intro during her “Essentials” segment on Turner Classic Movies, isn’t it nice to have a movie with three strong female characters and they are all getting along? Yes, Drew, yes it is. And even if you disagree with their motives and their goals, this was the 1950s after all, and we have three smart women living in New York City going after what betty and marilynthey want. You’re gonna make it after all! <hat toss>

Lauren Bacall plays Schatze Page (why does she have such a weird name? who knows?). Schatze is the brains behind the operation. She finds the beautiful New York apartment that was recently vacated By Freddie Denmark (David Wayne) who had to move to Europe to escape the IRS. She moves in two of her fellow models, Pola (Marilyn Monroe) (why does she have such a weird name? who knows?) and Loco (Betty Grable) (why does she have such a weird name? who knows?) (Wait, this one they explain, apparently she did something loco once).

Schatze got stiffed by her last husband, a car hop that had lied to her and said he was rich. No more, now it’s caviar only for this girl. The three of them proceed to find themselves rich men to marry, financed by selling the furniture in the apartment they are renting.

Loco meets a rich married man who lures her to his “lodge” in Maine. When she discovers it’s his personal cabin they then realize she has the measles and they’re stuck there for 2 weeks while she recovers. When she gets better her married man contracts measles as well. In the meantime, Loco meets Eben (Rory Calhoon) the local fire ranger and falls in love. He’s not rich! Oh no!

Pola meets a one-eyed man who pretends to be an oil tycoon. Pola is blind as a bat, and refuses to wear her glasses in front of men,Alexander_D'Arcy_and_Marilyn_Monroe_in_How_to_Marry_a_Millionaire_trailer because as Dorothy Parker once said: “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Luckily, however, she is saved from the fact that he is a fraud because she accidentally boards a plane to Kansas City instead of the plane to Atlantic City she was supposed to board to meet him. Get it? She’s blind! Anyway, she ends up sitting next to Freddie Denmark (what a coincidence!) who is also blind as a bat. Freddie likes girls who wear glasses. They fall in love. He’s not really rich and may be going to prison soon! Oh no!

Schatze meets an aging millionaire (William Powell! Who doesn’t love THAT guy!) who wants to marry her. The problem is that htmam5she is in love with Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell) who she thinks is another poor car hop. He’s not rich! Oh no! But wait, he really is rich, he just pretends not to be and wears a weird twill jacket all the time and carries around a golf club everywhere he goes. Clearly the two signs of a deadbeat car hop. (What is a car hop by the way? Does anyone really know?)

Valuable lessons are learned all around, the girls all end up with the boys they love, and SURPRISE, Tom is loaded to boot. Nothing but fun, I tell you. To top it off we got some great Cinemascope action. This is the first film shot in Cinemascope and the second released. They use it well, the shots of the apartment with its broad windows and excellent views of Manhattan are stunning. And, there’s even an overture segment at the beginning where they show a WHOLE orchestra play a WHOLE song. Show offs. Technicolor, Cinemascope, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and William imagesPowell? You simply cannot go wrong, it is impossible, so go watch it.