Change of Plans and The Thin Man (1934) rating: delightful!

Jake says I need to keep writing, but I protest that I am only good at writing about movies I hate, since I do scornful sarcasm better than genuine excitement. Clearly my old structure is no good, so I’ve decided to switch to inane ramblings about whatever I’ve seen recently, or in this case, dreamed about recently, because what is the internet for if not that? I hope that’s OK with you, Jon, since you’re my only reader.

So movies. Yeah. Last night I dreamed about Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man. Odd, you may say, but it’s better than dreaming that George Kennan, American ambassador to the Soviet Union in the 1940s and subject of Jake’s thesis, was living in a nursing home on Charlemont, Massachusetts, and that it was my job as a raft guide to interview him, as I dreamed the night before.

So The Thin Man (1934) is a wonderful movie. The book was written in the early 30s, so it is pretty much a hard-boiled detective novel, and was the last thing Dashiell Hammett ever wrote. However, it was made before the genre of film noir really developed, so it’s like a hard-boiled sitcom. Nick Charles is an ex-private eye who has married the wealthy Nora and settled down to a life of hard drinking and domestic happiness with his wife and their dog Asta. Hammett apparently based the banter between Nick and Nora on his real relationship with play-write Lillian Hellman. Clyde Wynant, an old client of Nicks, goes missing after his secretary is murdered, and although Nick wants nothing to do with the case, he becomes increasingly entangled with the extremely dysfunctional Wynant family. A string of Wynants, cops, and criminals begin traipsing through the Charles’s hotel rooms, threatening, blackmailing, and confessing various things to various people, as the pieces of the case begin to fall together.

Nick, Nora, and Asta.

Of course the real wonder of the film is the language. William Powell and Myrna Loy are awesome, snapping off zingers without missing a beat. Nora, when asked if her husband is working on a case, replies, “Yes, a case of scotch.” They all drink so much that you feel tipsy and hungover because of the sheer amount of alcohol consumed in the hour and a half of this prohibition era film. I really cannot stress enough the quantity of hard liquor that is drunk. It boggles the mind.

Nick Charles, seen here preparing to drink.

Nick Charles is definitely the nicest of all the hard boiled private eyes. William Powell always looks sort of daft and bemused, although you know that he actually knows exactly what’s going on all the time. In my dream I remember thinking that one of his great gifts was being able to say exactly what he meant, and have the person he was speaking too go away thinking the exact opposite. I have no idea what that means, but I thought it very clearly in my sleep, and in my sleep thought it a remarkably true and succinct statement. Either way, I would definitely want to hang out with Nick Charles, although I would probably die of alcohol poisoning from mere proximity.

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1 Response to “Change of Plans and The Thin Man (1934) rating: delightful!”


  1. 1 Jonathan December 6, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Yes it’s totally ok with me and this review/dream blog post was as good as the spine of the devil’s backbone.


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