Rixflix A to Z: Another Thin Man (1939)

Director: W.S. Van Dyke // MGM; 1:43; b/w
Crew Notables: Dashiell Hammett (story & characters), Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett (screenplay), Cedric Gibbons (art direction)
Cast Notables: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Asta, Virginia Grey, Otto Kruger, C. Aubrey Smith, Ruth Hussey, Nat Pendleton, Patric Knowles, Tom Neal, Phyllis Gordon, Sheldon Leonard, Don Costello, Harry Bellaver, William A. Poulsen, Muriel Hutchison, Abner Biberman, Marjorie Main, Shemp Howard, Doodles Weaver, Nestor Paiva
Cinema 4 Rating: 7

Nora Charles: I got rid of all those reporters.
Nick Charles: What did you tell them?
Nora: We're out of scotch.
Nick: What a gruesome idea...

The baby comes along and the booze gets put away... or so it seems to be the case for a little while in this third romp in MGM's Thin Man series of mystery-comedies. (Let's call them "comysterdies", shall we? Or not...) Nicky, Jr. makes it four in the household of Nick, Nora and Asta, but let's be fair: this family hardly gets any time to themselves, what with murder and burglary and assorted hijinks practically landing in their oft-besotted laps. One of the charming things about this series, and one that is showcased here, is Nick's ability to make most of the crooks that he puts in the slammer end up respecting him for doing so, as if it were a badge of honor to be caught by the great Nick Charles (which it probably is), and he ends up with some very shady loyalists at his side.

Happily, having a munchkin in the household doesn't slow them down too much, and even if they are suddenly not drinking as much with a baby about the place, at least there is always a trip to the nightclub (separate trips actually) to follow leads in the murder mystery plot that allows them some time with the bottle. My friend Andrea mentioned in a comment to my post on After the Thin Man that she was always surprised how "high-functioning" this pair is, but really, if you watch the films closely, the Charles', for the most part, pick and choose their moments of inebriation fairly well. There are moments, such as when the baby's birthday party with the criminal elements in the apartment goes crazy, that laughs are generated by Nick reaching nervously for the decanter. Likewise, when they visit the soon-to-be-murdered industrialist, who demands that the liquor cabinet be locked up for the evening, insisting "Mrs. Charles doesn't drink, and I want Nick to have a clear mind!" (Nora, who, as I have told you before, is probably the most perfect woman in the history of the movies, smoothly picks his pocket to obtain the keys.) But, the deeper into a case he is, the more it seems that Nick does not hit the sauce, so the idea that they are swaggering and stumbling through each case is really not all that true. Mostly...

And really, it is all in how you handle your liquor. Every person is different, and we all know someone who can knock them back all night and still be able to hold court pretty well at the table. (You still wouldn't want them behind the wheel, of course.) On the other hand, I am less than a lightweight, and one or two is all I am really built to handle. It's why drinking games are well past my abilities. Which is why I am a little upset, because I am trying to come up with a Thin Man drinking game, and I am a little perplexed which direction to go with the rules. Should one slug one back every time a character takes a drink in these movies? Should one not drink instead, giving an ironic twist to a "drinking game"? Or should all six of the films be watched back-to-back, and then, as the characters drink less and less as they get more and more sober through the years, do the participants in the game drink more and more? Perhaps shots of espresso?

Either way, my definition of "high-functioning" would still disappear in the first scene of the original film. Cheers, Mommy!


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