Screening: ‘The Thin Man’
This Is What Romantic Comedies Should Be Like
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival and I help program films for the Whistle Stop's Shot By Shot Film Series where you get to enjoy a movie and a signature drink in a cozy, community bar setting. I was torn about the selection for Valentine's Day. Part of me wanted "Shaun of the Dead," the perfect zombie romantic comedy that ends up in a bar; another part of me wanted "The Honeymoon Killers," the perfect antidote to Valentine's Day romanticism; and yet another yearned for the genuinely delightful 1934 screwball comedy "The Thin Man." So we put it to a vote and "The Thin Man" won. I can't say I'm disappointed. The film serves up what may be the perfect onscreen marriage with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. Nick is independently wealthy, usually drunk, and occasionally takes on a murder case. Nora is his supportive and supremely charming wife. And of course there is Asta their dog.
Here's a trailer to refresh your memory about what a 30s screwball comedy is all about.
"The Thin Man" probably skewed my expectations about what marriage is all about. Nick and Nora made marriage look fun and effortless. The screwball comedy is for me the only kind of romantic comedy that I can truly embrace. These films were designed as an escape from the grim realities of the early 1930s Depression era American so MGM wanted them effervescent, breezy, witty, and far from the real world. In fact, the literary Nick and Nora Charles that Dashiell Hammett created in his books are very different from the elegantly charming ones we find on the screen but MGM did not want to show us what a real drunk was like, they preferred William Powell's perpetually tipsy and endearing Nick Charles who could sip a martini and solve crimes without getting a drop of gin or blood on his pressed tuxedo.
I hope you'll come out and join me for "The Thin Man," which spawned 5 sequels, and have a martini -- the signature drink for the evening -- but maybe don't line up 6 of them like Nora does in order to catch up with her husband.
Once you see "The Thin Man" all those contemporary romantic comedies will pale by comparison.