Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Thin Man (1933)

This movie, the entire 14-year series actually, starts where most screwball comedies end: at the marriage. Even though cinema was still young when Nick and Nora first graced the screen, it was already laden with cliches. All of which the Charles' gracefully sidestepped, arm in arm.

Husband and wife were in delightful synch, mainly because she was just as irreverent as he. They did not squabble to further the plot. When she entered the room and found him in a compromising position with a beautiful dame, the audience held its breath, waiting for the inevitable misunderstanding. Instead, Nora surprises us by simply crinkling her lovely nose. She's amused by the predicament that Nick finds himself in, not jealous and never tearful.

The only time that Nora nags is when Nick presumes to try to solve the mystery without her. So much of the humor in the movie comes from their non-reactions. Both are as nonchalant as they are eloquent, handling a clever comment as deftly as their cocktails.

Although the intrigue is commonplace, the supporting characters are not and provide entertaining foils. But it's Nick and Nora who sell the movie. It's not only the characters that are attractive, but their approach to life is so enticing. Their banter is the goal in and of itself, not the means to an end. It's wonderful to think that their might be life beyond "meet cute."

Though unrealistic, how refreshing to see spouses enjoy each other's humor, style, looks -- and drunkenness, to encounter a duo that never quarrels over money, alcohol or infidelity. Of course, no screwball comedy would waste time manufacturing ways to keep its zany couple apart, if they were all as magical together as Loy and Powell.

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