Dashiell Hammett’s final novel, THE THIN MAN, mostly takes place between in that lazy week between Christmas and New Year’s. So about six years ago I decided that I would re-read THE THIN MAN during that same week. I did it again the next year. And the next. Each time was like stepping into a well-loved bar and seeing a crowd of friends raise their glasses in salute:
“I was leaning against the bar in speakeasy on Fifty-second street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me.”
But like a junkie, I was hooked and wanted more. So the next year I added a viewing of W.S. Van Dyke’s 1934 adaption starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, which sparked a man-crush on the former and an honest-to-God, oh-if-only-I-had-a-time-machine crush on the latter. I won’t lie to you; the first chunk of the movie is kind of snoresville because it’s all prologue. (Why do movie producers insist on these things? I’ll never know.) THIN MAN only comes to life when we cut to that speakeasy, and Nick Charles and is shaking his dry martini to waltz time, and Nora bursts in the door with Asta… and we never want to stop hanging out with them.
And I still haven’t, because my new Christmas tradition is to re-read the novel and *then* watch the entire THIN MAN movie series, from the original (oh, Ms. Loy, you can shoot me in the tabloids anytime) to AFTER THE THIN MAN (the San Francisco-based sequel, and the sequence detailing Nick and Nora’s return home is better than any known antidepressant) to ANOTHER THIN MAN (Nick and Nora have a kid!) to SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (something about a race track murder, whatever, pass the martinis) to THE THIN MAN GOES HOME (Nick goes on the wagon? Thinman say whaaaa!?) to the final installment, SONG OF THE THIN MAN (which, like SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL, takes place on a boat and brings a franchise to a screeching halt).
You can enjoy them all in a long boozy binge, but I recommend watching one a day, starting the night of the 25th, and ending on New Year’s Eve with a viewing of ALIAS NICK AND NORA, the double documentaries about Powell and Loy that’s included with the THIN MAN box set. Also, I’d recommend pairing each film with a Manhattan, but remember… you need to shake those to fox trot time.
Duane Swierczynski is the author of several acclaimed crime thrillers, including Severance Package (Minotaur, 2008), which has been optioned by Lionsgate Films. A regular contributor for Marvel Comics. His books FUN & GAMES and HELL & GONE were published in 2011 by Mulholland Books, POINT AND SHOOT will be published in 2012. he lives in Philadelphia with his wife and children. Learn more at www.secretdead.blogspot.com.