Dorian’s Christmas Fave: The Thin Man (TTM), 1934
This smart, snappy romantic comedy-mystery couldn’t have avoided becoming a classic if it wanted to, despite its relatively humble beginnings as a B-movie shot in about two weeks by director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke. TTM is so wryly sophisticated that, among other things, it makes boozing look fun (but please drink responsibly. Okay, sermon over!). The romance between TTM author Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman inspired the dashing, retired detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his beautiful, effervescent heiress wife Nora (Myrna Loy in a performance that forever changed the exotic temptress stereotype she’d been stuck in).
|Nora: "What hit me?" Nick: "The last martini." |
(Actual dialogue from the film!)
“I don’t like crooks. And if I did like ’em, I wouldn’t like crooks that are stool pigeons. And if I did like crooks that are stool pigeons, I still wouldn’t like you!”
Is it any wonder that TTM, along with the 1941 film version of The Maltese Falcon and the 1942 film version of The Glass Key, got me interested in reading Hammett’s books, turning me into one of his fans? TTM is not only one of my favorite lighthearted mysteries, it’s also one of my favorite New York-set movies; as a native New Yorker, I’m a sucker for flicks set in my hometown. Considering TTM takes place during Christmas week, it quickly became one of my fave Christmas movies, too. The whole Thin Man movie series is a joy to watch, but in my opinion, the first one is still the best!
Vinnie's Christmas Fave: Fitzwilly, 1967
Van Dyke plays the titular character, Claude "Fitzwilly" Fitzwilliam, the latest in a family line of 13 butlers in the service to Miss Victoria Woodworth, played by the delightfully wacky Dame Edith Evans. As the film starts, we see Fitzwilly engage in a series of amazing con-jobs with the assistance of his domestic staff, massive purchases on Fifth Avenue being charged to other millionaires, diverted to other addresses via moles in the shipping room, and liquidated for cash. We learn quickly that he's not doing it for himself, but to keep Miss Vicki solvent. She's bankrupt, and Fitzwilly and his staff spend nearly every waking moment scrambling to rake in enough cash to keep her living in the style to which she's been accustomed, never letting her know of the situation. At the same time, he's manufacturing hobbies for her to keep her mind active, including a pseudo-Cub Scout troop for sons of millionaires and a dictionary for mis-spellers. For the latter hobby, she needs the assistance of a secretary; she hires Juliet Nowell (Barbara Feldon), the only person in the house who isn't in on the scam, and is immediately seen as a threat to the operation. So while they're trying to keep her out of the loop, they're still trying to bring in enough money to cover the occasional checks Miss Vicki sends out to charities that they can't intercept.
|Lovebirds Juliet and Fitzwilly get face time between capers|
|"Dad, I see Miss Vicki's household is chock full o'nuts."|