The Thin Man turns 75

I’ve actually never read any of the Thin Man books, but I’ve seen all of the film adaptions [Netflix], and enjoyed their archness. I’ll have to pick up a copy…

“The Thin Man,” Dashiell Hammett’s fifth and final novel, turns 75 this month.

Written in the wake of the same author’s hard-boiled 1930 private-detective classic, “The Maltese Falcon” and his bleak 1931 thriller of civic corruption, “The Glass Key,” the amusing and flippant-seeming “The Thin Man” (in which almost all violence occurs offstage) took readers by surprise in 1934. Reviewers’ judgments at the time were mixed: The New York Herald Tribune thought it “a new hard-boiled opus worthy to stand beside the best of his other works,” but the New Republic found it “a less excitingly fresh performance.”

The author himself made no great claims for his creation. “Nobody ever invented a more insufferably smug pair of characters,” he said of the book’s married protagonists, Nick and Nora Charles; and in 1957, four years before his death, he would claim that “‘The Thin Man’ always bored me.”

Yet Hammett — often as hedonistic in life as the heavy drinkers in his stories — was sober and industrious while writing the novel during his tenancy in an unimpressive New York hotel managed by his friend and fellow author Nathanael West; and, one way or another, the book and its characters would earn Dashiell Hammett (according to biographer Richard Layman) close to a million dollars

[Click to continue reading His Camera-Ready Comedy –]

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Don’t recall this line from the movie: perhaps it was altered, or judged too cynical for Hollywood:

Nick Charles is an expert on sorting out falsehoods and those who tell them. “The chief thing,” he advises a police lieutenant regarding one habitual fantasizer, “is not to let her tire you out. When you catch her in a lie, she admits it and gives you another lie to take its place and, when you catch her in that one, admits it and gives you still another, and so on. Most people — even women — get discouraged after you’ve caught them in the third or fourth straight lie and fall back on either the truth or silence, but not Mimi. She keeps trying and you’ve got to be careful or you’ll find yourself believing her, not because she seems to be telling the truth, but simply because you’re tired of disbelieving her.”

The Thin Man box set

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