Edward Copeland was kind enough to ask me to contribute an essay to his blog this week, knowing full well that such a decision could result in a great deal of embarrassment and possible ostracization in the cinematic blogosphere. He also suggested that I could cross-post the entry on both of our blogs, and while that’s a mighty tempting proposition for an individual who’s dedicated his life to making laziness the national pastime, I decided to do a companion piece…and here it is:
Seventy-five years ago today—for those of you who keep track of these things…or received a TCM calendar for Christmas— The Thin Man (1934) was released to movie screens; a delightful comedy-mystery that spawned a successful series of six films in total and made stars William Powell and Myrna Loy the celluloid epitome of “the perfect couple.” Based on the best-selling novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man later made a successful transition to radio, a subject I tackled several centuries ago here.
In the 1950s, as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer began to make inroads into television, one of the studio’s earliest offerings was a small-screen version of their popular film franchise—with contract player Peter Lawford in the role essayed by William Powell and the lovely Phyllis Kirk channeling her inner Myrna Loy. The show premiered on NBC on September 20, 1957 and lasted two seasons (totaling 72 episodes) before its cancellation on June 26, 1959—and for a time after that, reruns showed up on the network’s daytime lineup from September 1959 to February 1960.
For the most part, the series concentrated on the sophisticated couple’s misadventures in the world of crime, but there were also a few recurring characters that turned up from time to time. During the show’s run, the Charles’ contact on the police force was alternately played by Stafford Repp (as Lt. Ralph Raines) and Tol Avery (Lt. Steve King) until finally settling down with Jack Albertson (in one of his earliest television showcases) as Lt. Harry Evans (although he was introduced in a first season episode as “Edwards”). By season two, the show featured two of the Charles’ neighbors, Hazel (Patricia Donahue) and Mrs. Dukem (Blanche Sweet)…as well as a beautiful con artist named Beatrice Dane (also known as “Blondie Collins” and played by Nita Talbot) whose presence often raised Nora’s hackles.
A few months back I shrewdly brokered a deal with my chum Rodney Bowcock (proprietor of the late, lamented Comics and Stories blog) to obtain four volumes (four discs each) of this rarely-rerun series…and while I can certainly understand while this program hasn’t been given serious consideration for any kind of DVD release at the present time, that doesn’t make any less entertaining. I took out one of the discs last night and watched four episodes (including the first and second shows in the series) in order to get an idea of program’s overall quality.
The debut episode, “The Dollar Doodle” (
“Double Jeopardy” (
If you don’t compare the TV version of The Thin Man to any of the six films in the movie series, you’ll pretty much be entertained by these unpretentious half-hours. My only quibble is that while Lawford and Kirk have a wonderful chemistry together, Lawford himself is miscast—his English accent is off-putting, almost like watching Ronald Colman as Nick. I also had to choke back a guffaw at the Charles’ “luxurious”
The only “official” release of The Thin Man TV series is a second season episode entitled “I Loathe You, Darling” (
As I was watching the episodes I purchased from Rodney, I spotted a station identification superimposed over one which informed me that the origin of these surprisingly well-preserved Thin Mans (though I’d expect nothing less from Rodney and his partner-in-crime, Martin “The Isaac Asimov of OTR” Grams, Jr.) was KXLI-TV Channel 41 (
And now—also through the magic of YouTube—you can decide for yourselves whether or not The Thin Man would be worthy of a DVD release. This first episode, from
And also for your edification, “The Art of Murder” from