The Thin Man

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY to writing this, my first post.

I turned on my television and watched as a detective solved a murder.

It was fascinating.

You may have heard of this detective.  His name is Nick Charles, AKA The Thin Man, who, with the help of his bungling but smarter-than-you-gave-her-credit-for wife, Nora, solves the crime without breaking a sweat or putting down his drink.

He didn’t have any tools of the trade except for a flashlight which he had to explain to Nora, and a gun, which he never fired except by amusing accident.

The movie was made in 1934.  I was 10.

I thought William Powell who brought the character to screen life, was, without a doubt, the most sophisticated man in the world.  I also thought I noticed a marked resemblance between Nora and me.  As I watched the film play out this time, I realize I was wrong.

However, the important knowledge I gained from watching that film, was how much harder we had to work back then  to accomplish things people do so easily today.

Take, for example, the simple act of calling the police. One could not just reach into his or her pocket and pull out a cell phone and hit the number one on speed dial.  No, One had to find the yellow pages and look up the number of the local police station and dial each number carefully on the rotary display.   Then one waited, impatiently, while the dial made the return trip.

Believe it or not, the hard-pressed detective couldn’t activate an app to find the suspect’s car parked in front of a supposedly deserted rail yard full of (also supposedly) empty, rusted cargo containers.  He didn’t even have heat-seeking equipment to help narrow down the possibilities.

And don’t even get me started on the role of the dogs. Today’s canines can sniff out and identify more drugs than the average college student.  And they are trained killers.  These dogs are ready to take a big bite out of the bad guys, should they even consider attacking our hero detective. Nick, on the other hand,  had Asta – an adorable pet whose greatest talent when faced with danger, was the ability to find the safest place to cower.

So, then – who did Nickie rely on?


All he had was his brain, which was more than a match for any killer.
Nick wasn’t introspective.  He had no doubts about his – well, his anything.  He knew he was good         .  He wasn’t secretly indulging in heavy duty drugs, or hiding a past that could cause the world to blow itself up.

No, Nick was a simple man.  What you saw was what you got.  Smart.  Sophisticated.  And slighty drunk.  He wore a tux a lot and it was never mussed.  Not even on the rare occasion when he had to do something physical.

The real world didn’t have much to do with Niick and Nora. But there was a lot to be learned from them.  They had manners, They were loyal to their friends.  They were kind to a fault.  And they never lost track of the idea that, if you wanted something done well, you did it yourself.

At least, that’s the way it played out in 1934.