the real kwon (bookelfe) wrote,
the real kwon

A couple weeks ago [personal profile] tlvop and I were talking Yuletide. "I dunno," she said, "I'm thinking maybe I'll nominate some noir? Do you think anyone would write me The Thin Man?"

"Oh, yeah," I said, "I feel like there's usually a couple Thin Man fics every year anyway. For the movie more than the book, but --"

"THERE'S A MOVIE?" she said.

So this weekend [personal profile] innerbrat, [personal profile] tlvop and I Skype-watched The Thin Man -- and since I remembered I'd never actually read the book, I went ahead and read it for the sake of comparison.

If anyone's unfamiliar, The Thin Man is maybe the ur-example of the Charming Married Couple Crack Wise, Booze, Solve Murders sub-genre -- which, I mean, who doesn't love watching a Charming Married Couple Crack Wise, Booze, Solve Murders? I think Tommy and Tuppence, the other classic Charming Married Couple Who Crack Wise And Solve Murders, beat The Thin Man into print, but Nick and Nora Charles got a leg up in public acclaim by landing a series of feature films starring the adorable William Powell and Myrna Loy, PLUS a really cute dog.

TL: Asta's in the MOVIE?
Me: Asta's in the BOOK?

It's like with Djali in Hunchback of Notre Dame, I always just automatically assume the cute animal companion is a Hollywood addition.

In fact, I was consistently surprised by how similar the book and movie were to each other overall. Not that there aren't dramatic changes, because there are -- the twelve distinct varieties of extreme dysfunction displayed by the victim's family in the original novel are toned down to probably only four or five, and the movie gives Nick a really fabulous set piece of an "invite all the suspects to a dinner party" conclusion that I can in no way imagine Dashiell Hammett putting in a novel.

Actually, the fact that the movie feels like it concludes at all is a maybe the most drastic departure from the book, which ends on Nick telling Nora that murder doesn't round out anybody's life except the murdered and the murderer's, and Nora complaining it all seems a little unsatisfactory.

That said, a solid 50% of the film's dialogue or more is taken straight from the book, the details of how the murder works itself out hew remarkably true to the original, and Nick and Nora themselves are -- pretty much the same across adaptations? To be honest, I was expecting the book to be a little bit grimmer, a little bit darker, and possibly a little less fun. The book definitely has a little more leeway to show the sordid side of humanity than the film, but in fact Nick and Nora's sparkle is pretty consistent no matter which version you pick up.

I will also add that I did not expect the book to contain a lengthy and completely plot-irrelevant digression on cannibalism? THAT WAS ALSO A SURPRISE.

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Tags: booklogging, dashiell hammett, movies

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