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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More Thin Man Understudies Go Sleuthing


Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern Are Would-Be Nick and Nora in Fast and Furious (1939)

How critical was Bill Powell to continuation of the Thin Man series? Well, he couldn't be replaced in them, first of all. MGM considered that and even tried second-string detecting couples in hope of a switch in event Powell's health took him out (cancer surgery and uncertainty he'd recover). Showmen wanted more Thin Men, so a next best thing was duplicating the formula with husband-wife crimebusters on reduced budget in what was more or less audition to recast Nick and Nora Charles should worse come to worse. Fast and Furious was third of these attempts, Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern as married rare book dealers who dabble at sleuthing. The previous two had cast other MGM couples in pursuit of one that might click (Melvyn Douglas/Florence Rice, Robert Montgomery/Rosalind Russell). The Joel and Garda Sloane mysteries if nothing else point up distinction between workmanlike leads and a truly irreplaceable team, latter being Powell and Myrna Loy. Fast and Furious gets by in the way a fair copy might for a Rembrandt; so long as expectation stays at that level, it can please. The killer was so obvious that even I guessed it, but that too is part of fun, further doses of which can be had with Warner Archives' three-pack DVD release of the Joel/Garda Sloanes.


UPDATE --- 12/7/13: Found the above in a vintage newspaper. This was the sort of item that would adorn entertainment sections in dailies, and was gratis publicity for local theatres that advertised regularly.

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson addresses the Joel and Garda Sloane series at MGM:

Actually, I thought that was the weakest of the three. It lost the interesting rare book angle, and those lions belonged in another movie (I like my whodunits at least marginally plausible). The first two were pretty snappy, though. All three couples seeming perfectly agreeable to me.


The farm team angle is an interesting one. If they lost Powell, would the Thin Man series continue as A films? Or would they replace Loy as well and step up the frequency as lower-cost Bs?

7:26 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

In Thomas Schatz's book, THE GENIUS OF THE SYSTEM, he recounts discussion at MGM on replacing Myrna Loy as Nora Charles (I can't remember now if she was balking or just unavailable). Supposedly such replacements as Marsha Hunt, Jean Arthur, and Loretta Young were considered and dismissed.
All those ladies are fine, but there was just no messing with the THIN MAN chemistry.

11:25 AM  
Blogger williampl7 said...

How about 1942's "Mr. and Mrs. North," with Gracie Allen and William Post Jr.

4:31 PM  

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