While digging through boxes in my storage unit the other day, I came across tapes of a few old episodes of The Thin Man TV series. I remember recording these ten or so years ago, when TNT occasionally showed one in the middle of the night. Well, being in a Hammett frame of mind, I naturally hauled them home for another look-see.
After watching three episodes, all from early in the first season, I was ready to write them off as terrible. As Nick, Peter Lawford displayed all the humor and charm of a clothes dummy. He seemed to be sleep-walking through the part, delivering his lines in a dull monotone and never cracking a smile. Phyllis Kirk (whom I remember best as TV's first Lois Lane - Oops, my mistake. See comments.) seemed to be at least trying to display a personality, but she too fell flat. The only comic relief came from the antics of Asta, by far the best actor of the three.
But I had several more episodes, so I tried one more. And struck gold. (Well, maybe not gold, but at least silver.) The episode is called “The Cat Kicker,” and came from late in the second - and final - season, in 1959.
Somehow, Lawford and Kirk have grown personalities. They smile, they tell jokes, they make faces at each other, and Lawford ever does some William Powell-like physical gags. It’s as if the director forced them to watch one of the Powell-Loy Thin Man movies and said, “Now, do that!”
As for the story, no cats are kicked. Rickles the cabbie delivers a babe wearing nothing but a nightgown and fur coat to the Charles’ apartment because she’s lost her memory, and he thinks Nick can help her (or at least pay the cab fee). She, naturally, gets flirty with Nick, and Nora gets jealous. A sub-plot, which of course dovetails with the amnesiac plot, involves Nick and Nora auctioning off a day of their services for charity.
So. I now know the entire series didn’t suck, and I’ll be watching the rest of my episodes hoping for another gem. What I want to know now is - why isn’t this series available on DVD? It ran for 72 episodes, and even at it’s worst, it’s good as some of the dreck now being reissued.
More Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.
A fan visits the Thin Man set.