“The Thin Man” Returns?

Every now and then, I stumble across a “film news” article so unexpected and shocking, it becomes an instant member of my “Awesome/Terrible Idea” file. For some (far too explicable) reason, these stories nearly always feature someone attempting to remake a classic masterpiece, and today’s entry is no exception:

Who wants to see Johnny Depp solve a murder related to a family full of infighting crazies while getting sloshed at ten in the morning? According to a new report, the actor is angling to have his Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides director Rob Marshall head up a new movie based on Dashiell Hammett‘s 1934 novel “The Thin Man.”

 Now, in fairness, this article suggests that Depp’s interested in making a new film based on the book itself, which is not quite the same thing as taking Powell & Loy on directly. The written material is a bit darker than the charmingly tipsy Charleses from the screen version, so a “reimagining” does not seem out of the question. Depp is (nearly) always interesting – though I have trouble imagining him in Nick Charles’ since those were so completely filled by William Powell’s original performance – and I’m such a sucker for Prohibition-era films that I found myself less devastated by this story than my deep, consuming love for W.S. Van Dyke’s original would suggest.

There were a number of red flags, of course, including the prominent presence of Chicago’s director in the story’s lead paragraph. But things still seemed intriguing until I stumbled across this follow-up story:

Suddenly, the hot writing job at Warner Bros is the 76-year old film The Thin Man, because Johnny Depp wants to remake it with his Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides director Rob Marshall. The studio already has put together a short list of Terry Rossio, Jerry Stahl and Christopher McQuarrie, each of whom have worked previously with Depp.

OK, that’s troubling. Worst “short list” ever. Especially since the prefect writers are obvious. The Coen Brothers need to write this. Miller’s Crossing is quite possibly the most faithful Hammett film ever made; despite the fact that it’s not a straight “adaptation” of any particular work, so much of the dialogue and material (and mood) comes straight from Hammett’s “The Glass Key.” And if Depp is looking for a “grittier” Nick and Nora, who does “gritty” better than the Coens? (Besides, Intolerable Cruelty is a Thin Man-esque a screwball film as has been made in years.)

 Even if the Coens were aboard, though, doubts would remain. And I’m not talking about “written by the creators of National Treasure, Bad Boys II, and X-MenOrigins: Wolverine II” doubts. No, concerns run much more fundamentally deep than that. Who could possibly play Loy’s part? That’s well-nigh uncastable. (Still, look on the bright side: this isn’t completely in the “Terrible/Terrible Idea” file.“ Not yet.)


Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming -- "where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks" -- he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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