Books, Movies

The Thin Man Goes to the Head

I’ve just been reading Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man again after some decades and discovered something odd in it. Well, two things. First this:

“I called the desk on the telephone and asked them to send up our mail. There were a couple of letters for Nora, one for me, some belated Christmas cards (including one from Larry Crowley, which was a copy of Haldeman-Julius Little Blue Book Number 1534….How to Test Your Urine at Home).”

Not in the movie, need I add. I looked it up on some used-book sites and found it’s a real thing. So I bought a copy. It turns out you have to buy a lot of other things if you actually want to do the testing, Obermayer’s reagent and ferric chloride among others, by means of which it seems you can learn if you have typhoid. There are other things you can test for too if you have enough litmus paper.

I was more pleased and less mystified by this item than I was in a four-pages-of-dense-type interpolation from Duke’s Celebrated Cases of America (also a real thing) about Albert G. Packer, who in 1873 killed five people in Colorado and ate them. Nick Charles shows the book to Gilbert, the brainy brother. This super-long extract has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, and I can’t find any rationale or explanation for it. People get killed in The Thin Man, but nobody eats them.

Then again, when you re-read the classics, you always find something new. So maybe my next time through I’ll see that somebody did eat Clyde Wynant. After all, they only found the skeleton.

Song of the Day: Cab Calloway, “Utt-Da-Zay”: