23 March 2020

Tidbits from "The Thin Man"

While sheltering in place yesterday I watched a classic movie - The Thin Man, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.   I was startled when Nick Charles spoke the above line, pronouncing the final word "susPECTS" (enPR: səs.pĕktʹ, IPA(key): /səsˈpɛkt/).  Then in the next frame, Myrna Loy responds the same way:

She also pronounced it "susPECTS," which to the modern ear sounds like a verb.  I'm obviously not the first person to have noticed this.  After some Googling I found a book passage that said "In 1934, however, suspect had yet to fully make the transition from being only a verb... to having a noun form...", suggesting that Nick and Nora's pronunciation was standard at the time.  Perhaps some reader at home will have time to dive into the OED or some old pronunciation guides.

The other curious item was an apparently nonsensical phrase in the final scene of the movie.  As the offering of a box of chocolates was being politely declined, Nick Charles exclaims "Not a hip in a carload!" and the others laugh.  I found the explanation in a Turner Classic Movies discussion thread:
One that I did catch was the "Not a hip in a carload" comment made by William Powell (to some women worried that they would gain weight if they ate from a box of chocolates) in one of the Thin Man movies. He was referring to a popular cigarette advertisement of the time in which a railroad car packed with cartons of cigarettes was captioned "Not a cough in a carload" (to indicate how smooth and healthful the cigarettes were).
Here's one version of that ad:

A 2013 article in the Scottish Daily Mail commented on a similar phrase in Laurel and Hardy movies - "not a laugh in a carload" and "not a chirp in a carload."

You learn something every day.

Addendum:  Found this observation re Myrna Loy's striking outfits in the movie -
Myrna’s wardrobe is fabulous in my opinion and I am surprised that it has been so overlooked over time, just as the work of the designer responsible for it, Dolly Tree: England’s leading stage designer during the ’20s, the first woman to design for the Folies Bergere and one of Hollywood’s major screen designers. And she was one of the first designers to promote the strapless evening gown.


  1. i forget which of the three is the funniest / quippiest; each has its great moments!


    1. you mean i missed three??? three is all that my library had. i guess i will never get to see the others now, what with the library closed.


  2. I love the Thin Man movies. I've watched them many times. Myrna Loy is so wonderful. William Powell is also a great actor.

    If you haven't seen it, you need to watch "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" with Myrna Loy and Carry Grant. It's hysterical.

  3. My favourite William Powell movie is probably "Jewel Robbery," a pre-Code thing co-starring Kay Francis (aka "The Wavishing Kay Fwancis"). Powell plays a jewel thief who prevents his victims from identifying him by making them smoke what are clearly marijuana cigarettes.

  4. Another pronunciation changer is CLERK, which even up until the 1930s was often pronounced CLARK


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