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Jeff Wilkin's Type A To Z
by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

A Daily Gazette life blog
Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

The Robe

Not a major fan of major college basketball, and baseball season is still a couple months away. So I’ve been spending more time with my friends at Turner Classic Movies.

Great station! The Turner gang shows bunches of black-and-white films from the 1930, ’40s and ’50s, and I get a kick out of dialogue and fashions from eras long past.

Click on that photo you just passed to blow it up a little bit - there will be a test later.

Back to the point: I was watching one of the “Thin Man” movies a few weeks ago. The detective series starred William Powell and Myrna Loy as married couple Nick and Nora Charles, sophisticated sleuths who loved to banter and booze. Man, did they hit the sauce. Nick was catching up on lost time and lost rounds after Prohibition, I guess. “Want that with a glass or a funnel, Nick?”

In the first movie, “The Thin Man” from 1934, Nora is talking to a reporter. “Say listen, is he working on a case?” the writer inquires of old Nick. Nora says he is — “A case of scotch. Pitch in and help him.”

My kind of people, even though I don’t think Nick Charles was much of a beer drinker. While I dislike scotch I must say I strongly disliked Asta, that stupid dog, stealing all the scenes.

When Nick wasn’t into the buttermilk or fooling around with Nora — and Myrna Loy was quite the dish during the 1930s — the “Thin Man” was lounging around his apartment in this long, silk robe. Looked like silk anyway. Nora had one too, and they just looked damn comfortable. And damn elegant. Sensational, even. That's Nick and Nora in the picture, robed up and talking to some mug, in one of the "Thin" movies.

In another scene, the thin ones are laughing it up in a train’s bar car having — what else — cocktails with another couple. I think during the ’30s and ’40s, just about everyone had a robe. They covered up your pajamas, and wrapping up was kind of a formal way to spend the evening.

If you really want to know, the “Thin Man” is making a comeback. Movie executives announced last year the great Johnny Depp will take over Powell’s role as the man good with both clues and booze. I’ll bet Johnny brings back the character’s robe; I hope he leaves Capt. Jack Sparrow’s black eyeliner and beard braids at home.

The original thin man had company in the fashion department. Jackie Gleason always showed up for a curtain call at the end of his CBS variety shows during the 1960s wearing a theatrical robe. Hugh Hefner seems to be always wearing a robe when he’s on the job at the Playboy Mansion. During my days at stately St. Bonaventure University during the mid-1970s, all the lads in Devereaux Hall wore terry cloth robes. There were only two shower rooms for each half floor, and the robes meant you didn’t have to look like Tarzan with a towel around his waist as you shuffled back to your room after soapy sessions with Prell and Palmolive.

Lounges of today, and I include myself in that group, relax at the end of the day by tossing on some cotton flannel pajama pants, a sweater or sweatshirt over a T-shirt, and grabbing a seat by the TV or fireplace. While it’s a comfortable ensemble, it also makes you kind of look like a bum. Worse yet, you see more and more people wearing pajama pants to the store or to the YMCA. An aghast William Powell would have coughed up five martini olives.

I’m thinking about upgrading. I’ve still got some dough left on a couple Macy’s gift cards, and I’m sure I can find something in a manly plaid or solid. When the snow is flying and I’m settling in with a couple Coors Lights and maybe the latest “Thin Man” movie — that would be “Song of the Thin Man” from 1947 — I’m going to look classy! Sophisticated, even ... if that’s possible for a guy who drinks Coors Light.

I don’t think I’ll start guzzling scotch. But I may start looking for a red satin smoking jacket, for backyard beer-drinking sessions during the summer.

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February 4, 2012
9:44 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

We just saw The Artist. Go see it. You will appreciate the artform of the silent movies. This one will probably win the Oscar this year...although Midnight in Paris is also a strong contender.

- Joan

February 6, 2012
4:55 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I loved Asta, even before I had a Jack Russell Terrier of my own. He was a great foil for the sophisticated Charleses. My favorite Asta moment was when he peed on their Christmas tree.

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