Liz Smith: Johnny Depp — What Kind of a “Thin Man” Will He Be?

Johnny Depp: The next Nick Charles?

And more from our Liz: Whitney Houston, on the edge again … Happiness? Elusive, but try these steps

“I’M A hero. I got shot twice in the Tribune.”

“I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids.”

“That’s a lie. He never got anywhere near my tabloids!”

So went the banter between Nick and Nora Charles in “The Thin Man,” the first — and probably best — of six films based on a Dashiell Hammett novel.

The 1934 movie starred William Powell as reluctant former private eye, Nick, and his beautiful, witty, wealthy wife, Nora, played by my heroine Myrna Loy. (She was “the perfect wife” a role I aspired to in my youth.) This charming couple party and drink. They parry and thrust little insults that bounce. In later films, the drinking would lessen —the screen Code had reared its head.

Well, “The Thin Man” was one of those perfect films. But in Hollywood nothing is ever perfect. So now comes word that the black and white classic is going to be re-done with Johnny Depp as the insouciant and often soused Nick Charles. Rob Marshall of “Chicago” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” fame will direct. So one can assume it is going to be done as a period piece. (He also directed Depp in the latest – and last, one hopes! — of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. Sorry, “Pirates” fans; those movies all seem about six hours long!)

But who is going portray the delicious, lighter-than-air Nora Charles? Who on earth has Myrna Loy’s exquisite air of amused concern, her style, her quiet but devastating sex-appeal? Not to mention that wonderful nose?

Please don’t say Angelina Jolie. Love the woman. She’s a beauty and a great humanitarian and all that, but Nora Charles needs an effervescence that eludes the sultry Jolie. Anyway, she and Depp didn’t exactly click, chemistry-wise in “The Tourist.”

Good luck to Mr. Marshall, Mr. Depp and whomever has the truly challenging job of stepping into Miss Myrna Loy’s bias-cut evening gowns.

* * *

WE ARE really losing a lot of great show biz people this year, and we are only five months in. Jane Russell Elizabeth TaylorJackie CooperPhoebe Snow Michael SarrazinArthur LaurentsSada Thompson… Madelyn Pugh (the co-writer of most of the “I Love Lucy” scripts) and most recently Dan Wynter. Miss Wynter never became a huge star, but did make movie history with her role in the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” And she was one the most ravishing beauties, ever.

* * *

GOOD LUCK to Whitney Houston in her latest battle with drugs. The great singer has checked herself into rehab yet again. Even when she appeared on “Oprah” last year, preparing for her comeback, the rumor mill ground out tales that she was still skating on thin ice. And her subsequent concert tour was marked by controversy, cancelled shows and a strained voice.

Interestingly, just last Friday I lunched with one of the most knowledgeable show biz scribes around, and I was told in no uncertain terms that Whitney was “totally addicted again” and disastrously close to the edge.

At least she is trying to pull herself back up.

* * *

MATERIALLY, we have all come a long way baby!  But people are not happier now than they were, say, fifty years ago. In fact, just the opposite. None other than The Dalai Lama himself, along with heavyweight philosophers from the worlds of education, economics and politics met recently to advance a new campaign called “Action for Happiness.”

This group seems to be promoting better mental health by urging volunteerism, charity efforts and “getting in touch with old friends.” The thesis is that  we don’t give enough to other people. We have lost the art of connecting.

We need exercise, direction, resilience and ambition. (I know, I know – I recently conducted a symposium on “resilience” for a New York charity. The participants decided two days before the event that they didn’t want to talk about ‘resilience” but preferred to just gab, gossip and kick politics around.

I made a valiant effort to keep them on track but I don’t know if it worked too well. In the end the charity was happy; it made some money.

Anyway, here are some of “The Steps to Happiness” that the London School of Economics suggest we apply ourselves to, as follows.

* * *

…GIVING (Doing things for other people, working as a volunteer part of the time)

…RELATING (Connecting with people and looking up pals with whom you’ve lost contact) …

…EXERCISING (Go for a run) … ….APPRECIATING (Notice the world around you and take time to appreciate things)

…TRYING OUT (Keep learning … stay abreast of new things)

…DIRECTION (Setting goals, making resolutions, sticking to it all)

…RESILIENCE  (Finding ways to bounce back) …

…EMOTION (Focus on happier moments and take a positive approach to life)

…ACCEPTANCE (Don’t keep dwelling on your flaws; be comfy with who you are)

…MEANING  (You can be part of many things that are bigger than you are!)

* * *

The movement above has more than 5000 members across 68 countries and has won international support. Its leader, Baron Layard of the London School of Economics says: “If we want a happier society, individuals have got to create more happiness in the world around them. This is a movement for radical cultural change which can provide the basis for a better culture in the 21st century.”







32 Responses so far.

  1. avatar KarenR says:

    Is it laziness and lack of inspiration or greed and arrogance that’s prompting all these remakes of classics?

    More often than not the originals remain the better product.

  2. avatar Sharon Belko says:

    I definitely can’t do ALL of the steps listed above – but am seriously planning on implementing as many as possible during the rest of this year – maybe even ALL! Thanks Liz!

  3. avatar crystalclear says:

    I’ll speak to Johnny Depp in “The Thin Man.”    He is one of my all-time favorite actors.   As far as talent goes in Hollywood lately Johnny Depp soars far above the rest.   Not a fan of Angelina Jolie but I thought she did a good job in “The Tourist.”   Did anyone notice how difficult it was for her to walk in her four inch heels while strolling the sidewalk?    that’s not fair.   I couldn’t have done any better.   

    Personally, I enjoy movie remakes and while some may fall short in capturing the original excitement, it’s the anticipation of the story content that I find most enjoyable.   If Johnny Depp is true to his reputation he’ll do a great job of bringing “The Thin Man” back to his admirers.

    Regarding the steps listed above, I sort of live my life by all of them.   I say “sort of” because I’m still a work in progress but I know I’ll get there eventually.    A positive attitude will take us where we want to go.   No?

  4. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    Remakes: In the spirit of FUN, I will say that there is a combination of rehashed material and a different type of sophistication of a 2011 audience…as opposed to 1935…that makes these remakes so challenging. Especially when you want to go THAT far back. Film was different. Our stars were different. Our world was different and we were different. Using only one example, in television…. channel surfing has given way to instant gratification. We move faster in 2011, than we did in 1935. I’m afraid that sitting in a theater watching “The Thin Man” series, I may be squirming in my seat and looking at my watch. At least I do not have to do that with television watching the 1935 original. Whitney: To me, being ‘totally addicted’ is really no different than being ‘addicted’ and this relapse, either physically or mentally, is no surprise to me. Not because I see this every single day, but I watched Whitney skim the top of her emotional upheaval on Oprah and knew that there was deeper, perhaps more painful, work to do. Recovery is an ongoing process and we discover or acknowledge different aspects of ourselves that can only be realized at alone at 4am on a Tuesday morning or, in Whitney’s case, at a party where crack is being casually passed around. A conscious choice will always have to be made at that point, in the life of an addict…and being skillful in handling the situation is never ending. Just having supports, someone to talk to, is a great start and sometimes the only intervention that is needed. Entering rehab as a precaution is not unheard of but the true tests take place in the outside world…beyond of the four wall of rehab safety. Of course, I wish her luck. It is part (but not essential) in achieving ongoing recovery. Happiness: “The Steps of Happiness”; primarily Tony Robbins material and if this could be achieved in such an orderly fashion…there wouldn’t have been years of school for me. Some items just make sense, some are done automatically, some alien and the end product is never ‘happiness’ (which is a fleeting state of mind) and if one doesn’t feel ‘happiness’ after all of this mish-mash, comes the feeling of failure or not deserving of happiness. To live a relevant life, making instead of grabbing opportunities and acts of kindness may lift the spirit into a joyful temporary state instead of this laundry list. But trying to reach bliss should be FUN, and not a 9 to 5 effort, or a dreaded chore.

  5. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I really dislike this emphasis on “happiness” because I know that happiness comes in fleeting moments.  Contentment, and the acceptance it brings, is what we should all strive for. 

    I suspect one reason why drugs are such a problem in our society is that most cannot deal with what follows the fleeting moments and so turn to drugs to keep the happiness going. Although in some cases the drugs are the only thing that produces the fleeting moments. Money does not buy happiness. But apparently it buys a “good high.”

    What angers me is this “poor baby” approach to the rich-and-famous-and-drugged-up. Without  the rich-and-famous part most would be in prison. Which is probably where most of them should be.   It might wake them up to reality.  It might wake everyone else up to reality as well.  Part of the reality is that Hollywood has peddled this “drugged-up and trashed-out” state of its “stars” as a new norm for the rest of us. Not for me it isn’t. 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      “But Broadway doesn’t go for booze and dope…”  Helen Lawson to Neely O’Hara. There’s some truth to the line. All of our “stars” of today wouldn’t last a week on Broadway. Which is probably why you don’t see any of them on Broadway. Or probably ever will.

  6. avatar crystalclear says:

    Whitney Houston had such a promising career and put herself in the garbage can.   I have no sympathy whatsoever for Whitney for making bad personal decisions.   In fact, anyone who is hooked on drugs and alcohol have no one to blame but themselves.    That being said, I hope Whitney has a positive rehab experience.   I’m afraid her voice is shot based on her failed come back last year.  Crack cocaine literally destroys one’s body with skin lesions, teeth falling out, etc.   Can’t imagine why anyone would choose that route in life.    Blows my mind.  

    We have very few “stars” in Hollywood these days.  

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Crystal…nobody’s asking you to have sympathy for Whitney.  But it would be nice if you did, especially as you don’t know her, her addiction has never affected you, and how hard is it to be sympathetic to a desperate person?  Even a drug addict.  Even a famous drug addict. 

      I doubt that Whitney sat down one day as a fresh young woman and said: “I think I am going to destroy my voice, my body, my health, my career, my relationships and become a great big drug addict.”

      People make their addiction choices, it’s true.  But they are the sick choices of sick people.

      I have been strong enough not to become a complete drunk.  But it’s been a battle.  I fight it every day.   But I have B. and friends who care.  Maybe Whitney doesn’t. 

      • avatar crystalclear says:

        As I said above, Mr. Wow, I hope Whitney has success in rehab.   I’m far from being a cold hearted person but I believe we should all be held accountable for our choices.   Using illegal drugs, even the first time can be addictive.   When taking the first alcoholic drink most people never even think about becoming addicted to alcohol.   In fact, most people do not become addicted to alcohol.   The same cannot be said for crack cocaine.   So, although I do not have sympathy for her foolish decision, I do hope she kicks the habit this go round in rehab.

        I am very much aware that no one asked me to have sympathy for Whitney Houston.   I was stating my opinin on how I feel about people who shoot heroin into their veins and other drugs because when they KNOW they will become addicted and going down a dark path to ruin.   Although Whitney didn’t decide to ruin her career and her personal life, she is a smart woman and had to know that crack cocaine would ultimately own her.  So, in that regard I do not feel sorry for her.   She was once a star and now she is a drug addict.  I feel the same way about Charlie Sheen.

        Glad you are now in a good place, Mr. Wow.  

        • avatar Mr. Wow says:

          Dear Crystal…thanks!  I am in an “iffy” place.   I never quite get to “good.”  I do my best.  It’s not easy. 

          By the way…Whitney is not very smart. 

        • avatar isa says:

          Good afternoon Crystalclear, just wanted to add that for all intent and purposes alcohol is a drug.  It physiologically acts in a very similar way as other drugs.  People who can drink in moderation  are actually lucky.  A funny thing about these wonderous bodies of ours they get addicted quite easily to most stuff, from crack, to food, to alcohol, to work, to exercise, you name it.  It might get longer for the alcohol addiction than other drugs to show how it has damaged the body and the mind.  Yet sooner or later it does a lot of damage, of course proportionally to how long and often one has been drinking.  Maybe Whitney was a bit dumb, who knows.  Addiction is such a painful road, that I am pretty sure no one choses it.  They may have chosen that first hit, not knowing where it was going to lead them down the road.  The compassion we can feel is for that part in them  that felt compelled to engage in drug use in the first place.  You mentioned heroine,  which tends to be a drug of choice for a lot of sexual abuse survivors.  The intense high quickly takes them away from the anxiety they feel due to an earlier trauma.  There is the mind that can be very smart, and then all the other stuff going on inside us that can be very dumb and confused.  Whitney will always be a star.  Her voice was so unique and a gift to all of us.  She is a woman in pain.  Other stars have been more functional with their addictions, maybe luckier, maybe less fragile than Whitney.  Addiction is widespread in the entertainment and theater world.  We hear mostly the horror stories or what sells.  Sorry to hear Whitney Houston is not in the clear yet.  I hope she gets there.       

          • avatar crystalclear says:

            isa, I enjoyed your post very much.   Thank you for responding and sharing such good information!

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          The “let’s legalize it all” crowd always points out that alcohol is a drug. But as you point out, it is not a dangerous drug in itself. Abuse of the drug is dangerous. You don’t abuse other drugs. You simply use them. And become addcited to them. There’a ahuge difference between having a margarita and having a hit of crack.

          You also don’t get stoned off one margartita. You do get stoned off one joint.  Drugs are drugs. Dope is dope. And you know what? Dopes do dope.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Lots of people have “been there, done that” and are “there now, doing it/fighting it” who don’t pull the “poor me” excuse which of course elicits the “poor baby” excuse. In itself an addiction that in turn produces the enabling to use the addiction lingo.

        And today Lindsay Lohan decided to plead guilty to stealing a $2,500 necklace. And got four months in jail. Which in the Los Angeles County Jail system probably equates to four days for Lindsay Nobody and four hours for Lindsay Lohan.  Of course most Lindsay Nobodies wouldn’t have gotten four months. They would have gotten four years.

        Someone in Hollywood needs to finally take the trash out to the curb where it belongs. 

        • avatar Count Snarkula says:

          I think Lindsey pleaded no contest. That whole thing seemed pretty shady to me. The store started offering the surveillance tape as pay for view on their website. Shifty. And on Whitney, and others. Folks, life is hard. We all need a crutch or two. I am a smoking, functional alcoholic. I realize the potential consequences that I may face. Or not face, based on family history. I am not offering up this information as an excuse for Whitney’s and other’s behavior/choices. Just as a possible explanation. And yes, I do have sympathy for anyone who is in a dark place. But that is the person I am.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Not sure if many jewelers still do this but years ago many would allow customers to take a piece of jewelery out on consignment. Trusted customers. A lot of furriers did the same.  It was “free advertising” if the customer returned it although most actually didn’t and there usually was an agreement in writing. Those who did still had provided “free advertising” when asked about the necklace or the fur. There was always an insurance rider that covered loss or theft. David Webb as I recall had a similar agreement with people who sold his pieces outside of his stores. And he got caught in a legal nightmare when one of the “salespeople” had in turn consigned pieces to another “salesperson” who ended up being charged with financial fraud and the pieces ended up being seized by a banktruptcy court as assets to to be sold to settle with the people who had been defrauded. It was a mess.

            Lindsay Lohan did not take this necklace out on consignment. And did not return it when asked to. Me? I would have paid to have the surveillance tape run everywhere I could so people could see for themselves. She STOLE it.  End of subject.

            I know people are who functional alcoholics. My father was one. My mother, well, I took after my mother. So I occasionally have a beer with Mexican food or sushi and every once in awhile have a nice “sipping drink” with my old date Jack Daniels. My father was functional. But he would have been happier without the booze.  My mother definitely would have been. I think most people are.  But if you are comfortable with it, well, that is what matters. There are functional alcoholics. There arent too many functional drug addicts that I’m aware of.  In any case Whitney Houston moved beyond functional a long time ago. And I doubt will ever be functional again. Crack is nasty stuff. Worse than heroin in some ways. It used to be a “ghetto drug” but now is on some of the best cocktail tables in the best homes in America. Cheap thrills with not so cheap consequences. As I suspect Whitney Houston is discovering.  I wish her the best. But when it comes to crack, well, that was a decision she made. So “poor baby” doesn’t cut it with me. With her or anyone else.  The party is fun. But sometimes the party turns deadly. so much for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You end up being rolled out on a gurney in a plastic bag sometimes. Baby Snooks had lots of scenes along the way. That was never one of them.

      • avatar Laura Ward says:

        Well said!

  7. avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

    Re: Whitney Houston: the skinny is that binLaden was obsessed with her. I wonder if she knew that, and if she did how that made her feel. The most sought after terrorist in the world going gaga over you might give one pause, I would think.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Phyllis…well, it didn’t bother her enough to pause over the crack pipe!   (That remark is for Crystal who surely thinks I am too sympathetic to Miss H.)

      • avatar crystalclear says:

        Mr. Wow.   I don’t believe any woman would be flattered about bin Laden thinking they were hot.  

        I don’t believe you are too sympathetic to Whitney Houston.   Not at all.   Not all people view situations from the same angle.    

      • avatar Paul Smith says:

        It is not unreasonable to know OBL had the hots for Whitney.  Whitney used to have it all, didn’t she? Crystal does make an interesting point about choices. By the way, she is an outpatient, not fully checked in. Positive step all the same.

  8. avatar crystalclear says:

    By the way, Mr. Wow, you haven’t put up a thread in a long time.   When will you post another one for us?

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Crystal…actually, I had three posts recently.  The tale of the Easter Swan…Trump/Obama and being nasty to my boss (and why it didn’t make me feel good!)

      I have a very long post about my adolesence that I keep submitting. But the delicate sensibilities at WoW fear you will all be terirbly shocked. 

      But I’ll be back soon with something more vanilla.

      XXXXMr. W.

      • avatar crystalclear says:

        I’m kinda new here.  I thought you put up a new one every week for some reason.   I always engage on your threads.

        All I can say is keep trying to get to the place where you feel comfortable with your battle.   We live in a world where everytime we turn around it’s time to have a drink.   I find it unfulfilling to have dinner without a glass of wine to go with it.   Look at the italians….and the french….and the Brits….love their cocktails, wine and beer.   Everything in moderation is always a good place to be but I know for some it can be difficult.    Hang in there!  

        More vanilla?   Maybe something a little bit on the mocha side?

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        Oh something tells me that you and the Count have a lot of things in common about our adolescence. I would REALLY love to read that piece.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I was sort of wild myself at 13 and can’t imagine anything you did at 13 would shock me. Some of the things I did at 13, however, might shock you. They shock me. I would never write about them though. My book would begin at Sweet 16. When I flew off to visit a witch in Florida and ended up in a gossip column. And yes the gossip columnist knew I was 16. I was already a little notorious. Moreso when that column hit the streets that morning.

        The truant officer was a friend of my mother’s.  She finally called. She never asked where I was again after my mother told her I was in California. Maybe she put down that I was in a “distance learning program.”  I still think I got a better education on my own.  I have a BA from a university. But  got my PhD in life from the Chateau Marmont.  Summa cum laude.

  9. avatar Bonnie O says:

    William Powell will be a tough act to follow but I do believe that Johnny Depp is capable of providing all of us with an equally entertaining Thin Man.  He could not possibly be more debonair than Powell or even more witty or comedic but I do have confidence that Depp will find the key to make his Nick Charles a memorable character.  The key might be who is chosen to play Nora because if the two actors do not click, then the strain will show in the performance.

    I agree that Angelina Jolie is not appropriate for the role.  Nora is not sultry though she is sexy;  she is not “pretty” but rather “striking”.  Hmm …   I wonder?  Myrna Loy will be as hard an act to follow as is William Powell.   Remakes are often painful to watch …. i.e. Sabrina, Father of the Bride and Psycho to name a few.

    • avatar crystalclear says:

      Hi BonnieO!   I enjoy watching the old movies and William Powell and Myrna Loy especially!  What I admire about Johnny Depp is his ability to nail the role.  We  agree on the talented Mr. Depp. 

      • avatar Bonnie O says:

        Hello Crystalclear –  The latest “Pirate” film of Depp’s is scheduled to be released next week.  Will Capt. Jack Sparrow find the Fountain of Youth?   Somehow they are going to have to show some kind of closure for the character …. I wonder how it will be?  Entertaining, for sure.

        • avatar crystalclear says:

          Oh, BonnieO, we’ll have to wait and see!   Depp is amazing as Captain Jack.

  10. avatar elaine s says:

    I loved the “Thin Man” TV series with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk.  I didn’t see the movies until much later.  I loved the banter between Lawford and Kirk.  They were my role models for how to have a cool relationship! 

    If Johnny Depp has been chosen, whoever is chosen for the female role must have a quick wit, a lot of charm, and a lot of style.  I think Depp is too young.  George Clooney would fit the role physically.