The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Old Films

judgehardyandsonI’m a big fan of old movies.

And among those old movies that rank up there as some of my favorites are The Andy Hardy movies that starred Mickey Rooney as the impetuous, excitable youth learning about life, love, family and friendship in his small town of Carvel in the 1930s and ‘40s.

From his ‘man to man’ talks with his father, Carvel Judge James Hardy, to his active involvement in the school and its social scene, to walking down the sidewalks of a quaint Main Street full of grocers, mechanics, druggists and any other essential store, manned by a smiling face tha knows everyone in town, to gliding beside the white picket fences that adorned the houses of people who lived beside each other, laughed with each other and looked out for each other, the Andy Hardy movies provide life as an optimistic, we’re in this together, looking out for your fellow man journey to being a better person, even if you get into a scrape along the way.

It defines that ideal that we look back on thanks to those movies (and later, TV shows) of life during those years of perfection. Of Americana.

06-mickey-rooneyAnd it’s not real.

Oh, how I wish it was, but deep down, I know it’s not.

The films, set in the fictional town of Carvel (somewhere, never named, in the Midwest) were sentimental comedies that celebrated ordinary American life as if it walked off the cover of a Norman Rockwell cover to the Saturday Evening Post. The people in Carvel were generally pious, patriotic, generous and tolerant.

But it was not real. Not even for the time.

The town of Carvel was a representation of what MGM movie mogul Louis B. Mayer wanted his adoptive country of America to be. It was an idealized vision.

As writer Victoria Balloon points out in a 2011 Matinee at The Bijou Blog post brilliantly dissecting the Andy Hardy film series, Louis B. Mayer was not looking to reflect what America was at the time. He was instead looking to instill an idea of what he, as the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants, wanted America to be. Rooney himself referred to it as “part of L.B. Mayer’s master plan to reinvent America….He wanted values to be instilled in the country and knew how influential films could be…”

I know this. Every time I watch one of these movies I know this, and yet, it makes no difference in my longing to find such a place for my son (and soon to be children) grow up.

We love our little house, purchased right before we got married. Our next door neighbor’s are always there with a helping hand and watchful eye when we need it, families across and down the road that are a pleasure to see and chat with, and up until a few years ago, we had two WWII vets (one next to us and one across from us) also among our daily cast of characters. Both have since passed away.

Andy Hardy HomeBut I’m fooling myself if I didn’t admit that with our family expanding, we continue to be on the lookout for something a little bigger, something with a little more space. While our street itself is relatively calm (with a few exceptions), it’s becoming apparent to me that the surrounding area as a whole is not faring as well, be it crime, drugs, or other issues. Maybe it’s a residual effect of working in news and having the press releases constantly stream across your desk, making you realize what’s going on in your tiny village, but it of course has me concerned how long things can hold.

But when we do, even casually, look outward, I find myself constantly shrugging my shoulders at potential locations.

Because it’s not Carvel.

Maybe not Carvel specifically, but it’s because in the back of my mind, even if it’s not conscious, I am looking for Carvel. And it doesn’t exist.

It never did.

If I could just convince my subconscious mind of that…

Leaving Carvel


the thin man powell loyThis is one of those posts that’s more dorky than daddy, so prepare thyself for a stop at the intersection where my love for comics meets my love of classic films.

In 1934, a great detective duo made their way into American pop culture, swigging drinks and jabs at each other like no married couple on screen before.

Five years later, in 1939, a great detective who offered up jabs on the chins of criminals would make his debut, dressed in an outrageous costume that resembled a bat.

40 years later, the three would meet, albeit briefly, and The Thin Man would come face to face with The Bat-Man.

Nick Charles was a hard-drinking, fast-talking, retired detective, who, with his beloved wife Nora at his side, constantly found himself pulled back into the crime solving business. Unlike any other couple on screen at the time, The Charles’ comedic rapport and crime solving adventures were such a hit, that they were featured in five sequels over the course of 13 years.

While the original novel that the first film was based on, “The Thin Man” by Dashiell Hammett was referring to the suspect in its title, “The Thin Man” quickly became synonymous with the character of Nick Charles (played by William Powell). It was so synonymous that it was used in the titles of all the sequels: “After The Thin Man,” “Another Thin Man,” “The Thin Man Goes Home” and “Song of the Thin Man.”

While the films blended comedy, adventure and mystery, they usually culminated with Nick Charles gathering everyone involved in the case in a room, and running through every motive and likelihood until the killer was revealed.

A favorite among move fans for decades, the original Thin Man film was added to the National Film Registry and Roger Ebert added it to his list of Great Movies in 2002.

In 1939, just a few years after William Powell and Myrna Loy left their indelible mark on Nick and Nora as well as pop culture, Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced a very different type of detective in the form of Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy by day and a man who dresses like a bat and hunts criminals at night.

To try and sum up Batman’s place in pop culture could not even be contained to one article, let alone a single paragraph, as full books have been written on the topic. So it isn’t too surprising that, even if it was four decades after Batman’s debut, that the Bat-Man would cross paths with Nick and Nora Charles.

Thin Man Batman 02It was the late 1970s in Detective Comics #481, during the time when The Batman Family was prominently displayed on each cover of the comic, highlighting an adventure for everyone. Among those is “Ticket to Tragedy,” a tale written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by the great Marshall Rogers. In it, Batman promises Alfred’s cousin, a renowned doctor in England that he can track down a killer and restore the doctor’s faith in humanity before he burns up his notes for a new technique in heart transplants.

Batman accomplishes his mission, of course, but along the way, while chasing the killer on a train bound for Gotham City, he comes across none other than Nick and Nora Charles. Nora instantly recognizes Batman and Nick asks Batman if he has a moment to compare crime solving notes. In typical loner fashion, Batman gives Nick the brush off.

Thin Man Batman 03

A quick, chance encounter, but one that both comic fans and film fans, no doubt enjoyed.

The Thin Man collection can currently be found in a boxed set or on Amazon Instant Video, while “Ticket to Tragedy” has been reprinted in the “Batman in the Seventies” Trade Paperback.



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