Our scene opens with a scene from an old movie.
It’s Myrna Loy, and the dialogue reveals the film as “The Thin Man.” (William Powell, Myrna Loy, MGM, 1934).
Interestingly, this film was one of the inspirations for the Remington Steele series. According to Stephanie Zimbalist, “The production people kept saying we were supposed to be a sophisticated couple like Myrna Loy and William Powell, and they’d show us scenes from The Thin Man,” Stephanie explains. “Pierce and I were freckle-faced kids. And very nervous. We used to go across the street to a little pub and sit and wonder just what we’d gotten ourselves into.” (McCalls, August 1984). If you’d like to check out the “originals” for comparison with our dynamic duo, try this:
Who is watching this old movie? I think we can guess!
It’s Mr. Steele, apparently watching the movie in the back of the limo. He looks … pensive.
We hear the dialogue on screen: “The murderer is right in this room!”
“Well, there’s your murderer!” William Powell exclaims.
Is that a faint smile on Mr. Steele’s face as Nick Charles solves the mystery?
He reaches for the car phone. Meanwhile …
… Laura is attending to business. What’s that on her mug – apes? She’s looking at Wallace’s data file:
It seems our security expert’s first name is … Immel? He’s 47 years old, and he’s also known as “Glow Worm” and “Walley the Light.” Presumably his aliases speak to his particular area of expertise in the conman lingo – any guesses on what that is? He was born at Lake Ronkonkoma, New York.
It’s a real place!
Looks like there has been some urban renewal over the past 30 years!
Laura’s research is interrupted by the phone. Who can it be?
“What do you want?” Oh, this playful, flirtatious banter! Just like Nick and Nora!
Steele wants to know if Laura is alone. (I’m guessing his next question is, “What are you wearing?”)
“No,” Laura informs him. “Wallace and I are sitting here making paper airplanes out of the research he stole.”
“That’s what I love about you, Laura. No matter how bleak the situation, you never lose your sense of humor.”
Laura wants to know why she’s talking to him.
“I think I’m onto something that could change the entire complexion of the case!” he assures her.
“You’re leaving town,” Laura replies acidly. Oh, Laura! You know you don’t mean it! After all, he just told you he loved you … in a manner of speaking.
Steele tells her his car (HIS car?) will be at her place in 45 minutes. She should make herself presentable:
“We’re having dinner.”
“Oh, no we’re not!” Laura objects … but too late. He has already hung up the phone. What will she do?
She gets up from her desk and goes to study her reflection in the mirror. Something tells me she’s thinking about making herself “presentable.”
We next see a limo (“Steele’s car,” presumably) pull up to a swank restaurant and a doorman open the door.
Laura disembarks, looking … presentable?
“Mr. Steele’s table, please.”
Yikes! Perhaps recalling that Mr. Steele never carries cash, and having cut off his credit cards, Laura seems to have brought her own currency, in the form of a hideous necklace composed of gold coins (or washers?) and baubles. Oh, 1980s accessories. You make me sad.
Always a gentleman, Mr. Steele helps her with her wrap.
She sits. He sits.
“All right, I’m here. What startling news do you have for me?”
“I’m paying for dinner?” Heh.
Steele tells Laura that Wallace didn’t do the crime. “He’s of the old school, where there’s honor among thieves. He’d never rip off a fellow miscreant.”
“Then where is he?”
“He’ll turn up,” Steele predicts.
Laura is … ahem … dissatisfied with that answer.
“Your full-proof security system lasts exactly three hours and 15 minutes, the agency is looking at a $10 million lawsuit, I don’t have a clue to where that missing file is …
“… and you drag me halfway across town to tell me he’ll turn up?!”
“Sit down!” Steele commands. There’s something he wants her to know.
“You’re good. This Dillon thing is a temporary setback. I don’t want you for one moment to lose heart or confidence, because …
“… you are a skilled, resourceful and often brilliant investigator.”
“I’ve had an opportunity to observe your talents first hand, and I am terribly impressed. You’re practical, yet intuitive. You can see the large canvas without missing the small details.”
Oh, Mr. Steele!
“Have I said something wrong?”
“I hate it when you’re nice to me.” She wants to know what to call him when they are alone.
“Well, I’m quite used to the name that you came up with.”
“It’s from a typewriter and a football team.”
He suggests she just pick one; he’s probably used it.
“You know, Murphy thinks you’re an international swindler … or at the very least, an ax murderer.”
Fortunately, Laura does not seem alarmed by her companion’s toothy grin. Just when things are getting merry, along comes the waiter.
“Excuse moi, Miz Holt! Telephone for you, in the foyer.”
Laura goes to answer the call. (Remember the days when not everyone in a restaurant was yaking on a cell phone?)
The waiter, Claude, asks permission to state his opinion.
“This young lady is by far the finest of a staggering array.”
Steele agrees. “You have exquisite taste, Claude.”
The actor playing Claude, Curt Lowens, has a huge number of credits dating from 1959 to the present day. He guested on many series in the 1980s, including “Hart to Hart,” “Scarecrow & Mrs. King,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Dynasty,” “Knight Rider” etc. In the 1960s he made three appearances on “The FBI Files,” starring Efram Zimbalist, Jr – Stephanie’s father.
Claude wants to know if Steele intends to bestow a nameplate on this lovely lady.
“They’re solid brass, you know. And I’m afraid your largesse is beginning to run into big bucks!” (Way to screw yourself out of a tip, Claude.)
“If I do,” Steele comments, “it could very well be the last one I dispense.”
Just then Laura returns, looking grim.
“Wallace turned up.”
Whew! I’ll stop there. It’s been an eventful few moments in Steele-land, no? We see additional evidence of Steele’s love of old movies – and old detective films at that. The sophisticated banter of Nick and Nora Charles is rather different from Humphrey Bogart’s gritty, solitary dicks, however. Could it be that Mr. Steele is beginning to see the appeal of partners-in-fighting-crime? That moment of Laura looking at herself in the mirror feels important, too. It’s almost as if she’s wondering to herself if she measures up to Mr. Steele’s other women. Perhaps Laura is not as confident as she would like the world to believe. And then there’s Steele’s startling confession to Claude, that Laura might be the last recipient of his brass nameplate. Certainly sounds like he’s looking at a long-term partnership of some sort, doesn’t it? What are your thoughts on this pivotal segment?