Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Thin Man



To celebrate a Summer Under The Stars day devoted to Myrna Loy, I enthusiastically chose to commit a blog to W.S. Van Dyke's THE THIN MAN (1934).  Turner Classic Movies is devoting the entire month of August to "Summer Under The Stars", where each day solely reflects programming to a specific star of classic cinema. This Thursday, August 2nd you can enjoy THE THIN MAN at 11pm EDT plus many more Myrna Loy films on TCM all day long!

THE THIN MAN is the first entry in a collection of a total of six films of the enormously popular characters Nick and Nora Charles, portrayed by William Powell and Myrna Loy.  Although already well-known and experienced actors, THE THIN MAN and subsequent Thin Man series films launched William Powell and Myrna Loy into super-stardom...with good reason.

Nick Charles is a former detective who returns to town with his new bride, Nora Charles, a wealthy heiress and their lovable wire-haired terrier, Asta. In introducing our lead threesome, we see that Nick is charismatically and deeply charming, Nora is adorably sophisticated and fashionable in an unpretentious style and Asta always provides comic appeal on his own terms. We also quickly realize that Nick and Nora take social drinking to an all-new level. This two are not mere occasional hobbyists but true professionals in martini shaking and party-throwing. And most of all, we see Nick and Nora's flirtatious and playful love for one another lights up the screen with authentic and magnetic chemistry.
  

Based on Dashiell Hammett's novel of the same name, the "thin man" actually refers not to Nick Charles but to the missing 'tall, thin man with white hair' Clyde Wynant whom Nick Charles seeks throughout the film and whose mysterious disappearance is central to the plot. Clyde's daughter, Dorothy, played by pretty Maureen O'Sullivan, becomes worried about her inventor father's absence. Dorothy's step-mother is found murdered and her father quickly becomes the main suspect so she begs Nick to take her case. With Nora's thirst for thrills and adventure, she convinces Nick to come out of retirement and return to his sleuthing ways. As Nick follows leads, we are introduced to Dorothy's eccentrically odd family and circle, and the suspicious characters replete with motive begin to pile up. The police decide to work in cooperation with Nick in pursuing the case, but not before Nick and Nora throw a party so we can meet Nick's ole cronies and witness a typical heavy bender. What's revealed in this little party besides the Charles' high tolerance for cocktail consumption and their generosity in hosting, is that Nick Charles is admired and respected by both the police and the street-wise criminals he's worked with through his prior cases. (Upon surveying the room of colorful guests, Nora Charles says: "Oh Nicky, I love you because you know such lovely people.") Finally, when the police are convinced the wrong man is responsible, Nick convenes a dinner party for all possible suspects to attend and the ultimate whodunnit revelation showcases Nick Charles' brilliance in detective mastery.


THE THIN MAN is such a favorite because of the brilliant chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy. They're both perfection in these fun roles. With their quick witty banter and confident ease in exchanges, they each wear their roles comfortably as a custom-fit glove. The dialogue is sharp; and makes me chuckle and smile, every single time I watch. Here's one example of the many zingers... Nora Charles: "You know, that sounds like an interesting case. Why don't you take it?" Nick Charles: "I haven't the time. I'm too busy seeing that you don't lose any of the money I married you for." Only William Powell could portray the ever-charming, while heavily intoxicated party host one moment then a brilliant mastermind detective the next, all while casually flirting with his beautiful wife. And only Myrna Loy's calm confidence and beauty could balance the sophisticated socialite who's acquired a taste for the adventure and thrill of her husband's gritty profession. Myrna Loy truly epitomized the consummate combination of beauty and brains.

For me, when watching this charming gem, there is one thing that sums up the delightful relationship of Nick and Nora Charles sublimely... the scenes when Myrna Loy playfully scrunches up her nose at William Powell and he returns the gesture in kind. If you haven't seen THE THIN MAN yet, I urge you to get those martini shakers ready and tune in this Thursday and see for yourself- I guarantee it won't be your last.




19 comments:

  1. One of my all-time favorites. Though I love that moment when Powell and Loy scrunch their noses up at each other, I think my favorite visual moment between them is when Porter Hall (as McCauley, the lawyer) is on the phone in their hotel room, he does the old trick of making her look down so he can poke her on the nose, and she responds by hitting him in the back when he's about to drink his martini. And as you point out, the zingers in the dialogue are wonderful ("I hear you got shot five times in the tabloids." "It's not true; he didn't get anywhere near my tabloids"). Loved your write-up!

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  2. Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my THIN MAN write-up! I see that you're submitting 5 blogs for SUTS yourself~ AWESOME! Can't wait to read them all. Agree with your examples of clever visual moments & zingers, too! BTW, are you joining the WHAT A CHARACTER! blogathon next month? Shameless plug, I realize, but I just love the idea of writing on your favorite character actor- there are SO many great ones!Thanks again!...Kellee

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  3. I totally wish I owned all the Thin Man movies! I love their chemistry and I really love how Myrna Loy/Nora Charles never lets William Powell/Nick Charles get the better of her. And what a cute nose! I listed this in my recent post about Myrna Loy - I'd love your feedback!
    http://thegreatkh.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/myrna-loy-august-2-on-tcm.html
    BTW - love your BUB background! That's one of my "guilty pleasure" Hepburn films. I've seen it approximately ten million times and I still laugh my pants off!

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    1. Oh Margaret, we are 2 birds of a feather! I too have seen Bring Up Baby a zillion times- in my top 5 of all films list. I'm going to read your blog for sure~ can't wait! btw, I own the entire set of 6 Thin Man movies on dvd. Ya just never when you might need a Thin Man fix! Thanks for reading!...KP

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  4. Great write-up, amazing how fresh this stays every time you watch it. Can't believe I still chuckle in all of the same spots ... pretty much the entire way through! I think beyond the obvious pair (make that trio!) my favorite of the bunch is Edward Brophy's Morelli. Best loud-mouthed jerk you'll ever find!

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    1. Totally agree on all points, Cliff! And thanks for the RT's on twitter!!...Kellee

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  5. Great blog! I have to admit I hadn't ever watched The Thin Man all the way through until recently. Now that I have I can see why it's so special. The humor is very sharp and the relationship and banter is some of the best I've seen in any movie. Still has power because it's so well written and acted.

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  6. Great write up! I watched The Thin Man for the first time just a couple of months ago (whenever it aired last on TCM.) You describe what I was missing out on...that great chemistry between the leading actors.

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  7. Kellee, I love this post!! You know, I'll admit, for a long time, before I finally learned otherwise, I thought Loy and Powell were really married to each other. (Yeah, a little embarrassed to publicly humiliate myself like this... but I did!) They were indeed such a joy to watch in The Thin Man and in their other great movies together. Their chemistry was captivating! Thanks for sharing.

    p.s. I still so want a dog like Asta!! :)

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  8. What a great post! Your affection is infectious, and I share it! My local movie theater celebrated their 75th anniversary last year by showing the movies they presented first run and After The Thin Man was one. It was fabulous to see Nick and Nora introduced to a new generation.

    You're so right about the relationship being the thing in these movies. As a little girl, I wanted to BE Nora (Who am I kidding? I still do!) and have my own fabulous clothes and my own Nick. I see the Thin Man influence everywhere -- most notably TV's Moonlighting and Castle. Where again, solving the mystery is not really the point, just the catalyst for the banter.

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  9. Love the Thin Man, and love the nose-scrunching animations above. I never realized that Nick was NOT the Thin Man. I wonder who kept the name for the subsequent stories? Hammett or the studios?

    (Thanks Gary for posting the link to your Facebook page - keep doing that!)

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  10. LOVE THIS, Kellee! Am ready to watch The Thin Man on TCM - it's about to start so wanted to be sure to get here and read your post beforehand. Such a fun film and one of the best couplings in movie history. Love the scrunchy faces too and when he does it back to her - pure joy. What chemistry they had!

    Aurora

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  11. Kellee--

    Thanks for a wonderful piece on one of the greatest movies ever made. Myrna is so lovable! And Powell/Loy might be the greatest pairing in all of film!

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    1. I think so too. So thrilled you enjoyed it, Jill! #SUTS Blogathon is going wonderfully, don't you think so?

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  12. This is a wonderful review of The Thin Man. I've seen this movie about 10 times and it never gets old.

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    1. THANKS SO MUCH! I'm glad you enjoyed it! And I agree with you~ it's one of those rare gems that stays fresh and funny, no matter how many times you see it.

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  14. An american actor, William Powell is paired in many films with Myrna Loy.

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