Sunday, July 28, 2013

One Lovely Blog Award: Share the Love!

Recently, I was honored to hear I was awarded with the "One Lovely Blog Award" by the lovely "Movies Silently" blog. I'm a big fan of this silent film centric blog so I was all the more delighted hear the feeling was mutual! Fritzi Kramer (aka @MoviesSilently) is the tea-sipping, book-reading and silent-film-obsessive creator of this cozy and informative home of "Movies Silently." She gladly shares interesting articles, reviews, biographies and gifs. While her main focus dwells on American films from the silent feature period: 1915-1929, she also plans to cover some foreign silent, remakes, and homages to silent films, as well as later period silent films. She clearly adores silents but engages in an accessible way- to enjoy with all fans, from newbies and aficionados alike.

And as Fritzi says, "Silent movies occupy a twilight realm between books and talking pictures. Because both our eyes and imaginations are engaged at the same time, silent movies have the power to absorb and enchant far beyond talking pictures." Absolutely lovely. Thanks, Fritzi!!

How this "One Lovely Blog Award" works:

1. Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your post

2. Share seven things about you

3. Pass the award on to seven nominees

4. Thank the person who nominated you and add a short blurb about them.

5. Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs
Now, Seven Things About Me:

1. My tastes in film are ECLECTIC.
That's not to say I adore everything. But yes, I do love many, many films. I find that my appreciation in cinema ranges from silents to the most current films. (I generally go to opening weekends of most films.) I love pretty much every genre and sub-genre of film... westerns, spaghetti westerns, Sci-Fi, monster Sci-Fi, Horror, drama, silents, film noir, suspense thrillers, musicals, romance, action, indies, foreign... you name it. But comedies are always my favorite. From Mack Sennett slapsticks to 30's and 40's screwballs to something more modernly raunchy or dark like SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012). Yeah, pretty darn diverse.  

2. I Hate Sad Endings.
I know that's not real life. But I don't care. Anything truly vile or depressing in a film better be followed by some serious reversal of fortune on one level or another. It's the optimist in me. See, in real life, I'm probably one of the best survivors you'll ever meet. Optimism has been one of my key strengths in my knack for surviving. If I find out beforehand that there's a film with a deeply downer theme and/or a horrific ending, I generally try to avoid it. It's not that I don't appreciate it on an intellectual level, I truly do. There's just too much pain in this world. I use cinema as my escape. 

3. I love prop planes in classic films.
I love old planes. Two-seaters and biplanes especially. Both my grandfathers were life-long pilots. They loved flying and it's in my blood, too. My mom's dad was a WW2 bomber pilot; flew 30 missions in the U.K. alongside the Brits, spent his career as an Air Force officer and retired young. But sadly, he died at age 47 so I only knew him from stories as I was 3 when he died. I knew my paternal grandfather better. He also spent WW2 working with planes- but as an aviation mechanic in the South Pacific. After the war, he spent a career with FAA inspecting planes all over the country. Upon an early retirement, he spent years rebuilding antique style  air planes from scratch. I loved to watch those planes being built. We'd often go to fly-ins and air shows in the blazing heat of Kansas summertime as I'd tuck under the shade of a wing while Grandpa chatted away with all his flying buddies. I loved it so much I portrayed Amelia Earhart in the school talent show, all dressed up my grandfather's pilot gear. What a dorky little kid I must have been. I anxiously counted the days until my 14th birthday then I ran out to my grandpa's hanger and exclaimed, "Grandpa! I'm 14 today! Do you know what that means?!" Grandpa: "Yes, I know... that you're a year older?" Me: "It means I'm finally old enough that you can now teach me to fly. I can start taking flying lessons!!" Grandpa: "Don't be silly. You're a girl." Of course I immediately ran off to my grandmother and cried in bitter disapointment. Despite my grandfather having six daughters and only one son, he clung to a few antiquated ways of his time but I still admired his passion and skill for flying. 

They say I was in a small engine plane by 6 weeks old. And my mom even helped out when they needed a wing-walker for an air show or two (few gals were that tiny, brave and completely at ease with aerobatic flying maneuvers as dear mum). So whenever I see those old classic planes in films, I tend to light up a bit. I guess my aviation love is not exactly a secret because not that many months ago, a dear twitter pal and true "Old Movie Weirdo" Will McKinley (aka @willmckinley) graciously surprised me with a signed copy of  William Wellman Jr.'s 'The Man and his Wings: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture. (By the way, Will has a fantastic and popular blog- "Cinematically Insane" and I highly recommend you check it out.) " It's a mesmorizing read that's an homage to his dad, "Wild Bill" Wellman's bio and how that fascinating early life influenced the making of WINGS (1927). I'm still trying to summon the courage to blog upon that beautiful gift, but fear not being able to properly give it the justice it deserves. But I will attempt to give it my best shot soon. (And in case you were wondering, yes- I do plan to get that pilot's license still- in a few years when the nest is bit roomier and hopefully my pocket book will be less roomy.)  

4. I want hats and gloves to make a comeback.
Oh how I long for those accessory-driven styles from the Golden era of Hollywood. I ADORE hats and gloves! There was a time prior to sunscreen and central-air temperate lifestyles where hats and gloves were not just glamorous but also held a purposeful function. Additionally, I love the look of the fur accessories, but I do NOT agree with the unwarranted brutalization of our furry animal friends to achieve a "look." Which is why I say bring back that exact same sumptuous sophistication with faux fur! My grandmother left me all her furs when she passed and as much as I appreciated her style, I felt too guilty about fur to accept. I'm not a vegan or a member of PETA, but I'm a guilt-motivated work in progress.    

5. As an outspoken, strong woman, I love those same sassy types of ladies on the big screen. But  we need to see SO many more.
Don't we though?! Let's face it, when you think of all the female characters in film, the ones with the most snarky responses, those that are the opposite of the compliant wallflowers, the ones that truly hold their own- these are the most appealing and popular roles, are they not?? Would Rosalind Russell's Hildy be as nearly captivating if she didn't equal Cary Grant's Dexter in verbal jabs and excel in reporting better than any man in the press room? Would Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones be as attracted to Karen Allen's Marion if she wasn't an intelligent, adventure-seeking fearless female who held her own in fighting off Nazis? Would William Powell's Nick be as intrigued by and madly in love with Myrna Loy's Nora if she'd rather stay home, instead of urging Mr. Charles to take on complicated cases as she sleuths right along with him? While times have improved over the decades, there are countless more examples of women in film who ultimately sacrifice for the man, even to this day. I'd love to see that change. Think of the wondrous possibilities.  

6. I have a solid list of films that I watch whenever I need a "pick-me-up."   
THE GREAT RACE (1965), IT'S MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963), ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944), THE THIN MAN (1934), BRINGING UP BABY (1938), any Marx Brothers comedy and pretty much any Busby Berkley musical are all examples from my standard list of the films I can count on whenever I'm blue, stressed or simply need an emotional escape. I think most true film aficionados have lists like this. Different films than mine likely but a short list of what picks them up when they're down. For many of us film freaks, in addition to being introduced to cinema via someone who influenced us at often a young age, escapism is generally the biggest motivation.     

 7. I love movies so much I was married in a movie-themed wedding.
So for my final personal share (even though most of my blog followers likely already know this), my passion for film was reflected in my wedding day theme- yes, it extends THAT far. I'm happily married to a fella who "gets me" and even shares my personal passion for movies. We're a blended family and the 2nd marriage for each of us so when we planned for the special day, we knew we wanted to celebrate with less tradition and more focus on FUN. For all the fun details of how we blended our love for cinema into expressing our love for each other, check it out here.    

Although it is simply unfair to narrow down to only seven when there are SO many amazing blogs, I offer up seven of the many amazing bloggers below. Now here are my nominees of some quite lovely bloggers to pass on this special award...

1. Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood blog (also known as @HollywoodComet on twitter) explains, "classic film shaped our society, pop culture and our knowledge. There would be no glamor and Rodeo Drive without Cecil B. Demille’s first farm house that he built in a barren Los Angeles in the 1920s." Well said, Jess!
2. Judy of Movie Classics blog (aka @MovieClassicsWP on twitter) scribes her thoughts on older movies, especially those from the 1930s to 1950s, including a special interest in pre-Codes, gritty Warner Brothers movies and director William Wellman.
3. Patricia (aka @CaftanWoman on twitter) is faster than a speeding scooter! Able to leap tall dust bunnies in a single bound! It's CAFTAN WOMAN - cozily clad film fan and blogger of movies and life...the Caftan Woman blog  
4. Ruth of Silver Screenings blog (aka @925screenings on twitter) and as she says, "classic movies are good for you, like chocolate eclairs or a trip to the spa. You should never let a week go by without enjoying at least one of these."
5.  Chicago gal One Gal's Musings blog's goal would be as Wilbur described Charlotte, "a true friend and a good writer." I'd say she's already made it.

And a good blog list would be incomplete if I didn't include my charismatic compadres and blogathon (WHAT A CHARACTER! and 31 DAYS of OSCAR) co-hosting co-horts...

6. Detroit gal Paula of Paula's Cinema Club (aka @Paula_Guthat on twitter) is a life-long cinema fan, co-founder of the popular #TCMparty tweet-along TCM experience, and proprietor of the St. Clair Cinema Club. Busy gal and sweet friend with a great blog!

7. My Cuban cinema-sister Aurora of Once Upon A Screen (aka @citizenscreen via twitter) is currently NOT seeking the 12 steps program for her classic film, TV and radio show obsession. Instead, she unabashedly continues her postings and we're all the more entertained for it.   

Be sure to check out all these blogs above and enjoy some entertaining and informative writings! Thanks again, Fritzi!    

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Way We Were

                                        Sydney Pollack Blogathon
Sydney Pollack was an actor/director/producer of both the small and big screens. He was prolific and popular and known best for his films that spanned across the last thirty decades of the twentieth century. Films like TOOTSIE (1982), OUT OF AFRICA (1985), THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY? (1969) and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975) reflected his diversity in range, quality of compelling story-telling, and ability to make award-nominated and award-winning films. One film that stands out in his long filmography of excellence is THE WAY WE WERE (1973).
Sydney Pollack's THE WAY WE WERE (1973) is a romantic drama that explores many questions; more than it answers. It's the story of two very different people who fall in love. Kate Morosky (portrayed by Barbra Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (portrayed by Pollack fave Robert Redford) meet in college. Kate is an outspoken Jewish young woman who spends her time actively participating in left-wing politics and rallying against war efforts. But she's drawn to the handsome charms and writing talents of Hubbell. Hubbell Gardiner is a clean-cut, athletic sort to whom everything has come easy.
Nearly seven years have passed now. It's the end of World War II and they randomly bump into each other. Katie is clearly still very attracted to Hubbell. She has continued her passion in social-cause politics and works at a radio station. Hubbell has completed his first novel and spent his war years in the Navy as an officer in the South Pacific. Katie is fascinated by his writing. For Hubbell, his writing reflects his natural talents but also his lack of desire to put forth any effort to excel beyond what doesn't already come easily. A rocky romantic journey has begun.
As their romantic fling turns more serious, their differences become punctuated whenever his friends display their complacent political views accompanied by his own insensitivity (in direct contrast to Katie's fiery philosophies on social justice) and whenever Katie's activism becomes inconvenient to Hubbell's rise in well-to-do society. Despite these contentious conflicts, they marry as Katie continues to love and support Hubbell. Even as they move to California when Hubbell uses his writing skills as a Hollywood screenwriter- not the novelist she hoped he would become. Despite that disappointment, she has also sacrificed her outspoken nature and political activism to aide in his career climb and to secure their privileged spot in their glamorous circle. Tensions rise and morality is tested when the era of McCarthyism paranoia starts to pick off Hollywood writers to be blacklisted. During the witch-hunt Hubbell is satisfied to not rock the boat, blissful to remain on the safe path; yet Katie's true political passions are ignited again. Katie is pregnant while Hubbell has an affair with his college sweetheart/best friend's ex-wife. Upon discovery of his adultery, she initially offers to make their marriage work, affair an all, for their future child's sake. But even blindly faithful Katie soon realizes their relationship has nothing left worth saving.

The most memorable scene in this film is assuredly the final. Years have passed again. The two paths cross by chance in New York City, in front of the Plaza Hotel. He reveals he has remained unchanged- writing sitcoms in Hollywood, content in his shallow mediocrity. He is traveling with a nameless and simple beauty. With political flyers in hand, she is confident and happily remarried, as she proudly shares a brief update of their daughter, Rachel. Katie invites him and his female companion for a drink. He declines but he looks at her with admiration and wonder of love lost. She generously responds, "your girl is lovely, Hubbell."
When you watch THE WAY WE WERE (1973), there are many questions that pop into your head that delves into the universal experiences so many of us have dealt with in our own lives... Why do such polar opposites become drawn to each other? Why would such troubled lovers struggle to be together, even after copious evidence to part? Why would anyone sacrifice so much to remain in a doomed relationship? Why do people think they should change for someone else and why do they often think the other will change at all? Is loving someone ever worth abandoning your principles or identity? And certainly, how can they not see this from the very beginning? If the answers were simple or obvious, folks from all walks of life, in all generations, would not repeatedly deal with these challenges time and time again. This story is a very real story because it explores all these universal woes of the human experience and love.

There are many examples to their fate, their true characters and even hints of Katie's humor throughout:
Hubbell: People are more important than their principles.
Katie: People ARE their principles.

Hubbell: You never give up, do you?
Katie: Only when I'm absolutely forced to. But I'm a very good loser...
Hubbell: Better than I am.
Katie: Well, I've had... more practice.

[on the topic of political causes advocacy]
Hubbell: I don't see how you can do it.
Katie: And I don't see how you can't.

As an audience watching this fated romance unfold, we are either empathetic as we relate to some flawed aspect of their relationship as we compare to our own histories or perhaps more sympathetically, as we ponder the uncomfortably slow train wreck. The performances by Streisand and Redford are so believably compelling to their characters that even though our intellect tells us they don't belong together, our hearts secretly wish they could, just SOMEHOW, make it work. We are if anything, a society replete with hopeful romantics; which is why this film was such a huge success. THE WAY WE WERE's successes included earning Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score and Best Music, Original Song, a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, a Grammy for Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture, plus Oscar nominees... Best Actress in a Leading Role (Barbra Streisand), Best Art Direction- Set Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. For many like me, it's Barbra Streisand's stirring rendition of the award-winning title song that remains a enduring favorite.
For me personally, I find this film to be a romantically heartfelt memory in such a bittersweet way. I'll admit upfront that I'm a HUGE fan of the enormously talented Barbra Streisand. But as an outspoken and politically passionate person myself, I related to Katie very much. The average guy doesn't understand my fiery call for social justice- just as Hubbell never really understood Katie. (Luckily I finally met and married a non-average man who understands me.) Katie desperately wanted Hubbell to be so much more than he could ever possibly know how. I think my mother related to Katie's story too. My parents divorced when I was young. In the years that followed after the divorce, my mother would watch THE WAY WE WERE every year. And she cried every time, especially in that final scene. I didn't understand why as a little girl- but many years later, I did. I think she, like so many, deeply understood the complexities of Katie and Hubbell.

*This post is part of the SYDNEY POLLACK BLOGATHON, as hosted by my classic film friend Ratanakar Sadasyula's (aka @ScorpiusMaximus) blog, "Seetimaar- Diary of a Movie Lover". Be sure to catch the full list of participating bloggers there from July 1-22nd. Enjoy!           

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a landmark TV show that ran for seven seasons, from 1970-1977. It was a ground-breaking show named after it's central character's (Mary Richard) real name of the well-known TV actress Mary Tyler Moore. As arguably the first (and many may say the best) true ensemble cast format of situation comedy television, it became popular not only for it's namesake star but for the entire cast of unique characters. 
Mary Tyler Moore was already a recognizable face by millions of TV households by the time "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" hit the airwaves. As Rob Petrie's (portrayed by namesake star Dick Van Dyke) wife Laura Petrie, she had already charmed audiences as an adorable and funny all-American sweetheart on the sitcom 'The Dick Van Dyke Show" from 1961-1966. For The Mary Tyler Moore Show, created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, this CBS show's premise was unlike any other before. Mary Richards was a single career woman in her thirties and the focus was on her life via her friends and co-workers. While it may seem not so earth-shattering today, it was virtually unheard of before this 1970 debut to have a prime-time TV sitcom where the focus was on an independent woman (not a widow, not a divorcee, not even a housewife minus the husband) who was also NOT demonstrating desperate pursuits of a man in her life, but rather on her career and friendships. Mary Richards was very attractive and she dated but she chose real balance in her life that suited her life and was happy with her choices. Her personality was still as bubbly, approachable and funny as she was known to be from her Laura Petrie days, but now she had her own voice and decisions. 

In the very first episode of the first season - "Love is All Around", aired 9/19/1970- (there was no pilot), Mary Richards is a new transplant to Minneapolis after her fiance rejects her and she shows up for a job interview with her prospective new boss, Mr. Grant (portrayed by Ed Asner). She applies for the secretarial position, which is filled, but is offered the Associate Producer of WJM-TV's Six O'clock News instead. (WJM is an acronym for "Wild" Jack Monroe, the station's owner.) The exchange between the two is a hilarious foreshadowing of their unique working relationship of a cranky, cynical boss meeting a spunky, optimistic woman:

Lou Grant: "You've got spunk." [his face smiles for the very first time]
Mary Richards: "Well, yes." [coyly smiles, almost blushing for the compliment and nods in agreement]
Lou Grant: "I HATE spunk." [his face dramatically turns back to cranky anger] and the uproar of laughter...  

This is also the episode we are introduced to Phyllis, the landlord who rents Mary her apartment, which in addition to her office setting is the other constant mainstay backdrop of the show. Towards the end of the show's run she moves into another apartment. But frankly, I was never a fan of the 2nd place- too dark, small and less homey-feeling. Phyllis, who has a flippant teen daughter named Bess, is portrayed by Cloris Leachman (shows 1970-1975). She's a nosy control-freak and a tad elitist but reflects the current-day activism of women's rights and comes across as sincere in her own way. Phyllis had a never-seen husband named Lars but became a widow after 5 seasons and moved to the west coast to have her own spin-off show called, "Phyllis." She has a somewhat contentious relationship with the upstairs' neighbor, Rhoda. 
Rhoda Morgenstern, portrayed by Valerie Harper (shows 1970-1974), is quite opposite from Mary. Rhoda is an artistic and outgoing free-spirit. She's also sassy, wise-cracking and self-deprecating. They become best friends and we're also introduced to Rhoda's delightfully funny family- her mother Ida (played by Nancy Walker), her younger sister Brenda (played by Julie Kavner) when she gets married in the 4th season and moves to New York City. She also got her own spin-off show, again created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, which ran for 4 seasons (1974-1978). 

Back at the office, Sue Ann Nivens, portrayed ingeniously by Betty White (shows 1973-1977), was an incredibly fun character. She was the host of the station's cooking and homemaking show called The Happy Homemaker. She was drastically different in personality off-camera than in-front. On camera she was the 70's version of Martha Stewart (in a "Stepford Wife" way). Off-camera she was biting in her flinging insults with Murray and her look-down-upon zingers to Mary. But she was also openly flirtatious with Lou Grant, in an aggressive style. The contrast of her two personalities always was played up flawlessly with hilarious dialogue.
Mary's closest co-worker pal is Murray Slaughter, portrayed by Gavin McLeod (later known as "The Love Boat" 's Captain Stubing.) Murray was married, to Marie, with children. I recall a sweet and tearful episode when they adopted a child. He was the lead writer; an overall nice guy and very easy-going but always loved poking fun at Ted. Portrayed in a unique humor style that only Ted Knight could play, Ted Baxter was the overly-confident news anchor. Vain and tremendously daft, he is the constant center of every joke. Ted was known for his laugh and goofy demeanor. Georgette is Ted's sweetly delicate and naive girlfriend then wife, portrayed by Georgia Engel (shows 1972-1977). And Ted Knight got a couple of shows of his own too but not spin-offs. The Ted Knight Show ran for 6 weeks in 1978 (about an escort service) and "Too Close For Comfort" which fared far better for 3 seasons and ended production during rerun syndication due to Knight's illness.       

Ed Asner had a very popular spin-off show titled after his Mary Tyler Moore Show character, "Lou Grant," from the years 1977-1982. He has remained as a VERY actively working and award-winning actor on television and in film ever since. As you can see, with this full cast of talented actors, it's no wonder the show was so highly rated and remains a classic today. The Mary Tyler Moore Show earned 29 Emmy awards, (a record that remained unbroken until 2002 when the show Frazier won 30), 3 Golden Globes, a Peabody award and countless honors and nominations. In 2007, TIME Magazine listed "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" as part of the 17 Shows That Changed TV. And it was voted #11 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
A recognizable signature of the show was both the opening and closing credit sequences. Most notably, when Mary tosses her beret hat in air and at the closing with the kitten's meow instead of the typical lion's roar. By the way, that's a wig Mary wears in the first season- they didn't want her to look too close to Laura Petrie and she magically transitioned to her natural hair starting the 2nd season, without a single reference as to why. They also redid the opening sequence after the 3rd season but kept in that iconic beret toss. 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show truly did change television in both quality of excellence in cast talent and writing but also in social conscience. As a little girl, it was wonderful to see Mary Richards as a role model. I wondered how many other little girls wanted to grow up to become an independent career woman like Mary, as I did. I've always been known for my different accents and voice impressions so my "Oh Rob!" and "Mr. Grant" were well known by my friends. Many even said I had a bit of a resemblance to Mary Tyler Moore which helped all the more. So I was especially delighted a few years ago when my genealogy-hunting aunts discovered that I was indeed related to Mary Tyler Moore. Absolutely made my day!
 *This post is part of Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Go to to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Nick & Nora Charles: Dynamic Duo

From the brilliant minds of Aurora of Once Upon A Screen (@citizenscreen) and AnnMarie of Classic Movie Blog (@ClassicMovieBlog), it's the Dynamic Duos in Classic Film Blogathon. Of all the potential duos available- siblings, rivalries, best pals... my first thought turned to my favorite married couple of classic film, Nick and Nora Charles.
Portrayed flawlessly by William Powell and Myrna Loy, Nick and Nora Charles are fictional characters that came to life on the big screen in six films:

 But to know Nick and Nora Charles, you must start with Dashiell Hammett. He wrote 'The Thin Man" in 1934- his last of his best-selling novels. The main characters were inspired by his own life and that of his longtime partner, Lillian Hellman. Hammett was an American writer who lived a rather fascinating yet tortured life. He was a veteran from both World Wars, an alcoholic, a left-wing activist, a blacklisted victim from McCarthy's Red Scare (and imprisoned for it), a sufferer of multiple debilitating illnesses, and the best-selling novelist of such celebrated works as "Red Harvest" (1929), "The Dain Curse" (1929), "The Maltese Falcon" (1930), "The Glass Key" (1931), plus countless short story collections. His popular novels were the inspiration of many gangster and noir films of that era and continues to be to this day. But his characters from "Thin Man", Nick and Nora Charles, were plucked from his own days as a private detective in the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Starting at the age of 21, he served as an operative for seven years when he wasn't battling illness (The Spanish Flu and later, tuberculosis) in the War. The novel was an instant sensation not only because of the who-dunnit mystery style but mostly because of the incredibly charming Charles' characters themselves. 
Nick Charles is a retired detective married to Nora, a wealthy socialite. Nick is a smart and confident man who oozes handsome charm. His prior life surrounded him with cops and less savory characters of society- the thieves, gangsters, henchmen and murderers - from when he worked on cases. Because he was so skilled as an intuitive and sharp private dick, both flat-foots and goons alike respected him and genuinely liked him. He was the type of fella that men from all walks of life wanted to be and the ladies wanted to be with. Nora's background prior to becoming Mrs. Charles was a striking contrast. She comes from old money and high-society culture. She equals her husband's charms and beauty in the female form. But there's nothing stuffy about Nora. Her quick wit easily matches and keeps pace with Mr. Charles. And to keep them both down-to-earth, their adorable wire-hair terrier Asta steals every scene possible. 

In all of the six films of "The Thin Man" series, William Powell plays Nick Charles and Myrna Loy plays Nora Charles. Their chemistry is irresistible. When they walk into a room, they're impossible to miss. While Nick is used to swimming in the hard-nosed part of society, he carries himself comfortably while mixing it uptown at black tie dinner parties. Everything about his mannerisms and vocabulary suggests he is just as cultured as Nora but took a detour when he chose his career so he comes across as the perfect blend. Nora is so intrigued by her husband's edgier side that she is usually the driver of nudging her husband to take on new cases, despite his initial resistance. He claims to be retired, after all. With each new case he generally grudgingly takes on or falls into, Nora inserts herself as much as possible to assist in unraveling clues. She's thrilled by the process. Quite a departure from her high-class upbringing. And despite her sometimes witty jabs at the low-brow company he keeps, she loves it all. And does so with the most stunning glamor and graceful presence. She too is the perfect blend of upper class adapting to a street-wise lifestyle.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Charles duo is their deep affection for each other. While the dialogue is hilariously sardonic as they tease each other, it's also with the overt affection of a couple who are truly intimate. There is no doubt this pair wants nothing more than to spend time together. So convincing is their chemistry, Powell and Loy were assumed to be a real married couple outside of their fictional character roles (however, not true.) Another signature Nick and Nora Charles factor to all their movies was their penchant for drinking. There are so many references to their copious imbibing; demonstrating they go well beyond just the occasional social gathering. These folks were far from amateurs in this area. Here are some witty zingers:

Nora Charles: How many drinks have you had?
Nick Charles: This will make six martinis.
Nora Charles: [to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo? Line them up right here.

Nora Charles: [suffering with a hang-over] What hit me?
Nick Charles: The last martini.

and then...
Nick Charles: Come on, let's get something to eat. I'm thirsty.

Nora Charles: Are you packing?
Nick Charles: Yes dear, I'm putting away this liquor.

or better yet...
Reporter: Well, can't you tell us anything about the case?
Nick Charles: Yes, it's putting me way behind in my drinking.

As you can see, their witty dialogue, banter and delivery were as dry as their martinis. And it's my opinion, along with quite a few classic movie fans, their first three films stand firmly as the best out of the six. The writing and direction in these first three films really stands out in contrast to the last three as razor sharp and near perfection. All of these films in the series were spin-off film adaptations from the one novel Hammett wrote, 'The Thin Man" because the Charles duo were so incredibly popular. In addition to a great original story by Hammett, I credit excellence in writing and direction in this series, but most certainly for the superb performances by Powell and Loy for the success of this classic film duo. I own the DVD collection of all six 'Thin Man" films and highly recommend to anyone that they watch these treasured classics. For my review of the very first (and some say the best), THE THIN MAN (1934), you can read my thoughts here. And if you want to enjoy a fun mystery parody featuring this classic couple, I suggest a silly movie, Robert Moore's MURDER BY DEATH (1976).         

*For more delightful Dynamic Duos, be sure to check out all the entries in the Dynamic Duos blogathon via Once Upon A Screen and Classic Movie Blog ... enjoy!