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The Thin Man(1934)

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The Thin Man (1934)

SYNOPSIS

New York City residents Nick and Nora Charles are vacationing in California where Nick previously lived. The former detective still knows a number of people in town, and when one of his acquaintances, Clyde Wynant, mysteriously disappears, he is reluctantly drawn into the case by his own wife and the man's daughter. The Charleses have been living off Nora's considerable wealth since they wed, so Nick doesn't need to return to sleuthing. But Nora finds it exciting, and soon Nick is tracking down Wynant (the Thin Man of the title) who proves to be a murder victim. This brings him into contact with all sorts of unsavory characters who eventually wind up at the Charles's Christmas party where the guilty party is unmasked.

Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay: Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich, from the novel by Dashiell Hammett
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Editing: Robert J. Kern
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Original Music: William Axt
Cast: William Powell (Nick Charles), Myrna Loy (Nora Charles), Maureen O'Sullivan (Dorothy), Nat Pendleton (John Guild), Minna Gombell (Mimi Jorgenson), Porter Hall (MacCaulay).
BW-91m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

Why THE THIN MAN is Essential

The Thin Man was adapted from a popular novel by the great mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, but the mystery around which the plot turns is relatively unimportant to the movie's focus and its enduring appeal. What makes the film so entertaining is not the unraveling of the murder but the movie's central relationship of Nora and Nick Charles, one that redefined the screen depiction of marriage. It also helped to set the tone and style of a new, then-emerging Hollywood genre - the screwball comedy.

MGM director W.S. ("Woody") Van Dyke was a big fan of detective novels - he'd even written a few himself. When he learned that the studio had the rights to Hammett's novel, The Thin Man, Van Dyke thought the story of private eye Nick Charles and his wife Nora would make a terrific film. He also knew exactly who should play Nick and Nora. He had just directed Manhattan Melodrama (1934), starring Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy, and had been struck by the chemistry between Powell and Loy. The two had developed a bantering friendship, and their between-the-scenes repartee was charming and lighthearted. That was exactly what The Thin Man needed. MGM executives didn't agree. Both actors came with a lot of baggage, and studio bosses couldn't see them as the glamorous detective duo.

In the end Van Dyke had his way, and proved that he knew what he was doing. He instructed the husband-and-wife screenwriting team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich to play up Nick and Nora's affectionate banter in their script for The Thin Man, and to make the mystery secondary. That was easy enough for the Hacketts, whose own marriage and personal style was very Nick-and-Nora. And for Powell and Loy, it was a delight to play, from their first appearance in the film, with Nick instructing a bartender on the finer points of shaking a martini, and Nora making a grand comic entrance by falling on her face. The Thin Man was shot on a "B"-movie budget, very quickly -- accounts vary between 12 and 18 days. Not for nothing was Van Dyke dubbed "One-Take Woody."

It's impossible now to imagine anyone in the roles of Nora and Nick Charles but Myrna Loy and William Powell. Their on-screen chemistry was so dynamic that the public came to believe the two were married in real life. And thanks to Van Dyke's direction and the witty script, Powell and Loy created something fresh and new for the screen, a married couple who enjoy each other's company, unfettered by mundane responsibility or children (although, regrettably, they were saddled with a son later in the series). Prior to this, marriage in movies was usually depicted in one of two ways: either as the focus of domestic problems (financial or medical woes, infidelity, etc.) or as the "happy ending" to a romance, the final outcome of a story rather than its starting point. But Nick and Nora are already married at the start. They are young, attractive and healthy; rich enough not to worry about money (Nick is apparently quite content to live off his wife's wealth); and unsaddled by any charge except their dog. The alcohol also flows abundantly whenever Nick and Nora are together - it had only been two years since Prohibition - but it is never presented as a problem or something sinful but simply as the fuel for the wacky fun and snappy dialogue that transpires during the movie.

Certainly it's the little details Van Dyke and company create around Nick and Nora's domestic life that stick in the memory. Take the unconventional Christmas setting, Nora wrapped in a "stifling" fur coat too pretty to shed, Nick reclined on the couch shooting ornaments off the tree with a pop gun. Or watch them walking their dog down the street on Christmas Day. As Nick talks to the police about his current case, the couple pass by trees, light poles, fire hydrants, all barely noticed. Their dog, Asta, is out of frame, the only evidence of him is the leash Nora is holding. But as the mystery plot is discussed, what we end up watching is the way the Charles's forward gait is repeatedly interrupted, without comment or notice, by Asta stopping and pulling back on the leash. Nothing is made of it; certainly there's nothing inherently interesting about a dog doing his daily business. But this sort of causal off-handed detail about the couple's life is the hallmark of what a movie can do better than any other artistic medium.

Audiences adored The Thin Man, and so did critics. It was a huge hit, and turned around the careers of Powell and Loy. The film earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Five sequels followed, with Van Dyke directing three of them, After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), and Shadow of the Thin Man (1941). The other two were produced after Van Dyke's death in 1943 and included The Thin Man Goes Home (1945), directed by Richard Thorpe, and Song of the Thin Man (1947), helmed by Edward Buzzell.

The Thin Man and its sequels also created another star - "Asta," the Charles's wire-haired terrier. It was a breed that hadn't been particularly popular in this country, but the "Thin Man" films changed all that, creating a national craze for wire-haired terriers. Asta was played by several dogs, but Myrna Loy later recalled that she and Powell were never allowed to make friends with any of them, because the dogs' trainer didn't want to break their concentration. In fact, Loy claimed that the first Asta, whose real name was "Skippy," bit her, "so our relationship was hardly idyllic."

by Rob Nixon & Margarita Landazuri

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The Thin Man (1934)

The huge success of The Thin Man led to five sequels over the years, all of them starring Powell and Loy as the Charleses: After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1945), Song of the Thin Man (1947).

A TV series modeled on the story debuted in 1957 with Peter Lawford as Nick and Phyllis Kirk as Nora.

In addition to their appearances in the other Thin Man films, Powell and Loy proved to be such a popular and natural screen couple that they were paired in seven other movies: Evelyn Prentice (1934), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Libeled Lady (1936), Double Wedding (1937), I Love You Again (1940), Love Crazy (1941), The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947). The two had also appeared together previously in Manhattan Melodrama (1934).

The Thin Man spawned a number of other mystery-comedy movies featuring a sleuth (either amateur or professional) and his wife or girlfriend, who insinuates herself into his cases. Among the better known are The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936, Powell again, teamed with Jean Arthur); the sleuthing series Fast Company (1938), Fast and Loose (1939) and Fast and Furious (1939); Remember Last Night? (1935), whose story of a couple involved in a murder mystery revolves, like The Thin Man, around the consumption of a great deal of alcohol; There's Always a Woman (1938) and its sequel There's That Woman Again (1939); and Mr. And Mrs. North (1942), which also became a TV series in the 1950s.

The Thin Man, along with It Happened One Night (1934) and Twentieth Century (1934), is credited with setting the style and tone for what would become one of the most popular Hollywood genres for a time, the screwball comedy. Among the more famous films in this category are My Man Godfrey (1936), The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938) and Midnight (1939).

Skippy the wire-haired terrier made such an indelible impression as the Charles's dog Asta that he became the best-known dog in the country, second only to President Franklin Roosevelt's Scottish terrier Fala. He also spawned a craze for the breed (leading to overbreeding by "puppy mills" cranking them out to meet demand). Skippy went on to become a staple of the screwball comedy, playing a key role in The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby and Topper Takes a Trip (1939), in addition to four other Thin Man movies.

by Rob Nixon

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The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man skyrocketed Loy and Powell into the upper echelons of box office stars.

Contrary to popular perception, the "Thin Man" of the title does not refer to William Powell's character but to the victim who disappears early on in the film. Because of the box office success of the picture, however, the name was kept throughout the series even though the character died in the first one.

In the 1970s, playwright Lillian Hellman, who had a long relationship with Dashiell Hammett, said the character of Nora Charles was based on her.

Director W.S. Van Dyke started as a child actor in vaudeville and worked as a gold miner, lumberjack, railroad laborer and mercenary soldier before landing in the motion picture business.

One of Van Dyke's first jobs in film was assistant director to D.W. Griffith on Intolerance (1916). He perfected his craft in the silent years on quickie programmers and now-forgotten features, earning a reputation as a loyal and efficient house director who could bring anything in on time and under budget. When he stepped in and rescued the troubled production of White Shadow of the South Seas (1928), he was propelled into MGM's top ranks. Over the years he handled three more Thin Man pictures, several Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy operettas, installments of the studio's popular "Dr. Kildare" and "Andy Hardy" series, and big-budget projects for such stars as Norma Shearer, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Spencer Tracy, including the epic disaster film San Francisco (1936).

A strict Christian Scientist, Van Dyke refused medical intervention when suffering from cancer. Unable to cope with the pain and illness further, he took his own life in 1943 at the age of 53.

Although many critics and directors looked down on "One-Take" Van Dyke during his day, scorning the speed and impersonality with which he cranked out projects, many of his films were huge hits. He also was nominated for Best Director twice and guided William Powell, Norma Shearer, Clark Gable and Robert Morley to Oscar®-nominated roles. In his seminal book on directors, The American Cinema (Dutton, 1968), Andrew Sarris gave Van Dyke his due, even while relegating him to "Miscellany" status among Hollywood filmmakers: "Woody Van Dyke made more good movies than his reputation for carelessness and haste would indicate. Perhaps carelessness and haste are precisely the qualities responsible for the breezy charm of Trader Horn (1931), Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932)...The Thin Man...and even the much-maligned Marie Antoinette (1938)."

One of the most popular screen teams ever had a rather hurried and inauspicious start. Myrna Loy was cast in Van Dyke's production of Manhattan Melodrama (1934), and her first scene required her to run out of a building, through a crowd and jump into a car. The scene was shot on a back lot at night, and Van Dyke, ever the speedy director, didn't take the time to introduce Loy to the man she'd be doing the scene with. According to Loy, when Van Dyke called "action," she jumped into the car and "landed smack on William Powell's lap. He looked up nonchalantly: 'Miss Loy, I presume?' I said, "Mr. Powell?' and that's how I met the man who would be my partner in 14 films."

Married writers Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich had a long, successful and influential partnership in both film and the theater, creating a number of popular and well-regarded pieces, including many of the big musicals of MGM's golden age. In addition to their Oscar® nod for The Thin Man's script, they were also nominated for After the Thin Man (1936), Father of the Bride (1950) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Their range extended to musicals (some of the Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy operettas and several Judy Garland pictures of the 1940s), comedies (the Lucy-Desi big-screen vehicle The Long, Long Trailer, 1954), westerns (The Virginian, 1946) and adaptations of stage plays, such as O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! (1935), Moss Hart and Kurt Weill's Lady in the Dark (1944), and their own Tony Award-winning The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). They also wrote the screenplay for the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946). They worked with director Van Dyke a total of seven times.

The film's cinematographer, James Wong Howe, was one of the few Asians to make a major career in Hollywood, 134 pictures from 1923 until his last, Funny Lady (1975). A master of black-and-white cinematography, he received nine Academy Award nominations and won for The Rose Tattoo (1955) and Hud (1963).

Famous Quotes from THE THIN MAN

MAITRE D' (Uncredited): Madame, I'm afraid you shall take the dog out.
NICK (William Powell): It's all right, Leo. My dog. And, uh, my wife.
NORA (Myrna): Well, you might have mentioned me first on the billing.

NORA: (receiving a martini from the waiter) How many drinks have you had?
NICK: This will make six martinis.
NORA: Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo? And line them up right here.

NICK: What are you drinking?
MACCAULAY (Porter Hall): Nothing, thank you.
NICK: Oh, that's a mistake.

NICK: (referring to her fur coat, which she's wearing indoors) Aren't you hot in that?
NORA: Yes, I'm stifling. But it's so pretty.

REPORTER (Uncredited): Say, listen, is he working on a case?
NORA: Yes.
REPORTER: What case?
NORA: A case of scotch. Pitch in and help him.

NORA: (referring to her Christmas present) What are you giving me? I hope I don't like it.
NICK: Well you'll have to keep them anyway. Man at the aquarium said he wouldn't take them back.

NICK: Would you mind putting that gun away? My wife doesn't mind, but I'm very timid.
NORA: Idiot.

NICK: I'm a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune.
NORA: I read that you were shot five times in the tabloids.
NICK: It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids.

NICK: How'd you like Grant's Tomb?
NORA: It's lovely. I'm having a copy made for you.

NORA: Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts.

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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The Thin Man (1934)

Director W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke had a penchant for mystery stories, and when he found that MGM had bought the rights to Dashiell Hammett's book The Thin Man for $14,000, he immediately requested it for his next assignment. The book was a best seller and well-reviewed; Alexander Woollcott had called it "the best detective story yet written in America."

The studio did not consider the story a valuable property. The public taste for clever tales of sleuthing seemed to be played out, and the book was not considered worthy of more than B-picture treatment. But because Van Dyke had a reputation for making pictures quickly and cheaply, they figured it wouldn't hurt to let him have a shot at it.

For the role of Nick Charles, Van Dyke immediately thought of William Powell, who had recently contracted with MGM after establishing his career at other studios. Studio executives had some concern about Powell in the role since he was already identified in the public mind with playing another well-known sleuth, Philo Vance; he had starred in the popular film series at Paramount between 1929 and 1933. In fact, Powell had played the part so often that one producer claimed theater owners were beginning to put the name "Philo Vance" on the marquee instead of Powell's. But Van Dyke was convinced the actor was right for the role, and Powell felt he knew the character well and enjoyed the fact that Nick was more of a "regular guy" than the more socially connected Vance.

The studio also balked at Van Dyke's choice for Nora. Usually cast as either exotic beauties, ethnic types or as "the Other Woman," Myrna Loy had been laboring in more than 80 films over the preceding decade without making a huge impact. She read the script of The Thin Man and instantly liked it because it offered her the rare chance to do a comedy. But studio head Louis B. Mayer wanted the now largely forgotten silent star Laura La Plante. Van Dyke had just finished directing Loy and Powell together in Manhattan Melodrama (1934) and saw a chemistry there he could further develop. Van Dyke had a reputation as the studio's most dependable and efficient director, one who could take any project and bring it in on time and on budget. So it was relatively easy for him to get what he wanted, and the production moved ahead with Powell and Loy in the leads.

For the adaptation, Van Dyke turned to married couple Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who had also recently contracted with MGM. The two former actors had turned to writing for the stage several years earlier and came to Hollywood to pen the adaptation of their play Up Pops the Devil (1931), which featured Powell's then-wife Carole Lombard. They signed with Metro in 1933 and showed their facility for creating witty, urbane dialogue and eccentric characters in such modest hits as Penthouse (1933, featuring Loy and directed by Van Dyke) and Fugitive Lovers (1934). Van Dyke instructed them to largely ignore the Hammett mystery and concentrate on the repartee and relationship between Nick and Nora. He also told them to build their script specifically around the talents of the two stars and to come up with no fewer than eight new marital scenes between them.

According to Samuel Marx, head of the MGM story department at the time, two elements of the script "scared the hell" out of the producers: the fact that the murder story was being treated frivolously and with humor and that the central characters were a sophisticated married couple who always seemed to be mixing cocktails.

by Rob Nixon

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The Thin Man (1934)

One of the ways MGM tried to prevent Myrna Loy from being cast in The Thin Man was by telling director W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke that he could have her only if she was finished in three weeks to begin shooting Stamboul Quest (1934). But they underestimated their speediest director. Van Dyke completed not just Loy's work but all production in time, an account that varies between 12 to 18 days, depending on the source.

Known as "One-Take Woody," Van Dyke often did not bother with cover shots if he felt the scene was right on the first take, reasoning that actors "lose their fire" if they have to do something over and over. It was a lot of pressure on the actors, who often had to learn new lines and business immediately before shooting, without the luxury of retakes, but Loy credited much of the appeal of The Thin Man to Van Dyke's pacing and spontaneity.

Van Dyke worked out Loy's now classic entrance (spilling onto the floor of the fashionable bar with an armload of Christmas presents) but in order to keep it fresh and spontaneous, did not tell her about it until right before they shot it.

For Powell's first scene (at the bar), Van Dyke told him to take the cocktail shaker, go behind the bar and just walk through the scene while the crew checked lights and sound. Powell did it, throwing in some lines and business of his own. Suddenly he heard Van Dyke say, "That's it! Print it!" The director had decided to shoot the scene without Powell knowing it so that he'd be as relaxed and natural as possible.

The scene of Nick shooting the ornaments off the tree was added after Powell playfully picked up an air gun and started shooting ornaments the art department was putting up.

Years later, Powell spoke of how much he loved working with Loy because of her naturalness, her professionalism, and her lack of any kind of "diva" temperament. "When we did a scene together, we forgot about technique, camera angles, and microphones. We weren't acting. We were just two people in perfect harmony," he said. "Myrna, unlike some actresses who think only of themselves, has the happy faculty of being able to listen while the other fellow says his lines. She has the give and take of acting that brings out the best."

Van Dyke paid attention to Powell and Loy's easy banter between takes and their obvious enjoyment of each other's company and worked it into the movie. The director often encouraged and incorporated improvisation and off-the-cuff details into the picture.

Van Dyke insisted that Louis B. Mayer and other executives at MGM view the first rushes of the picture to confirm that his casting choices were correct. And they were delighted to admit that Loy and Powell were perfect for the roles.

Loy said the biggest problem during shooting was the climactic dinner party scene when Nick reveals the killer. Powell complained that he had too many lines to learn and could barely decipher the complicated plot he was unraveling. It was the one scene when several retakes were necessary, which brought up an entirely new problem. The script called for oysters to be served to the dinner guests, and in take after take, the same plate of oysters was brought out under the hot lights. "They began to putrefy," Loy said. "By the time we finished that scene, nobody ever wanted to see another oyster."

Although she had great compliments for William Powell's charm and wit, Maureen O'Sullivan later said she did not enjoy making the picture because her part was so small and the production was so rushed.

Although Nick and Nora Charles have a fun relationship with their beloved terrier Asta, Loy recalled later that the actors were not allowed to interact between takes with the highly trained "Skippy," who performed his feats on the promise of a squeaky mouse and a biscuit. Loy also said the dog bit her once during the shoot.

by Rob Nixon

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The Thin Man (1934)

Even after the quick and relatively inexpensive completion of production, the studio was nervous about how The Thin Man would be received. But a rousingly successful preview in Huntington Park convinced them they had a major hit on their hands.

The Thin Man was premiered in May 1934 and put in general release the following month, becoming an immediate smash, earning more than $2 million in its initial run.

The Thin Man received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Writing (Adaptation).

In 1997, the film was chosen by the National Film Preservation Board to be one of the motion pictures preserved on the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

"An excellent combination of comedy and excitement." - New York Times, June 1934.

"A picture you simply cannot afford to miss unless you want to cheat yourself." - World Telegram, 1934.

"What made the Thin Man series work, what made it fun, was that we didn't attempt to hide the fact that sex is part of marriage. But it was deft, done with delicacy and humor. Then, too, the Charleses had enormous tolerance for each other's imperfections." - Myrna Loy, Beginning and Becoming (Knopf, 1967).

"New audiences aren't likely to find it as sparkling as the public did then, because new audiences aren't fed up, as that public was, with what the picture broke away from...Powell and Loy startled and delighted the country by their heavy drinking (without remorse) and unconventional diversions." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (Henry Holt & Co.).

"Fast-moving, alternately comic and suspenseful mystery drama developed in brief scenes and fast wipes. It set a sparkling comedy career for two stars previously known for heavy drama, it was frequently imitated, and it showed a wisecracking, affectionate married relationship almost for the first time." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide (HarperPerennial).

"This comedy-thriller is a classic of its kind and established a new trend of urbane, witty, detectives. Though its style seems effortless it is highly skillful, with a marvelous sense of informality and naturalism, crisp dialogue, and taut action." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films (University of California Press).

"Wildly successful blend of the murder mystery and the screwball comedy with delectable performances by William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic (Fireside).

"A strange mixture of excitement, quips and hard-boiled sentiment...full of the special touches that can come from nowhere but the studio, that really make the feet a movie walks on." - Otis Ferguson.

"The Thin Man was an entertaining novel, and now it's an entertaining picture. In the Dashiell Hammett original there was considerable material not suited by nature to pictures. That this has been cut without noticeable loss of story punch or merit is high commendation for the adapters. They capture the spirit of the jovial, companionable relationship of the characters...." - Variety Movie Guide (Prentice Hall).

"The Thin Man could have been merely a thriller. But it sought flair as much as suspense and became something special, a salute to the American love of adventure." - Ethan Mordden, Movie Star: A Look at the Women Who Made Hollywood (St. Martin's Press, 1983).

"Some films are best watched with the sound off...but with The Thin Man you could almost watch from behind the sofa because nothing in this brilliantly executed work quite matches the dialogue." - The Rough Cut to Cult Movies (Penguin).

"...classic blend of laughs and suspense...this has gone on to become the sophisticated comedy-mystery par excellence..." - Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide (Plume).

Compiled by Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford

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teaser The Thin Man (1934)

MGM director W.S. ("Woody") Van Dyke was a big fan of detective novels - he'd even written a few himself. When he learned that the studio had the rights to Dashiell Hammett's novel, The Thin Man, Van Dyke thought the story of private eye Nick Charles and his wife Nora would make a terrific film. The couple is rich, witty, sophisticated, and very much in love. Nick has retired from sleuthing, but is drawn back to solve the disappearance of a former client, the "Thin Man" of the title.

Woody Van Dyke knew exactly who should play Nick and Nora. He had just directed Manhattan Melodrama (1934), starring Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy, and had been struck by the chemistry between Powell and Loy. The two had developed a bantering friendship, and their between-the-scenes repartee was charming and lighthearted. That was exactly what The Thin Man (1934) needed. MGM executives didn't agree. Both actors came with a lot of baggage, and studio bosses couldn't see them as the glamorous detective duo.

William Powell had been in films for over 20 years, playing villains in silent films. In talkies, Powell moved to the other side of the law, playing private eye Philo Vance in a series of B-movies at Paramount and Warner Brothers. Powell's agent, Myron Selznick, had been trying to get his brother David to sign Powell to an MGM contract, but the studio considered Powell washed-up. At 29, Myrna Loy was already the veteran of over 80 films. An athletic Montana gal, Loy had been improbably typecast as Oriental vamps and seductive "other women." Like Powell, she'd worked all over town. MGM production chief Irving Thalberg thought Loy had potential and signed her to a contract, but after two years, her best roles had come on loan outs to other studios.

In the end Van Dyke had his way, and proved that he knew what he was doing. He instructed the husband-and-wife screenwriting team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich to play up Nick and Nora's affectionate banter in their script for The Thin Man, and to make the mystery secondary. That was easy enough for the Hacketts, whose own marriage and personal style was very Nick-and-Nora. And for Powell and Loy, it was a delight to play, from their first appearance in the film, with Nick instructing a bartender on the finer points of shaking a martini, and Nora making a grand comic entrance by falling on her face. The Thin Man was shot on a "B"-movie budget, very quickly -- accounts vary between 12 and 18 days. Not for nothing was Van Dyke dubbed "One-Take Woody."

Audiences adored The Thin Man, and so did critics. It was a huge hit, and turned around the careers of Powell and Loy. The film earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Five sequels followed, with Van Dyke directing three of them, After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), and Shadow of the Thin Man (1941). The other two were produced after Van Dyke's death in 1943 and included The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), directed by Richard Thorpe, and Song of the Thin Man (1947), helmed by Edward Buzzell.

The Thin Man and its sequels also created another star - "Asta," the Charles's wire-haired terrier. It was a breed that hadn't been particularly popular in this country, but the "Thin Man" films changed all that, creating a national craze for wire-haired terriers. Asta was played by several dogs, but Myrna Loy later recalled that she and Powell were never allowed to make friends with any of them, because the dogs' trainer didn't want to break their concentration. In fact, Loy claimed that the first Asta, whose real name was "Skippy," bit her, "so our relationship was hardly idyllic."

Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay: Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
Editor: Robert J. Kern
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Costume Design: Dolly Tree
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, David Townsend, Edwin B. Willis
Music: Dr. William Axt
Cast: William Powell (Nick Charles), Myrna Loy (Nora Charles), Maureen O'Sullivan (Dorothy Wynant), Nat Pendleton (Lt. John Guild), Minna Gombell (Mimi Wynant), Porter Hall (MacCauley), Henry Wadsworth (Tommy).
BW-91m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Margarita Landazuri

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