Trivia and Fun Facts About THE THIN MAN
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?
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.
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