Nick and Nora Charles and AstaThe Thin Man
is a 1934 (and thus, pre-Hays Code
) movie based on a Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name
, and features William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a pair of hard-drinking, wisecracking, socializing types — except that Nick is also famous for being a tough detective, and no matter how hard he tries, he can't quite stop people (most especially including Nora) expecting him to solve crimes. Almost every single modern crime-solving-duo
owes something to this film — everything from Castle
to Warehouse 13
, from Hart To Hart
and Remington Steele
is, in part, a riff on a theme established in The Thin Man
Despite Powell and Loy hamming it up to the best of their considerable acting ability, many a scene is stolen by their Fox Terrier
Powell and Loy's chemistry and charisma were obvious, and several sequels followed, probably not quite up the standard of the first, but still very well done: After The Thin Man
, Another Thin Man
, Shadow of the Thin Man
, The Thin Man Goes Home
, and Song of the Thin Man
is noteworthy for an appearance by a disturbingly young Jimmy Stewart
, playing what would prove to be a very atypical role, while an even-younger Dean Stockwell played the couple's son in Song
Though popular opinion had that "The Thin Man" referred to Nick Charles, so much so that it was included as part of the title for the later sequel films, it was really a reference to the fugitive lead suspect in the first film's murder.
Also spawned a short-lived TV series, and was one of the franchises parodied in Murder by Death
. In 2011 a remake was reported to be in the works, with Johnny Depp
attached to the project as Nick.
Not to be confused with Crispin Glover's character in the Charlie's Angels
movies. Also, any relation to The Slender Man Mythos
is purely speculative. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
is a Shout Out
to this but entirely unrelated as a story.
Tropes used in The Thin Man movies include:
- The Alcoholic: Count how many times Nick had a drink. Or better yet, have a drink yourself whenever he does. (Note: Don't attempt to have a drink every time Nick or Nora have one. You will die.)
- He quit by movie five, but circumstances make him look like he's off the wagon.
- Always Someone Better: The motivation for the killer in Goes Home is that Nick had been this to him for their whole lives. He's taken away screaming about how he won't let Nick beat him again.
- Animal Reaction Shot: Asta.
- Artifact Title: See above.
- Bar Brawl: Nora starts one intentionally in the fifth movie, so she has an excuse to have two suspects arrested.
- Believe it or not Asta starts one in Shadow.
- Busman's Holiday: Nick and Nora never look for crimes to solve. In fact, Nick repeatedly insists that he is retired from detective work. He and Nora always stumble across murders while on vacation or simply socializing. Lampshaded in Shadow by Lt. Abrams: "Funny, I meet you two at all my homicides."
- Lampshaded even further in Another where the local police actually treat them as prime suspects (including seperating them for questioning) since this is the third time they "just happen" to be around when a murder occurs.
- Chocolate Baby: In After the Thin Man, Asta the dog comes home to the missus to see she's got a litter of puppies...one of which is too darkly colored to be his. He spies a nearby black Scottish Terrier sneaking through a hole under the fence and drives off the intruder angrily, then fills in the hole. Pretty racy stuff for the time period it was made in.
- Continuity Nod: Early on in each sequel, someone rattles off the cases Nick solved in each previous film.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Charles
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: What The Reveal usually...revealed. Start with a murder, present a colorful parade of suspects, end by revealing the killer to be someone the audience had no reason to suspect. For modern audiences, After the Thin Man fits this trope best.
- Exact Words: In Shadow, Nick bets Abrams five dollars that "there was only one murderer" in the case of two seemingly unrelated shootings. Abrams can see no connection between the two and takes the bet. They're both right; the two deaths are unrelated, but Nick has already deduced that the first was an accident, so there was only one murderer.
- Flanderization: The recurring police detective Lt. Abrams. In his first film, After, he came across as a competent cop who may be wrong in who he suspects for murder, but had good reasons for thinking he was right. In Shadow, his second and final film, he's more of a clumsy bumbler.
- Follow That Car: Shadow does this gag.
- Genre Savvy: By The Thin Man Goes Home, Nora has been through enough of these movies that she Lampshades the whole climax ahead of time; the Summation Gathering, The Reveal, The Perry Mason Method, even the guilty party's eventual attempt to shoot their way out ("I usually hide under the table for that part"). She's actually disappointed when Nick has the suspects searched for guns, because that means the last part won't happen (though it does). She still guesses the wrong suspect, though.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: New York version.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Party Guest (upon seeing Maureen O'Sulivan's character): Say, who's the little brunette?
Party Guest: Which knee? Can I touch it?
- Let's not forget Nora's reaction when the police are searching their room in the first movie:
Nora: What's that man doing in my drawers?
- There were also a fair number of implications that despite the series' use of the Sleeping Single trope, Nick and Nora had quite an "active" relationship. And that before he met her, Nick went through women like Kleenex.
- Grande Dame: Nora's aunt Katherine in After.
- Happily Married: The Charleses are one of the great screen examples of the trope.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Myrna Loy was a natural redhead. Although she wore a dark wig in many of her early roles, as Nora she always had her real hair color.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Shemp Howard has a small role in Another Thin Man as one of Nick's hoodlum friends.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Selma in After. "You sure can pick 'em!"
- Idle Rich: Nick and Nora want to be, but people around them just keep on dying.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: A suspect in After claims he didn't shoot a murder victim...before it was revealed he was shot. Subverted in that this particular suspect didn't do it, though he was far from innocent.
- Kayfabe: Shadow of the Thin Man has Nick and Nora attend a wrestling match. When the man running it says that they are in for a great match, Nick quips "How do you know? You at the rehearsal?". Later on they leave while the fight is still going on, with one wrestler in a painful looking hold and groaning with discomfort. As she passes the ring, Nora tells him that she hopes he gets out of it okay. The wrestler stops groaning and thanks her for her concern in a perfectly normal tone of voice.
- Loyal Animal Companion: Asta. (Though "Loyal" is not the same thing as "Brave".)
- May-December Romance: Nick and Nora, in the original novel.
- Mama Bear: Seeing the villain about to shoot Nick in Shadow, Nora throws herself straight onto the guy and wrestles him into submission with a choke-hold, all the while screaming for Nick to run for it (keep in mind; the man had a gun which he was pointing straight at Nick and Nora). Granted, she then passed out and had no memory of it, and it turns out the gun was empty but it's still pretty impressive.
- Motive Rant: The villain in After.
- Never Suicide: subverted in Shadow.
- New Years Resolution: "Must scold, must nag, mustn't look too pretty in the morning.."
- Nice to the Waiter: Nick and Norah are adored by their servants, and many of Nick's friends are criminals he's arrested.
- Papa Wolf: In Another, Nicky Jr. is threatened by a gangster. Nick immediately stands up and slugs him, in one of the few times we see him with a completely serious look on his face.
- The Perry Mason Method: How Nick elicits The Reveal in all six films.
- Playing Against Type:
- The first film in the series helped Loy finally escape from the "Villainous Foreign Vamp" ghetto she'd been stuck in for years; ironically, she then became best known for playing wholesome-mother roles.
- Jimmy Stewart would be this, if he'd had a type yet at the time he starred in After the Thin Man.
- Pretty in Mink: Being a wealthy couple, Nora wore quite a few furs.
- The Reveal: The movies always ended with these.
- Running Gag: Just about all of Nick's friends that he introduces to Nora are ex-cons that he put away.
- Shout Out: In the first film, Nora hands Nick a tray of empty martini glasses, and Nick quips, "Grandma, what large glasses you have."
- Sleeping Single: Except for that one time on the train.
- Spank the Cutie: In The Thin Man Goes Home Nick, after making comments about woodsheds and razor strops, puts Nora over his knee and spanks her with a rolled up newspaper. Possibly a bit of Fanservice.
- Summation Gathering: All six films.
- Taking You with Me: After. "I've got six bullets in this gun. One for her, one for myself. One for myself, and the rest for anyone who tries to stop me."
- Those Two Actors: Powell and Loy made several other movies together as well, including The Great Ziegfeld.
- Wacky Cravings: "And you call yourself a detective."
- Walk This Way: After does this gag at one point with Nick and an elderly butler.
- “Well Done Son” Guy: Nick in The Thin Man Goes Home. Nora claims that if he ever got a pat on the back from his father, he'd burst a vest-button. It literally happens in the final scene.