The Thin Man is a 1934 (and thus, pre-Hays Code) movie based on a Dashiell Hammettnovel 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 to Moonlighting 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 Asta.The Thin Man was nominated for four Oscars, including nominations for picture, director, and lead actor, but didn't win any. Powell and Loy's chemistry and charisma were obvious, and several sequels followed, to diminishing returns in later installments:
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)
After is noteworthy for an appearance by a disturbingly young James Stewart, playing what would prove to be a very atypical role, while an even-younger Dean Stockwell played the couple's son in Song. The Thin Man series constituted six of the fourteen movies Powell and Loy made together, which also included Manhattan Melodrama, and The Great Ziegfeld.A Broadway musical adaptation, Nick & Nora, bombed in 1991, running only nine performances. 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.)
Also note how often Nick is shown drinking in the morning. Or how often he's stealing other people's drinks.
He quit by movie five, but circumstances make him look like he's off the wagon.
DirecTV's synopses of Thin Man movies often consist solely of the sentence "Nick Charles drinks scotch and solves murders," or variations thereof.
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.
Artifact Title: In the original, the "thin man" was not Nick Charles, but another character, a missing person who was suspected of murder. However, movie goers started associating Nick Charles with the "thin man", and by The Thin Man Goes Home, which involved Nick going back to his hometown, the movie series did too.
Asian Speekee Engrish: After the Thin Man has what can only be described as a very unfortunate Chinese stereotype character.
Bar Brawl: Nora starts one intentionally in the fifth movie, so she has an excuse to have two suspects arrested.
Brought Home the Wrong Kid: Another Thin Man has some of Nick's hoodlum friends decide to throw Little Nicky a first birthday party, and bring all their own kids. One of them has to rent one to attend. The villain of the story, after being revealed, attempts to get away by claiming to have kidnapped Nicky. Nora goes to check and sure enough, there is another kid in his place. Turns out the villain was bluffing; Nick's friend had grabbed the wrong kid when he left, and the villain happened to notice before everyone else. The friend soon returns with Nicky, clearing it up.
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." (In the first movie, Nick explains that he retired from detective work to manage his wife's enormous fortune.)
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.
Continuity Nod: Early on in each sequel except Song, someone rattles off the cases Nick solved in each previous film.
Cousin Oliver: Making Nora pregnant at the end of After the Thin Man was a good gag but backfired to some extent in later installments, forcing Nick and Nora into a domesticity that didn't fit well with their urbane, martini-swilling style. In The Thin Man Goes Home Nick Jr. isn't included on a visit to his grandparents (supposedly he's at school).
Deadpan Snarker: Both Nick and Nora, but especially Nora, who had a lot of the best lines.
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.
Drugs Are Good: Nick drinks and drinks and drinks, and it does nothing but make him more witty and charming.
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.
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.
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.
Some of these would go over the heads of modern viewers, but were risque for their day:
Police lieutenant to Nick, after finding a pistol on him while he was on a train: You got a pistol permit?
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.
Incredibly Obvious Tail: In The Thin Man Goes Home, Nora sets off to tail one of Nick's hoodlum friends, whom she incorrectly believes is the bad guy. Her idea of tailing a suspect is to walk directly behind him at a distance of about 15 feet. Hilariously, a bad guy decides to tail Nora in the exact same way, resulting in a little three-person parade through town.
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.
Kinky Spanking: 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. It's a bit of Fanservice.
Knitting Pregnancy Announcement: Nick has just solved a very complicated mystery, but has yet to deduce that his wife Nora is expecting. Until he realizes that she is knitting a baby's sock.
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, who was driven mad by jealousy after his girlfriend threw him over for her sleazy husband.
Never One Murder: In every film, there will be a couple of more murders after the first one to keep the plot zipping along.
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."
Title Drop: In the first film, Clyde Winant is referred to as "the thin man". In the second one, as Nick and Nora get off the train, reporters crowd around them and wonder if Nick is going to get "another Thin Man case".
Walk This Way: After does this gag at one point with Nick and an elderly butler.
The Watson: Part of Nora's job, as Nick did most of the actual detecting. Nick lampshades this by calling her "Dr. Watson" at one point in the original.