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.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 (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 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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Horrible Judge of Character: Selma in After, whose husband was a lout that needed killing and whose supportive would-be boyfriend turns out to be a crazy murderer.
Nora: 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.
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.
Nice Hat: Nora wears one in Shadow. A Running Gag has everyone she meets describe it as "screwy". She gets fed up and hands it to the next person to do so.
Nice to the Waiter: Nick and Norah are adored by their servants, and many of Nick's friends are criminals he's arrested. In the first film several of Nick's hoodlum friends come to his Christmas party.
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 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.
The murderer in After the Thin Man is, and this is true, a young James Stewart. Stewart had only been working in Hollywood for a year and it was one of his first big roles, so really it's only Playing Against Type in retrospect. In any case, After the Thin Man was the only villain he played in his entire career.
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.