Audiences during the Depression lived vicariously through the lives of the wealthy and charming Nick and Nora Charles. Uploaded by tvworthwatching.com.
I owe a lot of my love for classic films to my wife, and one of the treasures that she helped me to discover was The Thin Man. Based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, it’s either a mysterious comedy or a lighthearted mystery. Whatever it is, you can’t help enjoying the company of Nick and Nora Charles. And their wire-haired fox terrier, Asta.
Nick and Nora were brought to life by outstanding actors William Powell and Myrna Loy. They were socialites who seemed to solve crimes just for the fun of it. Hollywood hasn’t given us another couple quite like this, and never will again, since their charm seems very much rooted in the 1930s. Audiences vicariously enjoyed escaping the rigors of the Depression by spending time with the well-to-do and engaging Charles family.
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The Thin Man was nominated for Best Picture in 1935. The movie was so successful that it spawned a series of sequels: After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1945), and Song of the Thin Man (1947).
By the way, the name “The Thin Man” applied to the murder victim, not to Nick Charles. But everyone associated it with the character, so that’s why it stuck for the sequels…
Bogart and Astor on the poster, not Lorre and Greenstreet. Duh. Uploaded by content.artofmanliness.com.
Dashiell Hammett wrote the book. John Huston directed the film. And Humphrey Bogart made it memorable.
The Maltese Falcon, which premiered in 1941, is usually considered the first entry in the film noir genre. It was Huston’s directorial debut, and also marked the first film appearance of the corpulent Sydney Greenstreet. Also in major parts were the lovely Mary Astor and the supremely creepy Peter Lorre.
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The movie was made with three variations from typical filmmaking techniques that would amaze the modern movie maker. First, the entire film was shot in sequence, which the actors loved. Second, production was so meticulously planned that almost no lines of dialogue were cut. And third, much of the dialogue was taken directly from the novel. Imagine that, respecting the source material.
The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, but didn’t win. It battled for Best Picture against Citizen Kane (Great American Thing No.: 110), Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Suspicion, and the winner, How Green Was My Valley. The American Film Institute named it the number 32 Greatest Movie of All Time, and number 6 in the Mystery genre.