Scene4 Magazine: Life Among The Heffalumps
Scene4 Magazine-inSight

August 2009

Happy Anniversary, Nick and Nora:
Your Wit and Martinis Will Never Grow Old

"I don't like going back to black and white {movies}," Jean, my 80-year-old stepmother told me recently, "they're boring! But, I love the Thin Man pictures." I'd just returned from seeing "The Thin Man" at the American Film Institute, a fabulous cinema in Silver Spring, Md., and I wondered what she thought about the movie.  "What do you mean 'how com' I like them????" Jean snorted as if I'd asked her the dumbest question in the history of conversation, if not civilization.  "Everyone {who knows them} loves Nick and Nora!" she added.

It's the 75th anniversary of "The Thin Man" (the movie of the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett). The film, which came out in 1934, is the first of six films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the happily married Nick and Nora Charles, a retired detective and wealthy heiress.

Many anniversaries, to use an old expression, seem "old hat."  But, that's not the case with the Thin Man movies. These pictures are so wickedly witty and insouciant that they'll never become stale.  Nick and Nora are so besotted with each other that it's hard to imagine anyone with a heartbeat not falling in love with the Charles' or wanting to be them.  Martinis are shaken so seductively, that if Carrie Nation were reborn and thrust (so to speak) into Nick and Nora's home, the first thing she'd do would be to have a drink.

No one watches the Thin Man pictures for the mystery or plot.  If you want suspense, psychos, or vertigo, stick with Hitchcock.  We watch the Thin Man movies--for the wit, the atmosphere, enjoy Nick and Nora (along with their dog Asta and in the later films, their young son Nick).  No matter how thin the plots, the chemistry between Nick and Nora never thins out.  It's not surprising that many fans (wrongly) thought that Powell and Loy were married in real life (as well as reel life).

Who can resist exchanges like these from the Thin Man movies?

    Reporter, to Nick and Nora:
    "Say, listen, is he working on a case?"
    Nora: "Yes, he is."
    Reporter: "What case?"
    Nora: "A case of scotch.  Pitch in and help him."
    Police Lieutenant to Nick and Nora: {to Nick}:
    "You got a pistol permit?"
    Nick: "No."
    Lieutenant: Ever heard of the Sullivan Act?
    Nora: "Oh, that's all right, we're married."
    Nora to Nick about his "low life" friends (pick pockets, thieves, etc.):
    "Oh, Nicky, I love you because you know such lovely people."
    Nick: "I'm a hero.  I was shot twice in the Tribune.
    Nora: "I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids."
    Nick: "It's not true.  He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids."

I don't know why I, and everyone I know, loves the Thin Man movies. A young friend, a 16-year-old, said "they're cool even if they're old {movies}."  She then added, "I wouldn't want to drink that much {like Nick and Nora did}, but I wish I could be that smooth and funny."

Maybe we enjoy the movies because Nick and Nora are so very happily married.  In most movies, there's a happy ending when two characters fall in love and get married or when two characters who have been married, get divorced and then re-marry.

Other than Katharine Hepburn and Spenser Tracey in "Adam's Rib," Rob and Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show or  Heathcliff and Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, I can't think of any movies or TV shows with loving, flirtatious, romantic married couples. Sure, Lucy and Ricky are married, but they're hardly equals.  (Lucy is a funny, lovable child, not an adult character.)  The Cleavers and other sitcom couples are loving parents.  But, they aren't Nick and Nora–a married couple–in synch, in love and equal with each other. 

The Thin Man movies today, just as they were during the Great Depression, are a tonic to economic and emotional woes.  Mark Twain famously said that nothing could withstand the assault of laughter.  I'd add that no recession can withstand the "assault" of laughter, love, and Nick and Nora.


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©2009 Kathi Wolfe
©2009 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Scene4 Magazine: Kathi Wolfe
Kathi Wolfe is a writer, poet and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Her reviews and commentary have also appeared in an array of publications.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

August 2009

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