Film & Water #88 – The Thin Man


Episode 88: THE THIN MAN

Rob welcomes new guest Melissa Phillips to talk about the 1933 mystery-comedy classic THE THIN MAN, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy!

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18 responses to “Film & Water #88 – The Thin Man

  1. This is where I admit I haven’t seen this or any of the Thin Man series in it’s entirety. I know. I know. There’s really no excuse because TCM is constantly playing them. One of these days…

    I do know that Nick and Nora influenced the characters of Ralph and Sue Dibny from The Elongated Man strip. So I’m not completely without culture. :-)

    It got moved up to the top of the list with many other Film & Water subjects.


  2. Fun little episode. Thank you both for reminding me of this classic!

    Like Rob, I think my first encounter with Nick and Nora was actually Dick and Dora Charleston in MURDER BY DEATH. I loved those characters so much that when my mom told me they were parodies of this other classic film detective couple that I made an effort to see THE THIN MAN. It’s probably been fifteen years since I watched it, and I only saw it that one time, but I remember enjoying the hell out of it.

    And also like Rob, Nick and Nora’s relationship has always seemed like the ideal spousal partnership to me. Loving smart-asses who adore each other and don’t take anything too seriously. Also have lots of money.

  3. Great episode!
    I love this movie for all the reasons you say. Powell and Loy just have an infectious charm about them. You can’t help but love them. Loy has the best ‘pinched face’ in Hollywood. When she crinkles her nose and shakes her head at Nick, she is the dictionary definition of cute.

    Like you, I am so impressed with that end dinner scene when the dialogue is flying fast and furious. Just brilliant writing there.

    And, at least for me, the fact that a truly old-time x-ray film plays a key part in figuring out the mystery is one of the high points. There is a sort of archival nature to that clue that makes this especially interesting to me.

    Thanks for covering!

  4. I love this movie! The book is a whole other terrific beast.
    This was a Videostore Classic! And, worth noting, a template for shows like Hart to Hart and McMillan and Wife.

  5. One of my all-time favorite movies, and movie series. I was in Junior High when my English teacher at the time, who I adored, told me about these movies. I stayed up late late one night to watch one of them on the Late Late Show, The Thin Man Goes Home, I think, and was hooked. I have all of them on VHS and need to buy them on DVD.

    A friend bought me a copy of The Kennel Club Murders recently, the other William Powell movie in that trailer. It is good, too.

    Powell was nominated three times for an Academy Award: The Thin Man, My Man Godfrey, and Life With Father. He never won. Loy was never even nominated, even though she was fantastic in things like The Best Years Of Our Lives. She won an Honorary Oscar in the Nineties.

    The book The Thin Man is sharp and entertaining. Totally recommend it, even though the story is not quite the same.


    The Thin Man movies seem to demonstrate the importance of “chemistry” between actors. Some pairs of performers just have “it” – that ineffable quality where they just click. It’s not Nick and Nora who charm us as much as William and Myrna. This is why some remakes are just destined to fail. You can recast and remake The Honeymooners but you’re not going to get the magic of that original cast.

    If I’m not mistaken, the MeTV channel aired some of the old Thin Man TV episodes last year. There was also a 1991 Broadway musical starring Barry Bostwick & Joanna Gleason as Nick & Nora. According to wiki it only had 9 performances!

    1. Pretty sure Nick and Nora also appeared in the one issue of “The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones” drawn by Howard Chaykin. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find that panel on the Interwebs right now.

  7. I adore these movies so damn much. Obviously the chemistry is amazing, but there’s something about Nick as a character that isn’t allowed in todays films. The man is a functional alcoholic. Seriously, if somebody drinks too much in a modern film they have to do it to the point of not being a functioning human being or they do it because they’re sooooooooooo damaged. Nobody’s allowed to be a drunk who’s still fun to have around. The closest we’ve come in modern film is Jack Sparrow (which is probably why Depp was rumored for the inevitable Thin Man remake for a while,) but by and large it’s a character template that is no longer permitted to exist.

    My own favorite film in the series is actually the second one, and my original hook in was seeing the character of Lt. Abrams when my mother was watching it. I like his dynamic with Nick because Abrams isn’t dumb or bad at his job, it’s just that Nick is better. And Abrams isn’t embittered by that, he’s happy for the help. Again this just doesn’t happen usually. In these kinds of stories the “real cops” are either outright idiots or get into pissing contests with the outside detective. Unfortunately even this series couldn’t keep it going as they dumbed down Abrams severely when he came back in the fourth movie, but that was where the dip in quality started. The first three films in this series are really stellar.

    I could literally go on for the next hour about how great this film and this series of films is. How Nick likes to keep Nora out of the investigations but she still tries to help and isn’t shown to be stupid or bumbling in her attempts to do so. How there’s actually an arc to Nick’s drinking across the series with him overdoing it in the second film on New Year’s Eve, being pushed to dial it back across films three and four until finally giving it up in the fifth film. The running gag that basically anybody he ever sent to prison for lower end crimes is now his friend because he’s just so damn likable. That when Nick gets all the suspects in a room at the end of every film he isn’t 100% sure of who the killer is and he just lets everybody bounce off each other until there’s the slip that nobody else catches. And OH MY GOD! How did I not know that Cesar Romero was the gigolo husband in the first film??? DAMMIT I love this series. First complete film series I ever owned. Yes, even before Star Wars.

  8. Hey, Peter David offered a good alternative to casting for a “Thin Man” remake. For Nick and Nora Charles, he suggested Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, based off their charmistry in the Iron Man movies.

  9. So you do real movies here, too? After all the giant apes and swamp creatures, it was great to hear about this classic! Thanks for playing that trailer with William Powell and William Powell! I’ll have to hunt that up. I also appreciated the snippet from the radio broadcast at the end, as I have that record! Which means that I have been a Nick and Nora fan since before the internet. My favorite, like Nathaniel above, is the second one, “Return of The Thin Man.” My wife and I are always quoting it. “My, what big confetti they throw here.” “Are you packing? Yes, Dear, I’m just putting away this liquor.”

  10. Thanks to you and Melissa for a fantastic episode. Many have tried but no one has ever matched the chemistry of Loy and Powell. I like the idea of Gosling and Stone doing something like this but don’t call it The Thin Man. Pointless.

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