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The Thin Man is a 1934 (and thus, pre-Hays Code) movie based on a Dashiell Hammett novel 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, Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, The Thin Man Goes Home, and Song of the Thin Man. 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.
Though popular opinion had that "The Thin Man" referred to Nick Charles, so much so that it was included as part of the title for the later sequel films, it was really a reference to the fugitive lead suspect in the first film's murder.
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.)
- He quit by movie five, but circumstances make him look like he's off the wagon.
- Animal Reaction Shot: Asta.
- Artifact Title: See above.
- Bar Brawl: Nora starts one intentionally in the fifth movie, so she has an excuse to have two suspects arrested.
- 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."
- 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. Pretty racy stuff for the time period it was made in.
- 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.
- Follow That Car!: Shadow does this gag.
- 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.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: New York version.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Party Guest (upon seeing Maureen O'Sulivan's character): Say, who's the little brunette?
Nick (unamused): I used to bounce her on my knee.
Party Guest: Which knee? Can I touch it?
- Let's not forget Nora's reaction when the police are searching their room in the first movie:
Nora: What's that man doing in my drawers?
- 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.
- Grande Dame: Nora's aunt Katherine in After.
- 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. "You sure can pick 'em!"
- Happily Married: Nick and Nora.
- Idle Rich: Nick and Nora want to be.
- 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 "Why, were 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.
- Loyal Animal Companion: Asta. (Though "Loyal" is not the same thing as "Brave".)
- May-December Romance: Nick and Nora, in the original novel.
- Motive Rant: The villain in After.
- Never Suicide: subverted in Shadow.
- New Years Resolution: "Must scold, must nag, mustn't look too pretty in the morning.."
- The Perry Mason Method: How Nick elicits The Reveal in all six films.
- Playing Against Type:
- 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.
- Jimmy Stewart would be this, if he'd had a type yet at the time he starred in After the Thin Man.
- Pretty in Mink: Being a wealthy couple, Nora wore quite a few furs.
- The Reveal: The movies always ended with these.
- Sleeping Single: Except for that one time on the train.
- Summation Gathering: All six films.
- 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."
- Those Two Actors: Powell and Loy made several other movies together as well.
- Wacky Cravings: "And you call yourself a detective."
- Walk This Way: After does this gag at one point with Nick and an elderly butler.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Nick in The Thin Man Goes Home. Nora claims that if he ever got a pat on the back from his father, he'd burst a vest-button. It literally happens in the final scene.