Friday, December 13, 2013

GlamAmor-ous Holidays--Merry Christmas from Nick and Nora in 1934's THE THIN MAN

In celebrating this season on GlamAmor through the days of Old Hollywood, you can't do much better for 1930s style than Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) in The Thin Man (1934).  The series starts with the cosmopolitan couple and a murder mystery during Christmas in New York.  Then the series' second feature--After the Thin Man (1936)--takes the detective duo back to their home in San Francisco for New Year's Eve.  Both these films are among my favorites...I've watched them more times than I can count, whether it's during the holidays or throughout the year.  Enjoy this article from the archives, which was originally written for Christmas 2011.  Happy holidays!


For many years, 1934's The Thin Man has been one of my favorite films.  There is a lot to love about it.  First, as the daughter of a police officer, I have practically been raised on mysteries in print and on film.  Thin Man is both.  It was based on a novel by the talented Dashiell Hammett, who most know from his classic--again, in both print and film--The Maltese Falcon.  And still a third, Hammett's personal favorite The Glass Key, was turned into a film noir starring Veronica Lake.   All are in my own library as there is little that is more comforting to me than a detective story. It's especially true when it's blended with the wit and sophistication found in director W. S. ("Woody") Van Dyke's The Thin Man.

Much of the pleasure of watching the film comes from its dashing leading man, William Powell.  Powell is an actor who embodies smooth sophistication, confidence, and charm.  Despite coming from the Midwest, he seems urbane.  He seems worldly.  You get a sense that there isn't a situation this man can't handle, like the steady stream of criminals he puts behind bars (and somehow keeps as friends) as detective Nick Charles. Powell is also a perfect partner for all his leading ladies--including Kay Francis, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, and of course Myrna Loy.  He dances with each of them through delicious dialogue often filled with sexy double entendres.  

Though he was once married to Carole and deeply in love with Jean before she died, Myrna truly seemed to be his perfect partner.  They were ultimately paired in 14 films together.  But they are best known for playing libatious Nick and Nora Charles, an onscreen partnership that was the result of their genuine friendship offscreen.  When Van Dyke witnessed their natural chemistry and playful nature with one another, he immediately recommended that they take on the roles of Dashiell Hammett's famous married couple.  

Part of the appeal of Thin Man is certainly sartorial.  Dolly Tree was its costume designer, one of MGM's bright talents who, along with Adrian, was responsible for much of the studio's polish in the 1930s.  She worked with Powell and Loy on many of their movies, starting with The Thin Man.  Because the characters of Nick and Nora were extraordinarily wealthy, Dolly could do as she pleased in creating the most tailored and luxurious ensembles for them both.  Myrna, for example, was frequently floating around in elegant gowns, and fur is found in many of her outfits.  Powell wears his costumes extremely well, too....his six foot frame and broad shoulders carried those double-breasted pinstripe suits better than many of his contemporaries.  His innate sophistication made them seem natural; even when he was done up in a three piece suit, he looked as comfortable as he did in a pair of pajamas.  

So pour yourself a favorite cocktail or two (or six), get cozy, and join the Charles family on all of their stylish adventures together.  Happy holidays!

Our introduction to Nick a bar with drink in hand, of course

Then Nora Charles makes her grand entrance...chasing after Asta chasing after Nick

The elegant family with Nora in her fur-trimmed coat and Nick in a double-breasted suit
while chatting with Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O'Sullivan) about her missing father

Nora pays the price for keeping up with Nick--six martinis means one heck of a hangover

Already embroiled in a mystery--Nick calls Dorothy to say he thinks her father is safe

Dorothy's mother Mimi, always scheming for money, in a silk gown with white fur-trimmed winged sleeves
changes into a smart suit with fur stole and hand warmer to visit her ex-husband's lover

Unfortunately she arrives too late 

Nick and Nora throw a holiday party for his friends,
many of whom are ex-convicts he sent to prison during his days as a detective

Nora in a bias cut striped silk chiffon gown with ruffles everywhere and
Nick in his usual pinstripe suit, silk tie, and pocket square

Nora in an elegant silk charmeuse fur-trimmed robe with winged sleeves for one of their late night talks in bed

A late night visitor threatens the couple

Nick ends up being shot, but it's nothing a drink can't handle

Christmas morning with Nick and Nora

Off to follow a lead in the investigation--Nick in a trim wool coat, silk scarf, silk shirt, and silk tie
and Nora in her Christmas present (fur coat) over a plaid skirt and matching hat

Back at the Wynant household acting as referee to all the family fighting

Dorothy keeping her chin up in a trim skirt and cropped jacket

Nora, in an elegant sheer chiffon robe over a black nightgown, worries when 
Nick throws on his trench coat to do more investigating at Wynant's warehouse at night

The cinematography of James Wong Howe, one of my all-time favorites, 
really sets the scene when Nick hears an intruder go bump in the night

Elaborate ruffles on Nora's blouse underneath an equally elaborate silk coat
as the couple discusses the case and its clues...and plans a dinner to find the murderer

The couple's secret weapon at a dinner party to find the murderer--
Nora in her "loo loo" of a black silk halter gown with strategically placed brooch 

The suspects are equally outfitted, and I especially envy Mimi's gown (above)
with its boatneck and brooch fastened opposite a slightly gathered shoulder

Nick at the head of the table in a tuxedo as he ferrets out the murderer

Dorothy reacts to news that her mother was helping 
(and sitting next to) her father's murderer

On a train heading home to San Francisco for more adventures


Silver Screenings said...

Nick and Nora are soaked in style and sophistication, not to mention their witty chemistry. And Myrna Loy's wardrobe! Half these clothes would look ridiculous on me, but they are gorgeous on her willowy frame.

I really enjoyed this tribute!

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks Silver Screenings! The clothes--on both of them--are so fabulous, I had to share them all. They both look incredible and I LOVE them together, too! They're just so delicious together. :)

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