(VOD/Every other week on TCM) THE THIN MAN is based on the Dashiell Hammett detective novel of the same name but, while the pre-code film adaptation retains the same narrative bones as the book, it backgrounds the murder mystery in favor of the boozy, flirty interplay between spouses Nick & Nora Charles, resulting in one of most winsome on-screen couples.
Like the book, Nora (Myrna Loy) is a rich socialite, and Nick (William Powell) is a man who gave up his detective badge to marry her, and they have a dog in lieu of children. They spend their copious recreational time running around night clubs, garnering hanger-ons and hangovers, making each other laugh with witty banter and, in general, having one good time after another, at least until Nick gets roped into investigating a murder. What makes them such a great on-screen couple is that, yes, Nick is the investigator, but Nora is often the instigator, has just as much insight and deductive powers as Nick, she takes no shit, and Nick is always willing to indulge her. They both push-and-pull each other with an endless amount of quips and gazes, and love each other for doing so.
While it’s always worth watching Loy & Powell together, what really makes the film resonate is the sparkling script penned by married couple Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who had an amazing tandem career both as playwrights (they won a Pulitzer for their stageplay of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) and screenwriters (they also worked on FATHER OF THE BRIDE, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS). They were not shy about admitting that they poured much of their relationship into the screenplay, and it shows, as they feel like a real forever-love couple — doting, a bit combative, occasionally prickly, always respectful — but never in a cloying way. It’s a delightful watch, a film I never tire of.
- If you’re interested in reading more about Goodrich & Hackett, I suggest the combined biography of the two in THE REAL NICK AND NORA by David L. Goodrich.