Holiday Viewing: The Thin Man

A merry, blotto Christmas (mind the dead body in the bedroom)

“I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping…”

And so begins the great Dashiell Hammett’s 1934 detective novel, wasting no time in introducing retired gumshoe Nick Charles in his natural state: with a drink in hand, on his way to being well-soused.

The 1934 adaptation, on the other hand, delays a full 10 minutes in debuting wise-cracking Nick (William Powell); his sleek, tickled-pink wife Nora (Myrna Loy); and Asta, their anxious Wire Fox Terrier*, opening instead with the wealthy, dyspeptic inventor (Edward Ellis, playing the title’s “thin man”) whose mysterious disappearance eventually snares Nick back into the private eye game.

There’s a half-hearted murder-mystery afoot, but we’re really here for Nick and Nora’s sexy, stinko banter. (On the subject of booze: There is just a shocking amount of alcohol imbibed in this movie.) Journeyman director W. S. Van Dyke – nicknamed “One Take Woody” for his efficiency – first directed Powell and Loy in Manhattan Melodrama, and he had the good sense to keep the party going; their pairing in The Thin Man and its five sequels amounts to one of the friskiest depictions of marriage in cinema history.

The Thin Man screens Monday, Dec. 25 and Saturday, Dec. 30 at AFS Cinema. On New Year’s Eve, starting at 7pm, Turner Classic Movies will marathon the entire Thin Man series.

Throughout December, the Chronicle film team is highlighting some of our favorite seasonal film and TV offerings. Find a new recommendation every day at our Holiday Movie Advent Calendar.

Editor's note: This post originally mislabeled the costarring dog a Schnauzer. Our apologies to the Wire Fox Terrier community; see comments for more on canine acting legend Skippy.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Christmas movies
Holiday Viewing: <i>A Christmas Carol</i>
Holiday Viewing: A Christmas Carol
In this season of giving, who is the best Scrooge?

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 24, 2017

Holiday Viewing: <i>The Nightmare Before Christmas</i>
Holiday Viewing: The Nightmare Before Christmas
A holiday hybrid for outcasts

Marisa Mirabal, Dec. 21, 2017

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: This One’s on Us
We Have an Issue: This One’s on Us

Dec. 2, 2022

10 Holiday Treats for Dogs (and Their Humans)
10 Holiday Treats for Dogs (and Their Humans)
Local artists and artisans putting pets first

Dec. 2, 2022


Christmas movies, holiday movies, The Thin Man, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Asta the Dog, Dashiell Hammett, Nick and Nora Charles, AFS Cinema

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle