Why Nick & Nora are my favorite vintage movie couple
Jun 17, 2020 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Escape was the theme for my weekend. Sometimes when world events are hard to process an old-fashioned movie binge is just what the doctor ordered. If you want some laughs with a side of mystery, The Thin Man series can’t be beat. William Powell and Myrna Loy absolutely shine as the witty lovebirds, Nick and Nora Charles. Their charm and banter carry the plot along, sweeping you up with each line. Whenever I watch one of their films I feel like I’m reuniting with old pals. Join me as I explain why Nick & Nora are my favorite vintage movie couple and tell me about your treasured cinematic pairings in the comments…
They focus on the fun
Nick’s talents for investigation lead them into all sorts of shenanigans. Even when they are dancing in the most glam clubs, trouble is sure to rear its ugly head. But despite the dangerous situations that arise, they always keep each other in stitches. They never take things too seriously. For Nick & Nora there’s nothing that can’t be solved with a good drink and tasty meal. Nick’s detective skills mirror this leisurely approach, his style is to quietly observe while the police grill their latest suspect. It’s always these keen observations that crack the case wide open. But while Nick’s method might seem haughty, Nora’s no slouch. She’s busy making theories of her own and determined to join Nick at every step of the investigation. For the Charles’ crime-fighting is a family affair. Even their terrier Asta can take credit for many a discovery!
Despite facing disapproval from their families for this dangerous lifestyle, Nick and Nora remain a united front. Nora, a wealthy heiress, could have easily never lifted a finger again. But instead she is a passionate Watson to Nick’s Sherlock. Nick could have easily given up his trade and relied on his wife’s wealth. But instead he helps those in need, never withholding an offer to be of service. Their personalities and skills create some fantastic sparks. It’s no wonder one of their exchanges made the AFI top movie quotes list.
Nora Charles: “They say you were shot in the tabloids.”
Nick Charles: “They never got near my tabloids.”
Their pup is always by their side
If Nick and Nora provide the sizzle to the screen, Asta provides the spunk. This little terrier has plot lines of his own to follow while his owners traipse about town to save the day. Asta is always in tow, no matter the location. Five star restaurant? Bring Asta. Race track? Bring Asta. Empty warehouse? Bring Asta. Just like his humans, Asta rolls into a place like he owns it! In the fifth film, Nick & Nora are traveling by rail and the porter insists their beloved Asta must ride in the baggage car. Naturally, Nick & Nora join Asta in the car along with the other critters and creatures. That’s the kind of devotion I would show to my pups and I love that Nick & Nora pioneered pup parenthood before it became trendy!
While Asta has many adventures throughout the six-movie collection, I think his spotlight shines brightest in After the Thin Man. Firstly, he returns home to find Mrs. Asta has given birth to some adorable little terriers and one pup who is the spitting image of the dog next door. Poor Asta! He spends much of the movie trying to cut off the intruder’s access point (a hole in the gate). Finally Asta drags the lawnmower over to create a permanent blocker, proving brains run in the family (no matter the species). Up next Asta gives his humans a run for their money when he tries to eat a clue that comes careening through their window. Watching Asta get the better of his two very clever people never ceases to make me giggle. As the proud dog mom of two stubborn pups I can identify with this frazzling scene!
They’re madly in love
If you’re a fan of vintage cinema, you know that married life can be very sanitized on screen. Kissing is fine for courtship, but not considered proper once vows are exchanged. Nick & Nora were two of the first spouses who showed that married life could be spontaneous. They provided a road-map for a union built on joy. In every film, you see Nick & Nora even more in love with each other. They aren’t afraid to express their feelings and I wasn’t surprised to learn that the film’s dialogue was written by a real-life husband and wife team. Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich collaborated for decades, but The Thin Man was one of their first big Hollywood hits. One of their other scripts, In the Good Old Summertime is on my list of best romantic comedies (and inspired You’ve Got Mail). Before Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan’s sparks captured hearts, there was Nick & Nora. As Andrew Sarris, film historian, summarized “[Nick and Nora were the] first on-screen Hollywood couple for whom matrimony did not signal the end of sex, romance and adventure.”
There are many other reasons why I adore Nick & Nora (to say nothing of Nora’s incredible wardrobe!), but this is the big trio. These themes are why The Thin Man series remains popular with modern movie audiences. Tell me reader, what other films from the 1930s and 40s hold up as well as these Dashiell Hammett adapations? Share with us in the comments…