I’ve lost count of the number of favorite films I’ve discovered through Turner Classic Movies, the beloved TV network known as TCM, for short. I credit the network with introducing me to practically all of my favorite stars — Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred and Ginger, Myrna Loy.
When The Nitrate Diva announced the TCM Discoveries Blogathon a few weeks ago, The Thin Man was one of the first films that came to mind for me. This film and its sequels not only introduced me to Myrna Loy, but Loy and Powell as a screen team. This series also solidified the mystery-comedy as one of my favorite genres, and provided me with a new favorite classic director to add to my list, in the form of W. S. Van Dyke.
The Thin Man series adds up to six delightful films — accounting for nearly half of the 14 Loy and Powell pictures:
- The Thin Man (1934), dir. W. S. Van Dyke
- After the Thin Man (1936), dir. W. S. Van Dyke
- Another Thin Man (1939), dir. W. S. Van Dyke
- Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), dir. W. S. Van Dyke
- The Thin Man Goes Home (1945), dir. Richard Thorpe
- Song of the Thin Man (1947), dir. Edward Buzzell
Each film follows Nick and Nora Charles (Powell and Loy), a couple with a knack for sleuthing, and their adorable dog Asta (portrayed by Skippy). The scenarios are all similar, involving lots of cocktail-drinking, glamour, and wit. And, of course, at the end, all of the suspects must be gathered into a single room by Nick for the big reveal. This formula works time after time thanks to the lovable characters, the talented actors playing them, and the viewers’ ever-growing attachment to the growing Charles family. (Nick Jr. is introduced in the third film.)
The Thin Man was such a success that in addition to its five sequels, countless imitators popped up — several of which I’ve also been able to watch on TCM! “Often imitated, never duplicated” is a phrase that definitely applies here, though. Some of them are decent viewing, but none of these copycats are quite as great as the magic originated by Powell, Loy, Skippy, and Van Dyke.
I remember the first time I watched The Thin Man, a film I probably wouldn’t have thought to track down if TCM hadn’t aired it. I’d seen plenty of praise for the film from fellow classic movie buffs around the web, but I was not yet a DVD collector (or a blogger), and at the time relied on TCM for the majority of my classic viewing. Much to my excitement, the first film in the series aired one day, and I happened to be home to catch it. It was love at first frame.
I immediately set out to watch the sequels after falling in love with the banter, the chemistry, and the whodunit of Nick and Nora Charles. I caught a couple of the sequels on TCM, religiously checking the schedule to see if they would air. The rest, I discovered through TCM in a roundabout way: by purchasing The Complete Thin Man Collection DVD set from TCM’s online store. This DVD set gave me the opportunity to finally watch all of the films back-to-back, in order. (I picked up the Loy and Powell box set during a TCM shop sale, too, and became and even bigger fan of both of these stars, individually and as a pair.)
When I re-watch the Thin Man films, I often turn to the DVD set, one of the most-treasured additions to my movie collection. On several occasions, though, I’ve been unable to resist watching the films on TCM again. I’m hit by a wave of nostalgia every time I catch these or any other of my old favorites on TCM, reminded of my beginnings as a classic film fan, and all of the wonderful memories I’ve made while watching channel 66 over the years — with friends, with family, or just snuggled up on the couch with my dog.