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365 Days of Oscar: No Love for Myrna Lot or William Powell?!

Ninety years ago, The Thin Man debuted. The ensuing series featured husband-and-wife detectives Nick and Nora (and of course their dog, Asta). I first saw these movies as a teenager, and the snappy banter and elegant charms of a vanished black-and-white world won me over instantly.

The unforced charisma of William Powell and Myrna Loy are what elevate the Thin Man series of six films over dozens of other forgotten screwball pics of the ‘40s. Wisecracking and booze-soaked (in the first few movies particularly), but deeply in love, Nick and Nora are one of the few couples of old-time Hollywood you can actually imagine having a sex life. Powell and Loy’s chemistry is so strong many people assumed they were actually married in real life.

The first Thin Man sets the stage for the entire series – someone dies in mysterious circumstances, hard-drinking, wealthy, sort-of-but-not-really retired detective Nick Charles and his plucky heiress wife Nora get involved, there’s lots of banter, and in the end the crime is solved. In all the movies, the mystery really is secondary to the boozy, flirty interplay of Nick and Nora. They’re formulaic to a fault – every movie ends with a “Clue” locked-room type showdown where Nick Charles assembles various suspects for this episode’s mystery and there’s a dramatic reveal. But you don’t watch these for the mystery – you watch for the banter and the style they ooze. The first movie features some of the catchiest lines and Nick and Nora are particularly young, sexy and smart.

 

This article is part of a special year-long series of anecdotes, reflections and thoughts about the Academy Awards.