In one of the bonus features on “The Complete Thin Man Collection,” producer W.S. Van Dyke tells radio listeners he decided to adapt Dashiell Hammett’s detective novel into a movie because of the quick-witted relationship between the sleuthing married couple. But Warners’ collection makes it clear William Powell and Myrna Loy turned Nick and Nora Charles into film’s favorite wisecracking drunks and gave the movie life beyond the original novel. The seven-disc set is relatively thin on extras for a collection of this scope, but at least Warner dug up some decent archive material.
Besides the original “The Thin Man” — first released on DVD in 2002 — the set includes five sequels never-before-released on DVD and bonus disc “Alias Nick and Nora.” Along with the standard documentaries on the two stars, Warner serves up archive rarities such as a TV episode from the 1957 series, radio plays of the first two movies with the stars (including an introduction in one by Cecil B. DeMille), and old film shorts that played in theaters at the time, but is missing a docu about the series.
Kevin Kline adopts an early 20th century stage accent to narrate the William Powell docu, which chronicles the thesp’s successful move from the stage to silent movies, then the talkies. For Loy, Warner uses a 15-year-old TNT docu that doesn’t even address her subsequent demise.
Kevin Kline narrates the William Powell docu with an early 20th century stage accent similar to that of the thesp, one of the few from the era to successfully transition from silent films to the talkies. For Loy, Warner uses a 15-year-old TNT docu directed by filmmaker Richard Schickel and narrated by Kathleen Turner.
Both docus highlight the on- and off-screen relationship between pals Powell and Loy that defined their careers while adding depth to their individual work beyond the Thin Man series.
“They played them beautifully because Powell was just Powell and Loy was just Loy,” producer Van Dyke simply sums up when introducing the two stars for a 1936 radio play, one of the true gems included in the set.
Just how much Nick and Nora were really Powell and Loy is even more evident after watching “I Loathe You, Darling,” an episode from the 1957 TV series with Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk as Nick and Nora. The Charleses are oddly reinvented as two squares who’ve traded in the martinis for coffee and who don’t jive with Greenwich Village Beats.
“I’ve read a great deal about the Beat Generation but it’s all rather confusing,” a less clever Nora tells a cafe poet suspected of murder.
Sobriety doesn’t fit Nick or Nora — they’re neither as smart nor funny as they are when drunk in the earlier films. And, more important, they’re not Powell and Loy.