Nick and Nora Charles

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Nick and Nora Charles, or Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Charles are fictional characters created by Dashiell Hammett in his novel The Thin Man.

Contents

Synopsis

Nick, whose surname was changed to "Charles" by an immigration officer (from his father's original Greek name "Charalambides"), is a retired private detective. Nora is a wealthy socialite whose snobbish family thinks she has married beneath herself. Hammett modeled her on his lover Lillian Hellman.[1] Their banter provides comic relief of the type that would later be seen between John Steed and Emma Peel in The Avengers. The couple has a pet dog, Asta, which is a female schnauzer in the book but became a male wire fox terrier in the film.

From what we can determine from the novel, as well as the films, Nick is a former police detective and though it is never stated as to where he was a policeman, one can assume that he was likely a former New York detective. This theory is based on the fact that: Nick is originally from an up-state New York town called Sycamore Springs; as well as the fact that, of the six films, two take place in New York City, three in California (where Nick and Nora reside) and one in Nick’s home town. Throughout the two films that take place in New York (The Thin Man, and Another Thin Man) Nick is almost constantly meeting people that he “sent up the river”, which would imply that he has done a lot of work in New York. After his days as a policeman he went into private investigation and seems to have dealt mostly with wealthy, high profile, clientele. At some point he met and married Nora, a Californian family socialite. Her father owned a railway, a lumber company and various other businesses. While Nick's statements would imply that he had respect and admiration for Nora's late father, the majority of her family seems to utterly dislike Nick, seeing him as beneath them.

Retired, Nick manages the businesses that Nora inherited from her father, referring to it as “taking care of all that money I married you for”. His favorite hobby seems to be drinking. Even in retirement sleuthing seems to constantly follow him as numerous times he is reluctantly drawn into a murder case either by circumstance, or by Nora's desire to "watch him work".

Films

The film adaptation of The Thin Man was a resounding success, and although Hammett never wrote another novel with Nick and Nora Charles, five movie sequels were produced.

In the novel, Nick Charles is overweight and out of shape; the "thin man" is in fact a murder suspect. However, Nick Charles was portrayed in the films by the slim actor William Powell. This, naturally, confused the audience into thinking Nick was the title character. The movie producers capitalized on this confusion, and inserted "Thin Man" in the titles of the sequels to indicate Nick and Nora stories. Nora is portrayed by Myrna Loy in the films.

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