The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

by Dashiell Hammett

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The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:54 am

Welcome to a new discussion, Noodlemantras! :bounce: It's always nice to start off on Page 1! Most of you know our guidelines here at ONBC but just a refresher course for those who may not have participated before.

Please keep your answers relevant to the question of the day and try not to stray too far from that topic so we don't discuss the entire book in one day! If you are unsure of something, please send a PM to Liz or myself and we will be glad to answer your question. And the most important guideline of all...there are no wrong answers!! Respectfully differing opinions are always welcome and make for a good discussion. Ready, set, go!



Let's talk about the relationship between Nick and Nora. (If all works as planned we will be discussing them individually so try to consider that in your answers - I know it may not be easy!)
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby Buster » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:16 am

Oh, it feels good to start a new discussion - Thanks!
As for Nick and Nora: I think they genuinely liked each other, and found each other both challenging and stimulating. Their banter reveals a closeness and deep affection, as well as the sharp edge that was so in vogue at the time (think Dorothy Parker).

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:30 am

:applause: The discussion!
Finally caught up on all the tidbits yesterday!

I think Nick and Nora are well suited for each other, although I detect a bit of an age difference between the two.
I think he is older and finally more settled in his ways and she is young enough to find murder fascinating. While he may have grown tired of having to investigate for a living, I think he enjoys it now as a hobby. So she isn't worried about him getting hurt, but rather enjoys taking the ride with him. No worries, mate.
I love their banter.

Together, they make a good team. :ok:

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby winona » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:40 pm

I think the May/ December relationship worked. He felt jaded, Nora was enthralled and young enough to get Nick involved.
Because love has your face and body .....and your hands are tender and your mouth is sweet-and God has made no other eyes like yours. Walter Benton

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:49 pm

Great start to the discussion, Noodlemantras! :thumbsup:

Boo-Radley wrote:Slightly off topic (and I hope I'm not getting ahead of the discussion too much here), after reading Hammett's bio tidbit while reading the book I couldn't understand the notion that Nick and Nora appeared to be a couple that may not have been monogamous. What I felt while reading the book (I think this was perfectly portrayed in the films) is that what they had was a very grown up relationship. They didn't play games with each other they spoke their minds, for example when Nora found Jorgensen attractive she told Nick so and he wasn't taken aback I read into that he was comfortable in his own skin and he knew he could trust his wife and the same was true of Nora (think of all Nick's encounters with Mimi/Dorothy).

I can't help but think that the maturity of their relationship was what people of the time found so off-putting.

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Bringing Boo’s response over from another thread here…..

I didn’t understand why popular opinion was that they weren’t monogamous either. But I think that it is a sign of the times. I think that they were a bit too modern for the times. And it was their comfort with each other and banter that made people suspect that they weren’t monogamous. In fact, I thought just the opposite, because they were together so much, almost as equal partners. He valued her opinion. She wasn’t just there to make his dinners, clean his house and bear his children. But my point of view is due to the society in which I grew up……which was much more liberated than the 30s.

I thought that there banter was fun to read, but I was shocked by it, again, due to how I perceive the 30s.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:22 pm

Great answers so far! I agree with everything that has been said.

I have watched two of the old Powell/Loy films, so I hope I don't get my perceptions between book and film mixed up. :hypnotic: Although I do think the film versions helped me grasp the relationship a little better. Nick's repeated references to Nora's wealth and his plan to live off it made me uncomfortable in the book, but I have come to realize it was mostly "banter" and good-natured teasing. The age difference created quite a different dynamic in the relationship --along with other non-conventional themes for the times, they probably did seem a bit shocking to the general readership.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:51 pm

Nice start! :applause:

I didn't think a lot about the age difference until you all brought it up. I think it works very well and makes a nice yin yang partnership. They were intellectual equals and I got the feeling there were very comfortable together and respected each other. They seemed to be in competition at times to see who could one up the other in various ways which made it fun. What we think of as the typical male dominated relationship of the 30's certainly wasn't them!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:19 pm

No, I didn't think about age difference either, although if we want to consider the relationship between Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett as the model, then of course it's part of the equation Hammett created. But I don't know that I would consider what he described as a relationship of equals. And this isn't meant in a bad way. There's a sexy little tension between the two of them that's definitely a sense of man who knows and woman who's learning, and of course over time this progresses on to a woman actually knows more, much to male chagrin. Perhaps this is the May-December phenomenon or just a witty twist on the innards of how men and women routinely seduce each other? I guess the other thing I wonder about is whether Hammett was simply expressing a contemporary vision of the male/female dance (ie something already in the air) or if the popularity of The Thin Man in book form (1934) simply created this little mental firestorm that then went on to influence countless romantic comedies of the 1930s and 1940s? We can look at something called 'screwball comedy', stuff like "It Happened One Night" (also 1934) or "His Gal Friday" (1940), and see something of that same dance that Hammett gives us. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose ears still ring from that childhood overdose of black and whites and spiffy repartee between women dressed to the nines and men in tux. It's really endemic to the time, to the place. But the question remains: was this elegant little play already in Mr. Hammett's brain or did his lovely book light a fire? My sense is it's both. I mean the guy did spend a good chunk of time in Hollywood. Maybe it was in the water?

Some additional reading on screwball:

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:23 pm

Thanks for the links, firefly. I think the second one in particular is a good, short explanation of the genre. I know I have read elsewhere that this type of quirky, mismatched comedy was in repsonse to the times as well. It was the Depression and people were down and needed a laugh, often with wealthy characters. The 40's changed the times with the onset of war although I think it played out later in early television, think I Love Lucy, etc. I always like the format when well done!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby fansmom » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:45 pm

I think "yin/yang" describes it perfectly. Nora is young, wealthy, sheltered, and Nick is umm, not any of those.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:46 pm

:highfive: Loved the original screwball comedies!
And I think you're correct Firefly, that the times called for levity.

Also adding to the "women as equals" notion was the growing independence of women in society: The right to vote, shorter skirts, less Victorian attitude, the Jazz Age, women working outside the home and in less traditional professions. All of this made for the screwball comedy.

In earlier movies, women were damsels in distress always being rescued by or can't live without a man...even in the comedies. Screwball had women and men on equal, albeit screwball, terms. Both had funny lines, physical/slapstick humor, witty banter, equal social/job class and both shared the screen. Sometimes the woman got the man out of a jam, sometimes the man rescued the woman, but they were always a team. And they always fell in love.

His Girl Friday was changed to a man and woman lead to go with the times. It is based on the equally funny play "The Front Page". That traditionally has two male leads and was a movie in the 1931 with Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien. In 1974, it starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. But in 1940, it was made with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell--a sign of the times...an aggressive female reporter.

The Thin Man series also showed male and female equals and put the twist that the man married the woman for HER money, not the other way around. Nice touch!

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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:45 am

Snoop, like where you went with this. Nicely expanded and further elucidated. Would absolutely love to know if Hammett sat there and thought hey, let's do a detective story with an elegant twist, something that might be attractive to my friends on the West Coast? But I might be approaching another question if I persist in this line of thinking so I am getting out of the pool for the evening.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby Boo-Radley » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:19 am

Liz wrote:Great start to the discussion, Noodlemantras! :thumbsup:

Boo-Radley wrote:Slightly off topic (and I hope I'm not getting ahead of the discussion too much here), after reading Hammett's bio tidbit while reading the book I couldn't understand the notion that Nick and Nora appeared to be a couple that may not have been monogamous. What I felt while reading the book (I think this was perfectly portrayed in the films) is that what they had was a very grown up relationship. They didn't play games with each other they spoke their minds, for example when Nora found Jorgensen attractive she told Nick so and he wasn't taken aback I read into that he was comfortable in his own skin and he knew he could trust his wife and the same was true of Nora (think of all Nick's encounters with Mimi/Dorothy).

I can't help but think that the maturity of their relationship was what people of the time found so off-putting.

Live in Depp
Boo


Bringing Boo’s response over from another thread here…..

I didn’t understand why popular opinion was that they weren’t monogamous either. But I think that it is a sign of the times. I think that they were a bit too modern for the times. And it was their comfort with each other and banter that made people suspect that they weren’t monogamous. In fact, I thought just the opposite, because they were together so much, almost as equal partners. He valued her opinion. She wasn’t just there to make his dinners, clean his house and bear his children. But my point of view is due to the society in which I grew up……which was much more liberated than the 30s.

I thought that there banter was fun to read, but I was shocked by it, again, due to how I perceive the 30s.


Good Morning Noodlemantras!

Thanks Lizbaba, for bringing my comments over to the opening question. :bouquet: I agree with you totally about the ease and openness of Nick and Nora's relationship, this aspect is what I have always loved about the films and while reading the book I could hear in my mind William Powell and Myrna Loy speaking the Hammett's words as I laughed along.

Imagine that in the 30's the idea that a man and woman could actually like one another and not base their interactions on prescribed social rules was unsettling to the general populace. Hammett had to know this and the fact that he went ahead an created these characters was nothing less than innovative. I find myself wishing that he [Hammett] had been able to pen at least second book for these characters. I love Nick and Nora.

Live in Depp
Boo
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Re: The Thin Man Question #1 ~ Nick and Nora

Unread postby ladylinn » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:30 pm

:yahoo: Here we go again with another great discussion.

As mentioned before me - I did not pick up on age difference. But in thinking about it - makes sense. Nora to me seemed very social and spoiled in her upbringing and Nick reallly liked the contacts and traveling in that type of social circles. Their bantering to me seemed that they were very comfortable in their relationship. I thought they made a great couple.


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