The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

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The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:59 am

Let's discuss Nick.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby Boo-Radley » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:42 am

Ooooh let's! Nick Charles for me is the kind of man that I would want around if things got a bit dodgy. He's smart, cool and calm and he doesn't lead with his ego; all very important in a tight situation. It's his tendency not to flex his muscles at every open opportunity, but to set back and take in the situation and then make his moves based on his experience that makes him compelling for me as a character and I think is at the root of the hard-boiled detective genre. These characters whether it's Nick Charles, Sam Spade, Archie Goodfellow, etc. all have one thing in common they are always thinking to solve crimes you have to pay attention, suspect everyone and be prepared to act at any given moment.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:17 pm

Great answer, Boo! As a detective I think you got him just right.
As a romantic partner, he is a bit sarcastic for me. What everyone described as banter was fun when it was exchanged between the two, but as I said yesterday, sometimes I wasn't sure how serious he was when he said things - for instance, about marrying Nora for her money. Sometimes men that are too smooth make me nervous. And he certainly had the potential for developing a serious drinking problem.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:53 pm

Good start, Boo and nebraska! Anyone else?
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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby winona » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:27 pm

What to say about Nick? He was a man of his time. A true gentleman,but a bit of an independent rough! To intelligent for his own good! He had a good "Bead" on people, for good or bad. Hence his possible drinking problem. He just" read" the folks he came in contact with...
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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby ladylinn » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:34 pm

Nick Charles - so smooth, charming, suave and smart. He seems to be on the edge of the circle always listening and taking the whole picture in before he makes his move. Having a drink and a cigarette in his hand was part of his demeanor and very much an image of the 30's "beautiful" people.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:01 pm

It's been a long time since I've read Hammett and this is my first go round with The Thin Man, but Nick seems a lot lighter than the central male characters I remember, not so much hard boiled as decadently sophisticated, a lightly drunk and verbally dexterous playboy who's slightly bored, slightly amused by all he sees and willing to play at the game of detective as long as it's entertaining. I mean, he really had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the whole affair didn't he, mostly by Nora who actually impressed me as somewhat more righteous than hubby. No doubt this is a very intelligent fellow who deliberately wears this sort of careless veneer to provide himself with a cover from which to observe everything with extreme care. You get glimpses of someone else when he talks to cops, and when he explains things to Nora, perhaps slightly more down and dirty, as if he's harkening back to the good ole' days when he actually had to do this stuff for a living. So I guess what I'm finally saying is the guy is very layered, shade upon shade. He doesn't give up much.

I guess the other thing I'd like to talk about is what Hammett had in mind when he created this guy? I'm kind of intrigued by the gesture. He takes his beautiful Sam Spade type and marries it to Astaire. What was he playing with? The guy rolls out of Hollywood and writes The Thin Man, so was he thinking movie? Then again perhaps the West Coast period influenced his own sense of what a detective might be? We sit here now and look back at Nick and see this emblematic figure, a type we kind of know in our sleep. He's gonna be suave and elegantly mannered and dressed, and we can see him standing there, and hear him talking. He's in tons of movies. The question is who begat the guy, you know? Was he kind just in the air in the late Twenties? Did he simultaneously spring to life in multiple brains at the same time, script writers and novelists for example?
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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:06 pm

You all are honing in on him to be sure. Suave, sophisticated, intelligent, an observer who plays things close to the vest until he is ready to expose his hand.

firefly, good question about the origins of this type of character. I'm putting a link in here from our discussion on Loser's Town about the history of the detective novel. Just some food for thought...


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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby Buster » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:22 pm

He takes his beautiful Sam Spade type and marries it to Astaire.

I think you've got it, firefly. That's a perfect description of Nick.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:55 pm

:highfive: What everyone else said!

Thanks for the link DITHOT! I'll have to read that another night, but it looks very interesting! :ok:

And, Nebraska, about his drinking...Even though he kept asking for and getting drinks, he never really gets to drink. He is always interrupted by something or someone. Kind of reminds me of Captain Jack..."the rum is always gone" by the time he gets back to it. Nick never actually appears drunk or is allowed to be drunk, even though everyone around him can be even Nora.

I think the nearness of booze, but not being able to touch it, reflects on Prohibition. Booze and speakeasies were all around, but you weren't allowed to partake. Just a little reminder of when times were better for everyone.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby Liz » Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:44 am

I agree with most of what everyone has said, so I don’t have a whole lot to add. BUT it was Firefly’s remark about the Hollywood influence that got me going this direction…..I think Nick is all about comedic relief. The guy cracked me up. And it was not what I was expecting. I knew (from what I had heard about the movie) that it was a comedy, but I didn’t expect to really find it funny. But I did. And I guess that would tie into the Hollywood influence.
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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby Boo-Radley » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:08 am

nebraska wrote:Great answer, Boo! As a detective I think you got him just right.
As a romantic partner, he is a bit sarcastic for me. What everyone described as banter was fun when it was exchanged between the two, but as I said yesterday, sometimes I wasn't sure how serious he was when he said things - for instance, about marrying Nora for her money. Sometimes men that are too smooth make me nervous. And he certainly had the potential for developing a serious drinking problem.


Hi Nebraska, I can certainly see where you are coming from here, just based on reading the book. I think if you see the films that it will be clearer that what Nick is doing when he says things like that to Nora is (in the vernacular of the day) wisecracking; but I will grant that that may not be so evident from reading the words especially as a modern day reader. In the films, Nicks drinking is also not so problematic as it appears in the book to modern sensibilities. He's a man who works hard and plays hard true, but he never takes a false step and is always aware of what is going on around him, that's why he is a great detective. Also in the films, you see that Nick really loves Nora very much and she him.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:33 am

Yes, I did get a much different feel for Nick and Nora from the films than from the book; hard not to confuse the two.

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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby Boo-Radley » Wed Feb 22, 2012 2:10 pm

SnoopyDances wrote::highfive: What everyone else said!

Thanks for the link DITHOT! I'll have to read that another night, but it looks very interesting! :ok:

And, Nebraska, about his drinking...Even though he kept asking for and getting drinks, he never really gets to drink. He is always interrupted by something or someone. Kind of reminds me of Captain Jack..."the rum is always gone" by the time he gets back to it. Nick never actually appears drunk or is allowed to be drunk, even though everyone around him can be even Nora.

I think the nearness of booze, but not being able to touch it, reflects on Prohibition. Booze and speakeasies were all around, but you weren't allowed to partake. Just a little reminder of when times were better for everyone.
:toastingpirates:



Snoopy you make a good point about Nick and drinking in the book, that's why I have always seen the image of him being a heavy drinker as kind of a cover so that he wouldn't be taken to seriously for his sleuthing. This is I think more evident in the films.

Live in Depp
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"With this hand I will cup your.... Oh goodness no!"~~Victor Van Dort

"The theater is my drug, and my illness is so far advanced that my physic must be of the highest quality."~~John Wilmot

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Re: The Thin Man Question #2 ~ Nick Charles

Unread postby stroch » Sun Feb 26, 2012 12:59 pm

I don't know...I think Nick did drink, and seriously. Drinks for breakfast, not just for socializing or as a cover. Hammett was an alcoholic, and at the time he wrote this book, he was still flying high and riding a wave, and drinking was a stimulant to creativity. Nick is Hammett's age when he wrote the book.

And I love Nick -- smart, cynical, and charming, at home everywhere. I just don't understand how he would marry a teenager unless it was for the money after all.
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