Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Thin Man Turns 75

His Camera-Ready Comedy - "By TOM NOLAN

'The Thin Man,' Dashiell Hammett's fifth and final novel, turns 75 this month.

Written in the wake of the same author's hard-boiled 1930 private-detective classic, 'The Maltese Falcon,' and his bleak 1931 thriller of civic corruption, 'The Glass Key,' the amusing and flippant-seeming 'The Thin Man' (in which almost all violence occurs offstage) took readers by surprise in 1934. Reviewers' judgments at the time were mixed: The New York Herald Tribune thought it 'a new hard-boiled opus worthy to stand beside the best of his other works,' but the New Republic found it 'a less excitingly fresh performance.'

The author himself made no great claims for his creation. 'Nobody ever invented a more insufferably smug pair of characters,' he said of the book's married protagonists, Nick and Nora Charles; and in 1957, four years before his death, he would claim that ''The Thin Man' always bored me.'

Yet Hammett -- often as hedonistic in life as the heavy drinkers in his stories -- was sober and industrious while writing the novel during his tenancy in an unimpressive New York hotel managed by his friend and fellow author Nathanael West; and, one way or another, the book and its characters would earn Dashiell Hammett (according to biographer Richard Layman) close to a million dollars."

Check out the whole article.
A tip of the Crider fedora to Art Scott.


Steve Steinbock said...

They may be an "insufferably smug pair of characters," but I have a feeling it's a pretty close call as to whether the Charleses or Sam Spade had a greater impact on popular culture.

You often see characters referred to as "a modern-day Nick and Nora Charles" (I almost used the phrase this past week, but I resisted). But how often is someone referred to as a Sam Spade?

Now if Asta had been a baby gator, there'd be no question.

Unknown said...

Hammett missed a trick there, didn't he. When the Hammett heirs ask me to write a prequel to THE THIN MAN, I'll fix that.

Cap'n Bob said...

There may have been millions involved, but Hammett didn't see it, nor did his heirs. Lillian Hellman stole his copyrights and reaped the rewards.