Dec 30, 2013

Myrna Loy, The Thin Man

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Bette Davis may get all the attention for the hoopla surrounding her Of Human Bondage snub, but few people talk about the fact that Myrna Loy actually scored enough write-in votes from 1934 to come in at fifth place. Now, this was a particularly peculiar time as AMPAs was still trying to get their shit together--in Oscar's first seven years, the shortlist for Best Actress ranged anywhere from three nominees to seven, before finally settling into a five-nominee structure in 1936 that hasn't changed since. Thus, had 1934's voting system been like today's, Loy would've been liked enough to have been an official nominee, and she was likely the closest she ever was to being one in this particular year. But is this a performance worthy of a nomination or one that is swept along by the Academy's love for a particular film?

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 photo ScreenShot2013-12-28at204.jpgIf there was one word I could use to describe Nora Charles, it would be jolly. Nora is described on IMDB as "playful", and Loy does a wonderful job at being just that. Every time she's in a scene, Loy brightens up the room and made me feel happy that she was around. There is an airy quality to her when she speaks, and part of the reason I enjoyed The Thin Man so much was because of how enjoyable Nora was, not to mention how enjoyable the banter and chemistry between Loy and Powell is. As a viewer, one can't help but be curious about Nora. What exactly is going on inside this woman's head, to witness all these strange people and rather dangerous events occur and still maintain a rather perky and naive point of view? We're never really told. I must first add that the Thin Man series is never attempting to venture into the psychologies of either Nick or Nora--they remain at an unreachable distance from all of us, so we're only able to understand bits and pieces of them as well as their actions. And as much as the film posters flaunting the famed coupling of Powell and Loy would suggest, this is less a movie about the Charles couple as it is a movie about Nick Charles. Loy could be eliminated from the picture altogether and though it'd be a much less interesting one, it'd still be able to stand. Nora Charles is in the Thin Man series to be the female foil to Nick, to make an otherwise manly film prettier, if you will, but she remains pretty disposable. There's never a reason as to why she may be pivotal to the film, but we are more than grateful that she's there anyways. For instance, in one particular scene, Nora expresses interest to be more apart of Nick's murder investigation process, but she's tricked by him into getting in a taxi and is subsequently sent across town (and while the follow-up After The Thin Man is the only film I've seen out of all the Thin Man sequels, this motif carries on into the second picture and continues this idea that Nora never really contributes to the any of the films' conclusions). This is a shame, because she's such a delight, and the way she delivers her lines are a nice mix of childish and affluent--but she's basically limited to lines in the vein of "Oh Nick, won't you tell me who the killer is?" This is hardly a juicy female role, quite a contrast when the other ladies in the top five include two female parts that anchor their films, one smaller female part that gets all the major scene-stealing moments, and a female character of another coupling in which the female-male dynamic is pretty 50/50. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed Myrna Loy, and I wish that the story demanded more of her...but at the end of the day, Nora Charles is an amusing supporting role (that I wouldn't mind seeing the shortlist of the Supporting Actress category). As for an Oscar-worthy? I'd say...


  1. It's great that you reviewed her, too! I really enjoy her as an actress and wish she would have gotten a nom a that point...

    1. I haven't seen many of her films just yet, but I'm looking forward to! You gotta get around to seeing The Thin Man sometime and let me know what you think.

  2. I'll do! :) But personally, I have decided for myself that when I cover 1934 I will stick to the official nominees only and won't include any write-in candidates.