The chemistry between a couple in films usually exists on its own plane. It's not something you can easily define or even plan.
It either exists or it doesn't.
And it totally exists between William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles in director W.S. Van Dyke’s The Thin Man (1934), one of my favorite crime fiction films. The snappy conversation, the amused looks and the sly glances between the couple give the film its heart. We not only believe that this vibrant younger, wealthy woman would be attracted to this older, world-weary man but that each has found his or her soulmate. Their witty banter was as dry as the martinis they were constantly mixing.
This couple may have had twin beds, due to the film code of the times, but viewers just knew that one of those beds stayed empty much of the time.
Based on a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett originally published in Redbook, The Thin Man features a solid crime plot as former private detective Nick Charles is hired to find the missing eccentric businessman Clyde Wynant. One glance at Wynant's horrible family makes Nick, and the audience, wonder why the man didn't disappear several years before.
Trivia buffs know that the "thin man" of the title didn't refer to Nick Charles but to Wynant. And in Hammett's novel, the couple's dog is a female schnauzer named Asta who, in the film, became a male wire fox terrier.
Hammett wrote only one Thin Man novel but it turned became the basis for six movies. By the time The Thin Man became a television series during the 1950s, the plots were becoming a bit thin. The TV series starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk lasted only 72 episodes, from 1957-1959.
Now it looks as if Nick and Nora again will make it to the big screen. According to Deadline.com, Warner Bros. has signed director Rob Marshall (Chicago) and Johnny Depp to star in this remake. Though the status of the remake is anyone's guess. The Thin Man redux likely will be put on hold as Marshall first concentrates on the film version of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.
Until the remake is filmed, one vital part is missing.
They need Nora.
Certainly purists, and I am one of them, will decry the need for a Thin Man remake. There's nothing wrong and everything right with the original. That 78-year-old film holds up pretty well; the plot feels contemporary as do the characters.
But The Thin Man is 78 years old and maybe it is time to bring a new generation to Hammett's work. Depp is an appealing actor and Marshall an innovative director. If anyone could make it work, it may indeed be the team of Marshall-Depp.
Can a younger generation relate to the technology, such as it was back then, shown in the 1934 film? Adding smart phones, the internet, social media, etc., can enhance, not detract, from the plot. No matter how many toys, Nick Charles still has to use his brain and wits to catch the bad guys.
And there are enough age-appropirate actresses who can hold their own with Depp. We'd love to know who you think would be a good foil for Depp.
As for Asta, for him we have an idea. In the novel, Asta was a female schnauzer; in the movies, Asta was a male wire-haired terrier.
The dog's breed has been changed once, why not again? I suggest Uggie, the little scene-stealing Jack Russell from The Artist.
The chemistry would already be there between Uggie and Depp. If, that is, Depp can hold his own with Uggie. And talk about chemistry.
Photos: Top, Myrna Loy, Asta, and William Powell in The Thin Man; center, Johnny Depp