The Thin Man

November 11, 2011

Our videographer Elena Parker -- a serious food and film buff -- is really good at throwing movie-themed dinner parties. She and her friends cook together, serve up, and eat while they watch.

We've asked her to share the menus for her favorite films with us -- here's the latest installment: screwball comedy/detective flick (with epic cocktail parties) The Thin Man.

The Thin Man

Shop the Story


A murder case, a wise-cracking male-female duo at the helm, a dog for comic effect…

I bet you think I'm talking about the new hour-long crime drama that's on one of the various TV networks. Bones and Booth, Castle and Beckett… maybe even going back to our doomed friends in Moonlighting. Sorry to disappoint you… but I promise that I have something oh, so much better.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd love to introduce you to Nick and Nora Charles -- the paradigm of crime-solving couples. Their banter is witty, their antics endearing and, well, their drink glasses… bottomless.

The Thin Man  The Thin Man

Nick and Nora (William Powell and Myrna Loy) first appeared in film in the 1934 murder mystery The Thin Man. Based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, the original story begins when a "thin man" goes missing, just as his mistress is murdered. Nick, a former detective who has turned "California Gentlemen" since marrying wealthy Nora four years earlier, is roped into the case almost from the start. With some prodding by the curious and feisty Nora, it doesn't take long for his innate detective skills to rear their head. By the end of the film, he's taken over the case and gathered all of the suspects together at an infamous dinner party to reveal the true murderer.

Ok, maybe I'm simplifying the plot. But, for once, the story is not what matters here! Our concern is with this couple… the repartee, the joking affection, the competitive drinking…

The Thin Man  The Thin Man

Nick and Nora never take themselves too seriously. Yes, they are solving murder cases, but more importantly, they're enjoying themselves at every turn. The first time we meet Nick, for instance, he is teaching a bartender how to shake a cocktail: "The important thing is the rhythm… Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time." He pours the martini, hands it to the waiter, promptly turns and receives the very drink he poured from the tray.

Only the entrance of Nora and their amazing dog Asta could top Nick's defining intro.

Nora (martini in hand): "How many drinks have you had?"

Nick: "This will make six Martinis."

Nora (turning to the waiter): "All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here."

Obviously, N&N had priorities…

The Thin Man  The Thin Man

In all seriousness, Nick and Nora are not only a model, but also a study in detail. While the plot in The Thin Man is anything but (forgive me) thin, it really has no bearing on our enjoyment of the flick. What I'm always drawn to are the small moments with N&N. Quiet diversionary instances or heady moments of action, their heart and soul outstrip everything else in the film. And… It would seem that I'm not the only one to feel this way. Nick and Nora were so popular that they inspired… wait for it… 5 sequels spanning 13 years!

Frankly, I've always wanted to go to one of the Charles' cocktail parties. While Nick and Nora never quiet seem to have enough food around for the sheer amount of liquor the consume, I would make sure that there was some sustenance on hand. Passed hors d'oeuvres would be my choice. … And why not a booze-tinged cake? I think that my hosts would appreciate it.


Cocktails with Nick and Nora

Bubbly Manhattan by Collin

Bubbly Manhattan


Olive all'Ascolana by arielleclementine

Olive all'Ascolana


Grilled (or Broiled) Oysters with a Sriracha Lime Butter by melissav

Grilled (or Broiled) Oysters with a Sriracha Lime Butter


Herbed Beef Skewers with Horseradish Cream by Oui, Chef

Herbed Beef Skewers with Horseradish Cream


Rum Apple Cake by colombedujour

Rum Apple Cake

Want more movie menus? See what Elena's serving with My Best Friend's Wedding.

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mlouise
  • Souzakh
  • hardlikearmour
Currently a Creative Technologist working over at Campfire. Recent grad of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, where I played around with interactive video and mobile storytelling. Former video and editing accomplice here @ Food52. In other lives: worked on the HBO Documentary Make Me Young: Youth Knows No Pain & The New York Public Library’s Biblion: The Boundless Library. At the moment, I'm really into feta.


Mlouise February 7, 2012
My mother told me that Nora was a great role model for marriage and life....when Nick comes up with some crazy adventure, her response was always..."let me grab my hat and I go with you". It works well for me!
Souzakh January 27, 2012
We hosted a Thin Man dinner and movie night years ago but I recall it was more about the Martini's then the food. Nick and Nora enjoyed their Martini's in the classic coupe shaped champaign glasses.
hardlikearmour November 11, 2011
The Bubbly Manhattan is a great cocktail; a really nice version of a Manhattan. My husband made some for our food52 potluck recently, and they were a great hit!