Dashiell Hammett was best known for creating Sam Spade. However, he also hit pay dirt with his 1934 book, “The Thin Man” and his creation of the charming Nick and Nora Charles. Nick Charles is a detective, retired after marrying the wealthy, Nora. However, he finds himself drawn into one last case case. From a best-selling book to a movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, bringing Nick and Nora to life.
While Hammett only wrote one Thin Man book, there were a total of six movies and of course, and a radio show, or perhaps more precisely, several radio shows. According to Digital Deli, the Thin Man began on NBC in 1941, then moved to CBS, returned to NBC, back to CBS, back to NBC, then to Mutual and then to ABC where the last episodes aired in 1950. There were several actors who played the role of Nick Charles: Les Damon, Les Tremayne, David Gothard, and finally Joseph Curtain took turns, while Claudia Morgan played Nora Charles throughout all the bouncing from network to network.
The Thin Man was a pioneering work in many ways. While Agatha Christie had written some stories with Tommy and Tuppence, Nick and Nora were the original couples detectives in America. In their footsteps would come Mr. and Mrs. North, the Abbotts, and a slew of others. Also, I would contend that the premier of the Thin Man inaugurated a golden era for the Detective radio show. Prior to the Thin Man, detective radio shows were limited very well limited to Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, and Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Person, and a few forgotten others. Within a few short years of the Thin Man’s release, Mr. and Mrs. North, Nick Carter, Michael Shayne, Leonidas Witherall, and countless other shows made it to the air, many trying the same comic detective angle that worked so well for the Charles.
Sadly of the more than 350 Thin Man radio shows produced, less than a dozen are in common circulation, but we’ll bring you what we can find.
William Powell (1892-1984): Powell was well-known for his portrayal of Nick Charles, as well as the other films he made with co-star Myrna including the Oscar-winning, The Great Ziegifield. He was nominated for three best Actor Oscars, includine one for the Thin Man and one for My Man Godfrey. He also starred in six Philo Vance movies between 1929-34. He also starred in the political satire, “The Senator was Indescreet” and twice recreated it for the radio.
Myrna Loy (1905-93): The height of her career was starring opposite Powell. After the Thin Man was released, she was voted Queen of the Movies by radio audiences. She had a career spanning from the 1920s to the 1980s. While Powell disappeared from acting, Loy continued to appear on television on shows such as Columbo into her mid-70s.
Claudia Morgan (1911-74): Claudia Morgan was a veteran of stage, screen, and radio. She was best known for playing Nora Charles throughout the run of the Thin Man on a wide variety of different networks and co-stars. In 1954, she returned as a Detective’s spouse again in NBC’s Adventure of the Abbotts and for several episodes, she was reunited with Thin Man co-star Les Damon.
Les Damon (1908-62): Damon was a versatile who played several detectives during the golden age of radio. While his most famous part was as Michael Waring in the Falcon, he also played Nick Charles on the Thin Man, Pat Abbott on the Adventures of the Abbotts, and Mark Sabre on ABC Mystery Theater. On television, he guest starred in several episodes of the Honeymooners and the Jackie Gleason Show.
Lux Radio Theater:
- The Thin Man (Original Air Date: June 8, 1936)
- After the Thin Man (Original Air Date: June 17, 1940)
Adventures of the Thin Man:
- The Strange Case of Professor Wainger (Aired sometimes in 1942)
- The Case of the Wandering Clue (Original Air Date: October 3, 1943)
- The Case of the Glamorous Clue (Original Air Date: June 16, 1944)
- Nora’s Night Out (Original Air Date: October 6, 1944)
- The Case of the All-American Menace (Original Air Date: December 1, 1944)
- The Boogie Woogie Murder (Original Air Date: February 9, 1945)
- The Passionate Palooka (Original Air Date: July 6, 1948)
- The Haunted Hams (Original Air Date: July 13, 1948)
Pictures of Claudia Morgan and Les Damon, as well as log information Courtesy of Digital Deli.