Nick and Nora Charles
Nick and Nora Charles are fictional characters created by Dashiell Hammett
Dashiell Hammett
Samuel Dashiell Hammett was an American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, and political activist. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade , Nick and Nora Charles , and the Continental Op .In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on...

 in his novel The Thin Man
The Thin Man
The Thin Man is a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in Redbook. Although he never wrote a sequel, the book became the basis for a successful six-part film series which also began in 1934 with The Thin Man and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy...

. The characters were later adapted for film in a series of movies between 1934 and 1947; for radio from 1941 to 1950; for television from 1957 through 1959; as a Broadway musical in 1991; and as a stage play in 2009.


As elaborated on in the highly-successful film series, Nick and Nora are a married couple who solve murder mysteries while exchanging sharp and smart repartee. The tremendous popularity of the characters made them a media archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

, as the bantering romantically involved detective duo has become a well-used trope
Trope (literature)
A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning...

 in literature, stage, screen, and television ever since.


The characters first appear in Dashiell Hammett's best-selling last novel The Thin Man (1934). Nick is an alcoholic former private detective who retired when he married Nora, a wealthy Nob Hill heiress. Hammett reportedly modeled Nora on his longtime partner Lillian Hellman
Lillian Hellman
Lillian Florence "Lily" Hellman was an American playwright, linked throughout her life with many left-wing causes...

, and the characters' boozy, flippant repartee on their relationship. (The novel also mentions that Nick was once a Pinkerton, as was Hammett.) The novel is considered one of the seminal texts of the hard-boiled sub-genre of mystery novels, but the chief innovation distinguishing it from previous Hammett works such as The Maltese Falcon or The Glass Key
The Glass Key
The Glass Key is a novel by Dashiell Hammett, said to be his favorite among his works. It was first published in 1931, and tells the story of gambler and racketeer Ned Beaumont, whose devotion to crooked political boss Paul Madvig leads him to investigate the murder of a local senator's son as a...

was its relative lightness and humor. It is nearly as much a comedy of manners as a mystery, and the story tumbles along to the sarcastic banter of Nick and Nora as a reluctant and jaded Nick is dragged into solving a sensational murder, cheered on by the fascinated thrill-enjoying Nora.


The film adaptation
The Thin Man (film)
The Thin Man is a 1934 American comic detective film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a flirtatious married couple who banter wittily as they solve crimes with ease. Nick is a hard drinking retired detective and Nora a wealthy heiress...

 of The Thin Man was a resounding success, and although Hammett never wrote another novel with Nick and Nora Charles, five movie sequels were produced.

Although the film followed the plot of the novel quite closely, the Nick Charles character, described in the book as overweight and out of shape, was portrayed by the slim William Powell
William Powell
William Horatio Powell was an American actor.A major star at MGM, he was paired with Myrna Loy in 14 films, including the popular Thin Man series in which Powell and Loy played Nick and Nora Charles...

. Nora was portrayed by Myrna Loy
Myrna Loy
Myrna Loy was an American actress. Trained as a dancer, she devoted herself fully to an acting career following a few minor roles in silent films. Originally typecast in exotic roles, often as a vamp or a woman of Asian descent, her career prospects improved following her portrayal of Nora Charles...

. The title of both the book and the film referred to the suspected murderer and fugitive in the mystery, but producers referred to "The Thin Man" in the titles of each of the sequel films for branding purposes. As a consequence "The Thin Man" was eventually elided by the public into an alias for the character of Nick Charles. Indeed, so strongly were Powell and Loy identified with the characters of the Charleses in the public mind that many mistakenly assumed the actors were a couple in real life as well.

The on-screen chemistry between Powell and Loy, who often improvised on the set, was key to the wild success of the series and quickly became a defining feature of the characters. The films revolutionized the screen portrayal of marriage - previously earnest, virtuous, and staid - invigorating it with youth, irreverence, and sex appeal. Taking their cue from Hammett's humorous dialogue and comedy of manners elements, the movies moved even further from the traditional hard-boiled approach. In another departure from Hammett, the dog Asta - an integral character both the book and movies - was a male wire fox terrier
Fox Terrier (Wire)
The Wire Fox Terrier is a breed of dog, one of many terrier breeds. It is an instantly recognizable fox terrier breed. Although it bears a resemblance to the Smooth Fox Terrier, they are believed to have been developed separately.-Appearance:...

, rather than the novel's female schnauzer
A Schnauzer is a German dog type that originated in Germany in the 15th and 16th centuries. The term comes from Schnauze , the German word for "snout", because of the dog's distinctively bearded snout. The word Schnauzer also means moustache in German; some authorities, such as Encyclopædia...


Over time a child, Nick, Jr., was also introduced, and elements of the Charleses' back story fleshed out. Nick was revealed to be the son of a medical doctor from the fictional small town of Sycamore Springs in upstate New York. The novel's references to his being the child of an immigrant from Greece were ignored, and Nick was now the black sheep of a respectable WASP professional family who turned his back on the family profession of medicine because of his passion for detective work. Detail was also added to Nora's background. She is shown to be the sole child of a deceased mining magnate from San Francisco modeled on the "kings" of the Comstock Lode
Comstock Lode
The Comstock Lode was the first major U.S. discovery of silver ore, located under what is now Virginia City, Nevada, on the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, a peak in the Virginia Range. After the discovery was made public in 1859, prospectors rushed to the area and scrambled to stake their claims...

. Now diversified into lumber, railroads, etc., Nora's fortune is apparently vast indeed and is managed for the couple by her father's former partner who lives in an estate on Long Island's North Shore "Gold Coast." Nora is also shown to have a network of blue-blood relatives and friends in San Francisco society, while Nick is a beloved celebrity among the criminal classes and those who associate with them (such as police, athletes, nightclub owners, etc.)

Hugely popular with audiences, the films employed the common murder mystery trope—familiar from English detective stories such as Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie
Dame Agatha Christie DBE was a British crime writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections , and her successful West End plays.According to...

's Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie featuring the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on January 1, 1934 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year under the title of...

—of assembling all of the characters for the climatic revelation of the culprit. The first film appeared the year after the repeal of Prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

, and the series is also notable for the extensive and casual use of alcohol by the main characters.


  • The Thin Man
    The Thin Man (film)
    The Thin Man is a 1934 American comic detective film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a flirtatious married couple who banter wittily as they solve crimes with ease. Nick is a hard drinking retired detective and Nora a wealthy heiress...

  • After the Thin Man
    After the Thin Man
    After the Thin Man is a 1936 American film, starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and James Stewart, that is the sequel to the film The Thin Man. The movie presents Powell and Loy as Dashiell Hammett's characters Nick and Nora Charles. The film was directed by W. S...

  • Another Thin Man
    Another Thin Man
    Another Thin Man is a 1939 American film that is the third film in the six-volume series, The Thin Man. It again stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, and is based on the writings of Dashiell Hammett. Their son, Nicky Jr., is also introduced in the film. The cast includes...

  • Shadow of the Thin Man
    Shadow of the Thin Man
    Shadow of the Thin Man is the fourth of the six The Thin Man films. It was released in 1941 and was directed by W. S. Van Dyke. It stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. Also, in this film their son Nick Jr. is old enough to figure in the comic subplot...

  • The Thin Man Goes Home
    The Thin Man Goes Home
    The Thin Man Goes Home is a 1945 motion picture directed by Richard Thorpe. It is the fifth of the six Thin Man films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Dashiell Hammett's dapper private detective Nick Charles and his wife Nora.-Plot:...

  • Song of the Thin Man
    Song of the Thin Man
    Song of the Thin Man is a 1947 comedy-crime film directed by Edward Buzzell, the last of the six Thin Man films. Like the others, it stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, characters created by Dashiell Hammett. Nick Jr. is played by Dean Stockwell...


Subsequent Adaptations

  • Radio: The popularity of the film series spawned a radio program based on them, The Adventures of the Thin Man
    The Adventures of the Thin Man
    The Adventures of the Thin Man radio series, initially starring Les Damon, was broadcast on all four major radio networks during the years 1941 to 1950. Claudia Morgan had the female lead role of Nora Charles throughout the program's entire nine-year run...

    . It successfully ran from 1941 to 1950, starring Claudia Morgan
    Claudia Morgan
    Claudia Morgan was an American film, television and radio actress. She was best known for playing the role of Vera Claythorne in the first Broadway production of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians and for her portrayal of Nora Charles on the 1940s radio series, The Adventures of the Thin...

     as Nora, with Les Daman, Les Tremayne and David Gothard all giving voice to Nick, depending on the season.
  • Television (Series): The Thin Man
    The Thin Man (TV series)
    The Thin Man is a half-hour weekly television series based on the mystery novel The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. The 72 episodes were produced by MGM Television and shown on NBC for two seasons from 1957–1959 on Friday evening.-Overview:...

    ran two seasons from 1957-1959 starring Peter Lawford
    Peter Lawford
    Peter Sydney Ernest Aylen , better known as Peter Lawford, was an English-American actor.He was a member of the "Rat Pack", and brother-in-law to US President John F. Kennedy, perhaps more noted in later years for his off-screen activities as a celebrity than for his acting...

     and Phyllis Kirk
    Phyllis Kirk
    -Early life and career:Born Phyllis Kirkegaard in Syracuse, New York , she contracted polio as a child which resulted in health problems for the rest of her life. As a teen, she moved to New York City to study acting and changed her last name to "Kirk"...

     as Nick and Nora. The series transplanted the couple to New York's Greenwich Village, updating the 1930s big band glamour to the 1950s beat generation. There were 72 episodes.
  • Television (Movie): In 1975, Craig Stevens
    Craig Stevens (actor)
    Craig Stevens was an American motion picture and television actor.-Early and personal life:Born Gail Shikles, Jr., in Liberty, Missouri, his father was a high school teacher....

     and Jo Ann Pflug
    Jo Ann Pflug
    Jo Ann Pflug is a former American motion picture and television actress, who retired in the 1990s.Pflug's first major role was as U.S. Army nurse Lt. Maria "Dish" Schneider in 1970's MASH. Other notable roles include the voice of Invisible Girl in the 1967 animated version of Fantastic Four, Lt...

     starred in the made-for-TV movie
    Nick and Nora, part of the Wide World Mystery series of TV Movies.
  • Stage (Musical): In 1991, a Broadway
    Broadway theatre
    Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

    Musical theatre
    Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

    Nick & Nora
    Nick & Nora
    Nick & Nora is a musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., and music by Charles Strouse.The plot involves witty and urbane high society couple Nick and Nora Charles, characters created by Dashiell Hammett in his novel The Thin Man, which inspired six films, a radio...

     with a book by Arthur Laurents
    Arthur Laurents
    Arthur Laurents was an American playwright, stage director and screenwriter.After writing scripts for radio shows after college and then training films for the U.S...

    , lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.
    Richard Maltby, Jr.
    Richard Eldridge Maltby, Jr. is an American theatre director and producer, lyricist, and screenwriter. He is also well known as a constructor of cryptic crossword puzzles. He has done this for Harper's Magazine, sometimes in collaboration with E. R...

    , and music by Charles Strouse
    Charles Strouse
    Charles Strouse is an American composer and lyricist.-Life and career:Strouse was born and raised in New York City, the son of Ira and Ethel Strouse...

     was based on the characters. Barry Bostwick
    Barry Bostwick
    Barry Knapp Bostwick is an American actor and singer. He is known for playing Brad Majors in the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, replacing Peter Scolari as Mr. Tyler in the sitcom What I Like About You, and playing mayor Randall Winston in the sitcom Spin City...

     played Nick, Joanna Gleason played Nora. The chief innovation of this incarnation was to introduce strife and resentment into the relationship. After one of the longest preview periods in Broadway history, the show opened to poor reviews and closed after nine performances.
  • Stage (Play): In 2009, the City Literature Theatre, a Chicago repertory company, mounted a stage production of the original Hammett novel adapted by Terry McCabe.
  • Film: In 2011 it was announced that Johnny Depp would star as Nick Charles in a remake of The Thin Man to reach theatres in 2013.


  • A large number of television detective pairings were based on Nick and Nora Charles, including McMillan and Wife
    McMillan and Wife
    McMillan & Wife is a lighthearted American crime drama series that aired on NBC from September 17, 1971 to April 24, 1977. Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James in the title roles, the series premiered in 90-minute episodes as part of the wheel series NBC Mystery Movie, in rotation with...

    , Hart to Hart
    Hart to Hart
    Hart to Hart is an American television series, starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a wealthy couple who also moonlighted as amateur detectives. The series was created by writer Sidney Sheldon and produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg...

    , The Avengers
    The Avengers (TV series)
    The Avengers is a spy-fi British television series set in the 1960s Britain. The Avengers initially focused on Dr. David Keel and his assistant John Steed . Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the main character, partnered with a succession of assistants...

    , Remington Steele
    Remington Steele
    Remington Steele is an American television series, co-created by Robert Butler and Michael Gleason. The series, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan, was produced by MTM Enterprises and first broadcast on the NBC network from 1982 to 1987. The series blended the genres of romantic...

    , and Moonlighting
    Moonlighting (TV series)
    Moonlighting is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 3, 1985, to May 14, 1989. The network aired a total of 66 episodes...

  • Nick and Nora were the inspirations for two comic book couples: the adoptive parents of Mary Marvel
    Mary Marvel
    Mary Marvel is a fictional character, a comic book superheroine, originally published by Fawcett Comics and now owned by DC Comics. Created by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze, she first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 in...

    , Nick and Nora Bromfield, as well as the relationship between Ralph Dibny
    Elongated Man
    The Elongated Man is a fictional comic book superhero in the DC universe. He is a reserve member of the Justice League. His first appearance was in The Flash vol. 1, #112...

     (DC Comics
    DC Comics
    DC Comics, Inc. is one of the largest and most successful companies operating in the market for American comic books and related media. It is the publishing unit of DC Entertainment a company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner...

    ' Elongated Man
    Elongated Man
    The Elongated Man is a fictional comic book superhero in the DC universe. He is a reserve member of the Justice League. His first appearance was in The Flash vol. 1, #112...

    ) and his wife Sue Dibny
    Sue Dibny
    Susan "Sue" Dearbon Dibny is a fictional character from DC Comics associated with the Elongated Man. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, the character first appeared in Flash vol. 1 #119...

  • Neil Simon
    Neil Simon
    Neil Simon is an American playwright and screenwriter. He has written numerous Broadway plays, including Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and The Odd Couple. He won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Lost In Yonkers. He has written the screenplays for several of his plays that...

    's 1976 movie Murder by Death
    Murder by Death
    Murder by Death is a 1976 comedy film with a cast featuring Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker, and Estelle Winwood, written by Neil Simon and directed by Robert Moore.The plot is a spoof of...

    parodied Nick and Nora as Dick and Dora Charleston, with their dog Myron.
  • Jack from David Ives
    David Ives
    David Ives is a contemporary American playwright. A native of South Chicago, Ives attended a minor Catholic seminary and Northwestern University and, after some years' interval, Yale School of Drama, where he received an MFA in playwriting...

    ' 1990 play Ancient History refers to himself and his girlfriend Ruth as Nick and Nora.
  • Donald Strachey and his partner Timothy Callahan in the Donald Strachey
    Donald Strachey
    Donald Strachey is a fictional character who appears in novels by mystery writer Richard Stevenson.Strachey, a gay man, lives in Albany, New York, with his partner Timothy Callahan, who works as a legislative aide to a New York state senator...

     novels are called the gay Nick and Nora.
  • The popular Nick & Nora fashion brand specializing in pajamas.
  • A pair of dogs in the comic strip The Middletons
    The Middletons
    The Middletons is a comic strip created by Ralph Dunagin and Dana Summers and distributed by Tribune Media Services . It features a white suburban American family and their neighbors.-Cast:...

    are named Nick and Nora Charles.
  • The 2008 young adult novel, and later film, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
    Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
    Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is a 2008 romantic comedy film directed by Peter Sollett and starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings. Written by Lorene Scafaria and based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the story tells of teenagers Nick and Norah , who meet when...

    pays homage to the duo.
  • The long running suspense series In Death
    In Death
    The …in Death series of novels, written by Nora Roberts under her pseudonym J. D. Robb, features NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke and is set in a mid-21st century New York City. The stories also regularly feature other characters, including Captain Ryan Feeney, Detective Delia...

    , created by Nora Roberts
    Nora Roberts
    Nora Roberts is a bestselling American author of more than 209 romance novels. She writes as J.D. Robb for the "In Death" series, and has also written under the pseudonym Jill March...

     under the pseudonym of J.D. Robb, pays homage to Nick and Nora through the banter of NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her rich husband Roarke. Also, in Conspiracy in Death (April 1999) Roarke makes a pointed comment about playing Nick to Eve's Nora.
  • Nick and Nora Charles are mentioned in Jonathan Franzen
    Jonathan Franzen
    Jonathan Franzen is an American novelist and essayist. His third novel, The Corrections , a sprawling, satirical family drama, drew widespread critical acclaim, earned Franzen a National Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction...

    's short story "Two's Company" as "the funniest married couple" and "hopeless drunks."
  • An episode of Looney Tunes featuring Elmer Fudd and Sylvester the cat shows Elmer tossing a book titled "The Thin Man" out the window at Sylvester who in turns tosses back a second book titled "Another Thin Man".
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