The Thin Man Films

Asta is primarily known for his namesake role in the "Thin Man" movies.  Asta was the ever-present brainy canine sidekick who played alongside Myrna Loy and William Powell in the popular detective comedies. The characters for the Thin Man films were based on the the 1933 novel "The Thin Man" by Dashiell Hammett.  It's interesting to note that in the book, the dog is a actually a schnauzer.
Nick and Nora Charles with Asta

Hammett was a terrifically talented writer and quite an interesting character in his own right. He authored several popular novels including the wonderfully intriguing Dain Curse, the Glass Key, and The Maltese Falcon which was first adapted to film in the 1930s, and again in the 1940s.  The latter of these film adaptations starred Humphrey Bogart and is considered by many to be one of the essential film classics.

The Thin Man films were a huge success with audiences in the thirties, and it's easy to see why. They are escapist films of the highest caliber that have engrossing stories, witty banter, and top-notch acting to boot.  Audiences today can't help but envy Nick & Nora Charles, and what's not to love?  They're fabulously wealthy, madly in love, and seem to do whatever the hell they want.  They sleep till noon, always have cocktails on hand, get tangled up in wonderful adventures, and seem to have a very sexy - and very genuine - relationship.  To the folks in the 1930s who had just endured the Great Depression, escaping into the carefree lives of Nick & Nora Charles must have been pure bliss.

Endless cocktails and abundant wealth aside, Nick and Nora Charles presented a picture of the kind of married domestic life people really wanted - and still want - to have. So many films of that era painted an unrealistic, sickeningly sweet, and utterly unbelievable two-dimensional picture of romantic love.  Nick and Nora were different.  Although the theatrical "Thin Man" comedies are anything but realistic, on some level Nick & Nora seemed real.  They didn't just coo about how much they loved one another, they bickered and had opinions and disagreed.  As a result, their marriage and their love for one another seemed all the more wonderful and true.  The Thin Man movies accomplished what so many others made under the rules of the oppressive MPAA motion picture code could not - they depicted a marriage that was vibrant, connected and interesting.

And then there was that dog Asta...

Nick and Nora's above-average lives wouldn't be complete without their above-average dog, Asta.  Asta found clues, created diversions to get Nick & Nora out of tough situations, and  generally added that little extra something that made the Charles' life complete. In the Thin Man movies, Asta is as much a part of the family as Nick and Charles, and seems to be just as clever and alert. 

Asta strikes a chord with dog lovers in these films because he characterizes all the wonderful things we love about dogs.  He's loving, goofy, intelligent, and a protector.  He's their companion, ally, and loyal friend.  He truly is one of the family. Watching these films, it's easy to forget that Asta the dog isn't really Nick & Nora's dog - he's a talented performer acting on cue for the camera, who repeated his actions over and over in take after take along with the rest of the actors until the director called "It's a print!"

The Thin Man was the basis for six movies, a radio series, and a television series that ran in the late 1950s.  The role of Asta was played by one of Asta's relatives in the television program.

To find Thin Man movies and other movies featuring Asta, click here for Asta's movies on VHS, or click here for Asta's movies on DVD.


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