He WASN’T The Thin Man. He was Nick Charles, the detective in all the Thin Man movies.
He appeared onscreen pretty much as you see him above, sophisticated with a touch of the supercilious — or as one critic put it, the lofty, well-mannered cad. Still in all, William Powell was distinctive for his versatility onscreen, one of the few actors who began their career in the silent era and actually flourished when sound came in.
And, yes, he ascended into the Hollywood pantheon with The Thin Man Movies. Born in 1892, Powell by the mid Fifties racked up an impressive roster of titles, and was forced by various health woes to retire. He died in 1984 at age 91.
Time to refresh yourself about this actor who some feel expresses 1930’s American cinema rather better than some of the larger names of the era. Please take our Monday Quiz, and find out how much you know about William Powell. (Questions today, answers tomorrow.)
Here we go:
1) Question: Powell played a number of detective characters onscreen. Which one of the following did he NOT play? a) Sherlock Homes; b) Nick Charles; c) Philo Vance; or d) Inspector Maigret.
2) Question: Powell’s starring role in 1934’s Manhattan Melodrama is remembered today principally for reasons surrounding its showing at Chicago’s Biograph Theater. Can you explain?
3) Question: Myrna Loy and Powell were famously paired in the exquisite Thin Man series of movies based on the work of novelist Dashiell Hammett. How many did they make together? a) eight; b) six; c) 14; or d) three.
4) Question: Although careful when speaking about costar Powell in public, Loy privately disliked the actor intensely. a) True; or b) False?
5) Question: Which one of young, female costars slapped Powell so hard onscreen that one side of his face caved in? a) Joan Crawford; b) Tallulah Bankhead; c) Esther Williams; or d) Lupe Velez.
6) Question: Who was Powell married to just before she fell in love with Clark Gable? a) Eileen Wilson; b) Diana Lewis; c) Hedy Lamarr; or d) Carole Lombard.
7) Question: Powell drew best-actor Oscar nominations three times. Which one of the following pictures was he NOT nominated for? a) 1934’s The Thin Man; b) 1936’s My Man Godfrey; c) 1948’s Life With Father; or d) 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld.
8) Question: In 1937, Powell was forced to suspend his career for medical reasons. What was his ailment? a) Severe stomach problems; b) An abdominal ailment; c) A heart attack; or d) rectal cancer.
9) Question: Powell’s love affair with this bumptious sexpot was perhaps the most spectacular of his life. Who was this vixen? a) Joan Crawford; b) Clara Bow; c) Jean Harlow; d) Jeanne Eagels.
10) Question: What is the title of the last movie that Powell ever made? a) 1953’s How To Marry A Millionaire; b) 1952’s The Treasure of Lost Canyon; c) 1955’s Mister Roberts; or d) 1953’s The Girl Who Had Everything.