The immortal characters of Nick and Nora Charles first met in the backseat of a car. William Powell and Myrna Loy were on set for Manhattan Melodrama, a gangster flick with heart. The director hadn’t had a chance to introduce the two before cameras started rolling. In her autobiography, Loy recalls, “My instructions were to run out of a building, through a crowd, and into a strange car. When Woody called ‘Action,’ I opened the car door, jumped in, and landed smack on William Powell’s lap. He looked up nonchalantly: ‘Miss Loy, I presume?’ I said, ‘Mr. Powell?’ And that’s how I met the man who would be my partner in fourteen films.”
Bill, as she called him, had delightful things to say about her as well: “When we did a scene together, we forgot about technique, camera angles, and microphones. We weren’t acting. We were just two people in perfect harmony.… The Thin Man would never have been the success it was without her.... she became every man’s dream of what a wife should be: beautiful and glamorous with a sense of humor, provocative and feminine without being saccharine or sharp, a perfect gal who never lost her temper, jumped at conclusions, or nagged a guy. Men-Must-Marry-Myrna Clubs were formed. Jimmy Stewart said, ‘I shall only marry Myrna Loy,’ while women wept.”
Powell beat cancer, married Carole Lombard, got engaged to Jean Harlow, and retired in 1955 with 96 credits and three Academy Award nominations to his name. Loy won an honorary Oscar, served with the Red Cross during World War II, and starred in seven films that either won or were nominated for Best Picture. Plus, she was so vocally anti-Hitler than the Reich banned her from visiting Germany.
Best known for their iconic pairing in The Thin Man series, Powell and Loy play a spunky, witty couple who swig cocktails and solve crimes – with the help of their dog Asta. They talk fast, and drink faster – and they are absolutely charming.
Shake up a Nick and Nora Martini, and add five more Powell/Loy pairings to your queue.
Three parts gin
One part vermouth
Chill in glass over ice
Stir or shake gently
Pour out in martini glass and garnish with an olive
This was Powell and Loy’s first film together. Powell and Clark Gables are childhood friends who have taken two different paths in life. Gable is a gangster while Powell is the district attorney who has to prosecute him. Loy plays Gable’s girlfriend, who eventually marries Powell. The script won an Academy Award.
This is the one that should have melodrama in the title. Powell is an overworked attorney. Jealous for his attention, Loy acts out. She has an affair then becomes involved in blackmail and murder. It is a little bit of a tear-jerker in the end.
A big budget musical, the biopic focuses on Florenz Ziegfeld and his Broadway career. Powell brings humor and sadness to the part. Myrna Loy employs her dance training as one of the showgirls, Billie Burke. Oddly, the real Burke would play the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz, with Ziegfeld stars Frank Morgan and Ray Bolger.
This may be my favorite of their non-Nick-and-Nora movies. Loy is a socialite who is suing a newspaper for libel. To get out of the suit, editor Spencer Tracy and suave reporter Powell hatch a plot to trick her and get the suit dropped. The banter is hilarious and it also stars Powell’s ex-wife Jean Harlow.
A bit slappy but equally as endearing is this amnesia comedy. Loy is about to divorce a boring Powell when he receives a bump on the head that changes his personality. Loy starts to like him again, even though this new husband is a con man. It’s a delightful screwball rom-com.
This is a comedy of misunderstandings. Powell and Loy are happily married when her mother comes by for a visit. Laid up with a sprained ankle, she starts meddling and convinces her daughter to divorce him. To defeat the plot, he feigns insanity and must convince her to stay married from the comfort of a padded cell. It’s adorable.
Meaghan Walsh Gerard has been writing about films (especially classic ones) and books (especially gothic ones) for more than ten years on her site. She is obsessed with the art of storytelling and holds a master’s degree in cinema studies. Meaghan has been a DVD Netflix member since 2003. Follow Meaghan at mwgerard.com, on Twitter @mwgerard, or Facebook and Instagram.