Furs on Film – The Thin Man Films

Time to revisit the gentleman detective genre with what is arguably the most iconic of them all: The Thin Man. The adventures of Nick and Nora Charles spanned six films between 1934 and 1947, and as you can imagine, the ones from the 1930s will be featured a bit more prominently in this update. The story is as old as time itself, one of a wealthy socialite marrying a retired private eye and ending up involved in most of high society’s murder cases over more than a decade.

The Thin Man – 1934

The original film is based on the book by Dashiell Hammett of the same name. There were no more books; all the subsequent film sequels were original stories. It introduces William Powell and Myrna Loy in what would become their most well-known of a great many film collaborations. Nick is pulled back into the detective game by an old friend becoming involved in a murder. Technically, the friend in this film is “the thin man,” but audiences assumed it was lanky William Powell, and thus it stuck.

Socialite Nora Charles appears first in this short hair collar and cuffs, which would have been amazing had the fur grown a couple of inches and turned into a fox.

Myrna Loy in a Fur Coat - The Thin Man - 1934

Say, for instance, something dark, plush, and very full, attached to a cape, as we see here worn by Minna Gombell. It is pretty much the best fur in the film. Suffice to say, the series got off to a bit of a weak start, especially for 1934.

Minna Gombell in a Black Fox Fur Trim - The Thin Man - 1934

Nora appears again in a short-haired fur, about as brown paper bag as you can get; a mink that would be fashionable at any church service or funeral.

Myrna Loy in a Mink Fur Coat - The Thin Man - 1934

Finally, Minna returns in this wrap for what will become traditional-ish, having someone in fur during the big summation/name the perp scene.

Minna Gombell in a Fur Wrap - The Thin Man - 1934

Fur Runtime: approx 6 minutes
Film Runtime: 93 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 6%

After the Thin Man – 1936

Fortunately, a couple of years later, the MGM costume department is on its game. Set in San Francisco, Nick and Nora help out Nora’s family with a missing person case that ends up leading to… MURDER! Nora’s cousin Selma is the prime suspect, and Nick has to clear her name. Nora brings along much better furs when she travels, lucky for us, and she’s not the only one.

Leading up to murder is greed, as we see Polly (Penny Singleton) in a lovely fox collar and cuffs out for an evening’s blackmail.

Penny Singleton in a Fox Fur Trimmed Coat - After the Thin Man - 1936

The target of said blackmail is slain moments later, and Nora’s cousin Selma (Elissa Landi) suddenly appears over the body holding a gun and wearing a very nice collared coat, in no way looking the least bit suspicious. If you hadn’t noticed, the film is set in San Francisco, so it’s foggy. It’s the kind of crack meteorological realism Hollywood is known for.

Elissa Landi in a Lynx Fur Trimmed Coat - After the Thin Man - 1936

The lynx train rolls on to even better places as Nora arrives at the big summation in this lynx-trimmed coat. This is how to do a , from the top all the way down to the bottom.

Myrna Loy in a Lynx Fur Trimmed Coat - After the Thin Man - 1936

If anything deserves a second look, it’s Myrna Loy’s face framed by an oversized lynx fur collar.

Myrna Loy in a Lynx Fur Trimmed Coat - After the Thin Man - 1936

Penny attends in this rather distressing-looking fox stole, the kind with the extra bits still attached, and even worse for them being on display the entire time she’s on camera.

Penny Singleton in a Fox Fur Stole - After the Thin Man - 1936

We get brief glimpses of both furs on screen at once. There is another fur in this sequence, but not only is it a church lady fur, but it also’s on a church lady, and we don’t talk about them.

Penny Singleton in a Fox Fur Stole - After the Thin Man - 1936

Side note that the murderer in the film was Jimmy Stewart, whose appearance here as a homicidal manic ended up coloring his entire career and getting him typecast as a psycho killer all the time (or not).

Fur Runtime: approx 8 minutes
Film Runtime: 113 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 7%

Another Thin Man – 1939

Nick and Nora, and now Nicky Jr. (a hell of an accomplishment considering the sleeping arrangements documented in previous films: see I Love Lucy) return to New York and the estate of Colonel Burr MacFay. He is receiving threats from local low-life Phil Church. Burr ends up dead, and Phil’s the prime suspect, but Nick’s a little smarter than that and ends up figuring out who really done it. It’s 1939, so this better be good.

This is pretty good, Virginia Grey wearing a silver fox as she plays (spoiler alert) murderess Lois MacKay / Linda Mills.

Virginia Grey in a Silver Fox Fur Jacket - Another Thin Man - 1939

It’s a decent bad girl fur, but I would have gone straight . Still, it works very nicely with those blindingly bleached blonde locks.

Virginia Grey in a Silver Fox Fur Jacket - Another Thin Man - 1939

Nora’s fur closet is upgraded yet again as she and Nick investigate. This fully fringed cape would only be better if it forwent the formally of having parts that weren’t blue fox.

Myrna Loy in a Blue Fox Fur Collar - Another Thin Man - 1939

Now that’s a blue fox collar. This piece is quite similar to the white fox version worn by Jean Hagen in last week’s update, Singing in the Rain.

Myrna Loy in a Blue Fox Fur Collar - Another Thin Man - 1939

Virginia attends the big summation (she has to, she did it) in this comparatively pedestrian version of the “standard” 30’s silver fox stole, a bit of a letdown.

Virginia Grey in a Silver Fox Fur Stole - Another Thin Man - 1939

Fur Runtime: approx 6 minutes
Film Runtime: 103 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 6%

Shadow of the Thin Man – 1941

A day at the races ends up getting Nick and Nora involved in the murder of a potentially shady jockey. The police ask Nick for help since he was in the general vicinity when it happened. It’s now the 40’s, and things are starting to slow down, but this one still packs some good furs in, enough to earn it a tepid “costumed like it’s 1939” tag.

Stella Adler plays Clarie Poter, girlfriend, to suspected racketeer Link Stephens, and does a lot of the fur wearing in the film. She starts with the best thing the film has to offer, this rather full silver fox wrap.

Stella Adler in a Silver Fox Fur Wrap - Shadow of Thin Man - 1941

Costumers do love those broaches on fur. Not only do I find it rather unfashionable, but it’s also generally not recommended you stick pins in fur as it damages the leather. Lord knows I’d never want anything bad to happen to a thick, soft fox fur like that.

Stella Adler in a Silver Fox Fur Wrap - Shadow of Thin Man - 1941

Stella dials it back a bit with this silver fox muff. Certainly not the largest on record, but a nice one nonetheless.

Stella Adler in a Silver Fox Fur Muff - Shadow of Thin Man - 1941

I like this pose, that is all.

Stella Adler in a Silver Fox Fur Muff - Shadow of Thin Man - 1941

So we arrive, once again, at the big summation. Nora attends with another example of the standard 30’s silver fox, one I presume she borrowed from Lois MacKay in the previous film since Lois is now cooling her heels in the woman’s lockup.

Myrna Loy in a Silver Fox Fur Stole - Shadow of Thin Man - 1941

Stella really dials it back for the big summation, attending in what may be the same church lady fur I didn’t burden you with back at the end of After the Thin Man. At least she looks better wearing it.

Stella Adler in a Mink Fur Stole - Shadow of Thin Man - 1941

Fur Runtime: approx 5 minutes
Film Runtime: 97 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 5%

The Thin Man Goes Home – 1945

I mentioned it was the 40’s, right? Well, the Thin Man went home in 1945, got involved in a murder plot, and solved it. Along the way, Nora wore another church lady mink for a few minutes around the beginning of the film. Still, lacking any other marginally redeeming fur fashion, I skipped capturing the film. It was purely a safety consideration, as I may have dozed off and fallen out of my chair in the process, inducing grievous bodily harm.

Song of the Thin Man – 1947

The final Thin Man film provides one last fur of note, as Nick and Nora investigate a murder on a gambling ship amidst the ship’s entertainers. Nora does show up in a single mink very reminiscent of the one I skipped in the previous film, and it’s very 40’s, suffice to say. It seems someone decided that Nora should get out of the ostentatious fur-wearing business, sadly.

Here it is:

Myrna Loy in a Mink Fur Coat - Song of Thin Man - 1947

Okay, on to the good stuff; this full fox wrap of shade I believe probably has “marble” in the name. Patricia Morison plays Phyllis Talbin, who wears this wrap for a grand total of about 30 seconds on screen, so don’t get attached.

Patricia Morison in a Fox Fur Wrap - Song of Thin Man - 1947

There’s a nice close-up of Miss Morison in the wrap for about 5 seconds.

Patricia Morison in a Fox Fur Wrap - Song of Thin Man - 1947

Fur Runtime: approx 3 minutes
Film Runtime: 86 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 3%

I have to say, while the Thin Man films are the more iconic of the gentleman detective genre, I think The Falcon and The Lone Wolf both have him beat, fur-wise. Still, the entries from the late ’30s are both very nice and nearly rated single film inclusions.

5 thoughts on “Furs on Film – The Thin Man Films

  1. Lovely! Every time I watch “The Thin Man” (which is a lot), I definitely notice the abundance of furs. I especially love how Nora is “stifling” on Christmas morning in her new coat, but refuses to take it of…

    Fantastic post!

  2. I have the Thin Man collection and quality the films seem to be reflected in the abundance of fur; the first three are really good and the last two are just good.
    I liked Stella Adler in her stole, she looked rather good especially as she had just hit forty. I am not saying that I think forty is old but the Hollywood executives at that time certainly thought it was; she did three more films and played ‘older women’ in all of them.
    Patricia Morison wearing her stole is some what different; I have always thought her to be a very sexually attractive woman ever since I first saw her in Dressed to Kill. She looked amazing in that fur stole but I still thought that she was stunning even when she was not wearing it.

  3. Ms. P & C: Yes, I meant to mention that The Thin Man was a “Christmas movie”, in a manner of speaking, though not one usually remembered as being such. In that scene was Nick shooting Christmas ornaments off the tree with a BB gun while Nora watched wearing the mink. Still a rather odd choice of fur for 1934.

    The Green Fairy: Stella certainly fills out those silver fox furs beautifully, her age didn’t really register to me. Likewise Patricia is the kind of elegant brunette (that updo is begging to be unleashed) that looks stunning in bright fox fur. She deserved a lot more time on screen in that wrap.

  4. I have just realised that Patricia Morison wears a fur stole in Dressed to Kill that is very similar to the one that Stella Adler wears in Shadow of the Thin Man.
    A spooky coincidence?

  5. This is amazing that I could find some info
    on the mink stole in “Song of the Thin Man”.
    I don’t wear fur and I love animals alive,
    but this stole is amazing. I have never seen
    one this long. The fur looks fabulous,
    no seams show. Are there any in such
    a piece?
    Thanks for this site!

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