The Thin Man TV Series

Nick and Nora Charles in the 1950s TV series (CrazyAboutTV.com granted Colleen Collins permission to use their image)

Most people know about The Thin Man novel and movie series, but did you also know there was a TV series by the same name?  The Thin Man TV series ran from September 20, 1957 to August 28, 1959 on NBC via MGM-TV, MGM’s attempt to get into television.

The comedy-mystery show The Thin Man starred Peter Lawford as Nick Charles and Phyllis Kirk as Nora Charles, the husband-and-wife private eye team. The movie stars who originally played Nick and Nora, William Powell and Myrna Loy, were big acting shoes to fill, but Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk did an admirable job recreating the droll, rapid-fire rapport of the characters as they solved crimes and sipped cocktails.

As a kid, I religiously watched The Thin Man TV show re-runs. Phyllis Kirk as Nora was funny, acerbic, witty, charming, gorgeous.  She had a naturally deep, sultry voice and sharp comedic timing.  Years later, I was walking down the Sunset Strip on a late Friday evening and I saw her sitting at a cafe with a friend.  She was in her seventies, and still a beauty.

Nominated for an Emmy

Kirk was nominated for an Emmy in 1959 for her role as Nora Charles in The Thin Man.  In a 1984 Associated Press interview, she said that that acting in The Thin Man series “was the most happy and interesting work experience I ever had as an actress.”

In another interview, she was asked the question: “Years and years from now, people in their homes can push a button and see ANY movie, or ANY TV episode. Which of YOUR credits would you like them to watch?  She answered, “I’d like them to watch The Thin Man.”

More About Phyllis Kirk

On the Internet, dates vary as to when she was born.  Some claim September 18, 1926, others say September 27, 1927.  Born Phyllis Kirkegaard, she later shortened her last name to Kirk.

Kirk worked as a waitress and perfume counter clerk before becoming a professional model. As a teenager, she moved to New York to study acting.  After being cast in a series of supporting stage roles, she moved to Hollywood in the 1950s where she landed roles in films such as Johnny Concho in 1956 (starring Frank Sinatra) and The Sad Sack in 1957 (opposite Jerry Lewis). However, many view her most famous role as the ingenue stalked by maniacal sculptor Vincent Price in the 1953 horror film, House of Wax.

After starring in The Thin Man TV series, Phyllis Kirk focused on stage acting, TV appearances and social causes.  She had a reputation for being outspoken, and worked closely with the American Civil Liberties Union to campaign against capital punishment. In 2006, she died of a post-cerebral aneurysm.

Factoids

Peter Lawford, who played Nick Charles, adopted one of the actor-dog Asta’s puppies.

In November 1958, the gossip columnist Walter Winchell reported that “Thin Man Peter Lawford and his TV wife Phyllis Kirk make love like mad for the viewers, but hardly talk off-camera…”

We Once Surveilled a Couple at The Thin Man

The Thin Man bar, that is.  This was several years back, and we’d attached a GPS device underneath a vehicle registered to our client, a man who thought his wife was cheating.  She drove that car like she was in some kind of NASCAR race: speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, zipping through yellow lights as they turned red.  Without the GPS device, we wouldn’t have been able to follow her.

Monitoring our tracking software, we noticed that the vehicle had finally stopped.  We followed the tracking map to her destination and discovered this quaint, out-of-the-way bar called The Thin Man.  This was a funny life-mimicking-art scenario: a married private eye team (my husband and I) conducting a surveillance at The Thin Man bar.

We went inside and there was the wife, canoodling with a handsome man.  We took some photos, then broke the news to the husband.  There was no witty repartee in our The Thin Man case, just a broken heart.

(Book excerpt from Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye by Colleen Collins)


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Colleen’s most recent release: Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas

Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas is Colleen Collins at her best. It’s got the charm and humor of the best romantic comedies combined with a genuinely good mystery–an unbeatable combination. I couldn’t put the book down once I started it.” ~Nancy Warren, USA Today Bestselling Author

“A long time murder mystery book lover, this book exceeds all my expectations. Kudos to this writer.” ~Barbara Graham