Giving credit where credit is due: Frances Goodrich Hackett and Albert Hackett and The Thin Man

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This article addresses the long-lived literary and popular culture assumption that the beloved characters of Nick and Nora Charles in the MGM film The Thin Man (1934) were representations of the relationship between novelist Dashiell Hammett and his lover, playwright Lillian Hellman. However, in a comparison of the screenplay to the novel, the screenplay's specific dialogue and plot changes incorporated by married screenwriters Frances Goodrich Hackett and Albert Hackett can lead to a different conclusion. I will explore the Nick and Nora marriage that has served for so many years as a benchmark in romantic comedy relationships and propose that, in fact, this relationship was based largely on the marriage shared by the Hackett's. The results of my exploration suggests credit to the screenwriting couple and serves as evidence that some screenplay adaptations often prove more enduring than their original source material.

Keywords: Albert Hackett; Frances Goodrich; Hammett; Hellman; Nick and Nora Charles; The Thin Man; adaptation; screen credits

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: California State University, Fullerton California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Publication date: February 9, 2012

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  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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