Freebie Friday: After the Thin Man
Posted by: Mary Burkey
A newly discovered work by Dashiell Hammett, with multi-voiced narration led by Peter Ganim, Nicola Barber, & Scott Brick, is today’s give-away. Just leave a comment below if you’d like to win a copy of HighBridge Audio’s just-released production. After the success of The Thin Man movie in 1934, Hammett was commissioned to write two full-novellas for additional films. After the Thin Man features both of these never-before published stories, featuring the icon characters Nick & Nora Charles. The all-star audio also features the voices of Emily Bauer, Dan Bittner, Cynthia Darlow, Richard Ferrone, Eliza Foss, Emma Galvin, Johnny Heller, Pete Larkin, Bill Lobley, Carol Monda, Rich Orlow, Paula Parker, Vinnie Penna, with Zane Birdwell, Nathan Rosborough, Iris McElroy, Barbara Vlahides, Fametta Sawyer, Tim Bader, Tyrrell Harrell, Kevin Fecu, and Alan Winter, and was produced & directed by Paul Ruben.
I was able to ask Peter Ganim & Nicola Barber a few questions about their roles as Nick & Nora
Peter, you’ve done both solo voice & ensemble audiobooks in the past. Can you compare and contrast the two experiences?
Peter: The majority of work that we all do as narrators is solitary…and I know many narrators who relish that environment, they thrive upon creating all the characters and concocting a chamber opera of sorts in the listener’s mind. I’d have to say, (even though I get great response to my ‘character work’) that as a stage actor first, I prefer the collaborative experience, I enjoy shouldering the narrative responsibilities with my fellow actors, many of whom are wildly talented and very generous. Different beasts, each rewarding in different ways.
Peter & Nicola, how did the large ensemble cast complete this project? Were you all in the studio at the same time? If not, how did you convincingly react & respond to segments recorded at another time?
Nicola: Peter and I recorded together in the booth at the same time. Many of our scenes were conversations just between the two of us, so that was very natural. For any conversations with people who were not in the booth, you just work from the script. I’m used to recording half of a conversation – voice over actors do it often for projects.
Peter: Nicola and I recorded together and it was fantastic fun…she’s just marvelous as Nora and having her there in the studio kept the banter lively and kept me on my toes! Otherwise, as Nicola and I were the very last to record, Paul and Nathan were able to play back the wonderful work everyone else had contributed so that we could more easily ‘drop in’ to the scene. But, really, the rhythms and the direction are all right there in that sparkling Dashiell Hammett text.
Nick & Nora Charles are iconic movie roles played by William Powell and Myrna Loy. Did their portrayals affect your acting in the audiobook production?
Peter: Only as a springboard of some slight inspiration. Paul Ruben was pretty clear that these characters had to be our creations, in the here and now.
Nicola: Certainly. The focus of the audiobook was not to try to emulate or imitate the actors in the films. On the other hand, the Thin Man films are, as you say, iconic, and cannot be ignored. So I utilized Myrna’s performance as a jumping-off point; taking note of her tone, her speed of speech, her affectations, etc. Then I focused directly on the clues the script was giving me to create as true a representation of Nora as I could manage.
I have a mental picture of the cast in period clothes around a mic stand – did anyone actually dress the part to get in character?
Peter: That’s a tough one, because the microphones we work with are so very sensitive, they pick up every little movement, each little rustle. Most of the narrators I know have a store of soft, comfortable clothing which doesn’t make noise should we gesticulate or even simply shift in the chair…so, truth be told, I was in shorts and a T-shirt…it was the height of summer when we recorded!
Nicola: I admit that I did dress in heels and a dress to make me feel more Nora-ish. A society woman in the 1930’s would never be seen in public without dress, hat, gloves, and perfectly coiffed hair. When you are recording an audiobook, you tend to be crammed into a recording booth for hours on end, and it’s a good idea to wear comfortable clothing. But for this recording, I felt the need to dress the part!
And here’s a quote from Paul Ruben about his role:
The Return of the Thin Man offered me and the narrators a unique opportunity: To engage a genre that none of us knew first hand and that is no longer in vogue. Specifically, the style of this crime/comedy caper is particularized by its time, the 1930s: big, broad, over-the-top, but not cartoonish. Brazenly speaking for all the narrators I would suggest that, for us, this was a deliciously unique chance to let loose, to have fun and to voice these emotionally ‘big-rig’ characters as if they were flamboyantly real!