Asta was Hollywood's foremost canine scene-stealer, a charismatic dynamo of a wire-haired terrier (real name Skippy) born sometime during 1931. Universally adored by depression-era movie audiences after being cast as the four-legged sidekick of amateur sleuths Nick and Nora Charles (played by William Powell and Myrna Loy) in the hit detective comedy The Thin Man (1934), Asta became the highest paid animal star of his day, earning $250 per week. He was owned and trained by former silent screen comedienne Gale Henry and her husband, MGM property master Henry East, whose kennels were located on a couple of acres in the vicinity of Hollywood. The Easts realised from the onset that this feisty critter was rather smarter than your average quadruped and could be trained to do any number of complex tricks, play dead or hide his head behind his paws playing hide-and-seek, coyly peeking out with one eye. Motivation was provided in the shape of a favorite toy, 'Oslo' the rubber mouse. Asta's popularity led to a massive increase in the breeding of wire-haired terriers. Everybody wanted to own one, or, at least, have a dog by that name. William Powell wanted to buy Asta himself but the Easts refused. In the wake of a sequel (After the Thin Man (1936)) Asta became 'Mr. Smith' for another successful screwball farce, The Awful Truth (1937), having won out over nineteen other hopeful canine candidates screen-tested for the part. He was even given his own dressing room with exclusive access granted only his owners. His various (human) co-stars were expressly forbidden to play with him off the set, lest he become distracted once the cameras started rolling. As befitting a true professional, Asta rarely needed a second take to complete a scene. He even managed to convincingly fake drinking water from a bowl in his next film Bringing Up Baby (1938) and contributed all manner of mischief (including stealing and burying a dinosaur bone) to the madcap antics of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. He was slated to appear in a film with English musical star Gracie Fields, arriving in Southampton in June 1938 along with new trainer Frank Weatherwax (and understudy 'Skippy junior') aboard the Queen Mary. However, the project never seems to have eventuated and Asta/Skippy returned home to play 'Mr. Atlas' in Topper Takes a Trip (1938). His last film appears to have been Shadow of the Thin Man (1941). There were two final entries in the series: The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) and Song of the Thin Man (1947), for which lookalike Asta Jr. took centre stage. The original had by then entered his well-earned retirement. A great-grandson of Asta took over the baton for the 1957 NBC series The Thin Man (1957).
|Movie Name||Release Date|
|Ο άνθρωπος σκιά στις κούρσες – Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)||January 1, 1970|
|Η ασύλληπτη σκιά – After the Thin Man (1936)||December 25, 1936|