Asta

Asta was the urbane screwball dog who appeared in a number of films of the 1930s. This page is dedicated to Asta and his marvellous talents.

  

Like many stars of the time, Asta was not his real name. His real name was Skippy, but he chose the name Asta following his appearance under that name in The Thin Man, which was the film which really shot him to stardom. He was a wire haired terrier, completely comfortable with his looks in a town renowned for its obsession with beauty. He was of the opinion that a little excess facial hair was not necessarily a bad thing and resisted the studios' exhortations to have cosmetic surgery. His rugged good looks and charm were appreciated by his co-stars and by decades of moviegoers. His trademark wiry locks and beady eyes, combined with his amazing acting ability endeared him to everyone. He was very clean living - didn't take drugs or smoke and only drank the occasional glass of champagne or malt whisky. So what if he was taciturn and had an unfortunate habit of nuzzling other dogs' nether regions. The studios managed to hush up this foible as far as possible.

 

In the Thin Man series Skippy becomes Asta. Apparently there were several dogs which played Asta in the series and indeed Asta Jr played the role in the final film of the series - Song of The Thin Man. William Powell and Myrna Loy were not allowed to make friends with any of them as the trainer felt that this would break the dogs' concentration. Asta actually bit Myrna Loy during filming. I blame the trainer, personally.

Throughout the Thin Man series, Asta is memorable as the Charles' clever and delightful dog, who accompanies them wherever they go, even if their own child doesn't! One critic at the time asked why Nick and Nora Charles needed a child when they had "such a pleasant dog".

 

Having by now changed his name to Asta, following his success in The Thin Man, in 1937 he agreed to play the part of Mr Smith in The Awful Truth - the subject of a custody battle between divorcing husband and wife Jerry and Lucy Warriner. Who can ever forget Mr Smith playing hide and seek!

Having enjoyed working with Cary Grant, Asta signed a contract in 1938 for an undisclosed number of bones, to team up with Cary Grant again in Bringing up Baby, in which, as well as stealing scenes, he also stole the intercostal clavicle of a brontosaurus. Unconfirmed reports mention that Asta found Katherine Hepburn's voice to be a little grating, but he always denied this in later years.

Asta was kept busy with The Thin Man series, but again showed his versatility when cast as ghost dog Mr Atlas in Topper takes a Trip in 1939.

Asta fathered several pups, although - scandalously for the time - he never married except on screen in After The Thin Man. He was one of the great screwball entertainers of the 30s and 40s and after his retirement, he dedicated his life to chasing cats and catching balls. It was a dog's life.

 

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