After The Thin Man (1936)

by Paul on January 18, 2013

Post image for After The Thin Man (1936)

 ★★★★

 

We may as well be honest and admit the truth; sequels are inferior. They can’t be as good as the original, but they can be just as loved since they have characters and situations that we have already grown to love. “After The Thin Man” (1936) is one of the greatest sequels ever made because it was more of a continuation of “The Thin Man” (1934) than a sequel.

Our beloved Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy), having boarded a train at the end of “The ThinAfter the Thin Man (1936) Man”, begin this film still on their train ride back to San Francisco. It is New Year’s Eve and the exhausted couple (and beloved dog, Asta) can’t wait to get home and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Upon their arrival, they get a call from Nora’s pompous and ostentatious Aunt Katherine (Jessie Ralph), who regardless of her dislike of Nick and his “common man” past, invites Nick and Nora over to dinner. After dinner they learn that Nora’s cousin, Selma (Elissa Landi), is distraught over the recent disappearance of her no good husband, Robert (Alan Marshal). Nick is asked (or told) to look into Robert’s mysterious where abouts, despite Nick’s insistence that he is sure to turn up as soon as his money runs out. Nick learns that Selma’s former fiancé, David After the Thin Man (1936)(Jimmy Stewart), was contacted by Robert and would be willing to disappear permanently for $25,000.

Nick and Nora locate Robert at the Lichee Club where he is involved in an affair with the club’s singer, Polly (Penny Singleton billed as Dorothy McNulty). She, along with the club’s owner, “Dancer” (Joseph Calleia), are playing a con of their own by planning to steal the $25,000 he is presumably about to receive from David. Naturally, Robert winds up being murdered and everyone could be the killer. Lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene) begs Nick to help him sort out the case, and he reluctantly agrees. Now Nick has the unusual problem of having to survive the case, and his extended family.

“The Thin Man”, although a wonderful movie, had to include an introduction into the lives of Nick and Nora, therefore taking away from the actual plot of the film. We don’t even get introduced to the Charles family until after the entire plot has been established. One of the greatest things about “After The Thin Man” is that almost every scene involves Nick or Nora in some way, making it possible to fill the entire film with laughs. Similarly, as this film opens we already know all about Nick and Nora, and director W. S. Van Dyke doesn’t waste any time reintroducing them to us. In the very first scene, while still on the train, Nick is already making jokes about his wife, her money and his love of alcohol.After the Thin Man (1936)

Nora: “Are you packing, dear?”

Nick: (while drinking) “Yes, darling. I’m just putting away the liquor.”

The success and popularity of “After The Thin Man” earned it an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing: Screenplay.  It also proved to be a monumental year for its director, W. S. Van Dyke, as he directed the highest grossing film of the year, “San Francisco” (1936). William Powell and Myrna Loy starred together in “Libeled Lady” (1936) and the Academy Award winner for Best Picture, “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936). In addition, William Powell starred alongside Carole Lombard in “My Man Godfrey” (1936) and Myrna Loy starred with Clark Gable in “Wife vs. Secretary” (1936). All four of these films ended up being in the top ten highest grossing films of the year.

My love for William Powell, Myrna Loy and The Thin Man Series is something that runs deep inside of me. I find them to After the Thin Man (1936)be some of the most entertaining movies ever made, and although the series continues to go downhill with each new addition, I still am glad they made six films before they were through. “After The Thin Man” is delightfully entertaining and even though Jimmy Stewart is extremely miscast, it is fun to see the future star mixing it up in this film. Powell and Loy make one of the greatest on screen pairs in Hollywood history, and these films are definitely their most memorable.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

R.A. Kerr January 20, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Jimmy Stewart is miscast in this movie but it really helps deepen the movie’s mystery for contemporary audiences – Stewart is always a good guy so therefore he’s automatically ruled out as the murderer.

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Paul January 20, 2013 at 4:44 PM

That’s a good point. If you’re just watching the film for the first time (and if that’s true, where have you been hiding?) then Stewart shouldn’t even make your suspect list.

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Jeff Flugel January 22, 2013 at 8:18 PM

Nice post, Paul! I love this movie and the series in general. I think AFTER is in many ways funnier than the original film, if perhaps not as fresh. The scene where Nick is alone in the room with Nora’s ancient, somnolent relatives never fails to crack me up. I don’t find Jimmy Stewart miscast, actually…as Ruth says, he seems for most of the movie just the same “aw shucks” nice guy of his commonly-held screen image. When he turns out to be the killer, it’s a big surprise. Admittedly, he doesn’t quite yet have the depth at this stage in his career to make his character’s going all “bug-eyed crazy” at the finale as effective as he could in his post-WWII years.

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Paul January 22, 2013 at 9:36 PM

I think Nick really shines in this film. All of the scenes at Aunt Katharine’s house give William Powell a chance to show off his comic brilliance. I adore this film and the original because of the extreme amount of humor and wit in the screenplays. After these first two films it is easy to find yourself attached to Nick and Nora.

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