After the Thin Man (1936)

Directed by W.S. Van Dyke

Cinematography by

Oliver T. Marsh

After the Thin Man is a 1936 American film, starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and James Stewart, that is the sequel to the film The Thin Man. The movie presents Powell and Loy as Dashiell Hammett‘s characters Nick and Nora Charles. The film was directed by W. S. Van Dyke and also featured Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Alan Marshal, and Penny Singleton.

This was actually the sixth pairing for Myrna Loy and William Powell. The two made 14 pictures together, six of them in the Thin Man series.

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William Powell, Myrna Loy

Storyline

Now back in San Francisco after their holiday in New York, Nick and Nora find themselves trying to solve another mystery. It’s New Year’s Eve and they are summoned to dinner at Nora’s elderly, and very aristocratic, family. There they find that cousin Selma’s husband Robert has been missing for three days. Nick reluctantly agrees to look for him but the case takes a twist when Robert is shot and Selma is accused of murder. Several other murders occur but eventually Nick gathers everyone into the same room to reveal the identity of the killer.

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“Come on, let’s get something to eat. I’m thirsty.”

23 May 2007 | by ackstasis (Australia) – See all my reviews

Some weeks ago I expressed my absolute enthusiasm for ‘The Thin Man (1934),’ a delightfully humorous murder mystery/comedy classic, starring the inimitable comedic marriage of William Powell and Myrna Loy as husband-and-wife detectives Nick and Nora Charles. This original film, after a solid box-office run and four Academy Award nominations, spawned a respectable five sequels, and a radio and television series. ‘After the Thin Man’ is the first of these sequels, released in 1936.

As the original trailer for the film proudly proclaims, ‘After the Thin Man’ brought back the three writers of the original hit (Dashiell Hammett, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett), the same director (W.S. Van Dyke) and, of course, the three huge film stars in Powell, Loy and, of course, Asta the dog (the wire-haired terrier whose birth-name was Skippy). True to its promise, the film is every bit as witty, hilarious and suspenseful as its predecessor, masterfully melding Nick and Nora’s playful banter with another twisted mystery of love, betrayal, blackmail and murder. And look out for a memorable supporting performance from a young James Stewart, who was yet to hit it big with the likes of Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock.

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James Stewart

The sequel takes place just a day or two after where ‘The Thin Man’ left off, as Nick and Nora prepare to depart from the train that brought them back home to San Francisco. Like the original film, the actually murder mystery is quite a messy one, though the writers have luckily decided to tone down, just slightly, the number of interwoven threads this time around. With nothing in mind but sleeping for a month, our favourite detective couple are surprised to walk into a welcome-home party held by people they don’t even know, before they are invited to Nora’s Aunt Katherine’s (Jessie Ralph) house for dinner. Whilst there, Nora’s cousin Selma (Elissa Landi) reveals that her husband, Robert (Alan Marshal), has been missing for three days.

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The filmmakers have, once again, managed to round up a terrific cast to complement the talents of its two sparkling leads. I particularly enjoyed the contribution of Jessie Ralph as Aunt Katherine, who absolutely detests Nick and addresses him as “Nich-o-larse!” Nick’s obsession with alcohol also continues, though he maintains his uncanny ability to switch painlessly between a drunken stupor and completely alert sobriety. The good-natured inter-marital sledging that made the original film so enjoyable still carries a razor-sharp wit, and, in one hilarious sequence, Nick even goes as far as pretending not to recognise his wife so she can be temporarily detained in a jail cell.

‘After the Thin Man’ is one of those very rare occasions when a sequel is good enough to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with its predecessor. A mixture of clever writing, talented directing and an infectious chemistry between the cast members worked to ensure that the partnership between Nick and Nora Charles would be a prolonged one.

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Jessie Ralph

The best of the six Thin Man films

8/10
Author: mrsastor from United States
13 July 2005

Of the six entries in “The Thin Man” series that were released between 1934-1947, none of which are bad, this one is the best. This second entry has the most plausible story, best cinematography (San Francisco on a cold foggy New Year’s Eve night), and is perhaps the most amusing of the lot. This episode is noticeably longer than the other six, mostly due to an extensive homecoming sequence that opens the film, but this does not detract from the film in any way. And if you are a fan of Asta’s, he gets more screen time in this outing than any of the others (interestingly, in Dashelle Hammett’s book, Asta is female).

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Of course the chemistry on screen between Myrna Loy and William Powell is unsurpassed, that’s why they would ultimately be cast together in 14 films during their careers. Besides the early and very well done performance of James Stewart, look for a young and brunette Penny Singleton (later “Blondie”), billed under her real name of Dorothy McNulty, playing the role of Polly for all it’s worth. It’s also fun to remember when you’re watching veteran character actress Jessie Ralph play the stodgy Aunt Katherine, you are looking at a woman who was born during the Civil War.

All of the key Thin Man ingredients are here: a clever who-dun-it (with more suspects than any other Thin Man film), beautiful photography, exquisite fashions and decor, jokes as dry and plentiful as the martinis, a performance or two of the popular music of the day, and an ending that will surprise you. As I said, all of these Thin Man films are great fun, but this one is the best.

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Sam Levene

More Nick and Nora fun!

7 June 2003 | by Andrew Norris (amhnorris) (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

I was spurred to watch this one after having seen David Niven and Maggie Smith’s spot-on parody of Nick and Nora in ‘Murder By Death’. Nick spends most of this one either drinking or drunk, but doesn’t let that prevent him from solving the crime of course. Myrna Loy is wonderfully aloof in a fine comic performance. Although it involves murder, the tone is almost exclusively light hearted. The plot was almost a little too complicated, the type of thing that ‘Murder By Death’ so effectively mocked. It seemed as though the script wanted to make it so that anyone could have been a suspect (one of which is James Stewart in a fun role)which normally would be a good idea, but can make it a little confusing (and I’ll admit that I wasn’t paying 100% attention, but the light-heartedness seems to almost encourage you not to take it all seriously…which is why ‘The Thin Man’ movies are so much fun in the first place!)

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Trivia

Though William Powell and Myrna Loy were very close friends off-screen, their only romantic moments together occurred on-screen. The public, however, was determined to have them married in private life as well. When the two stars showed up in San Francisco (where most of this film was shot) at the St. Francis, the hotel management proudly showed “Mr. and Mrs. Powell” to their deluxe suite. This was an especially uncomfortable moment as Jean Harlow, who was engaged to Powell, was with them, and the couple had not made a public statement about their relationship. Harlow saved the day by insisting on sharing the suite with Loy: “That mix-up brought me one of my most cherished friendships,” Loy said in “Being and Becoming”, her autobiography. “You would have thought Jean and I were in boarding school we had so much fun. We’d stay up half the night talking and sipping gin, sometimes laughing, sometimes discussing more serious things.” Meanwhile, Powell got the hotel’s one remaining room – a far humbler accommodation downstairs.

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Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow and William  Powell arriving in San Francisco to film ‘After the Thin man 1936

The greatest movie marriage

8/10
Author: FilmOtaku (ssampon@hotmail.com) from Milwaukee, WI
12 July 2005

In this first sequel to the celebrated film “The Thin Man”, detective Nick Charles, (Powell) his socialite wife Nora (Loy) and their beloved terrier Asta are on their way home to San Francisco after a long trip. Shortly after they arrive, Nora is invited to her wealthy aunt’s house for dinner where she is told by her cousin Selma (Landi) that her husband Robert has run off (again) and she needs Nick to find him.

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When Nick and Nora find Robert at a local nightclub that very evening, they soon discover that he is wrapped up in a situation with some shady people; he is soliciting David (a really young Stewart), an ex-beau of Selma’s who is still in love with her, for $25,000. In exchange for this $25,000 he will leave Selma’s life forever, will run off with his girlfriend, a singer at the nightclub, and David can then step in. The plan promptly goes sour when Robert is shot and killed, leaving five suspects in his murder, including Selma herself. It is up to Nick and Nora to help the police solve the crime and clear Selma’s name.

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I thoroughly enjoyed “The Thin Man”, and was absolutely charmed and delighted with this sequel. Nick and Nora Charles absolutely have to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest on screen couples in film history. Certainly, they take a back seat to the better known Hepburn/Tracy, Gable/Leigh, hell, even Curtis/Lemmon.

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But while the story itself in “After the Thin Man” was good, and strong enough to stand on its own merit, but the film itself is great because of Powell and Loy. Myrna Loy, one of my favorite classic film actresses, made a career out of being the non-plussed wife or object of affection to varying degrees of spastic leading men. (Particularly Cary Grant in “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” and “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer”, both films I would definitely recommend.) Loy’s straight-faced elegance is perfection as Nora Charles, a young and beautiful wealthy socialite who married Nick, a detective from the wrong side of the tracks who loves liquor and ribald humor. Powell is hilarious and charming as Nick, and they own the characters so thoroughly, I can’t fathom anyone else playing those roles.

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Much is made of “chemistry”, and the chemistry between our two main characters is electric. The material they had to work with certainly helped in the success of this film. Hammett’s story works as a good base, with Goodrich & Hackett punching up the script. Toward the beginning of the film, there is a scene where Nick and Nora are returning to their San Francisco mansion, completely exhausted and pledging to sleep for a month. When they open their door, however, they find their house filled with a couple of hundred people; apparently, friends of theirs were throwing them a surprise welcome home party, only no one there recognizes them as the guests of honor, so they non-chalantly begin to dance with everyone else until they are finally noticed by their servants. Describing the situation doesn’t do it justice, but it is just one example of the many charming scenes contained in this film. “After the Thin Man” also has some hilarious lines, and while a lot of the appeal is in the delivery, dialogue like a scene between Nick and Nora, who are waiting to be let in to her aunt’s house, (Nick and her aunt have a mutual dislike for one another) when Nora asks, “What ARE you muttering to yourself?” Nick replies, “I’m just trying to get all of the bad words out of my mind.” And then later, when reintroducing her husband to her aunt, Nora says, “You remember my husband, Nick…” her aunt replies with “Hello, NicholASS.” (And proceeds to call him that the entire film.)

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Even Asta has a subplot in this film; when they arrive home in the beginning of the film, he runs back to the kennel to see Mrs. Asta. Apparently Mrs. Asta has had a litter of puppies, and when they all come out black and white (with one fully black one) even though the Astas are fully white, he finds out that the culprit is a black dog from down the street. The two scenes involving this little side story are truly funny and fitting of a dog that has reached iconic status. (At least in the crossword puzzle world – his name is a clue in at least one crossword puzzle I do a week!) “After the Thin Man” has some corny moments, but they are few and so minor compared to the relative greatness of the rest of the film, that I don’t think I could truly single them out easily. (At least not with seeming needlessly picky) I would truly recommend this film series to anyone who enjoys classic films – I so thoroughly enjoyed this film that I plan to check out the rest of the sequels in the near future. The snappy & clever dialogue, great performances and good story truly make “After the Thin Man” a worthy sequel to its great predecessor. 8/10 –Shelly

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Handling It In The Family

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
11 November 2006

After solving the famous Thin Man case in New York and acquiring a trademark in the process, Nick Charles returns to San Francisco with wife Nora to spend some time with some of her family. As we learned in the initial film, Myrna Loy’s parents are both deceased, but she’s got one formidable aunt is Jessie Ralph and a cousin with a wayward husband in Elissa Landi.

Elissa prevails upon Myrna to get Bill to locate her husband who’s been missing for a few days. Powell and Loy do locate Alan Marshal the husband and the rat’s been living it up with nightclub chanteuse Penny Singleton. Marshal’s a playboy wastrel and hasn’t the slightest intention of returning to home and hearth. But in the wee small hours of New Year’s Day, he gets himself murdered on the streets of San Francisco and two more bodies turn up before William Powell solves the case.

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James Stewart appears in this second Thin Man film as Landi’s patient former boyfriend. In the films of James Stewart book, Stewart mentions that he wasn’t particularly happy with his work in this film though I’m sure it didn’t hurt his career any. He felt it was way too much at variance with what his fans expected from him. It’s reason enough to watch the film and see if you agree with Jimmy.

Sam Levene of the San Francisco PD isn’t any brighter than Nat Pendleton of the NYPD just a little more excitable. Powell shows them up all the time so much so that you wonder why he’s not made police commissioner of either city.

Asta the most famous terrier in the world gets a bit more screen time than usual for animal lovers. He’s got a Mrs. Asta and several pups and a black dog who keeps trying to cut in on his time. He also at one point provides the highpoint in comedy as he almost eats a clue which is in the form of a note thrown threw a window. Lots of fun as Powell and Loy try to get him to spit out the note. Handling that doggie drool soaked note musn’t have been fun for Loy and Powell.

After the Thin Man keeps up the high standards in film making set by the original Thin Man and shouldn’t be missed.

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