Tuesday, June 28, 2022

"After the Thin Man" (1936)

After the Thin Man (1936) picks up right after The Thin Man (1934), with Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) getting off the train in California, home again from their jaunt to New York City over the holidays.  

Nora is still filled with exuberance over her husband solving a difficult murder, and now she wants him to take another case.  Her cousin Selma (Elissa Landi) is desperately unhappy, and Nora fears she's in danger of some sort.  Nick is not enchanted with this idea.  Nora's wealthy, snobby family mocks and snubs him.  And he's going to be plenty busy catching up on business matters after spending time away.

But Nick loves Nora as much as Nora loves Nick, so we all know he'll help her cousin.

Poor cousin Selma!  Her feckless husband Robert (Alan Marshal) has disappeared.  Again.  She calls Nora for help because she's the only person Selma knows who might be willing to help her find Robert.  Everyone else in the family would rather he stay lost for good.

Nora convinces Nick to look for Robert, and she also convinces him to take her to her Aunt Katherine's (Jessie Ralph) for New Year's.  That was a good call, since it means Nick gets to dress up and look dapper.

Nora's whole extended family has assembled, a sort of family meeting to decide What To Do About Robert.  But disguised as a dinner party.  They barely tolerate Nick because he's Low Class™ and a Former Detective™.  He amuses himself by mocking them when only Nora is looking.

After dinner, who should drop by but David (James Stewart), Selma's former fiance and faithful friend.  While Nick and Nora head off to try to find Robert, David stays to keep Selma company.

This is the earliest James Stewart movie I've seen -- isn't he a sweet little choir boy?  Robert is quiet and kind and kind of adorkable, like so many of Stewart's characters, especially in the '30s and '40s.

Anyway, Nick and Nora head off to a nighclub that Robert favors.  There, we get treated to a pretty lengthy song-and-dance number by Polly (Dorothy McNulty, aka Penny Singleton).  Polly is Robert's new gal pal, and we all start to realize that a) Selma is better off without Robert, and b) Robert would be better off without Polly.

Here's Robert, the drip, goggling at Polly and swilling gin or something.

And here's Dancer (Joseph Calleia), owner of this night club and close associate of Polly.  I am getting so fond of Calleia!  He's in lots of Alan Ladd movies, including The Glass Key (1942), Captain Carey, USA (1950), and Branded (1950).  He keeps popping up in noir films for me too lately, like Gilda (1946).  I'm always happy to see him, as he never gets boring, but he doesn't overdo things either.

Well, pretty soon, the plot thickens, along with the fog.  Dear old David pays Robert a bunch of money to stay away from Selma for good.  And then Robert gets himself killed before he can run off with Polly.

Who could have killed Robert?  Was it Selma?  Polly?  David?  Polly's "brother" (a very young Paul Fix)?  Dancer?  Aunt Katherine?  The list of suspects is long, and it takes all of Nick's brains and wits and wisecracking to figure it all out.

Of course, he does.  The movie ends with Nick and Nora on a train again, taking Selma on a long holiday.  There's just one mystery left:  what is Nora knitting?

Why, that looks like a tiny sock just the right size for... a baby!

Oh, Mrs. Charles!  And Mr. Charles!  What a surprise!

I really love this movie series.  This second film might be a little better than the first in some ways -- I think it has fewer red herrings, though it also might be a little less funny.  Still, the dialog zings, the chemistry between Powell and Loy sizzles, and the plot rolls merrily along.  Dashiell Hammett wrote the story for this, though not as a full novel like the first one.  It has the same director (W. S. Van Dyke) and screenwriters (Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett). so it matches the first movie really well.

Is this movie family friendly?  Basically, yes.  No cussing, no racy scenes, no bloody violence.  People do get killed, and there's obviously more going on between Robert and Polly besides patty-cake, but that is all implied.  There's quite a bit of alcohol getting consumed, just like in the first movie.

This is my contribution to the MGM Blogathon hosted by Silver Scenes :-)  It's not as in-depth as I had planned because I'm hampered by this broken arm, but I hope you still get a sense of how fun this movie is!


  1. This looks like so much fun! I should really introduce Mom to this series. =)

    1. Eva, is this one of the ones I sent you? I think that collection had at least the first three, which are The Thin Man, this, and Another Thin Man. They plus The Thin Man Goes Home are probably my favorites. I think your mom would get a big kick out of these!

  2. I haven't seen this film in years! And your amusing review makes me want to pop it into the DVD player right now. Too bad I don't own the DVD. But I'll definitely check it out at my library this week! Great write-up Rachel ( as always )...and thanks so much for taking part in the MGM celebration. :-)

    1. Metzingers, awww, well I hope you can get this from the library, because anytime is a good time to hang out with Nick and Nora :-)

      Thanks for hosting! I hope you do this again, or something similar!


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