Rixflix A to Z: After the Thin Man (1936)

Director: W.S. Van Dyke II // MGM; 1:53; b/w
Crew Notables: Dashiell Hammett (story), Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett (AAN - screenplay)
Cast Notables: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Asta, James Stewart, Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Alan Marshal, George Zucco, Penny Singleton, William Law, Sam Levene.

Cinema 4 Rating: 8


Growing up watching the Thin Man series, it's astounding that I didn't turn out to be a lush. Those detectives of high societal positioning (and lowbrow entertainment choices), the delightful Nick and Nora Charles, would have been the chief culprits if fate had indeed led me in that direction, so enraptured I was with their ability to solve incredibly convoluted mysteries while both remained under the free flowing power of the sauce. I also had a thing for Myrna Loy since I was a teenager, even though I knew she about sixty years too old for me. Of course, if you compare the time that she made this film with my age when I discovered this fixation, she was only about 17 years too old for me... and you know how that goes. Old enough to not know better on my part, and I'm sure we could have worked out some Mrs. Robinson deal on the side.

The second of the series, and my personal favorite, After the Thin Man takes place just after the first film, with Nick and Nora returning to their home in San Francisco from their eventful honeymoon in New York. Arriving just in time for a New Year's Eve party, a followup trip to Nora's aunt's manse embroils the pair in yet another mystery: the disappearance of the two-timing no-account husband of Nora's cousin. Practically everyone in Nora's family and outside of it becomes a suspect as Nick follows the messy trail of clues, and even lovable terrier Asta has to contend with a mystery of his own: how one of his puppies turned out to be black (and it just could be that Scottish terrier next door). The barbs fly, punches are thrown, a zillion martinis are thrown back, and whole thing ends with both a surprise reveal of the villain and with one of the best closing moments and lines of any film from that era.
Just before my move, I finally parted with my much-used copies of the first two Thin Man movies (the other four films had been recorded off cable, and I parted with those as well). Of course, the parting was made much easier knowing that the entire series would be coming out soon in a DVD box not long after my arrival in California. As Jen was a huge fan of the series and the stars, I knew there would be little trouble convincing her of its worthiness as a purchase. While I am not a big one on extra features, this box itself went above and beyond what I expected, adding in Robert Benchley shorts, MGM and Warner Bros. cartoons, radio show episodes of The Thin Man with the original stars, musical shorts, an episode from the Peter Lawford series in the 50's, and a pair of excellent documentaries on William Powell and Myrna Loy. While I recommend this box highly to any fan of either mysteries or old Hollywood, I am a little disappointed that they didn't go the extra mile and jury-rig a documentary on that other star of the series, Asta. The filmmakers go to such pains to make sure that he is included in on every story, sometimes even finding valuable clues, and his popularity in these films was sometimes the equal of his bipedal co-stars.

First your lady runs around on you with a Scottie, then you don't get your own doc. It's enough to drive a dog to drink. Good thing he has such solid role models around the house...

1937 Academy Awards - nominated for Best Screenplay.

Comments

EggOfTheDead said…
Saw To Have and Have Not this morning and was, as I always am by the Thin Man flicks, just amazed at how "high functioning" everyone was given their ceaseless drinking. In TH&HN there is a character who's an actual lush - though what distinguishes him from the others is that he gets the DT's when he's NOT drinking! Oh, and he's a doofus.

What I wouldn't give to be Lauren Bacall ...

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