Movie Critique – After The Thin Man

For review of all movies in this series, go here on my LiveJournal blog or here on WordPress blog.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: The fun continues with Nick and Nora embroiled not only in a mystery but also dealing with in-laws. Witty dialogues, funny antics and twisted plot line keeps the movie interesting and entertaining.

After The Thin Man is  1936 American comedy film directed by W. S. Van Dyke, produced by Hunt Stromberg, and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This is the second in the six movies made under the Thin Man Series. William Powell and Myrna Loy reprise their roles as Nick and Nora Charles. The film also stars Elissa Landi, James Stewart, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Penny Singleton and others among the cast; along with Skippy as Asta, their dog.

Nick and Nora Charles attend family dinner at Nora’s family on New Year’s Eve, where Nick learns of Nora’s cousin Selma’s (portrayed by Elissa Landi) husband Robert (portrayed by Alan Marshall) has been missing for three days. Selma’s ex-fiancee David Graham (portrayed by James Stewart) wants to marry Selma again. While Nick is despised by Nora’s Aunt Katherine (portrayed by Jessie Ralph). In all this hoopla, Nora persuades Nick to take up the investigation of locating Robert; leading Nick and Nora into another twisted and surprising plot.

This film also is the sixth in the fourteen films that Powell and Loy acted together. The screenplay for the film was written by

Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich; although Dashiell Hammett provided the story. Film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay; the first sequel to be nominated too. The story begins a few days after where the first film, the 1934 The Thin Man ends.

We again see the chemistry between Powell and Loy which is electric, spot-on and humorous wanting you to have such a relationship in real life. Their personal close friendship attributes to the chemistry for sure.

We get to see James Stewart as David Graham in one of his earlier film roles in this film. A rare film in which we see Stewart on the wrong side of the law.

Penny Singleton portrays the role of Polly Byrnes, the singer in the night club. Although she is credited as Dorothy McNulty in the film, she would go on to become famous with a series of films based on the comic strip Blondie between 1938 and 1943. This would also become the longest running film franchises in the film industry. We did watch one of the film in the series last year, the 1942 film Blondie Goes to College.

The opening credits are shown on a caricature of Nick and Nora Charles with their dog Asta, and the shadow of a thin man behind them. The credits also have a disclaimer on one of the slide, which was not seen often in many movies back then. The primary cast along with their roles names are shown at the end of the opening credits, with a special mention of Asta with his mate Mrs. Asta.

This is considered one of the best of the Thin Man films. Comically the film became famous for showing puppy dog adultery for the first time in film history. References to the first film in the series are seen all through this film. Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Channel had aired this film recently as part of their 31 Days of Oscar Series last year, when I got to watch it.

The movie comes with its own songs, even though its not a musical. We get snippets of them here and there all through. In the opening scene, at Nick and Nora’s surprise welcome party, Eadie Adams and the band sing the song Sing Sing Sing With a Swing, for which Music and Lyrics were given by Louis Prima

At the night club, Penny Singleton’s Polly Byrnes sang and danced to Blow That Horn song for which Music was given by Walter Donaldson, Lyrics written by Chet Forrest and Bob Wright. She also sings the song Smoke Dreams for which Nacio Herb Brown provided Music and Lyrics were written by Arthur Freed.

The fun continues with Nick and Nora embroiled not only in a mystery but also dealing with in-laws. Witty dialogues, funny antics and twisted plot line keeps the movie interesting and entertaining.

Spoiler Alerts:

  1. Movie Trivia:
    1. A 60-minute radio adaptation was aired on CBS Lux Radio Theatre on June 17, 1940 with Powell and Loy reprising their roles.
    2. Note “Decoration Day” as one of the holidays when trains would follow a different schedule. It was not called as Memorial Day until 1967.
  1. George Zucco made his film debut in America with this film after working successfully in British films for 6 years. He plays the role of Dr. Kammer in the film.
  1. The move that Lum Kee (portrayed by William Law) does of flinging his hat in David’s face allowing others to overpower him will go on to become a signature move for the famous James Bond villain Oddjob portrayed by Harold Sakata. Oddjob seems to have been modeled after Lum Kee too if you look closely.
  1. Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:
    1. Two people respond to the reporter’s question “Is Nick Charles in this car?” with the answer “Two cars back”.
    2. The film showing the train arriving in San Francisco is in reverse print. Notice the lettering on the train next seen through the window, they are all backwards.
  1. At the “Welcome Home” party, Nick and Nora dance into the kitchen. When they are leaving the living room, Nick’s hand is empty. But the immediate scene shows them stepping into the kitchen, he is seen having a cocktail glass in his hand.
  2. When Polly Byrnes is performing a dance number in the night club, she backs up into the bandstand and almost falls forward before the other girls come out. It is a mistake, but a testament to Penny Singleton’s talent to control herself and continue the dance as if nothing happened.
  3. When Dancer is approaching the hat check girl, in the long shot she is seen chatting with another blonde hat check girl. But in the closeup shot she is seen sitting on a chair.
  1. Nick and Abrams are told by the desk clerk that Polly’s brother is in room 212. But when they reach the apartment it is 221 instead.

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