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AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936)
After solving "The Thin Man" Case, Nick and Nora Charles (and Asta) return home to their San Francisco home for New Years, where yet another murder mystery and a forgery scam falls into their laps, a case that involves someone dear in Nora's family.
The cast includes: William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart, Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Alan Marshal, Teddy Hart, Sam Levene, Penny Singleton, Paul Fix, Zeffie Tilbury, Tom Ricketts, and George Zucco.
Directed by W. S. Van Dyke. Screenplay written by: Francis Goodrich, based on the story by Daschiell Hammett.
AFTER THE THIN MAN is the second installment of THE THIN MAN series. After their adventures in New York, during Christmas, Nick (William Powell), Nora (Myrna Loy) and Asta their dog are eager to get home to "crawl into bed for a week." They walk into their front door to find a huge party going on without their knowledge to supposedly welcome them home, with a lot of people there they didn't even know, drinking the Napoleon brandy!
After dancing their way into the kitchen, the servants, as they prepare food for the people, tell them not only what was going on, but that "Aunt Katharine" (Jessie Ralph) has invited them over for New Years Eve dinner with the elderly relatives. Despite Nick's protests, Nora reluctantly agrees to the invitation, after she talks to her slightly emotionally unbalanced cousin Selma, (Elissa Landi), who is in "desperate trouble."
After enduring Aunt Katharine, a real battle ax with an overbearing personality, and the other older guests who think, "Poor Nora is so brave," for being married to "that person," Nick and Nora find out that Selma's philandering husband, Robert (Alan Marshal) has disappeared, and that Aunt Katharine and the distraught Selma would like Nick to try to find him and send him home. Just then, David Graham (Jimmy Stewart) the ex fiancee of Selma and good friend of Nick and Nora comes to visit. Despite the fact that Selma had broken their engagement to marry Robert (Alan Marshal), he appears to be ever faithful to her. All three wind up leaving, with Nick and Nora going to the New Year's Eve festivities at the Li Chi Chinese dinner club, and David makes plans to pay off Robert, so he'll leave Selma for David.
Upon arriving at the Li Chi, we are introduced to the crafty, slightly shady owner, Dancer (Joseph Calleia), his leading song and dance girl, Polly Byrnes (Penny Singleton), and Polly's ex-con brother, Phil (Paul Fix). Nick and Nora also find the self-absorbed, playboy Robert, slightly drunk, in love with Polly, planning to go away with Polly, after getting money from David, at least until the money runs out! After watching Dancer's suspicious behavior at the club, one smells a scam is going down!
When Robert is shot dead just after midnight right outside Aunt Katharine's mansion, the investigation begins by both the police, led by Lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene), and Nick Charles. After some twists and turns, between the funny moments in the script, Selma is arrested for the murder of Robert that same night, which turns up the heat on Nick to find the real killer, as he feels that Selma didn't do it. Two more murders take place by the same murderer, .before the killer is exposed by Nick. How he acts on his hunches, and puts the puzzle together, and finally catches the real killer when he /she makes a slip-up at the final gathering of all the suspects and people involved in the case, is truly entertaining.
While this marvelous screenplay presents not only a great murder mystery, that gives the audience clues and insights, as well as to the main characters, also provides many funny moments blended and intermingled into the action and drama. A favorite example of this, is a series of scenes that happen when Nick and Nora finally get to bed after all the excitement, in the wee hours of the morning of New Year's Day. Nora in a funny way, finally gets Nick to go down to their kitchen to make her scrambled eggs. While there, someone throws a note, tied to a rock through the kitchen window. Asta, their dog, grabs the note and runs around their living room with it, and hilarity reigns, as Nick Charles uses several ploys to fool the dog, who wants to chew up the note.
William Powell and Myrna Loy are even better in this second Thin Man movie. Not only is the chemistry and comedic timing right on the mark as usual between them, but their characters are more developed, so they have more material to work with. Nick and Nora still like their drinks, but not as much this time around, because they have a lot of other personalities to deal with, and an important case to investigate, which takes a clear mind.
The terrific cast, gifted direction, great pacing, and an entertaining screenplay make this film a classic comedy - mystery, that has held up extremely well. It had an ideal cast, not only because of the great Powell- Loy teaming, but all the supporting characters, did a terrific job holding up their character's purpose in the script, to bring a laugh, or help to establish a plot point.
Jimmy Stewart shines as David, showing the acting ability that helped him rise to stardom as a leading man.
Jessie Ralph, as Aunt Katharine offers a very fine performance as the overbearing matriarch who doesn't like Nick, but needs his help.
Elissa Landi, as Selma, is excellent as the slightly emotionally unhinged cousin. She offers a good, believable dramatic performance, that brings drama to the plot.
Veteran stage and film character actor, George Zucco, plays Dr. Kammer, a "nut psychologist" (David's words) hired by Aunt Katharine to take care of Selma. Whatever the size of his part, Zucco was a true professional who never gave a lackluster performance. Though given a small part, his contribution to the enjoyment of the film more than fitted what was called for in the script.
The older, veteran character actors, most of which didn't get screen credit, that played the various Aunts and Uncles at Aunt Katharine's New Year's gathering, really were a hoot, and did a terrific job, as an ensemble group, bringing a nice level of comedy to the situation. Be sure to catch the after dinner snoring scene, involving "the boys" and Nick, which is hilarious. Zeffie Tilbury, another experienced veteran character actress, was Aunt Lucy, which was a small but charming part.
Tom Ricketts, who was both a silent screen writer and director from 1910 - 1919, before he started his prolific career as a character actor, was 86 years old, when he played Henry, Aunt Katharine's butler. He has a small but funny part to play as well.
Joseph Calleia was well-cast as the shady, tough character, Dancer, who has a scam or two up his sleeve, and at one point is a suspect. This talented actor from Europe had a long and successful career, and one can see why in his performance here.
Penny Singleton shows off her singing, tap dancing ability, and comedic flair, as Polly Byrnes. Polly, supported by backup dancers and an orchestra, is the main entertainment in the floor show for the New Year's Eve crowd. She plays her character well, as an entertainer, mixed up with Dancer's plans, who was within earshot of Robert's shooting. She finds herself in trouble with the police, with her brother, and in danger from the real killer. Luckily, Nick comes to the rescue!
Sam Levene does a great job as the detective, Lieutenant Abrams, who is determined to get to the bottom of who shot Robert Landis, despite Aunt Katharine's determination to protect her family, and other obstacles in his way.
Teddy Hart really fills the role as Floyd Casper, Dancer's seedy, low life "shyster" lawyer. He reminds audiences a lot of Joe Pesci.
AFTER THE THIN MAN is wonderful entertainment for those who enjoy a great murder mystery, mixed with humor.
If you enjoyed AFTER THE THIN MAN, you may like THE THIN MAN, ANOTHER THIN MAN, THE THIN MAN GOES HOME and THE SONG OF THE THIN MAN.