|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
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
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
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
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
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.