What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… After The Thin Man (1936)

Today, we’re going back to the Thin Man franchise with the second film in the series, After The Thin Man (1936), once again starring William Powell and Myrna Loy! But first, let’s get through the two shorts included on the disc, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… How To Be A Detective (1936)

(available as an extra on the After The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 49 seconds)

Robert Benchley lectures on how to be a detective. The short has several sections, with him taking part in the gags as he tries to “demonstrate” what’s he teaching. It’s not a short that will have you completely busting a gut, but it has its moments of good humor. I’ve enjoyed Robert Benchley in the various movies I’ve seen him in, and he’s still good here, too!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Early Bird And The Worm (1936)

(available as an extra on the After The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 14 seconds)

The Early Bird chases the worm, although a “rattle” snake joins in, looking for a meal of its own. Another entry in the “Happy Harmonies” series of cartoons from MGM, this one is a bit of fun. While it starts out in a more musical style, it quickly gives way to the old “predator vs. prey” type, as the bird chases the worm. Of course, the two “enemies” become friends to save each other from the snake. The animation is fun here (although the two crows in the short are rather dated stereotypes, similar to the crows from the Disney animated classic Dumbo). A very enjoyable cartoon overall!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Following closely on the heels of The Thin Man (not really a spoiler, as it only acknowledges that the previous mystery was solved, but doesn’t say who did it), detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wealthy wife Nora (Myrna Loy) return to their home in San Francisco via train on New Year’s Eve. Hoping to be alone, they find a party going on at their home (supposedly a surprise party for them, but the guest list includes people they don’t even know). They are quickly invited to dinner with some of Nora’s family. They are both reluctant to go (Nick in particular), but Nora’s cousin, Selma Landis (Elissa Landi), pleads with them to come, so they do. Arriving at the home of Nora’s aunt Katherine Forrest (Jessie Ralph), they soon find Selma all worked up about something. They quickly discover that her husband has disappeared for a few days, and she wants them to find him. Nick quickly goes to a Chinese nightclub, which is run by “Dancer” (Joesph Calleia) and his partner Lum Kee (William Law). There, they discover Selma’s husband Robert Landis (Alan Marshal), drunk and waiting for his girlfriend, singer Polly Byrnes (who is played by Dorothy McNulty, or as her later stage name would be, Penny Singleton). Robert expresses no desire to go back to his wife, and leaves the nightclub with Polly. Later, he meets alone with Selma’s former boyfriend, David Graham (James Stewart), who gives Robert $25,000 worth of bonds to go away and never return. Robert takes the money, stopping off at his house to grab a few things before he goes. However, as he leaves, he is fatally shot, with it looking like Selma shot him. With Nick on the case to help prove Selma’s innocence, and the aid of police lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene), will they be able to discover the truth, or will Selma be hanged for the murder of her husband?

The first Thin Man was a minor film, one that MGM had low expectations for, and only got made because director W. S. Van Dyke was able to film it in a very short period of time. The movie turned out to be more successful than MGM imagined, and they got the gang (Powell, Loy and director Van Dyke) back together for another go-round. Thin Man author Dashiell Hammett was brought in to write the story for the film sequel. Of course, they continued to use the “Thin Man” for the title (trying to imply that it took place after the first film), even though the reference was originally to a character in the first film (but audiences associated the phrase with William Powell’s Nick Charles, so the title stuck for the remainder of the series). They had a much bigger budget for the sequel, and more time to work with for filming, and they made use of the opportunity to do some filming in San Francisco itself. The film was another hit (and one of three films in 1936 pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy, with the other two being Libeled Lady and The Great Ziegfeld), and so the series continued on with another entry a few years later.

Much like when I watched and reviewed the first Thin Man a few years back, this was my first time seeing this movie. Of course, being a bit more familiar with the first film now (having watched it again right before seeing this sequel), the exact style of the movie isn’t as much of a surprise (nor was the idea that I would like it). I thought the first film focused more on the comedy than the mystery, but the comedy was increased even more here! As with the first film, the booze was flowing freely for Nick and Nora, and their banter continues to add to the fun! James Stewart is also interesting in one of his early roles, as a previously spurned lover. I think I prefer the first film for its mystery and the innuendoes that got through (since it was a pre-Code), but this one is still good fun, and leaves me looking forward to seeing the rest of the series!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements (which in this case was a safety fine grain made back in the 1960s, before the original camera negative was gone). As I already said, I hadn’t seen this movie previously, so I have no past experience with how it looked. But, I can say with enough confidence that this transfer is fantastic (but, it’s from Warner Archive, so that’s nothing new)! The detail and clarity is there, with all the dirt and debris removed. I can think of no better way to be introduced to this classic mystery comedy, and I can only hope that the rest of the series (including the already announced for Blu-ray Another Thin Man) can get this kind of treatment!

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #10 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Libeled Lady (1936) – William Powell – Another Thin Man (1939)

Libeled Lady (1936) – Myrna Loy – Another Thin Man (1939)

Born To Dance (1936) – James Stewart – Vivacious Lady (1938)

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