The Long And The Short (Series) Of It on… The “Thin Man” Series

Well, now that we’ve looked into all six of the individual movies, it’s time to take a look at the Thin Man series as a whole!

Famous for his detective stories, Dashiell Hammett finished off his novel-writing career with his late 1933/1934 novel The Thin Man. MGM bought the film rights, much to the happiness of director W. S. “Woody” Van Dyke, who wanted to take on the project himself. However, the studio really didn’t think the property would be that popular with audiences, figuring they were tired of all the various sleuthing movies that had been made about that time. They really only let Van Dyke take a whack at the property due to his reputation for getting movies done quickly and under budget. Van Dyke wanted William Powell for the role of Nick Charles, much to the objections of the studio executives, since he was already known for playing the detective Philo Vance (but, the director obviously got him). Having seen the way that William Powell had gotten along with actress Myrna Loy both on- and off-screen when he directed them in Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Van Dyke made a pitch to get her for The Thin Man. The studio executives were reluctant to cast her as well, and only relented on the condition that all her scenes be shot within three weeks so that she could start shooting Stamboul Quest (1934). Of course, Van Dyke managed to get not only all of her scenes shot within that time, but also the rest of the film, too. He also had convinced married couple Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett to help adapt the novel for the big screen, and pushed them to focus more on Nick and Nora’s relationship than on the mystery (which wasn’t too hard for them, as their own marriage was quite similar to Nick and Nora’s). Of course, the results on The Thin Man (1934) at the box office spoke for themselves, with audiences making the film a big hit (with Powell even getting nominated for an Oscar).

Of course, being such a big hit meant that the MGM executives were eager to follow it up with even more! So, they gave the filmmakers a bigger budget to work with (and weren’t quite so stingy as to their requirements about how quickly the film had to be made). With the bigger budget, they were able to do some location shooting in San Francisco itself. Van Dyke and his screenwriters from the first film were brought back, with original author Dashiell Hammett brought in to write an all-new story for the film. The new film was intended to take place on the train almost immediately after the first film (albeit without the couple portrayed by Maureen O’Sullivan and Henry Wadsworth). That was their aim when they decided to give it the title After The Thin Man (1936), but, even though the “Thin Man” of the title was the murder victim in the first film, audiences came to associate it with William Powell’s Nick Charles, and “Thin Man” was retained as part of the title for the remainder of the series.

However, in spite of the series’ success at the box office, trouble was starting to creep in behind-the-scenes. The success of the second film meant the MGM executives wanted another film, but William Powell was hit with a double-whammy when his fiancée, Jean Harlow, passed away unexpectedly in 1937, followed quickly by his diagnosis of rectal cancer, which he underwent an experimental treatment for. The treatment was successful, but he had to take it easy while he recovered. In between his grief and his recovery, he didn’t take on too many projects for a few years, mainly working on the Thin Man series and a few other films with Myrna Loy. After they wrote the third film, Another Thin Man (1939) (based on another Dashiell Hammett story), Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett had had enough, and refused to come back for another series entry, so the screenwriting duties for the fourth film were passed along to Harry Kurnitz (who wrote the story) and Irving Brecher. After Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941), Myrna Loy left Hollywood, first to spend time with her then-new husband (John Hertz, Jr.) and then, when that marriage fizzled, she spent her time helping with the war effort. Tragedy struck when series director Woody Van Dyke became ill from cancer and a bad heart, and later committed suicide (since, as a devout Christian Scientist, he refused medical care). So, for The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) and Song Of The Thin Man (1947), they had two different directors. The Thin Man Goes Home did well enough at the box office, but Song Of The Thin Man lost money and effectively ended the series (not to mention Myrna Loy’s contract with MGM).

Of course, the series’ legacy is hard to deny. As Hollywood has always done, the success of the first film spawned a group of imitations all trying to cash in on the concept, with varying degrees of success. In fact, William Powell starred in two of these clones (Star Of Midnight from 1935 and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford from 1936) before he signed a new contract with MGM (and did the first sequel, After The Thin Man). Even with the Thin Man film series finally ending in the late 1940s, the franchise still enjoyed some popularity, resulting in a half hour TV series (1957-1959) starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk (with one episode included as an extra on the Blu-ray for the first film). The characters would continue to be referenced and spoofed, including in the 1976 comedy Murder By Death (with Myrna Loy reportedly being offered the chance to play Dora Charleston, although she declined).

As I’ve essentially indicated in each of my reviews, these films were all quite new for me when I first got the chance to see them in preparation for writing those reviews. As you can see from those reviews, I enjoyed the entire series. As I indicated in my review of the second film, I do really prefer the first film, not only for its mystery, but also for some of the pre-Code humor they were still able to get away with in that film. That being said, the first three are all really enjoyable, and when the series was at its best. I think that, within the last three films, The Thin Man Goes Home manages to come the closest to recapturing the magic of the first three, if only because it feels like it knows that the series has gotten formulaic, and is able to make fun of that. Admittedly, the last three films do seem to lose their way a bit, particularly with regard to the character of Nick, Jr., since he seems to disappear partway through the fourth film (and, outside of a brief mention as to why he isn’t there, he is completely out of the picture for the fifth film), and returns for the sixth film (albeit with a different child actor taking over the role), which just leaves me with the feeling that they didn’t really know what to do with him past the third film. Regardless, it’s still a very enjoyable series from start to finish (particularly if you’re smart enough not to binge-watch the whole series in short order). For that reason, I have no problem recommending this series for those who love a group of good mysteries/ screwball comedies (especially since they all look fantastic now with their new restorations for Blu-ray)!

All six movies are available individually on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

The Thin Man (1934)

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

After The Thin Man (1936)

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Another Thin Man (1939)

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

The Thin Man Goes Home (1944)

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

Song Of The Thin Man (1947)

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Song Of The Thin Man (1947)

We’re back for not only one final go-round with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, but one final (for now) individual review in my “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” series, as I switch to a roundup of quick blurbs about a group of movies (hopefully within the next few weeks). But enough about that, we’re here for the 1947 mystery comedy Song Of The Thin Man!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Free Wheeling (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 49 seconds)

Young Dickie (Dickie Moore) has a stiff neck which requires a neck brace, but the doctors say that he can and should take it off (although his mother disagrees with them). Dickie ends up joining Stymie (Matthew Beard) and the Gang in their makeshift taxi. This one was another entertaining short, with quite a few humorous moments. I know I enjoyed Dickie’s attempt to avoid taking castor oil (and his subsequent revenge on his nurse). Then there is the taxi (pushed by a mule) and all the various devices to simulate a real taxi ride. The final ride through the countryside is less than convincing due to the rather obvious rear screen projection, but that’s a rare complaint about an otherwise very enjoyable short with the Gang!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Really Important Person (1947)

(Available as an extra on the Song Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 50 seconds)

Young Billy Reilly (Dean Stockwell) wants to write an essay on an important person for a contest, but he can’t think of anybody. It isn’t until he accidentally breaks a window during a baseball game and is pushed by his father to help repair it that he is able to come up with a subject. This short, part of John Nesbit’s Passing Parade series, was a good one. It has a good message of not always needing to look for heroes among the big names and celebrities, but also within your own neighborhood (and even your own home when applicable). It was well-acted, and very heartfelt. It’s the only short I’ve seen from that series so far, and, while not enough of a ringing endorsement for me to seek out more, it was at least an entertaining one.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Slap Happy Lion (1947)

(Available as an extra on the Song Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 26 seconds)

The lion is the king of the jungle and afraid of nobody. That is, until a mouse keeps picking on him. This Tex Avery short is quite funny, especially with the various lion roars (and the reactions of the different animals when they run in fear). Of course, the fight between the mouse and the lion (which is the majority of the short) is nothing new in and of itself. The main humor there is doing things Tex Avery’s way (which is certainly entertaining). It’s an overall fun cartoon (especially with that ending), and it’s one I don’t mind revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Phil Orval Brant (Bruce Cowling) is hosting a society benefit on his ship, the S. S. Fortune, and Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) are there hobnobbing with the rest of them. There is a jazz orchestra playing there, under the leadership of Tommy Edlon Drake (Phillip Reed). However, Tommy is getting into trouble in various ways, and, after the event is over, he is shot. The police think that Phil is the guilty party, but, when Phil and his new wife, Janet Thayar (Jayne Meadows), show up the next day to visit the Charles, Nick and Nora at first assume that’s it’s because of their new marital status (until Phil and Janet explain to them what has happened). They are shot at by some unknown assailant, and Nick decides to turn Phil in to the police for safety (since he thinks the shot was intended for Phil). Later, Nick sneaks onto the Fortune (which is being guarded by the police), where he meets the members of the jazz orchestra. He learns how none of them liked Tommy, particularly clarinet player, Buddy Hollis (Don Taylor) (who isn’t there with the rest of the group). Nick convinces another clarinet player, Clarence “Clinker” Krause (Keenan Wynn), to help him locate Buddy, but they have no luck. Nick later has an idea, and, with the aid of Nora, questions Janet and her father, David I. Thayar (Ralph Morgan) (who did not approve of Janet’s marriage to Phil) about an antique gun (since David has a collection of them). During their conversation, Janet gets a mysterious telephone call, and the whole interrogation ends abruptly. Nick and Nora follow Janet to an apartment, where they find the dead body of the band’s singer, Fran Ledue Page (Gloria Grahame). They find a clue that leads them to a rest home, where they find Buddy (who has been staying there after his alcoholism broke his mind). By all appearances, it almost looks like Buddy is the murderer, but Nick isn’t sure. Working with the police, he manages to gather all the suspects on the Fortune, where he hopes everything will be revealed. But will his plan work?

With Myrna Loy returning to Hollywood (after her failed marriage to John Hertz, Jr. and all her work for the war effort), The Thin Man Goes Home continued the success of the Thin Man series. However, things had changed enough that the series no longer had the guaranteed success it had previously known. With the death of W. S. “Woody” Van Dyke (who had directed the first four films), and different writers behind the scenes, only the onscreen talent remained the same. Song Of The Thin Man brought back actor Leon Ames from The Thin Man Goes Home (the original plan was to have him be the same character, except his onscreen wife from the previous film was unavailable, so he was instead given a different character to work with). The role of Nickie, Jr. (played in Shadow Of The Thin Man by Richard “Dickie” Hall) was recast with Dean Stockwell for Song Of The Thin Man. The presence of William Powell and Myrna Loy wasn’t enough to save the film this time for audiences, as the movie ended up losing money at the box office. In the process, it not only ended the series, it also ended up being the last full movie pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy (with her making a cameo appearance in another 1947 outing for William Powell, The Senator Was Indiscreet), as well as being Myrna’s last film at MGM.

Like all the previous entries in the series, this one was new to me. I will be very quick to admit that I still enjoyed this one, but, at the same time, it is indeed easy to see it was not as well done as the earlier films. The humor overall wasn’t as memorable, with the main comedy bits that stuck with me being the “Jive talk” that Keenan Wynn’s Clinker frequently engages in, to the particular confusion of Nick and Nora (and probably modern audiences who may not be as used to the slang). The mystery itself is decent here, but, at the same time, the final reveal wasn’t handled as well as the earlier films, lacking all the frequent misdirections (or at least, they were poorly handled here). My opinion may not be as favorable, but I can’t deny that the movie is still entertaining, and worth it for more time with William Powell and Myrna Loy’s Nick and Nora, who still have the same chemistry that had held all the series together. So, for them alone, this movie is still worth recommending (but, again, I don’t recommend binge-watching the whole series, as this film looks worse when compared directly against the earlier films).

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a new 4K scan of the best preservation elements. Quite simply stated, the movie looks as good as all the earlier films, with a good image that has been cleaned up of dirt and debris. I certainly recommend this release as the best way to see and enjoy this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – William Powell – Mister Roberts (1955)

The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) – Myrna Loy – Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

We’re back again for a fifth round of hysterical mystery adventures with William Powell and Myrna Loy as the husband-and-wife detective team Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Pooch (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 27 seconds)

Stymie (Matthew Beard) is in trouble with the rest of the gang for stealing one of their pies, but gets back in their favor when he rescues their dogs from the dogcatcher (Budd Fine). However, the dogcatcher manages to get Petey, and threatens to gas him if the kids can’t come up with five dollars in a hurry. This was an all-round entertaining short. The attempts of Stymie and Spanky (George McFarland) to get some food early on are quite humorous. The short gets more dramatic when Petey is captured and nearly gassed. By that point, it’s easy to feel for the kids as they try desperately to rescue their dog. I enjoyed this short, both for its humor and its drama, and certainly look forward to seeing it again in the future!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Why Daddy? (1944)

(Available as an extra on the The Thin Man Goes Home Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 24 seconds)

Joe Doakes (Robert Benchley) easily comes up with all the answers while listening to a quiz show on the radio. However, when he is a contestant on an actual quiz show, he struggles to get the right answers. This was a rather amusing short with Robert Benchley in the lead. It’s certainly a familiar thought, where we as regular home viewers listen to/watch various game shows and come up with the answers easily (and question why the actual contestants couldn’t do better), only to find out that, in the real situation, we couldn’t do as well as we think we could! It’s not quite laugh out loud type stuff, but it’s short and entertaining enough to be worth seeing every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Screwball Squirrel (1944)

(Available as an extra on the The Thin Man Goes Home Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection or as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 Blu-ray or DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 24 seconds)

Screwy Squirrel faces off against the bird dog Meathead. Another cartoon that starts out following another, more innocent character (in this case, Sammy Squirrel) before the direction changes. Many fun gags, as Screwy keeps taunting Meathead. As usual, many fun asides to the audience, as we’re easily reminded this is a cartoon. Got a few good laughs out of this one, so it’s worth it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Nick Charles (William Powell) has decided to take his wife Nora (Myrna Loy) on a trip to his hometown of Sycamore Springs to spend some time with his parents and celebrate his birthday. While Nora has long known that Nick and his father haven’t been particularly close, she didn’t know until this trip that their problem is that Nick’s father, Dr. Bertram Charles (Harry Davenport), is disappointed that Nick didn’t choose to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor. So Nora takes it upon herself to convince the doctor of Nick’s importance as a detective. When his father remains unmoved by a story of one of Nick’s cases, Nora takes it upon herself to encourage a rumor going around town that Nick is there on a case, in the hopes that it will become true. And indeed a case does come to their doorstep (literally!) when a man named Peter Berton (Ralph Brooke) comes to their house to tell Nick something, only to be fatally shot in the doorway by an unknown person. When he manages the opportunity to get away, Nick takes Asta to look at Peter’s lodgings to find out what he can about him. While he is there, the local eccentric Crazy Mary (Anne Revere) conks him on the head, knocking him out for a while. As he continues to investigate, the pool of suspects increases, and includes banking tycoon Sam Ronson (Minor Watson), who had objected to Peter’s friendship with his daughter Laurabelle (Gloria DeHaven) (and who also threatens to cause trouble for the hospital that Dr. Charles wants to open unless Nick withdraws from his investigation), as well as Edgar (Leon Ames) and Helena Draque (Helen Vinson) (who are after a painting by Peter that Nora had bought as a present for Nick). With the aid of town coroner Dr. Bruce Clayworth (Lloyd Corrigan), Nick tries to see Crazy Mary (without getting hit on the head, something she was known for doing to everybody except Bruce), where he reveals his discovery that Mary was actually Peter’s mother (who had to give her son up for adoption as a baby). After learning about how everybody was seeking after Peter’s painting, Nick tries to find it at a charity bazaar, but finds Helena unconscious. The trail brings him back to Crazy Mary’s place, where they discover her dead (and find the painting). Nick now thinks he has an idea of what is going on in the town, and decides to have the police bring all the suspects to his parents’ home. But will he be able to ferret out the truth, and impress his father?

After the success of Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941) at the box office, more adventures with Nick and Nora were in order. However, production was delayed when Myrna Loy left Hollywood upon divorcing her first husband and quickly marrying car rental heir John Hertz, Jr. The marriage itself barely lasted two years, but with the onset of World War II, she threw herself into her work with the Red Cross to help with the war effort. In the meantime, MGM tried to placate audiences by considering a different actress (Irene Dunne, in particular), but this just angered the fans and resulted in the project being shelved. Myrna Loy did come back, finally, and production was able to get going on the movie. Of course, in the time between, series director W. S Van Dyke had had some health issues with cancer and a bad heart, and (since he was a Christian Scientist and refused medical treatment) he committed suicide in 1943. His replacement for The Thin Man Comes Home was Richard Thorpe (who had also worked with William Powell and Myrna Loy on their 1937 film Double Wedding). The movie still managed to be profitable at the box office, and one more movie would end up being made after the war was over.

As usual for the Thin Man films, this is my first time seeing this movie. I will be very quick to admit that I enjoyed it! Yes, the series has become a bit cliched at this point, but I think that this film knew it, and was almost able to make fun of it. As usual, Myrna Loy’s Nora wants to help Nick out, this time by trailing someone she strongly suspects of being the murderer (Brogan, as played by Edward Brophy), although Nick believes him harmless and gives him a warning that Nora will follow him, which as a whole is a very funny sequence! Earlier in the film, we also have her rather animated (and humorous) telling of one of Nick’s previous cases (not one actually shown in the movies, but it’s just fun watching her try so hard to impress Nick’s father)! And the film’s self-aware acknowledgement at the end, with all the suspects gathered and Nora explaining to Nick’s father what would usually happen at this point, makes for rather entertaining viewing! Although it still pales in comparison to the earliest three films in the series (in my mind), I think it’s a little better than Shadow Of The Thin Man, which makes it easier for me to still recommend this one for a few good laughs and a delightful mystery!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a new 4K scan of the best preservation elements. At this point, it’s a simple truth: it’s a release from Warner Archive, which means it looks quite good! The clarity is there, with a crisp picture that has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris. Certainly the best way to enjoy this wonderful movie!

And with that, I now embark on a (almost) month-long break (as mentioned here), although I should *hopefully* have one new post on Easter Sunday! So, I’ll be back then (or the beginning of May, whichever ends up being the case)! In the meantime, keep enjoying some good (or great) movies!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941) – William Powell – Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941) – Myrna Loy – Song Of The Thin Man (1947)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)

We’re back again for more adventures with Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy, respectively) in a film that is only a Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)! 😉

Coming Up Shorts! with… Choo-Choo! (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 42 seconds)

When a group of orphans come through on a train, a few of them who are trying to run away decide to switch places with some of the Gang.  Mr. Henderson (Dell Henderson) is stuck trying to bring the “orphans” back to where they belong.  This one was quite entertaining, what with all the antics as the kids keep causing trouble on the train.  In between getting into fights with each other (and some of the other passengers), plus keeping everybody awake by being noisy and letting some animals and fireworks loose, this one is full of laughs (although the gag of Spanky punching everybody quickly grows old).  Oliver Hardy even makes an appearance in this one, encouraging the kids in their mischief!  Overall, quite fun, and one I would definitely look forward to coming back to!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Tell-Tale Heart (1941)

(Available as an extra on the Shadow Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 45 seconds)

An assistant to an old weaver suffers great mental and physical abuse from his master, and decides to kill him.  However, his conscience gets the better of him, as he is haunted by the sounds of his late master’s heartbeat.  This short is based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, and really does it justice.  Joseph Schildkraut plays the young man, as he slowly goes insane, particularly when questioned by the authorities on the whereabouts of his master.  Roman Bohnen as the Old Man with a milky eye manages to prove nasty and creepy in a short time.  Overall, this short is very well-acted and very effective in showing how one’s conscience can get the better of you when you do wrong.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Goose Goes South (1941)

(Available as an extra on the Shadow Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)

It’s that time of the year when all the geese fly south for the winter.  All but one, that is, as he decides to try and hitchhike his way down there.  This short was fairly entertaining, especially with the recurring gag of one driver who speaks in double-talk as to why he can’t give the goose a ride.  Some gags are questionable, especially those that don’t really have anything to do with the plot of the goose trying to make his way south (and there are several of those moments).  It’s not the greatest short, but it provided a few laughs, which made it worth at least one viewing, anyways!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Nick Charles (William Powell) is enjoying his “retirement” from detective work with his wife Nora (Nyrna Loy) and their young son Nick, Jr. (Richard “Dickie” Hall).  However, on a trip to the racetrack, Nick and Nora find the place crawling with cops.  Apparently, one of the jockeys had been shot, and the police, led by Nick’s friend Lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene), are trying to figure out who did it.  The police and the reporters all ask Nick if he is there to work on that case, but, interested though he may be, he denies being involved with it.  Later, reporter Paul Clarke (Barry Nelson) and Major Jason I. Sculley (Henry O’Neill), a special deputy to the State Legislature, stop by the Charles’ home.  They explain that they both have been trying to work on taking down a gambling syndicate. Apparently, that jockey was supposed to be their best (and only) witness, and so they ask Nick’s help in trying to find out what happened (but he declines again, stating that he promised to take Nora to a wrestling match that night).  While Nick and Nora are watching the wrestling match at the arena (which is run by members of the gambling syndicate), “Whitey” Barrow (Alan Baxter), another reporter (who has been helping keep the syndicate out of trouble), has decided that he wants out, and blackmails the leaders in exchange for his silence.  Paul borrows a key to one of the leader’s offices from his girlfriend, Molly Ford (Donna Reed), and looks for evidence.  When he finds a ledger that could do the trick, Whitey walks in, and a fight ensues. Whitey manages to knock out Paul and take the ledger, but someone else shoots him with his own gun before he can get out of there. The police show up (right as Nick and Nora are getting ready to leave the arena), and they end up arresting Paul for Whitey’s murder. Nick believes him to be innocent, and looks back over the jockey’s locker room the next day. He realizes that the jockey accidentally shot himself, but he convinces Lieutenant Abrams to keep going with the story that both the jockey and Whitey were killed by the same person to help root out the real killer. As he keeps investigating, Nick finds several suspects, and one more body. When everybody is gathered together, he hopes to reveal everything. But will he get the right killer, or will they get away with it?

With Another Thin Man (1939) continuing to be profitable for MGM, it was a given that they would keep the series going with a fourth entry. However, it wasn’t that simple behind the scenes. The husband-and-wife writing team behind the scripts for the first three films, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, had tired of doing the series, and refused to do another. Instead, Harry Kurnitz and Irving Brecher wrote the script (which was based on a story by Harry Kurnitz himself, as opposed to author Dashiell Hammett, who was at least partly involved on the first three films in the series, but not at all for the last three). William Powell, meanwhile, had been reluctant to do much acting work for the last few years, in between his health as he recovered from rectal cancer and the death of his fiancée, Jean Harlow, in 1937. The only films he had done since his recovery were a few opposite Myrna Loy (including Another Thin Man, I Love You Again and Love Crazy). Still, even with all those problems going on behind the scenes, audiences still went to see the movie, making it profitable for MGM (and encouraging them to keep making more).

Like with the earlier entries in the series, this was my first time seeing this movie as well. Plain and simple, I did like this one! The humor still worked well for me, from Nick Jr. pushing his father to drink milk instead of his favorite beverage (in a moment that made me think of W. C. Fields and how he would have potentially reacted in the same situation), to the way Nora started really getting into the wrestling match they were watching (with Nick getting stuck in a hold), to Nick being stuck on the merry-go-round (and so many more hilarious moments)! I will admit, I can see the series starting to lose steam with this film, as it did seem to be more of the same (you just knew that all the suspects would be gathered at the end for the reveal of the killer, with many of them looking very guilty for a brief moment), and the mystery itself didn’t seem to be any great shakes. Still, it was entertaining, especially for more time with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora! Definitely still good enough to recommend (just don’t binge-watch the whole series, or it won’t be as enjoyable)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection featuring a new 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements. Once again, the transfer is top-notch (it’s from the Warner Archive Collection, after all), with a crisp image and all the dust and dirt cleaned up. Very easy to recommend, along with all the earlier entries in the series!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Another Thin Man (1939) – William Powell – The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

Another Thin Man (1939) – Myrna Loy – The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

We’re back again to keep things musical this month with today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, as we take a look at MGM’s all-star musical from 1945, Ziegfeld Follies!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Luckiest Guy In The World (1947)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 21 minutes, 9 seconds)

Charles Vurn (Barry Nelson) struggles monetarily, due to his desire to get rich quick (mostly by gambling). When he accidentally kills his wife, his luck “seems” to change for the better. This was the last short in the “Crime Does Not Pay” series of shorts produced by MGM. It’s an interesting short, that feels well-acted and pulls you in for the story. Amusingly, considering this short’s inclusion as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, it includes part of Red Skelton’s skit from the movie done as part of a radio program heard in a car. I’m still no fan of the “Crime Does Not Pay” series, but this one was interesting to see once, anyways.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hick Chick (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 or as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, both from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)

Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy. A bit of fun here, with the city slicker rooster imitating Charles Boyer, while Daisy also does an imitation of Katharine Hepburn (if I’m correct). Not the most original, with the hick rooster constantly being punched in the face the same way by the city slicker, but it’s still fun. Enjoyed the chasing around (plus the bull being “stripped” of his fur several times). Maybe not Tex Avery’s best work, but I had a few good laughs here, and that alone makes it worth it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Solid Serenade (1946)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 25 seconds)

Tom the cat tries to serenade his girlfriend, but when he disturbs the sleep of Jerry the mouse, he lives to regret it! An old classic “Tom & Jerry” cartoon, with him famously singing “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” I’ve seen this one for years, and always get a laugh out of watching Tom facing off against Killer, the bulldog, when Jerry lets him loose. The gags just get funnier as the short goes on, and this one never gets old!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): Ziegfeld Follies is one of those films with a very simple plot.

(Host): How simple is it?

(Narrator): I expected that from you, so I’ll tell you. Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell) looks down from heaven, and imagines what it would be like to put on just one more of his famous Ziegfeld Follies shows using the talent in Hollywood (especially at MGM).

(Host): Yeah, yeah, what else?

(Narrator): That’s it.

(Host): That’s it?

(Narrator): Yep, and that all takes place within the first ten minutes of the movie. After that, it’s a revue like the earlier reviewed King Of Jazz, with different stars singing, dancing, doing comedy skits, whatever their specific talents were.

(Host): So what’s on the program?

(Narrator): Well, here’s a list of what’s included, and we’ll get into the various segments afterwards:

  • “Here’s To The Girls” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Cyd Charisse and chorus, Lucille Ball and chorus
  • “Bring On The Wonderful Men” sung by Virginia O’Brien
  • “A Water Ballet” featuring Esther Williams
  • “Number Please” with Keenan Wynn
  • “Traviata” sung by James Melton and Marion Bell
  • “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold
  • “This Heart Of Mine” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley
  • “Love” with Lena Horn
  • “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton
  • “Limehouse Blues” danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • A Great Lady Has “An Interview” with Judy Garland
  • “The Babbitt and The Bromide” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly
  • “Beauty” sung by Kathryn Grayson

(Host): And that’s all?

(Narrator): Yep, that’s all. Admittedly, there was more filmed, but that’s all that made it into the movie. But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

(Host): Ok, so start at the beginning.

(Narrator): (whispering aside to audience) He asked for it! (winks at audience, then turns back to Host, speaking in normal voice) “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the–

(Host): No, no, NO! Not that far! The making of this movie!

(Narrator): Ok, fine. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (1867-1932) was a famous stage producer. On the suggestion of Polish-French singer Anna Held, he started producing the American version of the Parisian Folies Bergère. From 1907 until 1931, he produced a yearly revue of the Ziegfeld Follies, with these shows sporting songs, dances, comedy sketches, and such. They mainly ended when he passed away in 1932. After his death, his widow Billie Burke sold the film rights of his life to Universal Pictures. However, with the rising costs and disagreements between the film’s producer and the studio, Universal ended up selling the rights to MGM. In 1936, MGM released The Great Ziegfeld, to great acclaim, box office, and a Best Picture Oscar win. A few years later, in 1939, studio head Louis B. Mayer planned the idea of a film version of a Ziegfeld Follies show, and gave the project to his new producer, Arthur Freed. However, with Arthur Freed’s new unit only just getting started, it took a while before they could really get into the project. With the success of Ziegfeld Girl in 1941, they really started to focus on the idea. The plan was to try and use some of the various songs, sketches and comedy routines that MGM had been acquiring over the years. At first, George Sidney was assigned to direct the film, but he left after a short while (supposedly, he wasn’t happy with the first month’s worth of shooting) and was replaced by Vincente Minelli (although some of what Sidney filmed was retained for the final product). The movie was originally intended to be released in 1944 to celebrate MGM’s 20th anniversary, but things didn’t work out that way. Filming initially took place between April 10 and August 18, 1944. When the movie was given its sneak preview (with a running time of nearly three hours), audiences didn’t respond as positively as they would have hoped. This resulted in the studio making some changes to the movie, removing many segments and doing some re-takes and additional sequences. Even once finished (as the film is now), they still took their time in releasing it, waiting almost half a year before finally giving it a wide release in 1946.

(Host hands the narrator a small business card)

(Narrator): (reading the card) “And now a word from our sponsor?”

(Pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)

(Host): That’s right folks, our sponsor this week is Pie N De Face! If you’re feeling gloomy, and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face, and you’re sure to bust a gut laughing! Also comes with a portable washing machine (water falls from above the Narrator, drenching him), soap (Narrator is scrubbed with soap, then drenched again), and dryer (a strong gust of wind blows on the Narrator, drying him up and fluffing out his clothing) so that you can use it again in a hurry!

(Narrator): (Angrily walks off-stage, sound of pie hitting him in face again, then sounds of gushing water and wind) (yells) Let’s move on here! Start talking about the movie!

(Host): Alright. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in comedy set.

(Out pops a set with three distinct sections that look like a subway car, a courthouse and a jail cell. There are also two telephone booths and an old CRT television set with what appears to be a bottle of an alcoholic beverage, although nothing inside is visible. A huge pile of sweepstakes tickets drops on the Host, burying him).

(Host): (from underneath the pile of sweepstakes tickets) Ow.

(Narrator): (Walking back onstage) That’s the ticket!

(Audience groans)

(Narrator): Ok, ok, they can’t all be good! Anyways, it may not be what he asked for, but we should mention the comedy sketches. Obviously, opinions will vary for most, but in general, the comedy bits in this movie are among the more controversial aspects of it, as there are those that don’t think they have aged as well as the various musical numbers. There is a degree to which I agree with that. The bit “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold is the worst, as Victor Moore plays a businessman who gets in trouble for spitting on the subway (a minor offense), but, because of the fact that he is unable to pay the fine, combined with the insistence of his lawyer that he fight the charge (even though he just wants to pay the fine), he is sent to jail and then later prison, before being pardoned. In general, this one is just cringeworthy, watching Victor Moore’s character getting in worse and worse scrapes, both financially and with the law, just because his lawyer doesn’t want to lose the case (and charges his client an arm and a leg to do it). Maybe it’s funny once or twice, but eventually this becomes one worth skipping. Computer, drop “Pay The Two Dollars.”

(Computer): Dropping the cheapskate.

(Trapdoor opens up beneath the Host).

(Host): (Falling through the trapdoor with some of the sweepstakes tickets) Aaaaaaaaahhhh!

(Narrator): Moving on, we have the the “Number Please” comedy bit with Keenan Wynn, where he keeps asking the operator for a specific number, but keeps getting the wrong one. This one is decently funny, but, when all is said and done, it’s essentially the “Alexander 2222” (or whatever other name they go with) comedy routine, and, when you’ve seen Lou Costello do that routine, nobody else is as good.

(Phone booth rings)

(Narrator): (Steps in phone booth and picks up phone) Hello? (Muffled voice overheard on phone) Mmm-hmm. (Muffled voice continues) You don’t say. (Muffled voice starts to sound angry). You don’t say! (Muffled voice gets angrier. Narrator cups his hand over the phone and gives the audience a look). I think most of you can predict what I’m about to tell you, so say it with me. (breathes in) “He isn’t saying.” Computer, drop this obscene caller.

(Computer): Dropping the obscene caller.

(Host): (from the other telephone booth, getting quieter as if falling again) Not agaaaaaaaiiiiinnnn!

(Narrator): The next comedy sketch would be “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley. Fanny Brice was the only featured star in this movie to have actually been one of the big stars from a Ziegfeld Follies show. Different sketches and ideas were thrown around for what to do with her for this movie, but what we got was a sketch in which she plays a housewife that has the winning ticket in an Irish sweepstakes. The problem is her husband, played by Hume Cronyn, has given the ticket to their landlord (William Frawley in what would become a familiar occupation for one of his most famous characters half a decade later) as part of their rent, so they must try to get it back from him. There’s some fun with their attempts to get the ticket back, so it does manage to be slightly more memorable. (speaks loudly) Of course, I’ve got that winning ticket in that pile somewhere…

(Host comes running back onstage and dives into remaining pile of sweepstakes tickets, only to fall through the still open trapdoor)

(Narrator): Knew I forget to take care of something. Computer, close the trapdoor.

(Computer): Closing the trapdoor.

(Trapdoor closes)

(Narrator): Our last comedy sketch is “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton. (Walks over to the television set and takes a swig from the bottle on top) While Red Skelton seems to be one of the more “you love him or you hate him” types, I will admit that I personally like his comedy. I don’t think his comedy bit here is as good as what he did in Lovely To Look At, but it’s still some good fun as he plays an advertiser that gets slowly more drunk on the sponsor’s product while alternating (by the turn of his hat) as a poet with some rather amusing poetry (if you can call it that). Out of all the pure comedy sketches in this movie, this is the one that I enjoy the most. (Takes another swig from the bottle) Ah, that’s good stuff. (To audience) Before you get the wrong idea, I’m drinking the hard stuff. Milk. What? You expected something alcoholic? We wouldn’t let anything of that nature on here! But let’s get back to the movie!

(Host): (weakly from offstage) What about “A Great Lady Has An Interview” with Judy Garland?

(Narrator): Well, that’s kind of a different story. That one is a musical number, which was written by Kay Thompson and Roger Edens for actress Greer Garson, in an attempt to spoof her screen image at the time. When the two writers performed it for Greer Garson and her husband and her mother, they expressed their feelings that it wasn’t for her. Instead, Judy Garland ended up doing it. Personally, while I think that Judy Garland does a good job with it (and I’m glad that she got something in this movie, considering she was another star that had a lot of stuff planned as possibilities that didn’t pan out, and, as big as she was at MGM, she did need to be in this film), I think the humor of the piece falls flat. Maybe I’m saying that coming from a complete lack of knowledge in regards to Greer Garson (having only seen her in the film Blossoms In The Dust which was part of a set of Christmas films I got on DVD a number of years back), but I can’t believe that I’m the only one who has no knowledge of her, which causes this number to age poorly, in my opinion.

(sign drops from above)

(Narrator): (reading the sign) “And now back to our sponsor Pie N De Face?”

(another pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face).

(Host): (trying to stifle a giggle) If you’re feeling gloomy (starts giggling more intensely), and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face (busts out in raucous laughter), and you’re… sure to… bust a gut… laughing! (starts rolling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter)

(Narrator): (wiping pie off his face) Oh, very funny. Veeeeerrrry funny. Are you through yet?

(Host still laughing on the floor)

(Narrator): Fine. I’ll finish the ad. (starts speaking fast to get it over with). Also comes with a portable washing machine, soap, and dryer so that you can use it again in a hurry! (In quick fashion, water drops on the Narrator, followed quickly by soap, more water, and then a strong gust of wind fluffs him up again)

(Host): (still on the floor laughing) Had enough?

(Narrator walks offstage muttering angrily to himself)

(Host): (laughter subsides) Ok, let’s try this again. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in “Beauty” set.

(From above, a bunch of soap suds and bubbles drop down, covering the stage and sticking to the Host)

(Host): (spitting out soap bubbles) No, no, no, not that! Computer! Bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set!

(Computer): Bringing in “Water Ballet” set.

(Host): (dreading what is coming) Oh, no!

(A glass pane comes down covering the front of the stage, with water filling in behind it and washing away all the suds. The Host suddenly finds himself swimming in all the water as the water level continues to rise.)

(Narrator): (walking back onstage in front of the glass pane) Ah, two musical numbers that ended up being far different than what was originally planned. As I’ve hinted at already, a lot of the various stars were being given numerous songs or sketches in the planning stages, some of which managed to be filmed (but were dropped after the initial preview). One of those stars was singer James Melton, who had filmed at least four songs, but only one was retained: the operatic “La Traviata.” Personally, I think that to be one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) segments retained for the movie. I’ve seen it described as being filmed like a song for a TV variety show, which feels quite accurate. Overall, I don’t really like it at all (and only would have been able to tolerate it if it could have been done, for example, by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy instead of James Melton and Marion Bell).

(The water level continues to rise. The Host swims his way over to the glass pane and taps on it.)

(Narrator): What? Oh, right, the two different musical numbers. Well, we have the one segment with Esther Williams doing her underwater ballet. Originally, this segment was done with James Melton singing the song “We Will Meet Again in Honolulu,” but after the initial preview, Melton’s appearance was cut, with only Esther Williams’ swim routine sticking around. It’s nothing compared to some of the spectacles she would do in some of her later films (at least, those that I’ve seen), but it’s entertaining enough.

(With the water level at the top, an agitated Host pounds furiously on the glass pane.)

(Narrator): (looking back) Now what? (sees water level) Oh, right! Computer, pull the plug.

(Computer): Pulling the plug.

(A hole opens up in the center of the stage, draining all the water. As the water goes down the hole, the Host goes down with it.)

(Narrator): (When all the water is gone) Computer, put in the plug.

(Computer): Putting in plug.

(The hole in the center of the stage closes up.)

(Host): (from down below) Why can’t that thing work that well for me?!?!?

(Narrator): (Ignoring the Host’s complaint) Now where were we? Oh, yes. The song “There’s Beauty Everywhere” was also quite different for its original conception. James Melton also originally sang that song, and director Vincente Minelli envisioned having Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer and Cyd Charisse dancing among soap bubbles. However, the bubble machine caused a lot of trouble, with the gas from the bubbles causing the cameraman to faint and otherwise became a constant hazard, not to mention the bubbles themselves getting out of control. As a result, they weren’t able to film it right (with the bubbles generally obscuring parts of Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer’s faces), so most of the idea was abandoned. Some of the footage featuring Cyd Charisse was kept in the film, and James Melton was replaced by Kathryn Grayson with some newly shot footage. Personally, I think it’s not really that memorable of a song, especially as it is, and makes me wish they could have (safely) pulled off their original vision.

(From offstage, the sound of machinery fizzling out can be heard. Then the Host walks onstage)

(Host): Darn it. There goes our sponsor’s machine. All those soap suds and that water shorted it out.

(Narrator): (in a mocking tone). Awww, that’s too bad.

(Host): (imitating the Narrator) “Awww, that’s too bad.” (Normal voice) Oh, you’ll get over it. Getting back to the movie, are you finished with the water ballet and “There’s Beauty Everywhere?”

(Narrator): Yes.

(Host): Anything you want to say about the song “Love” before segueing into discussing the Fred Astaire stuff?

(Narrator): Well, “Love,” as sung by Lena Horne, is a fun piece of music, and she does a wonderful job of singing it. I can’t really say much one way or the other about how it was staged, as that aspect doesn’t really feel that memorable. Still, as I said, the song itself sticks quite well in my memory, and is one of the better songs in the film.

(Host): Ready for Fred Astaire?

(A screen drops down from above)

(Narrator): (ducking behind the screen and popping out on the other side wearing a top hat and a tuxedo with tails, and carrying a cane) Ready!

(Host): Alright. We’ll give this one last shot. Computer, bring in the “Fred Astaire” set. (closes eyes and flinches)

(Computer): Bringing in “Fred Astaire” set.

(Host): (slowly opens one eye and looks around to see a set divided into four sections, with one occupied by a group of ladies all decked out in costumes with big headdresses, another occupied by the Chinatown section of London, another in a park with a statue of a man on a horse, and the other with a barren wintry landscape. Seeing the coast is clear, he unflinches and breathes a sigh of relief) Phew. Finally! (Suddenly, a piano drops on his head, knocking him out)

(Narrator): Hmm. That piano sounded out of tune. Oh, well. (pulls the unconscious Host out from under the piano and drags him offstage) Anyways, back to Fred. Compared to some of the many stars who had multiple segments planned that, for one reason or another didn’t make it into the final film, Fred Astaire managed to get four segments in the movie, besting Cyd Charisse and Lucille Bremer, who were tied at two each (while everybody else had one). Even then, Fred still had at least one segment cut, the song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” (a song that he himself wrote). While the footage of that song no longer exists, the recording of it does. However, that was not included (for some reason) as an extra on the recent Blu-ray release.

Anyways, to get back to what is actually in the movie, after William Powell’s Ziegfeld introduces the idea behind the movie (in what little exists for a “plot”), he hands things off to Fred Astaire to start things off. Fred introduces everything with a few kind words about Ziegfeld, concluding with a reminder that Ziegfeld was a specialist in glorifying girls before launching into singing the song “Here’s To the Girls.” After singing the song and dancing (very, very briefly) with Cyd Charisse, he leaves the stage, leaving Cyd to dance with some other chorus girls, before we have a merry-go-round with ladies all dressed in pink, leading up to Lucille Ball leading a group of cat-like dancers (with a whip in hand). Of course, after glorifying the ladies, Virginia O’Brien shows up on horseback to “Bring On The Wonderful Men” (although it’s just her onscreen, without any men showing up). Neither song is necessarily that great, but they do help start off the proceedings quite well.

Moving on from there, we have Fred’s third appearance in this film (I know I’m doing this out of order, but we’ll get to his second appearance in a bit), dancing alongside Lucille Bremer for the song “Limehouse Blues.” Now, one thing that should be said here. Fred was worried about his song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” becoming dated (because of the style of music), which is why that was deleted, but, among his song-and-dance routines that survived, “Limehouse Blues” has fared worse over time, with both him and Lucille Bremer made up to look Asian in appearance. But, if you can get past that, this is a wonderful routine that is out of the ordinary for Fred Astaire. For one thing, it’s a bit more balletic, with him doing some tricks like cartwheels, and, for another, both he and Lucille work with fans throughout the dream sequence. In spite of it’s issues, it’s still a very interesting routine that shows how well he could do with a variety of dance styles.

(Host): (Walking back onstage) Have you gotten to Fred and Gene yet?

(Narrator): No, I was just getting there. Fred’s last appearance in the film is for the song “The Babbitt And The Bromide,” which was originally written by the Gershwins for the Broadway show Funny Face starring Fred and his sister Adele. This time, Fred was paired with up-and-comer Gene Kelly, with the two of them providing the choreography for the different sections of the song. Before starting the song, they both rather amusingly reference each other’s big partners (obviously, for Fred it was Ginger Rogers, but for Gene, it was Rita Hayworth, since Cover Girl was still Gene’s big breakthrough at that point). Whatever the case, it’s still a lot of fun to see the two of them dancing together in their prime, as that was to be the only time they could work anything out (yes, I know they also danced together in That’s Entertainment, Part 2, but that was with them both nearly thirty years older than they were here).

(Host): Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but what about “This Heart Of Mine?”

(Narrator): Yes, I know you’ve been leading to that one, but that’s why we’ve saved the best for last.

(A moving sidewalk starts up underneath the Host, who starts walking to keep up with it)

(Host): This isn’t too bad. Anyways, “This Heart Of Mine” is, in some respects, a shorter version of the story for the other Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer film, Yolanda And The Thief, with Fred playing a thief out to steal something from Lucille Bremer’s wealthy character.

(The Narrator pulls out a remote and presses a button. The moving sidewalk starts to move faster, forcing the Host to start jogging, then running.)

(Host): (Running out of breath) That’s not so easy! (Angrily points at the Narrator) You were planning this, weren’t y- (Host trips and falls on the moving sidewalk, which is going so fast now that he practically flies offstage. A commotion is heard backstage as he crashes into various objects.)

(Narrator): And off he goes again. Getting back to the “This Heart Of Mine” segment, it’s arguably one of the film’s best moments. We’ve got Fred and Lucille doing a ballroom dance together, with a beautiful piece of music to back them up. I know I like it, and the song itself gives me chills, especially when the chorus sings it near the end. It’s a longer song, clocking in at over ten minutes, but it’s well worth it for me.

Overall, I find this to be a very enjoyable film. As I’ve indicated, it’s a bit uneven, but, let’s be fair. As a revue, it’s going to be hard to keep everything good. Whatever the case, it’s one I’ve seen many times over the years. Most of the music is good, and there’s some fantastic dancing throughout (mostly provided by Fred Astaire, but there are some others doing well here, too). For me, I always like to sit through the whole thing without skipping through anything (in spite of the variation in quality of the segments). If you can get past the essentially nonexistent plot, then it’s a movie worth recommending (and certainly the best movie revue I’ve seen, even if that is a short list)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray features a new transfer that comes from a 4K scan of most of the original camera negative. While some of the original negative is gone, I would say that overall, this transfer is much improved! The detail is much better, and the colors certainly have that three-strip Technicolor look to them! The picture has been cleaned up of dirt and debris. Extras include (besides the three shorts already mentioned) a featurette on the movie and audio-only outtakes of different musical numbers that were originally planned for the movie. I certainly think that this is the best way to enjoy this movie!

(Host comes back onstage carrying a stack of pies on his left hand, and one lone pie on his right, looking like he might throw them)

(Narrator): What are you doing with those?0

(Host): Well, even though the machine is broken, we do still have a sponsor for this post who needs-

(Narrator): (interrupting) Oh, no you don’t! I’ve had enough of Pie N De Face! Now give me those pies!

(Host): Are you sure? (winks at the audience).

(Narrator): Of course I’m sure! Now let me have them!

(Host gives the audience a look. However, that look is long enough for the Narrator to act and push the lone pie into the Host’s face. The Host falls down, and the pies in his other hand go flying. The Narrator starts laughing hysterically, and then all the pies fall down, covering the both of them. They wipe the pie off their faces, look at each other, and burst into uproarious laughter.)

(Narrator): (After finally calming down) Computer, bring the curtain down.

(Computer): Bringing the curtain down.

(The whole curtain falls down from above, landing on the Host and the Narrator).

(Narrator): Well, it seems that the Writer has thrown in almost everything now.

(A kitchen sink falls from above and lands on the Narrator’s head, knocking him out)

(Host): You just had to go there, didn’t you? Well, that’s all folks!

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with.. Another Thin Man (1939)

Wouldn’t you know it, it’s time for yet ANOTHER Thin Man review (or is that a review of Another Thin Man 😉 ). This 1939 entry in the Thin Man series as usual features William Powell as Nick Charles and Myrna Loy as Nora Charles!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The First Seven Years (1930)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 10 seconds)

Jackie (Jackie Cooper) wants Mary Ann (Mary Ann Jackson) to be his “wife,” but has to fight Speck (Donald Haines) for her affections. This one was rather hilarious, with Edgar Kennedy again returning as Kennedy the cop (and giving Jackie advice about girls). Of course, when all is said and done, Mary Ann pushes Jackie and Speck to duel over her like the knights of old (to hilarious effect)! A lot of fun, good humor, and a “swordfight” to boot!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Love On Tap (1939)

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

(Length: 10 minutes, 47 seconds)

Penny (Mary Howard), the manager of the Abbott Dancers, keeps getting distracted by them when she tries to get married to her fiancé, Tommy (Truman Bradley). This is an, at best, average short, with a less-than-likable lead who keeps putting off getting married without caring how her actions are hurting her long-suffering fiancé. Some of the dancing from the Abbott Dancers is fun, with all the tricks they pull off, although the music itself is forgettable. Probably not one that I would necessarily plan on revisiting that much.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Bookworm (1939)

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

(Length: 8 minutes, 24 seconds)

The witches from MacBeth require a worm for their potion, so they send a raven after the bookworm. There’s some amusement here, with the ways that the little bookworm gets around the raven. However, it’s hard to develop much interest here, as it’s another in a long line of animated shorts from that era featuring characters from different books all interacting with each other. The animation is pretty good, and there are a few good gags, but, overall, this one is rather easy to forget.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) have come back to New York City with their one-year-old son Nicky, hoping for a quiet weekend. That hope is short-lived, however, when they hear from Colonel MacFay (C. Aubrey Smith), a former business partner of Nora’s father (and who is also handling her estate). The colonel is adamant that they come out to see him, so they reluctantly pack up to go to the colonel’s estate. They think it’s only about business (which is why they were reluctant to go in the first place), but they quickly find that the colonel’s estate is heavily guarded. When they finally get to the house, they find out that a former employee of his, Phil Church (Sheldon Leonard), had done prison time, and was now trying to extort money from the colonel, mostly by claiming that he is dreaming that the colonel will be murdered (and Church claims that when he dreams the same thing three times, it usually comes true). Nick tries to see Church and his girlfriend, Smitty (Muriel Hutchison), but Church refuses to take back his “dreams” (although he “promises” to leave). Nick returns to the colonel’s estate, where they stay the night. During the night, they are visited by the colonel’s adopted daughter, Lois MacFay (Virginia Grey), when they hear a gunshot go off. Rushing to the colonel’s room, they find him, dead. When the police arrive, they question everybody, including Nick and Nora. While everybody is outside looking for a knife that Nick and Nora’s dog Asta was carrying around, Lois comes running, claiming her fiancé Dudley Horn (Patric Knowles) is gunning for Nick. Before he can do anything, Dudley is shot (and killed) by the police. Nick and Nora return to the city (with everyone else in tow), where the two of them try to pick up any clues they can as to the whereabouts of Church. As the clues (and the suspects) mount, can they solve the crime, or will the colonel’s murder go unsolved?

After the success of both The Thin Man and After The Thin Man, MGM made plans to do another film. However, those plans for a third film were delayed, as, before filming could commence, star William Powell was diagnosed with cancer in 1938 (resulting in him taking time off while he underwent several operations). After a time, he recovered, and came back to work. Of course, care was taken so as to keep him from overdoing things. Director Woody Van Dyke insisted on only filming for about six hours a day, and working on four soundstages with a larger crew than usual to help keep things as efficient as possible. For the story, they went back to the well of Dashiell Hammett (author of the original novel), and used his story “The Farewell Murder.” Of course, the film was still a hit, resulting in the series continuing a few years later with Shadow Of the Thin Man!

As you can no doubt guess, based off my previous reviews of the first two films, this was my first time seeing this film, too. Of course, also like the other two, it was one that I enjoyed very much! While we’re still getting further from the pre-Code days, there’s still some fun to be had (and they certainly can’t keep William Powell’s Nick out of the booze, either 😉 )! The relationship between Nick and Myrna Loy’s Nora is still at the forefront, with her trying to get involved in solving the crime (sometimes to hilarious effect)! I enjoyed the scene at the nightclub, where they both ended up there separately, while still finding stuff out, but the scene when they were checking out the room of a suspect at an apartment building was quite hilarious! It was also made more memorable by the presence of Marjorie Main in one of her earlier roles (while still having some of the persona that she would be known for), as she shows Nick the room (while trying not to let Nora know anything, as they “claimed” to be separate, with her “looking” for a room to rent). Of course, throw in a brief appearance by an uncredited Shemp Howard in this movie, and it’s golden! I still think the first film is the best, but I’ll take this one (especially since Nat Pendelton returned to reprise his role as Lieutenant Guild from the first film)! I know I still look forward to trying the rest of the series, whenever I can get that far! Highly recommended!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, working from a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements. Considering it’s from Warner Archive, there’s no mystery here about the transfer. It looks GREAT!!! Seriously, they’ve done a great job with the elements they had to work with, and the picture looks as sharp and detailed as one could hope for! Easily a highly recommended release!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

After The Thin Man (1936) – William Powell – Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)

After The Thin Man (1936) – Myrna Loy – Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)

Marjorie Main – Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Shemp Howard – Buck Privates (1941)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Libeled Lady (1936)

Today, we’ve got some fun with the 1936 screwball comedy Libeled Lady, starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy!  But first, we’ve got a few theatrical shorts to start us off with!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Keystone Hotel (1935)

(available as an extra on the Libeled Lady Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 14 minutes, 53 seconds)

Count Drewa Blanc (Ben Turpin) has to choose the winner of a beauty contest at the Keystone Hotel, but everybody is trying to tell him who to pick.  This short was a lot of fun!  I hadn’t previously seen any shorts featuring the Keystone Kops (just their all-too-quick appearance in Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops), so this was a treat!  The lead-up to the beauty contest as we’re introduced to some of the characters was fun, but it was when the Count picked the “wrong” lady that everything REALLY got better, with the food fight at the hotel and the Kops making their madcap drive to get there.  A very enjoyable treat, and one I plan to watch more!

Coming Up Shorts! with… New Shoes (1936)

(available as an extra on the Libeled Lady Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 23 seconds)

Two pairs of shoes decide to pinch the feet of their new owners, as the owners go out with each other.  An interesting but bizarre short, as the two shoes talk to each other.  It’s musical, but the songs themselves are quite forgettable.  Personally, I find the story itself to be too bizarre, and it’s not helped by the short itself being in rough shape (and therefore harder to understand everything that’s said/sung).  Probably won’t be revisiting this one any time soon.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Little Cheeser (1936)

(available as an extra on the Libeled Lady Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 22 seconds)

Little Cheeser is tired of being “Mama’s little man,” and decides to listen to the devil on his shoulder and get into mischief. An interesting cartoon, although hardly original, with the fight between good and bad being waged by the shoulder angel and devil. Of course, these two do seem to be real, in terms of their interactions with the rest of the world. Still, the subject matter as a whole doesn’t work as well here (and, quite frankly, I much the prefer the 1938 Disney cartoon “Donald’s Better Self,” which covers similar territory but is far more memorable to me). The animation would be the only reason to give this one a shot (although, preferably, when it has been restored, since it wasn’t for this release).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Uh oh!  Fake news alert!  The New York Evening Star has published a story about rich heiress Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) breaking up a marriage, but it turns out to be false!  The newspaper tries to stop the story, but enough copies get out that Connie and her father, J.B. Allenbury (Walter Connolly), find out and decide to sue the newspaper for five million dollars.  Unable to do much else, editor Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy) turns to former reporter (and somebody who has also specialized in dealing with libel suits) Bill Chandler (William Powell) for help.  The plan?  Try to make the story true.  The two of them convince Warren’s frequently frustrated fiancée Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow) to marry Bill in a civil ceremony, and then have her catch her new “husband” in the act.  No sooner is the ceremony over than Bill is off to London, with plans to join the Allenburys for their boat trip back to America.  He tries to ingratiate himself by helping out Connie and learning all he can about being a fisherman (to find an in with her father, an avid fisherman).  J. B. is impressed, but Connie smells a (gold-digging) rat.  Still, Bill gets invited on a fishing trip with the Allenburys, where he plans to end the whole thing.  What he doesn’t count on is his own feelings!  He finds himself falling for Connie (and she for him), so he tries to postpone the “scene” with Gladys.  While he tries to see Connie in secret, he treats Gladys kindly (with her also falling for him in the process).  Meanwhile, Warren is in the hot seat, as he believes Bill hasn’t seen Connie during all this time (until he visits Connie himself to convince her to drop the suit, and Bill walks in).  Now, Warren has some ammo to get Gladys to turn on Bill again.  With all this trouble, will true love win out, or will everybody suffer?

Actress Jean Harlow had been trying to diversify the types of roles she had been doing, with varying results.  Libeled Lady was a return to some of her more comedic roots.  However, she was initially disappointed when she was cast as Gladys Benton.  Being that, offscreen, she was in love with her co-star William Powell, she had wanted to be Connie Allenbury, so that their characters would wind up together.  She didn’t get her way, though, as the film was generally intended as another vehicle for the screen team of William Powell and Myrna Loy (but Jean did at least get the wedding scene with William Powell, which was more than she got offscreen, since she died before they could ever get married).  In spite of the issue of casting, the four leads were all friends, and got along quite well throughout filming.  Of course, the movie proved to be a hit with audiences, and would even be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar that year (although it lost to another William Powell/Myrna Loy film, The Great Ziegfeld).

So, how do I like this movie?  It’s a screwball comedy.   Need I say more?  Wait a minute.  I do?  Ok.  How about my score for this movie?

My Rating: 10/10

Still not enough?  Then I’ll keep going.  The cast alone makes this fun!  As the managing editor, Spencer Tracy’s Warren Haggerty seems cut from the same cloth as Cary Grant’s Walter Burns from His Girl Friday, in terms of the lengths he will go to for his newspaper (which makes for a lot of hilarity right there).  Jean Harlow as his put upon girlfriend adds to the fun, particularly in the ways that she deals with William Powell’s Bill Chandler early on in the film.  Their fake marriage is really fun (especially when they’re not performing for anybody).  But, the big draw here is William Powell and Myrna Loy together!  Out of the fourteen movies they made together, this is only the second one that I have had the chance to see (although, as I write this, After The Thin Man is in my stack of movies to watch, and that review will likely be posted first).  These two certainly bring the comedy here, whether it’s her suspicions of him when they first meet, or the whole fishing trip.  But, everybody works well in this movie, and the laughs are sure to come!  So, don’t hesitate!  Give this one a chance!  You won’t regret it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Libeled Lady (1936)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, working from a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements.  From the sounds of it, this is a movie that we BARELY got on Blu-ray.  The original camera negative was long gone, as the result of the infamous fire that destroyed many MGM camera negatives.  They had a second generation fine grain master (made back in the 1960s) to work with, but that was in really rough shape.  Still, they pulled off a miracle, giving us a transfer with a clean image (in a good way), that shows off the detail in fine form!  Seriously, this Blu-ray is wonderful, and should be the way you experience this well-made screwball comedy classic!

Film Length: 1 hour, 38 minutes

My Rating: 10/10 (repeated for the sake of keeping things uniform, as well as re-emphasizing my high opinion of the movie)

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Dinner At Eight (1933) – Jean Harlow

My Man Godfrey (1936) – William Powell – After The Thin Man (1936)

The Thin Man (1934) – Myrna Loy – After The Thin Man (1936)

San Francisco (1936) – Spencer Tracy – Without Love (1945)

It Happened One Night (1934) – Walter Connolly – Nothing Sacred (1937)

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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)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Mister Roberts (1955)

Today, we’ve got a classic war comedy, in the form of the 1955 film Mister Roberts, starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell and Jack Lemmon!  So, let’s enjoy our theatrical short, and then it’s on with the movie itself!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Flea Circus (1954)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)

When a stray dog walks in on a circus of fleas, the fleas all leave (except for Francois, the clown), and it’s up to him to bring more back! While it’s not quite as wacky as Tex Avery’s cartoon’s tend to be, this one is still a lot of fun! Bill Thompson, the usual voice actor for fellow Tex Avery cartoon character Droopy, voices Francois, who is not as beloved by the audiences (in the cartoon, but, obviously, we love him). This one might be more conventional, but the gags revolving around the flea acts are fun, and I enjoyed watching the cartoon overall (and will definitely be coming back to it again). Vive la France!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Life is hard for the crew of the Navy supply ship the Reluctant (or the “Bucket,” as they call it).  It’s World War II, but they are far away from all the actual combat.  They’re stationed near a South Pacific Island, but they’ve been kept on board the ship for nearly a year, with nary a liberty granted.  Worse, the ship’s captain (James Cagney) seems to enjoy spoiling the morale of all on board.  His cargo officer, Lieutenant Douglas Roberts (Henry Fonda) tries to do what he can to help the crew out, but he wants very much to be a part of the war.  He keeps trying to request a transfer, but the captain refuses to sign off on the idea.  These fights between the two are pretty much what amounts to entertainment for most of the men.  The men find themselves some new “entertainment” when some nurses arrive for the hospital on the island (and apparently shower within range of what the crew can see with their binoculars).  That ends when their laundry and morale officer, Ensign Frank Thurlowe Pulver (Jack Lemmon), brings a few of the nurses on the board the ship as he tries to spend some time with Lieutenant Ann Girard (Betsy Palmer), and the nurses realize how much the men can see.  Roberts decides to go around the captain to get the men some liberty, and gives a bribe of a bottle of scotch to an official, resulting in the ship being sent to the island of Elysium.  However, even when they arrive at the island, the captain refuses to let the men have liberty, and Roberts goes to his cabin to tell him off.  Instead, the captain makes him an offer: he will let the crew have their liberty, BUT Roberts has to stop writing transfer applications, and he must follow the captain’s orders without question (and nobody else can know about this arrangement).  Having no choice, Roberts acquiesces, and the men go ashore.  With all their pent-up energy, the men get into a lot of trouble, and the ship gets banished from the port.  Angry at this new blot on his record, the captain drags Roberts into punishing the crew, and makes it look like Roberts is “bucking for a promotion.”  With the captain now trying to drive a wedge between Roberts and the crew (and Ensign Pulver scared of the captain), will they still be as fond of Roberts?  And will he be involved in the war, or will it end before he can do anything?

The movie was based on the 1948 play Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan (which was itself based on a novel by Thomas Heggen).  Actor Henry Fonda had left Hollywood after filming Fort Apache in 1948, and was cast in the play.  The play turned out to be a hit, but when Warner Brothers wanted to make a movie, they were hesitant to cast Henry Fonda, citing his age and lack of screen presence for a number of years as reasons.  However, director John Ford wanted him to do it, and that was that.  Still, John Ford and Henry Fonda ended up not getting along, as the director wanted to make a lot of changes, whereas Henry Fonda wanted it more like the play.  John Ford was unable to finish the film when health issues arose, and so Mervyn LeRoy stepped in to finish it (although the director of the Broadway show, Joshua Logan, also did some uncredited directing to help finish it).  While it wasn’t what some had hoped it would be (due to the changes), it still turned out to be a hit with movie audiences as well.

I’ve seen this movie once before, and it’s been a while since that first viewing, but I remembered enjoying it that first time, and it was still just as good (if not better) the second time!  The cast alone is a big enough selling point on this movie.  Even if he might have been a bit too old for the role, Henry Fonda’s performance is good enough to take your mind off that. I enjoyed watching his portrayal of a character who yearns for something better and more “important” than what he is doing, without realizing how much he means to the crew of the ship that he is on.  And James Cagney?  He’s still good, giving us another very unlikable character as the captain.  So much so, that I can’t help but cheer when Roberts goes against him (and jeer when the captain gets the upper hand).  And while it may be William Powell’s last film, his role as the ship’s doctor is still fun, as he is quick to realize when the men are trying to fake illness/injury to get out of work (and, seeing what the captain is like, I can’t blame them for trying).  And he can see Roberts’ importance to the crew.  And Jack Lemmon?  In my book, he earned his Oscar as Ensign Pulver, a man who is scared of the captain (so much so that, after fourteen months of being on the ship, the captain still didn’t know of his existence).  Obviously, his womanizing ways wouldn’t go over well with audiences today (nor should they), but, at the same time, you do want him to follow through on some of his planned pranks against the captain.  Like I say, the cast is so much fun here, and makes this movie well worth seeing!  So I would indeed highly recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.  This release makes use of a 4K scan of the original camera negative.  This movie was filmed in the WarnerColor process, which made it problematic in terms of restoration (and apparently, the original camera negative was quite faded as well).  So, with that in mind, what we got is indeed a wonder!  For the most part, the transfer looks wonderful, with the color looking like it should, and the detail is much improved!  There are a few shots that don’t look quite as good (whether that’s because that’s how it was filmed, or those shots required the use of inferior elements, or something else, I haven’t heard), but they are so few and far between, that this would still be the best way to see this wonderful movie!

Film Length: 2 hours, 1 minute

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Lady Eve (1941) – Henry Fonda

Love Me Or Leave Me (1955)James CagneyMan Of A Thousand Faces (1957)

Song Of The Thin Man (1947) – William Powell

Phffft (1954) – Jack Lemmon – My Sister Eileen (1955)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Man Of The World (1931)

Today’s review is on the 1931 film Man Of The World, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard! So, let’s get through our theatrical short first, then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ants In The Pantry (1970)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The aardvark tries to act as pest control to get rid of the ant in a house. The exact setting may be different here, but it’s still business as usual, with the aardvark trying to eat the ant. Despite its formulaic aspects, this one was still a lot of fun. The only part that doesn’t really work well here is the ant’s rather high-pitched laugh, which just seems so out of place compared to his usual voice. Other than that, it’s worth a few laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Former American newspaperman Jimmie Powers (William Powell) has for the last four years been living in Paris, France under the name Michael Trevor, due to a scandal that essentially saw him chased away from home. Now, he preys on rich American men who have come to the city for some “extramarital” fun. He has been posing as a novelist for his current victim, Harold Taylor (Guy Kibbee), and was paid to help keep the editor of a scandal sheet (in other words, himself, but Harold doesn’t know that) from printing an article about Harold’s recent affair. While Michael is there, he meets Harold’s niece, Mary Kendall (Carole Lombard), who is in Paris with her boyfriend, Frank Reynolds (Lawrence Gray). With Frank about to leave for a business trip, Mary convinces Michael to show them a few of the sights in Paris. Later, Michael meets up with the two people helping him run the scandal sheet, his ex-lover Irene Harper (Wynne Gibson) and Fred (George Chandler). Irene is thrilled with how much money they were able to get out of Harold, but, when she hears about his niece, she thinks they should create a scandal for her, hoping that Harold will be willing to pay even more. Michael is unwilling, as it is against his principles to blackmail women. In spite of that, Irene pushes him to do so anyways, since she needs the money to keep her brother out of prison. So, Michael spends some time with Mary and her uncle, and ends up falling in love with her. When Irene gets jealous and threatens to tell Mary about Michael’s past, he decides to tell her himself. Mary is very understanding, and tells him that that is all in the past, and they can still be together. However, Irene still won’t let him go, and reminds him that, whether he likes it or not, his past could eventually catch up to him, which would hurt Mary. Will Irene’s words ring true, or can Michael and Mary be together?

Man Of The World is the first of three films that William Powell and Carole Lombard made together. Besides this, they also made Ladies’ Man (also 1931) and My Man Godfrey (1936). Their chemistry is certainly evident onscreen (and apparently off, too, as they got married after finishing the movie). I had never previously seen this film, but I will admit I enjoyed it. After seeing the less-than-stellar acting (probably a result of sound tech still being so new) in Fast And Loose, the first film in the Carole Lombard set, this movie was a relief to see that the acting was overall far better. I liked the two leads, and found myself cheering for them to be together. I will readily admit that I did not see the ending coming, and I don’t know whether that was because it was a pre-Code or what, but it works. The biggest problem I have with this movie (through no fault of its own) is comparing it to the later William Powell/Carole Lombard pairing My Man Godfrey, which is such a well-known screwball classic. I will admit, I went into this movie with lowered expectations, since this movie isn’t as well known, but it was still hard not to compare the two movies. This one isn’t a big classic, and I can see why. Still, as a romantic drama, it works well enough that I would recommend it, at least if you can rent it/ stream it/ catch it on TV first.

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 from Kino Lorber. The movie appears to have an HD scan, which for the most part looks pretty good. There are a few minor instances of dirt and other debris, but, again, very minor. The movie looks good enough for me, and this is the way I would recommend seeing it.

Film Length: 1 hour, 11 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

William Powell – The Thin Man (1934)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Carole Lombard – No Man Of Her Own (1932)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 – No Man Of Her Own (1932)