Saturday, January 30, 2021

Tonight's Movie: After the Thin Man (1936) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936) has been released on a lovely Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

AFTER THE THIN MAN is the second film in the beloved series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as detective Nick Charles and his wife Nora. The original film was released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in 2019; my review is here.

This time around Nick and Nora arrive in San Francisco by train and pay a New Year's visit to Nora's tedious -- and wealthy -- relatives.

Nora is worried about her cousin Selma (Elissa Landi), who is distraught by the disappearance of her philandering husband Robert (Alan Marshal). Robert has a girlfriend, nightclub singer Polly (Penny Singleton, billed as Dorothy McNulty); meanwhile David (James Stewart) is mooning over Selma and is willing to pay off Robert if he'll divorce Selma and leave for good.

Naturally, it isn't long before Robert ends up dead, with Selma and David heading a long list of possible suspects, and it's up to Nick to solve the case.

AFTER THE THIN MAN has many delightful moments, but it runs way too long at 112 minutes; at times it simply meanders or spends time on scenes with no story value, such as a prolonged nightclub production number.

The screenplay by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich has some wonderful dialogue, there's just too much story with perhaps too many characters. The film would have been stronger if it had been tightened up to a running time closer to the 91 minutes of the original film.

That said, any time spent with Powell and Loy as Nick and Nora is a good time, and the movie is worth sticking with for its many enjoyable parts; a late night visit to the kitchen with Nick and Nora to scramble eggs is something akin to movie bliss. And what an incredible kitchen! Their entire apartment is gorgeous, and the same can be said for Loy's beautiful wardrobe by Dolly Tree.

The huge cast includes Sam Levene as the police detective, Lt. Abrams, a role he also played in SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (1941). Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Paul Fix, William Law, and George Zucco are also in the movie.

Like the first film, AFTER THE THIN MAN was directed by W.S. Van Dyke. It was filmed by Oliver T. Marsh. (Marsh's son Owen, who had a long career as a camera operator, recently passed away.) Some brief location filming with Powell and Loy took place in San Francisco, including the Coit Tower area, which will look familiar to anyone who's seen THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1951).

The Blu-ray has an excellent picture and sound. Several nice extras are carried over from the film's original DVD release, including a 1940 Lux Radio Theater production of the film, also starring Powell and Loy; a Robert Benchley short; and the 1936 cartoon THE EARLY BIRD AND THE WORM.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger barrylane said...

I probably like After the Thin Man a bit better than you do, but am uncomfortable with Elissa Landi, who always seems a bit stilted to me. Wich it ere not so, she is attractive and for her brief career, was in some fine films, notably The Count of Monte Cristo (1934).

9:09 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

My feelings about Elissa Landi are similar to how I feel about Beverly Roberts -- somehow a needed "spark" is simply missing. Sad to say I found her quite dull in both this and THE SIGN OF THE CROSS. I could also go with describing her using your term, stilted.

Best wishes,

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Bert Greene said...

Gee whiz, my tastes are almost always rather aligned with both Barry's and Laura's. Not this time, I guess. I like Elissa Landi a lot. Especially in "The Yellow Ticket" (1931-Fox), where she's heartbreakingly sympathetic. She and her films at Fox tend to be quite good, "The Devil's Lottery" (1932) another. But once at Paramount, and handed films where she played theatrical divas, like in "The Great Flirtation" (1934), a real clunker, and "Enter Madame (1935), fair at best, it sure seemed to deep-six her career and popularity. The final move to MGM didn't help much, either, and that was pretty much that for poor Miss Landi, who eventually passed away quite young.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Bert, thank you very much for your Landi recommendations! I try to keep an open mind, as there are definitely actors where I have been slow to develop an appreciation, but have eventually gotten to that point. So you never know! Very interested to read your thoughts on her early films.

I was very sad to learn of her too-early passing.

Best wishes,

6:15 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Bert, my only thought relative to your comments is that The yellow Ticket was perfect for her limitations, and we all have them. Perhaps had she been allowed to evolve, with careful handling, but she was not. I understand she wrote several novels that people I know and respect thought well of.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Bert Greene said...

In all honesty, I'm not always an adept judge of female Thespian talent, being far too prone to be swayed (and smitten) by a pretty face. I do sometimes think the studios, especially in the 1930s, often didn't seem to know how to channel or cultivate some of their contract stars to advantage, placing them in fare that undercut their potential (and ostensible value...?).

Paramount seemed particularly exasperating in this way. When talkies began, they dropped their big silent stars like hot rocks (other than Bow, Cooper, Arlen), imported a slew of Broadway bigshots, and then let these latter flounder in a lot of silly teacup affairs. Same time, their big new homegrown star, Nancy Carroll (who gives a knockout performance in "The Devil's Holiday") gets thrown into a series of awkward roles and programmers that gradually deflates her stardom.

I admit I just don't understand some of the decisions these studios made. And added brickbats to Paramount again for not really doing anything with the lovely and talented Evelyn Venable. Good grief, don't even bring up WB's treatment of Ann Dvorak, who merited a much more prominent career. Seeing her stuck in a super-minor 1937 RKO b-flick opposite Smith Ballew! It's a crime, I tell ya!

8:41 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Bert, at Paramount the executive suite made many mistakes on talent, here is one that lead to the actor involved, Cary Grant, handling his own career, with more than some success as we know.

MGM wanted Grant for Roger Byam in Mutiny on the Bounty, so Franchot played the part; Paramount would not make the deal, Grant was disturbed? He was furious. A few months later, MGM was prepping Suzy with Jean Harlow, Franchot Tone and Clark Gable -- who refused to appear in the film, and Mr. Mayer to his credit, said something along the lines, 'don't worry about it We would have been astonished had yu accepted the part. Next, they offered Grant the part, and Paramount, no longer held back and okayed his appearance in this thing. Grant's attitude was similar to Gable's, but he wanted to work there, and Mayher offered three days with Lenore Coffee to prove the part. And it worked because whenever Grant is on the picture takes off. One year later, he became free of his paramount deal, and orchestrated his own considerable career. Fun huh?

However, I do not agree about AnnDvorak; she went as far as she could go, although Ann did undercut her own career in the forties by taking off to England during the war, and after signing a decent contract with Republic, giving them a heard time.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Bert Greene said...

Interesting stuff, Barry. I'm not particularly versed in old-time studio machinations, and I also suspect a lot of curious decision-making involved leveraging difficult stars, producers favoring/managing favorites, and a perpetual assembly-line grind befitting any factory disgorging steady product. A lot of it looks mystifying and even ill-conceived in retrospect, without pondering the backstories. The public becomes the ultimate arbiter, but it's still interesting to think had the cards been shuffled just a little bit differently, career paths could have blossomed or withered in such alternative ways. A refrain I heard so repeatedly from people who toiled in the business, that I tended to rather dismiss it over time.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Just a note to say I've enjoyed this exchange of ideas -- thanks to you both, Barry and Bert.

Hard to imagine Grant in MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY but interesting to contemplate.

Best wishes,

11:59 AM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

As you say, time spent with Nick and Nora Charles is always time well spent :-) Even though this is not one of my favorites in the series either (it's SO HARD having Jimmy Stewart be the bad guy), I do still enjoy it. One of these days, I'll rewatch all the Thin Man movies and review them myself -- they're always a treat!

6:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Rachel!

I'm kind of hoping that the Warner Archive will eventually put all the THIN MAN movies out on Blu-ray because it's a great excuse to watch my way through them!

When my girls were young they would watch THIN MAN movies to destress from school. I always loved that Nick and Nora still had that ability decades after Powell and Loy filmed them.

Best wishes,

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Barry Lane said...

Since this conversation began I ran After the Thin and AntoehrThinMan, which was much better, and certainly more fun, but the best part of the show was the trailer welcoming Bil Powell back after two years. Generous of the studio, and no doubt filmgoers of the period. Quite moving.

4:26 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Of course I mean, Another Thin Man and Bill Powell, who by the way, did not look so great.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's been a while since I saw ANOTHER THIN MAN -- I will probably hold off a while in hopes it also comes out in Blu-ray, but I'd like to revisit it. Thanks to you I just pulled the trailer up on YouTube and watched it.

Best wishes,

5:27 PM  

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