After the Thin Man takes place, appropriately enough, immediately following The Thin Man. Does that mean you should be familiar with the first film to enjoy this one? Not at all; if you haven't seen the first movie, though, you really ought to give it a try --- it's a treat. Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) Charles have arrived via train to their home in San Francisco, just in time for New Year's Eve. Unfortunately for Nick, the pair are expected to join Nora's family for a fancy formal dinner party. No one in Nora's family seems to like Nick, either because he married into his money or because he's a lush or because he's a bit of a smart-ass.
|Tuxes for a dinner with the family? That doesn't sound stuffy at all|
After the Thin Man is an interesting bit of early Hollywood. The first film was a big hit and this was only the first of five (!) sequels. The original film was based on Dashiell Hammett's final novel, but this was completely original. Hammett was hired to write the story for After the Thin Man, with the talented team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett returning to turn his story into an acceptable screenplay. I don't know any specifics (because I'm too lazy to do any actual research), but I know that Hammett's post-novelist years were filled with sickness and booze, so it should not be surprising that the story here is not as intricate as in the original film. Nevertheless, it manages to overcome some Scooby-Doo-esque plot twists and typical 1930s film tropes and it remains an entertaining bit of lighthearted comedy, even by today's standards.
|Ha ha ha! Get it? She's being arrested for murder!|
The key to this film working once again rests on the shoulders of William Powell and Myrna Loy. Powell's charm and excellent line delivery are essential to this film, but it is the banter between him and Loy that really makes the movie succeed. Loy's role is a little less entertaining this time around (she has to be nice to her family, after all), but she is still more than a capable foil for Powell's wit. As much as I enjoyed watching the duo feign drunkenness in the first film, I enjoyed their interactions more in this one. They were a pleasant blend of mean and tender that is surprisingly believable in a couple.
|As a married man, I am all too familiar with that look|
|Maybe he's the titular thin man?|
|Joseph "Born Evil" Calleia|
Like the original film, After the Thin Man was directed by W.S. Van Dyke. His direction is adequate from a technical standpoint --- don't expect to see any subtext or clever uses of frame or lighting here --- but he once again handled the cast quite well. With the bulk of this movie relying on the charm and chemistry between its stars, Van Dyke's touch with the actors was critical. On the other hand, with a considerably less dense script than the first film, Van Dyke's limitations are a bit more obvious. The supporting actors are portrayed in broad strokes with very little complexity and Van Dyke panders to the audience a little too much when it comes to the dog.
|Actual subplot: Asta is depressed, thanks to an unfaithful wife|
After the Thin Man fares best when it is not directly compared to its predecessor. Nick and Nora are still a lot of fun to watch and their dialogue is more than worth the price of admission. This movie is a bit more cute than actually funny, but it is still a fun watch. It certainly could have used a more compelling mystery, but the charm of the main characters helps balance that. Perhaps the film's biggest miss was its inability to actually make anything look seedy.
|This is their idea of a dive bar|