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Friday, January 29, 2016

ANOTHER THIN MAN (1939)

The third go-round for those glamorous, avocational detectives Nick & Nora Charles of THIN MAN fame (William Powell & Myrna Loy, unmatched in technical chops & charm) hasn’t anything as slyly subversive as the original’s Christmas Tree ornament target practice. Still, halfway in, once the new parents park their ‘blessed event’ off-screen, the twisty murder mystery settles down just enough to free up the distinctive tone of marital bantering that made the first film such an unexpected delight. This time, the case in question is one of those tiresome ‘a-murder-is-announced’ affairs, and it’s hard to pay much attention before a corpse or two baffles the police . . . and sends Nick off to the liquor cabinet. He gets a little high, the characters turn a bit more eccentric (Marjorie Main a refreshingly laissez-faire landlady), and the usual red herrings & complications defeat all Nick's attempts to parse things out for us during the traditional suspect soirée finale. Not that you’ll mind.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Generously spaced over 14 years, the six THIN MAN pics (‘34-‘47) offer a guide to incremental Hollywood decline on two fronts. First, a fall from the first two ‘A-‘ productions down to ‘B+’ in the middle, and finally the boilerplate B pics of the final pair. Second, a chance to see the spontaneity of the post-Talkies/mid-‘30s wake-up give way to the over-polished professionalism & studio system formulas of the late-‘30s/WWII era.

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