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Monday, November 14, 2016

AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936)

Though it inevitably lacks the element of surprise found in the original THIN MAN/’34 (a bantering, debonair married couple casually mixing drinks & detective chores was something new on the screen), and runs an extra two reels, the second of five sequels to the sleeper hit is easily the best of the follow ups; and may have the best murder mystery of the lot. Pet pooch Asta loses dignity in a few forced comic bits, but everything else is neatly trimmed thanks to a smart/funny script from married writers Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett, along with W. S. ‘Woody’ Van Dyke’s straight-ahead megging. And such an excellent cast of character actors for suspects when a wayward husband gets bumped off. Special fun from a young James Stewart & George Zucco sporting a pair of coke-bottle lenses. (Though Jessie Ralph, fine enough as soul-weary servants & loyal nannies, never convinces in her grand dowager roles.) Good as Myrna Loy & William Powell are at juggling Nick & Nora’s marital partnership (Loy a wonderful sport about everything, very modern), Powell’s the key in hiking these little films into something out of the ordinary. With the most precise technique in the biz, apt for comedy or drama, he never puts a foot wrong, consistently doubling results using half the effort of anyone else in town.

DOUBLE-BILL: In addition to the six THIN MAN pics, Powell & Loy co-starred in six more films. Try LIBELED LADY/’36 from the same year as AFTER, with Powell’s real-life romantic interest (Jean Harlow) paired with Spencer Tracy.

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