Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Bill and Myrna New Year's Blogathon - Another Thin Man

This post is an entry in The Bill & Myrna New Year's Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Flapper Dame

In my opinion, The Thin Man is kind of an odd duck as movie series go. They often follow the pattern of, first movie's good; second movie sucks; third movie's good; and fourth movie sucks so bad it kills the franchise. I joke, but I could give you examples. Lots of them. The Thin Man series is unique in that all of the films are good and never lose their edge.

If I had to pick my least favorite, it would have to be, The Thin Man Goes Home. It's not a bad film, but in the film, Nick and Nora visit Nick's father, a conservative doctor in a small town, who objects to Nick's drinking. As a result, Nick switches to cider. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good movie, but Nick and Nora being sober just doesn't work for me like the others.

If I had to pick my favorite, simple, Another Thin Man, the third film in the series, mostly because of the cast. It has the best cast of any of the series, and yes, I am taking into account that Maureen O'Sullivan being in the first movie and James Stewart in the second.  Also, there is the nightclub scene, which really has to be the best single scene in any of the Thin Man movies. Finally, it is the last film to have the full creative team of William Powell/Myrna Loy, of course, director Woody Van Dyke,the husband/wife screenwriting team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and an original story by Dashiell Hammett.

I think the key element in the creative team is probably Goodrich and Hackett, who wrote the screenplays for the first three Thin Man films as well as It's a Wonderful Life, Father of the Bride, and Father's Little Dividend.  Not that the last three films suffered from their absence, but they set the groundwork for what was to come. According to Wikipedia on the first film, Van Dyke encouraged them to use Hammett novel for the plot structure but to concentrate of providing witty banter between Nick and Nora, and that was a formula that just worked. 


**** The following text contains mild Spoilers ****

My  second reason for picking Another Thin Man as my favorite in the series, is the nightclub scene. Nick in typical style ditches Nora to follow up on a lead that ultimately brings him to the West Indies Club. Meanwhile, Nora gets a phone call which leads her to the same nightclub. The scene opens with Nick arriving. The maître d' recognizes Nick and seats him with a bevvy of hot Latino women, who faun all over him, order drinks, food, a steal his cigarettes. 

The scene switches to nightclub entertainers René y Estela credited as Renee and Stella, who headlined a show at New York's Havana-Madrid Club in real life. It is one of the coolest dance routines I've seen in any movie:


After the performance, a waiter hands Nick a note signed with the name of one of Nick's old flames. He asks the waiter who gave him the note. Nick is referred to a table with at least a dozen men hovering around.. Nick calmly moves them out of the way, and there is Nora. The interaction between Nick and Nora here is absolutely hilarious.

Nora is supposed to meet a man who has information in the case they are working on. She doesn't know what he looks like but they have a pre-arranged signal, but as luck would have it, a nightclub patron who knows nothing of the case intercepts the signal. As Nora tries to find out what he knows, the location of a man involved in the case. The patron, a hot-blooded lover type, becomes more and more frustrated that Nora, the woman he thought was making eyes with him is only interested in another man. It soon becomes apparent to Nora, that she has the wrong man, but she has no idea how to get rid of the love-smitten nuisance. Fortunately, Nick steps in and deals with the situation with a style and grace that only William Powell could pull off.


**** End of Spoilers ****

Finally, the cast is perfect. Myrna Loy and William Powell are wonderful as always. Well, maybe not always. The first teaming of the pair was Manhattan Melodrama, a movie so forgettable that I need to go to read a plot summary to remember what it was about, a crime drama with something of a love triangle, between Myrna Loy and criminal Clark Gable and district attorney William Powell. Loy ends up with Powell, but I don't remember much in the way of chemistry between them in that film. Their second outing, The Thin Man was where the magic began, and their best films capitalized on the easy humor between the pair, so evident in The Thin Man series

Surrounding Powell and Loy in Another Thin Man is a virtual Who's Who of Golden Age Hollywood character actors:

Nat Pendleton reprises his role as the none-too-bright Lt. Guild from The Thin Man.

C. Aubrey Smith plays Colonel MacFay, Nora's father's former business partner, who administers her estate and conveniently gets murdered setting the whole thing in motion.

Virginia Grey plays Colonel MacFay's daughter. She's one of those actresses best known for small parts in big movies, or big parts in small movies. You probably know her as the woman who works with Joan Crawford at the perfume counter in The Women.

Otto Kruger plays a Long Island assistant DA who doesn't take the threats to C. Aubrey Smith's life seriously. No wonder they need Nick and Nora to solve their murders for them.

Ruth Hussey plays an ex-con nurse the Charles hire to babysit Little Nicky.

Sheldon Leonard plays Phil Church, one of Colonel MacFay's former employees who went to prison for crooked dealings MacFay was into, and now the main suspect in his murder

Abner Biberman plays Dum-Dum, Phil Church's right-hand man. You probably know him as Louie, the little guy who does all of Cary Grant's dirty work in His Girl Friday.

Marjorie Main plays the landlady at an apartment, where Nick and Nora do some sleuthing. She only has about 2 minutes of screen time but every second is pure gold.

Shemp Howard, probably the least known of The Three Stooges, plays Wacky, one of the dozen or so unsavory types who show up with rented/stolen babies for little Nicky's first birthday party. I'm sure they all have names like Wacky, Dum-Dum, and Creeps. As Nora would say, "Oh Nicky, you know the nicest people."

William A Poulsen plays Little Nicky. Okay, this is nobody you would know. He only made Another Thin Man, and appeared as himself in a documentary short that same year. I only mention him because he is only there to prove that Nick and Nora had a kid, but he doesn't stick around long enough to keep Nick and Nora from drinking, sleuthing, or making wisecracks. There is one scene where Nora encourages him to pull on Nick's mustache while he's trying to sleep. That's about the perfect amount of domesticity that you need out of the Charles family.

And Skippy as Asta. Skippy made about 20 films, including Asta in all six Thin Man movies. Most movie dogs were known for playing just one role, like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, but Skippy also played Mr. Smith in The Awful Truth and George in Bringing Up Baby. Sure, he was typecast to a certain degree but this little dog could act.

Another Thin Man is a great entry in the series, good story, and wonderful interactions between Mr. and Mrs. Charles, and a cast that is just insane. Plus, Nick and Nora get to prove they are a real family with the baby, but he is never around enough to cramp their style.


  1. MGM treated their series pictures with respect, and the audience doesn't see anything lacking in the way of production values. It is true that you can watch any of the 6 films and enjoy yourself.

    The one that would be my least favourite is Song of the Thin Man because it pains me to see Nick and Nora shown as anything less than the cool couple that they are.

  2. I agree with you on the series. They are all fun and highly watchable. I think I probably give, Song of the Thin Man more credit than it deserves, because I like the jazz musician stuff. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I love when Shemp makes a cameo appearance! I love these movies and am so glad I decided to give them a chance back in 2013! Best decision ever!
    Thanks for writing!!

  4. I think that is one of the advantages classic film has over contemporary film, the depth of really good character actors. They could come in for a sizable supporting part or just one or two scenes and just nail it. Often, it's the one or two scenes that the entire story hinges on.

  5. I love that you highlighted all the character actors in this one! I get such a kick out of Marjorie Main and Sheldon Leonard in particular -- always love it when they show up.