12 July 2005 | FilmOtaku
The greatest movie marriage
In this first sequel to the celebrated film "The Thin Man", detective Nick Charles, (Powell) his socialite wife Nora (Loy) and their beloved terrier Asta are on their way home to San Francisco after a long trip. Shortly after they arrive, Nora is invited to her wealthy aunt's house for dinner where she is told by her cousin Selma (Landi) that her husband Robert has run off (again) and she needs Nick to find him. When Nick and Nora find Robert at a local nightclub that very evening, they soon discover that he is wrapped up in a situation with some shady people; he is soliciting David (a really young Stewart), an ex-beau of Selma's who is still in love with her, for $25,000. In exchange for this $25,000 he will leave Selma's life forever, will run off with his girlfriend, a singer at the nightclub, and David can then step in. The plan promptly goes sour when Robert is shot and killed, leaving five suspects in his murder, including Selma herself. It is up to Nick and Nora to help the police solve the crime and clear Selma's name.
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Thin Man", and was absolutely charmed and delighted with this sequel. Nick and Nora Charles absolutely have to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest on screen couples in film history. Certainly, they take a back seat to the better known Hepburn/Tracy, Gable/Leigh, hell, even Curtis/Lemmon. But while the story itself in "After the Thin Man" was good, and strong enough to stand on its own merit, but the film itself is great because of Powell and Loy. Myrna Loy, one of my favorite classic film actresses, made a career out of being the non-plussed wife or object of affection to varying degrees of spastic leading men. (Particularly Cary Grant in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" and "The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer", both films I would definitely recommend.) Loy's straight-faced elegance is perfection as Nora Charles, a young and beautiful wealthy socialite who married Nick, a detective from the wrong side of the tracks who loves liquor and ribald humor. Powell is hilarious and charming as Nick, and they own the characters so thoroughly, I can't fathom anyone else playing those roles.
Much is made of "chemistry", and the chemistry between our two main characters is electric. The material they had to work with certainly helped in the success of this film. Hammett's story works as a good base, with Goodrich & Hackett punching up the script. Toward the beginning of the film, there is a scene where Nick and Nora are returning to their San Francisco mansion, completely exhausted and pledging to sleep for a month. When they open their door, however, they find their house filled with a couple of hundred people; apparently, friends of theirs were throwing them a surprise welcome home party, only no one there recognizes them as the guests of honor, so they non-chalantly begin to dance with everyone else until they are finally noticed by their servants. Describing the situation doesn't do it justice, but it is just one example of the many charming scenes contained in this film. "After the Thin Man" also has some hilarious lines, and while a lot of the appeal is in the delivery, dialogue like a scene between Nick and Nora, who are waiting to be let in to her aunt's house, (Nick and her aunt have a mutual dislike for one another) when Nora asks, "What ARE you muttering to yourself?" Nick replies, "I'm just trying to get all of the bad words out of my mind." And then later, when reintroducing her husband to her aunt, Nora says, "You remember my husband, Nick
" her aunt replies with "Hello, NicholASS." (And proceeds to call him that the entire film.) Even Asta has a subplot in this film; when they arrive home in the beginning of the film, he runs back to the kennel to see Mrs. Asta. Apparently Mrs. Asta has had a litter of puppies, and when they all come out black and white (with one fully black one) even though the Astas are fully white, he finds out that the culprit is a black dog from down the street. The two scenes involving this little side story are truly funny and fitting of a dog that has reached iconic status. (At least in the crossword puzzle world his name is a clue in at least one crossword puzzle I do a week!) "After the Thin Man" has some corny moments, but they are few and so minor compared to the relative greatness of the rest of the film, that I don't think I could truly single them out easily. (At least not with seeming needlessly picky) I would truly recommend this film series to anyone who enjoys classic films I so thoroughly enjoyed this film that I plan to check out the rest of the sequels in the near future. The snappy & clever dialogue, great performances and good story truly make "After the Thin Man" a worthy sequel to its great predecessor. 8/10 --Shelly