(director: W. S. Van Dyke II; screenwriters: Frances Goodrich/Albert Hackett/from a Dashiell Hammett story; cinematographer: Oliver T. Marsh; editor: Robert Kern; music: Nacio Herb Brown/Walter Donaldson/Herbert Stothart/Edward Ward; cast: William Powell (Nick Charles), Myrna Loy (Nora Charles), James Stewart (David Graham), Elissa Landi (Selma Landis), Joseph Calleia (Dancer), Jessie Ralph (Aunt Katherine Forrest), Sam Levene (Lt. Abrams), Alan Marshall (Robert Landis), George Zucco (Dr. Kammer), Dorothy McNulty (Polly Byrnes), Paul Fix (Phil Byrnes), William Law (Lum Kee), Teddy Hart (Floyd Casper), John Kelly (Harold, the Charles’ Chauffeur); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hunt Stromberg; MGM; 1936)

“A good enough sequel to The Thin Man.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Only the second Nick and Nora Charles picture for William Powell and Myrna Loy (they made 14 pictures together, six of them in the Thin Man series). It’s good enough sequel to The Thin Man. It’s based on a delicious Dashiell Hammett comedy-mystery, and a crisp script by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. W. S. Van Dyke II (“The Thin Man/”Shadow of the Thin Man”/”Penthouse”) ably directs, as he will become the director of record in the series.

Once again, Nick and Nora stumble into a case, as they return to San Francisco on New Year’s Eve. This time it’s Nora’s cousin Selma (Elissa Landi) who needs help. This calls for the couple to have dinner with Nora’s dreadful, overbearing Great Aunt Katherine Forrest (Jessie Ralph), who’s a hoot as she treats Nick, or Nicholas as she contemptuously calls him, as if he were dirt, and other morbid elderly wax museum-like family members. At dinner it’s learned that Selma’s playboy hubby Robert Landis (Alan Marshall) is missing for the last three days and Nick is recruited to find him. Nick finds the pathetic Robert at the Lichee, where he’s at a ringside table drinking heavily and waiting for the club’s star singer, Polly Byrnes (Dorothy McNulty), to knock off so they can run away together. Polly is working a racket with the gangster Lichee co-owner Dancer (Joseph Calleia) to lift the dough from the sucker. But Robert’s murdered, with negotiable bonds still on him, after getting some $25,000 from Selma’s former jealous boyfriend David Graham (James Stewart) to leave with Polly and never see Selma again. Also suspect in the crime are Polly’s ex-con blackmailing posing brother, who is really her jealous hubby, Phil (Paul Fix), and the other Lichee owner Lum (William Law)–the Chinese man might hold a grudge against Nick for sending his brother to the slammer or might feel left out over the scam to the point where he spitefully upsets it.

After a string of murders relating to the original case, a gruff police Lt. Abrams (Sam Levene), prone to saying phooey and the only one in the pic who is more bossy than Aunt Katherine, works with Nick to get all the suspects in the same room to try and crack the case. The additional characters present in the drawing room to those mentioned above include a charlatan shrink amusingly played by George Zucco and an equally amusing sleazy shyster lawyer Casper (Teddy Hart).

This might have been the last good pic in the series, as things got mighty thin with the others. Though it had a big budget of over a million dollars, it brought in a pleasing $3.1 million. This made it the studio’s fifth-highest grosser at the time.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”