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Film / After the Thin Man

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Nick Charles in his natural environment

"Come on, let's get something to eat. I'm thirsty."
Nick Charles

After the Thin Man is a 1936 mystery film directed by W. S. Van Dyke. It is a sequel to the 1934 smash hit The Thin Man, and the second of an eventual six films in the "Thin Man" series.

Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) come back home to San Francisco after the events of the first movie, just in time to see in the new year. Nick and Nora want to rest and relax, but they are invited to visit Nora's family—much to Nick's displeasure as Nora's family can't stand him. While they are visiting, Nora's cousin Selma, on the verge of hysterics, begs them to find her husband Robert, who has been missing for days. They do so, only to find that Robert is a complete scumbag who has a mistress, and is also a Gold Digger who married Selma for her money. Robert accepts a $25,000 payment from Selma's ex-boyfriend David in order to go away forever, but shortly after taking the money, and moments after the stroke of midnight on New Year's, he is shot to death. Nick and Nora then find themselves in another mystery when suspicion falls on Selma and Nora prevails on her husband to find out who really did it.

After the Thin Man is made more interesting by the presence of a 28-year-old James Stewart, billed third, playing David the hopeful ex-boyfriend. Stewart had made his film debut just one year before and this was one of his first big parts. He would play supporting roles for MGM for the next couple of years before hitting it big in 1938 with You Can't Take It With You. The role he plays here is a good example of Early-Installment Weirdness.

Followed three years later by Another Thin Man.


  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Asta's mate, Mrs. Asta, apparently was unfaithful while Asta was away. See Chocolate Baby below.
  • The Alcoholic: As usual, Nick never stops drinking.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Can there be any other reason Selma picked Robert over David?
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: One of the suspects is Lum Kee, a very unfortunate Chinese stereotype character. (At least in a small mercy he's played by an actual Chinese guy.) He is the owner of the nightclub where Robert was last seen and where Robert's girlfriend worked. There may be a subtle bit of characterization here in that Lum Kee's "you bet you" talk goes away when he's talking to his fellow hoodlums, rather than Nick Charles.
  • Asshole Victim: As noted, nobody sheds many tears over Robert's death, but murder is murder.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Kammer is a high-class version of this, mooching off Nora's family with his supposed psychiatric treatments. When it turns out someone he called crazy really is crazy, he's stunned.
  • Blackmail: Nick surmises that David killed Phil due to the latter's plan to blackmail him for killing Robert.
  • Book Ends: Begins and ends with Nick and Nora on the train.
  • Broken-Window Warning: A stone with a note attached flies through the Charles' kitchen window. Hilarity Ensues when their dog Asta grabs the note in his jaws and is pursued through the house.
  • Busman's Holiday: Nick gets dragged into another murder investigation when all he wants to do is live a life of luxury.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: One clue is that a note was written with hard words spelled correctly and easy words spelled wrong, in bad imitation of an illiterate person.
    Polly: Whadaya mean illiterate? My father and mother were married right here in the city hall!
  • Chocolate Baby: Asta the dog comes home to the missus to see she's got a litter of of which is too darkly colored to be his. He spies a nearby black Scottish Terrier sneaking through a hole under the fence and drives off the intruder angrily, then fills in the hole.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: David, tagging along after Selma, hoping to pick up the pieces after her relationship with Robert inevitably blows up...except he is revealed at the end to not be this at all.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: As was the case throughout the series, the film shows a bunch of suspects and then reveals as the murderer the one character who was helpful and friendly and seemed above suspicion.
  • Gold Digger: As the story begins, Robert has stopped pretending and is looking to get as much as he can from Selma.
    Selma: He only married me for my money!
  • Grande Dame: Nora's aunt Katherine who can't stand Nick, always pronouncing his name in a hyper-correct way as "Ni-cho-las".
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Selma, whose husband is a lout that needs killing and whose supportive would-be boyfriend turns out to be a crazy murderer.
    Aunt Katherine: You sure can pick 'em!
  • Immediate Sequel: The Thin Man ends with Nick and Nora boarding a train to San Francisco after Nick solves the mystery. This one starts with Nick and Nora aboard that same train.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Not that Nick really needs an excuse to drink, but he pounds one back after finding out he'll have to make an appearance at Aunt Katherine's mansion to meet his in-laws.
    Nora: Pour me one too.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: A suspect claims he didn't shoot a murder victim...before it was revealed he was shot. Subverted in that this particular suspect didn't do it, though he was far from innocent.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: The murderer throws away the gun of someone he wants to frame. (Testing the gun would prove the suspect's innocence.)
  • Knitting Pregnancy Announcement: Nick has just solved a very complicated mystery, but has yet to deduce that his wife Nora is expecting. Until he realizes that she is knitting a baby's sock.
    Nora: And you call yourself a detective.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Aunt Katherine seems to do this to everyone she dislikes, as she repeatedly calls Nick "Nicolas", despite him preferring to be called "Nick", and refers to Lieutenant Abrams as both "Mr. Abraham" and "Lieutenant Abrahamson" because she doesn't want him in her house.
  • Motive Rant: It is certainly fun to see Jimmy Stewart deliver David's wild-eyed, unhinged motive rant.
  • New Year Has Come: The murder that kicks off the takes place on New Year's, moments after the stroke of midnight.
  • New Year's Resolution:
    Nick: Have you made any New Year's resolutions?
    Nora: Not yet. Any complaints or suggestions? [snip]
    Nick: Well, you don't scold, you don't nag, and you look far too pretty in the mornings.
    Nora: All right, I'll remember: Must scold, must nag, mustn't be too pretty in the mornings.
  • Never One Murder: In this film like all the other Thin Man films, there's another murder in the second half to keep the plot moving.
  • Old Retainer: Aunt Katherine's incredibly ancient butler Henry, who nearly falls over when Nick hands him his coat.
  • Ominous Fog: Thick fog on the streets of San Francisco as Robert is murdered.
  • The Ophelia: Selma has some aspects of this; She's a beautiful, tragic, upper class woman who's in the care of a psychologist and seems to just barely be holding onto her wits throughout the movie, and that's before she's arrested for murder (and immediately faints). She didn't do it, but you can bet discovering that her old boyfriend is a psychotic killer who wanted to see her go mad and hang hasn't done any favors to her mental state. And between her disloyal (and dead) husband, domineering mother, and quack doctor, it's no wonder she's under a lot of stress.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: A pickpocket named "Fingers" bumps into Nora at the train station and steals her purse. But he recognizes Nick, so when Nick introduces Nora as his wife, Fingers slips the purse back.
  • Prolonged Prologue: The murder that forms the central mystery doesn't happen until the movie is half-over. The first half of the movie is taken up by an extended comic scene in which Nick and Nora wander into a party in their own house, then a gag scene with Mr. and Mrs. Asta, then the long sequence at Aunt Katherine's that mixes plot-establishing with broad comedy, and then the scene where Nick and Nora find Robert at the club which establishes Robert as a scumbag.
  • Psychotic Lover: The ending reveals that David's jealousy and rage after getting dumped, and especially after getting dumped for a scumbag like Robert, drove him mad. He planned to kill Robert and frame Selma for it.
  • Quack Doctor: Dr. Kammer is a quack psychologist who doesn't seem to have much in the way of skills other than giving injections and testifying in court that clients are insane. His stunned comment after the murderer is dragged away raving: "My god. I was right. He really was crazy."
  • Red Herring: Lum Kee skulks around acting suspicious, but proves to have no involvement in any of the murders.
  • Silence Is Golden: A scene where Nick inspects a suspect's apartment, only to get in a shootout with Dancer, runs for six minutes without a word of dialogue.
  • Standard Snippet: Picking up from the end of the first film, this one starts with "California, Here I Come" playing over a shot of the train Nick and Nora are heading back to Californa on.
  • Summation Gathering: Nick gathers all the suspects together to reveal the murderer, as he did in every film.
  • Surprise Party: Nick and Nora arrive home to find a surprise party for them—that is already well underway, with a group of revelers who have no idea who they are.
  • Taking You with Me: Part of the villain's Motive Rant. "I've got six bullets in this gun. One for her, one for myself. One for myself, and the rest for anyone who tries to stop me."
  • Title Drop: A retroactive example. As Nick and Nora get off the train, a reporter asks Nick if he's got "another Thin Man case" going.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: One of the red herrings includes Lum Kee, the nightclub owner. Lum Kee's brother was a Tong who got sent to prison by Nick, and Lum Kee himself apparently has connections with the Chinese underworld.
  • Wacky Cravings: A subtle instance that doubles as Foreshadowing. Nora doesn't officially announce she's pregnant until the very end of the movie, but beforehand makes odd requests like scrambled eggs at three o'clock in the morning. As she says to Nick: "And you call yourself a detective..."
  • Walk This Way: Nick does this gag when Henry the ancient butler leads him into the house.
    Nick: Well, I'll try...