After the Thin Man
In 1934, William Powell and Myrna Loy succeeded in taking one of Dashiell Hammett’s weaker novels—The Thin Man, lackluster for its want of his typical grit—and turning it into a catch-all for the fantasies of Depression-era America. As Nick and Nora Charles, a millionaire husband and wife who solve crimes between cocktails, Powell and Loy all but invented on-screen chemistry, pounding Hammett’s curt dialogue into playful banter and never missing an opportunity to underpin a line with thin sexual finery. This casual flair, combined with their opulent wealth, constant tippling, and seemingly impermeable wedded bliss, made Nick and Nora the avatars of moviegoers’ desires, then and perhaps now, too. Though less impressive than their initial outing, 1936’s After the Thin Man—the first in what would be five sequels of the Thin Man franchise—finds the duo in good form, nonetheless, as the Charleses get to the bottom of a blackmail-turned-murder case while getting to the bottom of several bottles of rye. Director W.S. Van Dyke, who lensed most of the series, does little, as was expected of these B-grade potboilers, but the production gets extra points for its high Art Deco style and for settling back to let Powell and Loy carry the day. Keep an eye out for a very young James Stewart, before he became a caricature of himself.