Friday, February 9, 2018

O CANADA! BLOGATHON: The Incredible Journey (1963)


Once again, Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy turn the spotlight on Canadian connections to classic movies with the O Canada! blogathon running from February 9th to 11th.  Day 1 lineup  Day 2 lineup  Day 3 lineup  Wrap-up

Sheila Burnford
May 11, 1918 - April 20, 1984

Scottish-born author Sheila Burnford (born Cochrane) was a well-educated and well-traveled young woman when she became a volunteer ambulance driver during WW2. It was during that time that she met and married Dr. David Burnford. Enforced time apart from her husband during this early part of her marriage led to Sheila acquiring a Bull Terrier called Bodger and nicknamed "Bill". The woman and the dog became close companions during the years of blackouts and fear, creating a deep bond.


Dr. Burnford relocated his pediatric practice to Port Arthur, Ontario (Thunder Bay since 1970 amalgamation) in 1949. The Burnford family now consisted of three daughters, Peronelle, Elizabeth, Juliet, along with Bill. During this time the Burnfords acquired a Siamese cat, Simon, who formed a strong connection with Bill. Later, Dr. Burnford brought a Labrador into the fold. When old Bill was losing his eyesight, the young dog would assist him on walks through the woods.

Mrs. Burnford was writing short stories and articles about life in Canada for British publications during this time. She was also received the Ontario Play Puppet Award for scripts written for the Port Arthur Puppeteers.


The Incredible Journey was based on the three beloved pets and is a thrilling story based on Mrs. Burnford's obvious love for the animals and of nature. Published first in Great Britain in 1961, the book was well received, but would receive greater recognition after the release of the Disney film version two years later.  The Incredible Journey was awarded the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Books Award, the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award, the American Library Association Aurianne Award, and the International Board on Books for Young People Honour.


Mrs. Burnford's other words include Bel Ria: Dog of War, The Fields of Noon and One Woman's Arctic, detailing two summers on Baffin Island. The Burnford family returned to England prior to her death from cancer at age 65. Long Walk Home, the Incredible Journey of Sheila Burnford is a 2017 documentary tribute to her life and accomplishments.


When Disney acquired the rights to film The Incredible Journey, it would complete the studio's trio of Canadian-based animal stories that began with 1961s Nikki, Wild Dog of the North based on the novel by James Oliver Curwood, and 1962s Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard. All three films were filmed partially in Canada, with the four northern Ontario locations for The Incredible Journey lending authenticity to Burnford's story.

James Algar
June 11, 1912 - February 26, 1998

Disney Legend James Algar adapted the screenplay. Originally an animator at the studio in the 1930s who directed The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Algar was later the writer and director of the True Life Adventures.

Rex Allen
December 31, 1920 - December 17, 1999

Singer Rex Allen aka the Arizona Cowboy, star of B westerns for Republic and the TV series Frontier Doctor narrated Algar's script, as he did for 1962s The Legend of Lobo. His recognizable voice told us Disney stories from Charlie the Lonesome Cougar to Run, Appaloosa, Run, and more, including voices at Disneyland attractions. His was the perfect warm and low-key narration.

Fletcher Markle
March 27, 1921 - May 23, 1991

The Incredible Journey was directed by Winnipeg born Fletcher Markle who began his show business career as an actor/host on Canadian radio, adding producer, writer, and director to his career skills. He moved from Vancouver to Toronto, and then to New York City and CBS radio where he took Studio One to television. The bulk of his career from this point is as a producer and director of television. Alongside The Incredible Journey, Markle directed the films Jigsaw, Night Into Morning, and The Man with a Cloak.

Emile Genest
July 27, 1921 - March 19, 2003

Quebec born Emile Genest was featured in all three of these Disney features. Genest balanced a film career with one foot in Quebec and one in Hollywood. He was Gemini nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a support role for the popular and acclaimed movie Les Plouffes. In addition to American movies such as these from Disney and The Cincinnati Kid, Emile Genest appeared on American classic television programs such as The Virginian, Ironside and Combat!, etc.

The cast of humans in this telling of the story is made of Canadian actors, and actors who immigrated to Canada such as Jan Rubes.

In The Incredible Journey Genest plays John Longridge, a writer who has taken in the three pets of his friends the Hunters. Professor Hunter has been offered a job in the U.K. and while the entire family, including the couple's two children will be traveling, there is the problem of what to do with Bodger the Bull Terrier, Luath the Labrador, and Tao the Siamese cat. In a moment of generosity, Longridge offered to care for the animals.

The self-sufficient cat adapted easily enough. The old bulldog is confused, but appreciates the affection afforded by the new master. The young lab is perpetually anxious for the familiar voices he loves. It is autumn and Longridge will soon be leaving on an annual hunting trip. He considered taking the animals, but there would be much canoe travel and it could become complicated. Mr. and Mrs. Oaks, who care for the house and grounds, have become attached to the pets and they will be well attended during Longridge's absence.


Miscommunication and happenstance come into play as Longridge leaves on his trip, Mrs. Oakridge is late to feed the pets, and Luath takes the lead. Home is calling him and home he must go. Also, he must take his companions along. There is no question as to that, and after some hesitation, it is a trio that sets out into the wilderness.


The journey is fraught with peril: hunger, cold, isolation, injury. Encounters include those with a protective mother bear, and a waterfall. Injured Tao finds respite and a home with a lonely little girl, but instinct leads him away. Luath feels trapped when help is at hand. In an amusing incident our trio almost finds a warm meal with an old hermit, but he has forgotten some of the niceties of hosting our more civilized animal friends.


Through it all the attachment of these three creatures, and of them to their family, is steadfast. So engrossed are we as the adventure unfolds that it is almost a shock to finally meet the Hunters. They have returned from their sojourn, and so has John Longridge. Rangers have been included in the search for the pets, but little hope is to be found that these house reared animals could survive in the vast and dangerous nature.


This is not a spoiler as we all know and relish in the happiness of the ending of The Incredible Journey. Every news story of an animal beating the odds to return home is headlined a "true life incredible journey".

The Incredible Journey, both book and film, is a story of loyalty and perseverance told with a sincere beauty that has been a touchstone for generations. I am sure I am not alone in the belief as a youngster that it was based on a true story. It was heartening to learn it was based on true characters.


"They must have thought the cat kept a diary!"

- Sheila Burnford on reviewers who commented on her convincing writing.



Bonus shout out (after a reminder from Rich) to the 1993 Disney remake, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey with the voices of Don Ameche as Shadow, Canadian born Michael J. Fox as Chance, and Sally Field as Sassy.












Sunday, February 4, 2018

CELEBRATING THE CENTENARY OF IDA LUPINO'S BIRTH: Miss Lupino, Television Cowgirl

Ida Lupino
February 4, 1918 - August 3, 1995

Pictured above is the strong and talented actress, director, and writer Ida Lupino. Born into a show business family, London born Ida began acting in her teens and eventually made her mark in Hollywood. Time-tested performances in many films including Ladies in Retirement, They Drive by Night, On Dangerous Ground, and Road House make Ida's a career worthy of admiration. However, performing proved not to be enough for this powerhouse of talent. When the opportunity arrived, she added directing to her CV. Independent stories told through a woman's voice were Miss Lupino's metier. See Outrage, Never Fear and Hard, Fast and Beautiful.

During the 1950s when the movie industry was shaken by the burgeoning popularity of television, some executives and performers ran scared. Among those who embraced the opportunities of the new medium were Ida Lupino and Dick Powell. In 1955 Dick Powell, along with David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea founded Four Star Productions, with McCrea bowing out of the corporation early to be replaced by Ida Lupino.

Ida worked consistently as a television actress in the 1950s including appearing in 19 episodes of Four Star Playhouse, and her own Four Star series Mr. Adams and Eve, created by ex-husband Collier Young and co-starring then current husband Howard Duff.

Westerns emerged as the most popular television programming in this decade. Let's look at two examples of Ida's talent used in this genre and medium beginning with a guest appearance on Zane Grey Theatre, an anthology series hosted by Dick Powell. 

Zane Grey Theatre: Fearful Courage
Air date: October 12, 1956

Michael Pate (McLintock!) plays a gunfighter who pursues the settler he has just widowed to a cabin occupied by one lone man attempting to keep away from trouble. Louise Brandon played by Ida Lupino is a woman thrown into a seemingly impossible situation. Suppressing her shock and grief at the loss of her husband, her first thought is to hold onto the land they both struggled to maintain. Once her conflict includes another, Jeb played by James Whitmore, she is willing to give up the land in exchange for their lives, but the gunfighter is not someone with whom they can reason.

James Whitmore, Ida Lupino

Written by Arthur A. Ross (Poe and WGA winner, Oscar nominee) Fearful Courage is a suspenseful story of danger and a fine character study worthy of its leading actors. The director of the episode was Bernard Girard whose 20 year career in television included Emmy and DGA nominations. The anthology series which sadly disappeared in ensuing decades provided many opportunities for creative minds to practice their craft and entertain television audiences.

Ida was 38 years old the year of this project with 24 years of professional acting to her credit. In the fast-paced world of television, it is the job of the performer to bring a fully realized character to life within a few days of rehearsal and shooting. Fans of the classic programs of the era can marvel at the talent on display, both the veteran and the newcomers.

Have Gun - Will Travel: First, Catch a Tiger
Air date: September 12, 1959

Director Ida Lupino with actors Don Megowan and Richard Boone

"Ida stimulates me as an actor because she knows acting. In a weekly show you get into acting patterns. Ida gets you out of them." - Richard Boone

Paladin, the hired troubleshooter played by Richard Boone in Have Gun - Will Travel roamed the television range from 1957 to 1963, and John Dehner starred in a radio spinoff from 1958 to 1960. Freelancer Paladin could travel anywhere and face many different dangers and adventures. In 1959 , the year this episode aired, the series was nominated for Best Western Series, the only year of that Emmy Award.


This well-regarded episode written by Harry Julian Fink features our Paladin racing to meet trouble before it reaches him. A man called Fred Horn is credited with the murders of two men, a sheriff, and a judge, involved in the execution of a murderer. Paladin had captured the guilty party and that man's father, Mordain played by Harry Bartell, has hired a gunfighter to kill all those he deems responsible. 

Don Megowan, Harry Bartell, John Anderson

The small town of Mordain is where Paladin goes to meet destiny. Which of the men is Horn, the killer? It could be the drummer played by Stacy Harris, the veteran who owes Mordain played by Don Megowan, the ramrod played by John Anderson or the hotelier played by King Calder. Complicating the situation is an indentured servant, Mary played by Pamela Lincoln, who seeks Paladin's help.

Richard Boone, the shadow of Stacy Harris

A strong sense of tension permeates the episode as a game of cat and mouse escalates between Paladin and the enemies who surround him. Horn is known for shooting his victims in the back and Paladin will not wait for that to happen. He will draw his foe out into the open.

Don Megowan, Richard Boone
John Anderson, Harry Bartell on staircase

The dialogue-heavy scenes are filmed by Miss Lupino with memorable close-ups and a sense of movement, and the emotion behind each line. The action sequence takes full advantage of the physicality of the actors and stuntmen. There is a forboding and noirish look to the episode.

Director Ida Lupino, a young 41 at the time of this assignment, had successfully directed 7 feature films of the 8 to her credit, and 8 television episodes of an eventual 33 in her career. Have Gun - Will Travel would eventually include 8 of those credits.










Friday, February 2, 2018

THE CLARK GABLE BLOGATHON: Night Nurse (1931)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting the Clark Gable blogathon running from February 1 - 3. Click HERE for the tributes to the King of Hollywood.


In 1931 Clark Gable made 13 motion pictures, including a breakout role as a duplicitous cowboy in  the early talkie The Painted Desert. Gable is magnificent in the role, a new sort of actor for the new sound era. At that point, he was 13 movies away from his Oscar winning role in It Happened One Night. Incredibly prolific over the next couple of years the young actor was given many different roles to plays, from villain to charmer, and the one constant is that Clark Gable charmed the audience. He was a star.


Director William A. Wellman begins Night Nurse, a fast-paced thriller with an ambulance racing through city streets. Life and death all around us. His name above the title star is Barbara Stanwyck, only in Hollywood for a couple of years at this point. Billed third behind Ben Lyon and Joan Blondell is Clark Gable. Gable was most definitely in lowlife mode as Nick the chauffeur.

Maloney and Hart
Blondell and Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck plays Lora Hart whose lack of a high school diploma almost keeps her out of training as a nurse. However, her winning smile attracts Chief of Staff Dr. Bell played by Charles Winninger (Destry Rides Again), and she is given a chance. The work is tough, and the rules are strict, but Lora's cynical roommate Maloney played by Joan Blondell (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)  helps to keep things light.

Ben Lyon, Joan Blondell, Barbara Stanwyck

One night in the Emergency Ward, Lora meets a charming bootlegger played by Ben Lyon (Hell's Angels) suffering from a gunshot wound. The pair use their winning smiles on each other and become "pals". Their paths will cross often in this short and snappy feature.

Two young and very ill sisters from a rich family was treated at the hospital under Dr. Bell. When they are sent home under the care of a shady Dr. Ranger played by Ralf Harolde (Murder, My Sweet), Maloney is assigned to day shift and Lora is the night nurse.

Barbara Stanwyck, Marcia Mae Jones, Betty Jane Graham

Lora's first night on the job at the Ritchey mansion is filled with more than expected. The health of the little girls, Desney played by Betty Jane Graham and Nanny played by Marcia Mae Jones (These Three), has deteriorated greatly since their return home. The girls cling to Lora as a friendly face from the hospital. Neglected by their drunkard mother played by Charlotte Merriam, they are left to the stern care of the housekeeper Mrs. Maxwell played by Blanche Friderici (Flying Down to Rio).

The girls tell Lora about their other sister who died, and their daddy who is also in Heaven. Here we also get a build-up to the character of Nick, the chauffeur. Desney and Nanny are afraid of Nick. They hide under their blankets at the mention of this gruff and overbearing person.

Our first look at Nick after the build-up.

Summoned by Mrs. Ritchey's current boyfriend played by Walter McGrail to tend to the passed out parent, Lora is violently attacked. The racket summons Nick, whom Wellman first shoots as well dressed feet and legs come through the door. Lora can look for no reasonable help from Nick. He socks her on the chin, knocking her out.

Charlotte Merriam, Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Walter McGrail

An incensed Lora confronts Dr. Ranger and Dr. Bell about the situation at the mansion, not the least of which is the health of Desney and Nanny. Ethics are throw in her face as Lora is reminded of the oath not to disclose what is seen during the course of her duties. Also, the hierarchy of the profession seems to preclude anyone believing a nurse over a doctor. Lora doesn't believe all of this, but she returns to work hoping to effect some change from the inside. When next we see Lora at work, only one of the sorry little Ritchey girls remains, and it is Nanny dangerously close to death.

The housekeeper has overheard Nick and realizes that he is controlling Mrs. Ritchey and the situation in the house in order to gain control of the children's trust fund. Nick realizes his scheme has been discovered and he becomes a genuine danger to Mrs. Maxwell and Lora.

Mortie has a score to settle with Nick.

Outside of the sick room, the Ritchey mansion is a 24/7 party house, and such a place requires a steady supply of liquid refreshment. Hence, our friendly bootlegger, Mortie, is on hand to help his pal, Lora. He convinces Dr. Bell to forego "ethics" in favour of common sense. Mortie also has a score to settle with Nick for touching Lora. Ironically, it is the chauffeur gets taken for a ride.

Our last shot of Nick. He knows the jig is up.

Clark Gable's roles in this period included Salvation Army officers, racketeers, and gangsters with more than a touch of charm. In Nick, however, Wellman can play off of Gable's fabled charisma, but not a touch of his rakish charm. The role is not huge in terms of screen time, but incredibly impactful in terms of plot and impression made by an actor on his way up.










Wednesday, January 31, 2018

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR FEBRUARY ON TCM


Above is the angular silhouette of Jacques Tati and his alter-ego M. Hulot. At a time when slapstick was not considered an art, Tati brought it and his character to the fore in funny films including this 1959 Oscar winner.

Tati has much in common with the mime clowns of an earlier cinema, yet brought his own unique persona to film. Hulot is an outsider, like Chaplin's tramp, yet he blends into the crowd. Hulot is a go-getter like Lloyd's "the Boy", in that he makes things happen, but is ruled by his own inner clock. Like Keaton, Hulot perseveres against the odds, and those odds are found in the objects and people around him. Like Langdon's gentle soul, Hulot is a capricious sort.


Monsieur Hulot is adored by his nephew, and it is no wonder. Uncle Hulot lives in a friendly and raucous neighbourhood, in a room atop a strange and crooked house. The whole atmosphere is organic and humane. Nephew Gerard and his parents live in a most modern abode which is spic and span, and mechanized. Everything must be kept spic and span, and mechanized, even the inhabitants. Gerard wants to run wild with his friends, just like the pack of pooches prevalent throughout the movie. Gerard wants to have adventures with his beloved uncle.


Gerard's mother has plans for her brother Hulot. He must have a good job, a career, like her husband M. Arpel. Hulot must have a wife, just like the stylish neighbour. Mme. Arpel will arrange everything. You would think that after a lifetime she would know that nothing can be satisfactorily arranged where her brother is concerned. The only thing you can truly expect is the unexpected. Highlights in the movie include M. Hulot's encounter with his sister's kitchen, and the party intended to improve his condition.


I assume no actors were harmed in the filming of this motion picture, but I get such a kick out of the scene where the youngsters, and later M. Hulot, trick passersby to bump into a street lamp. (I think of it as a stationary rake.)

The visuals, the colours, the sound effects, and the delicately bouncy score add much to the clever gags in Mon Oncle. If that all sounds a bit dry, do not fear, there is heart in the humour, and a final scene that unexpectedly made me tear up upon first, and even subsequent viewings.


If you haven't yet seen this movie, or Tati, do consider it this month. While commenting on the sterilized consumer society into which the world was rushing, our Hulot remains a whimsical character. You may not think sustained whimsy is your thing, but I'm sure you will enjoy the many pleasures of Mon Oncle.


TCM is screening Mon Oncle on Tuesday, February 13th at 10:00 p.m. as part of their annual 31 Days of Oscar festival. The evening's topic is Best Foreign Language Film winners.









Monday, January 15, 2018

THOSE DREADFUL GIRLS!: The Belles of St. Trinian's (1954)


"Searle! We studied him in school."
- Bachelor of Animation grad Janet as the credits rolled by.

Artist/cartoonist Ronald Searle (1920-2011) first published account of St. Trinian's appeared in a magazine in 1941. Searle sadly spent the war as a guest of the Japanese. When the comic strip series reappeared on the scene in 1946 the naughty girls of the boarding school had become hysterically humourous over-the-top delinquents.

The filmmaking team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, having adapted John Dighton's boarding school comedy The Happiest Days of Your Life for the screen in 1950, turned their experienced eye on the Searle series.


The fall term is about to begin and that news, spurred on by the raucous sounds emanating from a busload of students, spreads through the village adjacent to St. Trinian's School for Young Ladies. Citizens board up the windows of their establishments and flee for their lives! A police sergeant locks himself in a jail cell. The superintendent of police takes to strong drink. 


Miss Fritton: "You see, in other schools, girls are sent out quite unprepared into a merciless world. But when our girls leave here, it is the merciless world which has to be prepared."

When Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim) and Miss Buckland (Mary Merrall) formed St. Trinian's in the 1920s it was a model school of lighthearted abandonment suitable to the era. Miss Fritton blames the subsequent war and its "black market mentality" for the lack of morals and manners that have created such high-spirited girls among the student body. Over the years Miss Fritton has adapted to the changing times. 

Perpetually lacking in funds and behind in payments, the staff grumbles about revolt. However, since most of the teachers lack qualifications and one is hiding from a prison sentence, Miss Fritton need only worry about filling new positions. Take note of how Hermione Baddeley as a solidly soused geography teacher steals focus by simply snoring in a chair.

Among the returning students is one Arabella "Bella" Fritton (Vivienne Martin), niece of the headmistress. Miss Fritton's twin Clarence (Alastair Sim) seeks the return to academia of his expelled, and overage, daughter so that she can pump new student Princess Fatima (Lorna Henderson) for information about her father's race horses. Clarence is a bookmaker and information is his stock-in-trade.


An unofficial member of the staff is "Flash" Harry (George Cole) who acts as a go-between for the girls and their various enterprises, which include concocting homemade gin in the school's lab for sale to the outside world. Very enterprising youngsters! Harry's belief in himself as an entrepreneur and his amusing deference to Miss Fritton is very funny indeed.

Miss Fritton (when asked about Harry's identity): "You know, I'm not absolutely sure. It could be Harry, a boot boy I engaged in 1940. Of course, he was only 12 and didn't have any moustache then, but, apart from that, I see no reason why it shouldn't be Harry."



Miss Crawley (Sgt. Gates): "I thought they might like to help the police. I mean, Guide's Honour. We're all Girl Guides, aren't we?"

Miss Fritton: "Are we? Some of us may have aspired beyond that happy state, Miss Crawley."

The Ministry of Education, from which two inspectors have gone to St. Trinian's and disappeared (!!) and Police Superintendent Bird (Lloyd Lamble) of the local district are determined to break the terror that is St. Trinian's School for Young Ladies. Sergeant Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell) is assigned to infiltrate the school as their new games mistress. Ruby accepts this assignment with the greatest reluctance. She optimistically believes success in the job will assist in moving along her romance with the superintendent.

The under cover name of Chloe Crawley does Sgt. Gates no good with the student body. She rightly predicted the nickname "Creepy Crawley". Her can-do spirit is certainly put to the test in a hockey match that never sees a referee or a second half! Bopped on the head and confined in a locked bathroom, no woman ever suffered for love as did our Ruby.


Miss Fritton (referring to Arab Boy): "It is leaving here in time for the race. I shall see to that."

Clarence Fritton (referring to that same Arab Boy): "And I'll see that it doesn't."

It is not only brother against sister as time nears for the big race upon which Clarence's business is so dependent. The sixth form girls are instrumental in a devious plan to kidnap the racehorse Arab Boy to help Bella's dad, whose horse Blue Prince must win. The just as devious, if not more so, fourth form girls have bet their pin money on new pal Fatima's stable and can purloin livestock with the best of them. Meanwhile, Miss Fritton has thrown caution to the wind and bet the remaining school funds on Arab Boy in hopes of making a killing and paying off the mortgage. 


Miss Fritton: "Girls, girls, you know perfectly well that pets are not allowed in the dormitories, and under the same rule, Mr. Harry, I doubt if you should be here either."

Law enforcement throughout the country is searching for Arab Boy on the very day of the Gold Cup race. It is Parent's Day at St. Trinian's School for Young Ladies. It is also the reunion of the "old girls" at the school. Arab Boy is trapped in the fourth form dormitory by the overwhelming forces of the sixth form. Only a battle worthy of Zulu warriors, and superior ingenuity will win the day.

This laugh-out-loud comedy led to the Launder and Gilliat follow-up movies Blue Murder at St. Trinian's in 1956, The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's in 1960, and The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery in 1966. 1980 saw Launder directing The Wildcats of St. Trinian's. In 2007 there was St. Trinian's with Rupert Everett in the dual roles of Carnaby and Camilla Fritton, followed by St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold in 2009 with Everett taking on three roles. These sequels and revivals fall on various degrees on the laugh metre, but it appears there may be no end in sight for Searle's sadistic students.







Tuesday, January 2, 2018

THE BILL AND MYRNA NEW YEAR'S BLOGATHON: After the Thin Man (1936)


Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Flapper Dame are our hosts for The Bill and Myrna New Year's Blogathon running from January 1 - 3. Talk about starting the new year right! Click on our hostesses' blog names for the entries to the blogathon.

Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett adapted Dashiell Hammett's serialized 1933 novel The Thin Man for the screen for MGM in 1934. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke and starring William Powell and Myrna Loy in the first year of their legendary teaming (Manhattan Melodrama), the movie was a popular hit that garnered four Oscar nominations. One of the nominations went to our married screenwriters.

The popularity of The Thin Man made it a particularly excellent candidate for a sequel and that job naturally fell to the Goodrich and Hackett. Their job was to imagine what happened after the thin man case. Aha, After the Thin Man became the title and the template for the titles of further sequels, letting the audience know what to expect in the way of entertainment and stars. Once more, Goodrich and Hackett received an Oscar nomination for their screenplay.

The 1936 release has us catching up with Nick and Nora where we left off. They are on the train bound for California after wrapping up the Wynant case a mere week ago at Christmastime. They have reached their home turf of San Francisco in time for New Year's Eve.

We overlook the fact that Nick and Nora look two years older, and that it took at least a few days after Christmas Day to finally solve the thin man case. We overlook all of this because we are just so darn happy to see them again.


Nick: "New Year's Eve at home. Or would you know that this is New Year's?"
Nora: "I know."
Nick: "I suppose you got ideas, huh?"
Nora: "Very definite ideas."
Nick: "I was afraid so."
Nora: "I'm going to lock the door, plug the bell, cut the telephone, and crawl into bed for a month."
Nick: "Nora, you're my favorite woman."



Beyond the welcoming front door is a riotous welcome home party. Half of the guests are strangers, and all of the staff is being run ragged. The hoped for peace and quiet is nowhere to be found, and capping it off there is a phone call from Nora's Aunt Katherine (Jessie Ralph). Nick and Nora's presence is demanded at a New Year's dinner at the Nob Hill mansion.


Beyond that imposing front door Nora's elderly relatives form as unpleasant a gathering for a New Year's Eve party as you are likely to come across. Bossy Aunt Katherine, sly cousin Lucius, deaf Aunt Hattie, pompous Uncle Willie, cousin Helen, cousin Emily, and 83, and darn proud of it, and Aunt Lucy. The entire group disapproves strongly of Mr. Nicholas Charles.


Nora: "Nickie, pull yourself together."
Nick: "One squint at Aunt Katherine would sober anybody up."

The only relative Nick can stand is Nora's cousin Selma (Elissa Landi). It is for Selma's sake that Nick and Nora have been summoned. Selma's ne'er-do-well husband Robert (Alan Marshal) is off somewhere on a toot, and Aunt Katherine wants the waistral found before any untoward publicity.


Selma: "Can you indefinitely go on caring for someone who doesn't care for you?"
David: "Well, it's been done."

The evening almost looks like it can be salvaged when Selma's former beau, David (James Stewart) put in an appearance. Nick and Nora almost get the younger folks to join them on the town, but Selma backs out because she is nearing hysteria over her worry for Robert. The only clue they have is a vanity case that was mailed from a Chinese restaurant/night club.


Dancer: "Oh, Mr. Charles, how are you?"
Nick: "Hello, Dancer."
Dancer: "I want you to meet my partner. This is Lum Kee, Mr. Charles. You sent his brother up, remember?"

The quiet night at home had morphed into a night with the waxworks, and now a night of clubbing . Nick and Nora head to a place called The Lichee, and it is hopping this New Year's Eve. Nick runs into all sorts of people from his old live. Some of them may hold a grudge. One of the owners of the club (William Law) has a brother that Nick put away. And the other (Joseph Calleia) is only too happy to make Mr. and Mrs. Charles comfortable.


Dancer: "Is he a friend of yours?"
Nick: "On the contrary, a relative."
Dancer: "He's been hanging around here for three days, drunk. Got a case on our prima donna."

The woman in the case, and Robert's life, is the club's entertainer, Polly (Dorothy McNulty, later Penny Singleton). The audience is treated to a couple of numbers from the ebullient vocalist before she hustles Robert out into the night. They aren't the only ones traipsing the foggy streets at midnight. Lum needs to take a drive. Dancer is missing from the club. David walks the night alone. A late visit from a dismissive Robert has a distraught Selma roaming the neighbourhood, and armed.


A shot rings out putting an end to Robert Landis' sordid life of entanglements.

David: "Selma, what's happened?"
Selma: "He was going away and I tried to stop him."
David: "Now, Selma, listen to me. Now listen. I want you to go back to the house. You've never had a pistol, you understand? You hear me? You've never been out of the house tonight."



Aunt Katherine: " Mr. Abrahams, how dare you question my servants?"
Lt. Abrams: "Lady, a man's been killed. I got to find out who did it."
Aunt Katherine: "Surely you don't think..."
Lt. Abrams: "How do I know what to think if nobody will tell me anything?"

Now the fun starts with Lt. Abrams (Sam Levene) torn between two investigations, one back at the Lichee with Nick incharge, and one dealing with Aunt Katherine on Nob Hill. Abrams can't even interrogate his prime suspect, Selma, as she is under the care of an eminent nerve specialist, Dr. Kammer (George Zucco). Lt. Abrams is going batty!


Nick: "Well, this is a fine way to start the New Year."
Nora: "Get me out of here."

What a delicious way to start the new year, at least movie-wise. A murder on a fog-bound street at midnight. A boatload of suspects and persons of interest, each with their own conflicting intentions. And Nick Charles on the case. At one point our lovely Nora ends up in the slammer. Once back home, Nick and Nora have to wrestle with Asta over a clue. The press is all over the case and Aunt Katherine is appalled by the publicity because Selma is the prime suspect. Polly, the singer, has a close relative (Paul Fix) who knows too much and ends up another victim.


In The Thin Man (1934) we spent some time in silence as Nick sleuthed his way around Wynant's laboratory and offices. It was where he made a major discovery and formed a theory on the case. In After the Thin Man we enjoy a similar scene as Nick investigates an apartment which was a lover's hideaway for Polly and Robert. What else does he find there that leads to a shocking discovery, and an attempt on his life?


Nora: "Go on, Nicky, it's just getting good."

As is his wont, Nick gathers all of those involved in the case in one spot, the apartment. There he boldly confronts one and all with their crimes. The assembled suspects don't take it too well. Punches and threats are thrown. None of this phases our Nick. William Powell is equally engaging whether he is walking around a room looking for clues, or holding court with a captive audience. Myrna Loy as Nora always has his back. We know they are a team.


Nick: "What's that?" (Nora's knitting) "Looks like a baby's sock."
Nora: "And you call yourself a detective."

After clearing Selma and handing the real killer to the police, we are right back where we started. Nick, Nora, and Asta are back on a train heading who knows where? I suppose they are looking for that elusive peace and quiet. Do you think they'll find it? I think they'll find Another Thin Man.


"I never enjoyed my work more than when I worked with William Powell. He was a brilliant actor, a delightful companion, a great friend and, above all, a true gentleman."
- Myrna Loy
Being and Becoming








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