Watching 1939: Another Thin Man (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Another Thin Man (1939)

Release date: 
Nov. 17, 1939

Cast: 
William Powell, Myrna Loy, Asta, Virginia Grey, Otto Kruger, C. Aubrey Smith, Ruth Hussey, Nat Pendleton, Patric Knowles, Tom Neal, Phyllis Gordon, Don Costello, Harry Bellaver, William A. Poulsen, Muriel Hutchison, Marjorie Main, Abner Biberman, Dick Elliott (uncredited), Shemp Howard (uncredited), Carmen D’Antonio (uncredited), Miguel Fernández Mila (uncredited),

Studio: 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 
W.S. Van Dyke

Plot:
Nick (Powell) and Nora (Loy) Charles return to New York after a vacation with their dog Asta and their one-year-old baby Nickie, Jr. (Poulsen). An old family friend, Colonel MacFay (Smith) calls them to his home, because he believes there is a threat on his life as he receives threats. When he is killed, Nick and Nora investigate the murder. Suspects include the Colonel’s adopted daughter (Grey), a strange nurse (Hussey), the daughter’s boyfriend (Neal) and the person sending threats to the Colonel, Phil Church (Leonard).

1939 Notes:
• The third film in the Thin Man series. There were a total of six films made between 1934 and 1947.
• William Powell’s first film after his treatment with cancer.
• First feature film for Harry Bellaver.
By the numbers:
• William Powell was only in one film released in 1939.
• Asta was only in one film released in 1939.
• Virginia Grey was in six films released in 1939.
• Only film of William A. Poulsen, who plays baby Nick Charles, Jr.
• Ruth Hussey was in seven films released in 1939.
• Tom Neal was in 12 films released in 1939.
• Sheldon Leonard was only in one film released in 1939.
• Character actor Harold Miller was in 22 films released in 1939. All of the roles are uncredited.
• 1939 was the first year that Abner Biberman had credited roles. Biberman was in 12 film roles that year.

Myrna Loy, C. Aubrey Smith and William Powell in “Another Thin Man.”

Other trivia: 
• Due to William Powell’s diagnosis and treatment with cancer in 1938, MGM considered replacing Powell with Melvyn Douglas or Reginald Gardiner since filming was delayed, according to 1939 news announcements in the Hollywood Reporter.
• A rhumba scene at the West Indies Club involving Myrna Loy, Alexander D’Arcy, and Rafael Alcayde was deleted from the film.
• Also promoted as “The Thin Man Returns.”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
If you aren’t sure which “Thin Man” installment “Another Thin Man” is – this is when Nick and Nora’s baby appears, Nickie Jr.

In the third installment of “Another Thin Man” (1939), the couple return to New York to solve the murder of a family friend, played by C. Aubrey Smith.

This was the first “Thin Man” movie in three years and was also William Powell’s return to film and MGM after an 18-month absence due to a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

In late 1937, William Powell filmed “The Baroness and the Butler” for 20th Century Fox, which was released in February 1938. That was the last time audiences saw him until November 1939 when “After the Thin Man” was released, because of his cancer treatment. (While one film a year may not sound like a big deal now, during the studio system era, some stars would star in more than five films a year).

When William Powell came on set for the first day of shooting, he said it was like coming home again. He was thankful that W.S. Van Dyke and Myrna Loy weren’t too sentimental, sensing that he was already choked up. “Well Powell at last – and late again!” they said, according to William Powell: The Life and Films by Roger Bryant.

Nick and Nora have a one-year-old baby in “Another Thin Man.” The baby is played by William A. Poulsen, which was his only film role.

This time, the Charles and Asta are joined by another member of the family: Nickie Jr. The one-year-old baby is played by William A. Poulsen in his only film.

Publicity shots for “Another Thin Man” focus on the baby. Photos show Powell, Loy and Poulsen playing on the floor together.

Loy said Powell wasn’t thrilled about the baby in the film. He worried that making Nick and Nora parents would change their “devil-may-care” attitude and remind audiences that they would age, according to the book “Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood.”

However, one-year-old Nickie Jr. has little effect on the lives of Nick and Nora.

The storyline in “Another Thin Man” (1939) doesn’t focus too much on the baby. Nick does call Nora “Mommy” and criminals threaten the parents with the safety of the baby, but that’s about it.

Parenthood doesn’t get in the way of crime-solving or hob-knobbing with notorious criminals.

“Another Thin Man” has the usual comedic elements, mysterious twists and unexpected ending as the two previous films in the series. While it isn’t the best in the series, it is definitely still fun.

“Another Thin Man” is loaded with an excellent cast. Outside of our (always outstanding) leads of William Powell and Myrna Loy, the supporting cast is rounded out by Virginia Grey, Otto Kruger, C. Aubrey Smith, Ruth Hussey, Nat Pendleton, Patric Knowles, Tom Neal and Harry Bellaver. Wow! Talk about talent.

“Another Thin Man” (1939) may be predictable fun, but when you sit down to watch it, you also know you will enjoy yourself.

C. Aubrey Smith, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Tom Neal and Virginia Grey in “Another Thin Man.”

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