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1939: Hollywood's Golden Year
Remind Me
,Another Thin Man

Another Thin Man

Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) are visiting Long Island with their infant son when asked to help an old friend who's afraid he's about to be murdered. They go to the friend's estate, which they find busier than a city street corner as numerous staff members, gangsters, relatives and wayward actors swarm about the place. When the friend is in fact murdered, Nick and Nora set out to catch the killers -- if only Nora can keep Nick out of the liquor cabinet.

The Thin Man series has proven to be remarkably durable, and the third entry, Another Thin Man (1939), is no exception. This is all the more surprising considering the behind-the-scenes problems that almost kept the film from being made.

The script and a crew were ready to start filming early in 1938 when a problem arose concerning William Powell's health. It wasn't revealed at the time, but he was diagnosed with cancer. It was another personal blow to the actor who was still grieving over the sudden death of his fiancee Jean Harlow the previous year. However, successful operations in March 1938 and January 1939 eventually allowed Powell to overcome the disease and his doctors permitted him to return to work in the fall of 1939. (In the meantime, he had to pass on playing Maxim de Winter in Hitchcock's Rebecca.) As for Myrna Loy, she had just returned from London where the outbreak of World War II forced her back to the States.

Powell was given a standing ovation by the cast and crew on his first day on the set of Another Thin Man. According to author Charles Francisco in the biography, Gentleman: The William Powell Story, "Powell, looking remarkably fit and tanned, seemed embarrassed by the attention. He held up his hands and the familiar grin began to play at the corners of his mouth as he tried to think of something funny to say. The applause stopped, and Bill found that he couldn't speak. Myrna Loy rushed over to him and gave him a kiss and a big hug. Woody Van Dyke supplied the proper ending to the emotionally charged scene. 'All right,' he bellowed, 'what are we wasting time for? Let's get to work.'" Director Van Dyke (veteran of the previous two films) made allowances for Powell's weakened condition, insisting filming last only six hours a day and working on four soundstages with double crews to compensate for the shorter working time. The film was released in November 1939 and became one of the year's highest-grossing films.

Another Thin Man was based on a story by Dashiell Hammett, who wrote the original novel. Like the previous Thin Man films, the script was written by four-time Oscar nominees Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, but it was their final contribution to the series. In her autobiography, Being and Becoming, Loy recalled the duo, stating, "Do you know I never saw them at Metro? It's terrible, really, but unless they sent for the writers to get us out of a hole, we seldom saw them on the set....I didn't meet the Hacketts until I moved to New York in the fifties. We became friends, I'm happy to say, and Albert facetiously explained one day why they didn't write the last three Thin Man pictures: 'Finally I just threw up on my typewriter. I couldn't do it again; I couldn't write another one.' Perhaps we all should have concurred; those last three never really touched the pervious ones."

Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Director: W. S. Van Dyke II
Screenplay: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Anita Loos, Dashiell Hammett (story)
Cinematography: William Daniels, Oliver T. Marsh
Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith
Art Direction: Edwin B. Willis
Music: Edward Ward
Principal Cast: William Powell (Nick Charles), Myrna Loy (Nora Charles), Virginia Grey (Lois MacFay), Otto Kruger (Van Slack), C. Aubrey Smith (Colonel Burr MacFay), Ruth Hussey (Dorothy Waters).
BW-103m. Closed captioning.

by Lang Thompson



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