After the Thin Man

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After the Thin Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed byW. S. Van Dyke
Written byDashiell Hammett (characters, story)
Screenplay byAlbert Hackett
Frances Goodrich
Produced byHunt Stromberg
StarringWilliam Powell
Myrna Loy
James Stewart
Elissa Landi
Joseph Calleia
Jessie Ralph
Alan Marshall
Teddy Hart
CinematographyOliver T. Marsh
Edited byRobert J. Kern
Music byHerbert Stothart
Edward Ward
Distributed byLoew's, Inc.
Release date
  • December 25, 1936 (1936-12-25) (US)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$673,000 (est.)[1]
Box office$3,165,000 (worldwide est.)[1]

After the Thin Man is a 1936 American murder mystery comedy film directed by W. S. Van Dyke and starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and James Stewart. A sequel to the 1934 feature The Thin Man, the film presents Powell and Loy as Dashiell Hammett's characters Nick and Nora Charles. The film also features Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Alan Marshal, and Penny Singleton (billed under her maiden name as Dorothy McNulty).


Nick and Nora Charles return from vacation to their home in San Francisco on New Year's Eve, where Nora's stuffy family expect the couple to join them for a formal dinner. Nick is disliked by Nora's Aunt Katherine, the family matriarch, as his immigrant heritage and experience as a "flatfoot" are considered beneath Nora's station. Nora's cousin Selma tells Nora that her ne'er-do-well husband Robert has been missing for three days. David Graham is Selma's earlier fiancé and an old friend of Nora's family. He offers to pay Robert $25,000 ($466,247 in 2020 dollars) to leave and grant Selma a divorce. Nora successfully badgers Nick into helping to locate Robert.

Lobby card for After the Thin Man (1936)

Robert is at the LiChi Club, a Chinese nightclub, where he's been conducting an affair with Polly, the star performer there. Unknown to Robert, Polly and club owner Dancer plan to steal the money David will pay Robert. Polly's brother, Phil Byrnes, wants money from her, but Dancer throws him out, just as Nick and Nora arrive looking for Robert.

They tell Robert about David's offer, and he agrees to it. After being paid off, Robert goes back into Aunt Katherine's home to retrieve some clothes and say goodbye to Selma, who begs him not to leave. Nick sees Dancer and nightclub co-owner Lum Kee each leave the club separately at the same time. Robert leaves at the stroke of midnight, and is shot dead in the foggy street. David finds Selma standing over Robert, a pistol in her hand. Lt. Abrams considers Selma the prime suspect, and her fragile mental state only strengthens his belief. Selma insists that she never fired her gun, but her claim cannot be backed up as David threw it into San Francisco Bay, thinking she was guilty. Nick begins to investigate to find the actual murderer.

Someone throws a rock with a note tied to it through Nick and Nora's window. The note accuses Polly and Dancer of conspiring to kill Robert, while revealing that Phil Byrnes is an ex-con and Polly's husband. Lt. Abrams has found several checks from Robert to Polly, including one for $20,000, but Nick carefully compares them and sees that all but one are forgeries.

Nick and Lt. Abrams find Phil murdered in his hotel room. Nick investigates Polly's apartment, and discovers that someone, using the name "Anderson", had bugged it from the apartment above. While in the upper apartment, Nick hears Dancer enter Polly's home. Nick pursues Dancer into the basement, but Dancer fires a round of bullets at Nick and disappears. Nick discovers the body of the building custodian, Pedro. Nora identifies Pedro as the former gardener on her father's estate. She finds a photo in Pedro's room of Pedro with their other servants. Lt. Abrams says someone tried to call Nick from the building just before Pedro was killed.

Nick has Lt. Abrams gather all the suspects in the Anderson apartment. Dancer and Polly confess they intended to use a forged check to steal Robert's money, but claim they are innocent of murder. David says he has not seen Pedro in six years, but remembers his long white mustache. But Nick realizes that in the picture Nora found, Pedro had a small gray mustache. David must have seen Pedro recently.

Nick now reconstructs the murder. David is "Anderson". He hated Robert for taking Selma from him, and also secretly hated Selma for leaving him. He rented the apartment so he could eavesdrop on Polly and Robert and kill them in the apartment. Instead, he killed Robert on the street and tried to frame Selma for the murder. While spying on Polly, he overheard Phil's real identity and Phil's plan to blackmail David. David murdered Phil, and threw the message rock as a diversion.

Pedro, however, recognized David as the mysterious "Anderson", so David killed him as well. David pulls out a pistol and threatens to kill Selma and then himself. Lum Kee flings his hat in David's face, allowing Nick and Lt. Abrams to overpower him. This surprises Nora, because Nick had Lum Kee's brother sent to prison for bank robbery. But Lum Kee explains: "I don't like my brother. I like his girl. You my friend".

Nick and Nora leave San Francisco by train for the East Coast, accompanied by Selma. Later, alone with Nora, Nick notices she is knitting a baby's sock, and suddenly realizes that she is pregnant. Nora gently chides him, saying, "And you call yourself a detective".


The cast is listed in order as documented by the American Film Institute.[2]


The film's storyline was written by Dashiell Hammett, based on his characters Nick and Nora, but not on a particular novel or short story. Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich wrote the original screenplay.

The film was second of six feature films based on the characters of Nick and Nora:


The film was nominated for an Oscar in 1937 for Best Writing, Screenplay.[3] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 100% based on reviews from 18 professional critics, with a rating average of 7.65/10.[4]

Box office[edit]

After the Thin Man grossed a total – domestic and foreign – of $3,165,000: $1,992,000 from the US and Canada and $1,173,000 elsewhere. It made a profit of $1,516,000.[1]

Radio adaptation[edit]

An hour-long radio adaptation of After the Thin Man was presented on the CBS Lux Radio Theatre on June 17, 1940. Powell and Loy reprised their roles.[5]

Home media[edit]

After the Thin Man was released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection on January 26, 2021.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Sedgwick, John (2000). Popular Filmgoing in 1930s Britain: A Choice of Pleasures. University of Exeter Press. ISBN 9780859896603. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  2. ^ "After the Thin Man". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved December 31, 2021.
  3. ^ Awards for After The Thin Man at IMDb
  4. ^ "After the Thin Man". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  5. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 43 (1): 39. Winter 2017.
  6. ^ "Warner Archive Press Release: After The Thin Man (1936) (Blu-ray)". Home Theater Forum. December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 27, 2020.

External links[edit]