After the Thin Man

After the Thin Man is a 1936 American comedy film directed by W. S. Van Dyke and starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and James Stewart. A sequel to the film 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).

After the Thin Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed byW. S. Van Dyke
Produced byHunt Stromberg
Written byDashiell Hammett (characters, story)
Screenplay byAlbert Hackett
Frances Goodrich
StarringWilliam Powell
Myrna Loy
James Stewart
Elissa Landi
Joseph Calleia
Jessie Ralph
Music byWilliam Axt
CinematographyOliver T. Marsh
Edited byRobert J. Kern
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
December 25, 1936 (1936-12-25)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$673,000 (est.)[1]
Box office$3,165,000 (worldwide est.)[1]


Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) 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 despised by Nora's Aunt Katherine (Jessie Ralph), the family matriarch, as his immigrant heritage and experience as a "flatfoot" are considered below Nora. Nora's cousin Selma (Elissa Landi) tells Nora that her ne'er-do-well husband Robert (Alan Marshal) has been missing for three days. David Graham (James Stewart), is Selma's earlier fiancé, and an old friend of Nora's family. He offers to pay Robert $25,000 ($451,379 in 2018 dollars) to leave and grant Selma a divorce. Nora successfully badgers Nick into helping to locate Robert.

Robert is at the LiChi Club, a Chinese nightclub, where he's been conducting an affair with Polly (Penny Singleton), the star performer. Unknown to Robert, Polly and club owner Dancer (Joseph Calleia) 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 sneaks back into Aunt Katherine's home to retrieve some clothes. Nick sees Dancer and nightclub co-owner Lum Kee (William Law) each leave the club on their own as well. Robert leaves Aunt Katherine's at the stroke of midnight, and is shot dead in the foggy street. David finds Selma standing over Robert, a gun in her hand. Lt. Abrams (Sam Levene) 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 the gun into San Francisco Bay (thinking she was guilty). Nick begins to investigate to find the true murderer.

Someone throws a rock with a note tied to it through the window of Nick and Nora's home. The note accuses Polly and Dancer of conspiring to kill Robert, and reveals 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 sees that all but one are forged.

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 disappears. Nick finds the body of the building custodian, Pedro. Nora identifies Pedro as her father's former gardener. She finds a photo in Pedro's room of Pedro with the 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 Anderson's 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 secretly hated Selma for leaving him. He rented the apartment so he could spy on Polly and Robert in her apartment and kill him there. But instead he killed Robert on the street and tried to frame Selma for the crime. Spying on Polly, he overheard Phil's real identity and Phil's plan to blackmail David. David murdered Phil, then threw the message rock.

However, Pedro recognized David as the mysterious "Anderson", so David killed him as well. David pulls out a gun 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.

Nick and Nora leave San Francisco for the East Coast on a train, accompanied by Selma. Later, alone with Nora, Nick sees she is knitting a baby's sock, and 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]

Cast note:

  • Penny Singleton was billed as "Dorothy McNulty".


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

The film was second of six 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 and an 90% audience rating.[4]

Box office

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

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]


  1. 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 2016-02-06.
  3. Awards for After The Thin Man on 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.
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