It seems to me, Mrs. Charles, that every time your husband gets in with a girl, the insurance companies take an awful beatin’. Now, it’s nice, very nice, for a wife to trust her husband, but, get this, there’s that Wynant girl he knew before he was married. He comes here to New York and, bing, there’s a murder. He goes back to the West coast, there’s a good lookin’ girl there and, bing, there’s another murder. He comes back here, meets this Lois MacFay and… Bing – Bing – Bing! There’s another murder.
It’s time for another Thin Man Thursday!
As I have said before, I LOOOOVE The Thin Manseries! The characters, the pacing, the mystery, everything is amazing. It’s a perfect blend of mystery, comedy, drama, and film noir. However, this film is not my favorite of the series and for good reason. Unlike the other films, this one has very little William Powell.
It’s not that they replaced him or anything like that. There is two good reasons. While they were getting ready to make this film, William Powell’s fiancée, Jean Harlow, died; and then he was diagnosed with cancer. He had to have colon bypass surgery and radiation treatments. At first they were going to recast him, (no the horror), but wisely decided to wait. When they finally started filming all gave him a standing ovation.
Because of all that had happened, they were very careful with Powell. They filmed for only six hours a day and hired stand-ins to lighten his load as much as possible. The story is just okay, and I understand. This is one of those times when the studio put the person ahead of the studio and the money and wanted to have a a good film but also a well rested star.
So on to the film.
When we ended After the Thin Man, Nora surprised Nick with news that she was pregnant. Fast forward and the Charles family + their new addition are back in New York City.
While Nora calls her friend in San Francisco to let them know she has arrived in NYC, the operator cuts in with a call from Colonel MacFay (C. Aubrey Smith), Nora’s father’s old business partner who wants them to immediately come out and see him. Nora doesn’t want to as they have just arrived from a cross country train trip (with a dog and a baby)…
But Colonel MacFay has already sent the chauffeur and collected their bags, so they are once again off on another mystery and adventure.
While they are getting their personal belongings together, the bell boy plots stealing from Nora until her realizes that it’s Nick’s place. He’s Creeps and like all the crooks that Nick sent away when he was a detective, he still likes Nick. He congratulates them on the baby and plans a baby party for when they return.
The two make their way to the Colonel’s both really unhappy to have to go, but they don’t have a long to think about it as when they arrive at the Colonel’s gate they find a dead body, the chauffeur flees, the “dead” body disappears, and the Colonel’s armed guards harass them.
Eventually they are able to make their way inside where they chat with the Colonel, his adopted daughter, Lois (Virginia Grey), and her fiancé, Dudley (Patric Knowles), who works for the Colonel. Also there that night is the Colonel’s secretary, Freddie (Tom Neal).
Nick has been dreading this meeting with the Colonel as he thinks all the Colonel is going to want to talk about is Nora’s money, as the Colonel is in charge of her finances and investments; but to their surprise that’s not what the Colonel is interested in. The Colonel explains to Nick and Nora that a former employee, Phil Church, has threatened to kill him. Church was an engineer who did some illegal things at the Colonel’s company and went to prison for ten years. He blames the Colonel and as soon as he was released moved into the Colonel’s neighborhood. Church has demanded the Colonel pay him in order to end his terror. Lois agrees with Nick that they should pay him off, but the Colonel refuses.
It doesn’t take long for things to take a bad turn with the pool house being set on fire and Lois’ dog murdered. After all these events Nick goes to talk to Church who is a creep and threatens Nick and his family.
This is the part I don’t really like as I feel it drags as we see t going back to New York, there is another intimidation crew who comes to town, Church’s mistress, etc.
We finally get back on track when the Colonel gets shot and Nick now needs to figure out who killed him.
Many think it is Church, but could it be someone else? What about Dudley who is running around with a gun trying to take a shot at Nick (and ends up shot by the police)? The Charles’ nanny also takes off when the police come, hmmm?
The police investigate and discover that the Colonel was going to cut off Lois if she married Dudley. They think that Dudley killed the Colonel to keep the money and then tried to kill Nick to keep him from finding out, and while that ties everything up…that explanation doesn’t sit right with Nick at all.
Nick is on the case, a case that takes him to a club where he finds out that Church had another girlfriend besides the afore mentioned Smitty (Muriel Hutchison). The other mistress’ name was Linda Mills and she was known to be a tough dame. The Charles start looking into it, while Church also turns up dead.
Nick starts putting things together, but I think my biggest problem with this film is that there are too many characters and too many locations that it feels busy and is easy to lose track of who was who. The best part of the film is the end.
Nick assembles all the characters but while tbeh are in the middle of him breaking down the case, they are interrupted by the “baby party” planned by Creeps earlier in the film. This is one for be best scenes as you see all these hardened crooks with these little babies (as you need a baby in order to come, and all want to be a part of Nick’s Baby Party).
We end up finding out that the killer was Lois. She hated her life with the colonel and wanted something exciting. She would constantly sneak out and live her double life of Linda Mills, by doing so she met Church and started dating him; planning to kill the Colonel, frame Dudley, and kill Dudley as well.
However, then she discovered that Church was dating another woman. After finding that out, he had to go.
But Lois won’t be taken alive by the police, she flees to the baby party and kidnaps little Nicky using him as a human shield. It looks like it is all over, until a former crook returns to the party to trade babies as he took Nicky by mistake. Lois is taken away and all ends well.
While this is not my favorite of The Thin Man franchise, I do think the killer was done extremely well. You never suspect her through the whole film, and at the end when she drops her “I’m just a sweet innocent girl” act and becomes “Linda Mills”, I had shivers. Definitely a very well done villain.
For more on The Thin Man, go to Pick Us Up Another Thin Man, Will Ya Nick?: After the Thin Man (1936)
For more film noir, go to You Know, That Sounds Like an Interesting Case. Why Don’t You Take It?: The Thin Man (1934)
For more detectives, go to Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That, Who’s Afraid of the Big, Black Bat?: Batman Forever (1995)