Another Thin Man (1939)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Nick, Nora, and Asta find themselves back in the Big Apple, and now they have a bouncing baby boy with them named Nicky Jr. Once there, a man named Colonel MacFay invites the them for a weekend visit at his house in Long Island. MacFay says a man named Phil Church wants him dead and after MacFay turns up dead, Church becomes suspect numero uno. However, Nick suspects something else is afoot…

‘Another Thin Man’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Another Thin Man (1939)About a year and nine months have passed since we last saw Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) in After the Thin Man. Once again, our dynamic drunk duo finds themselves (along with Asta and their one-year-old baby boy, Nickie, Jr (William A. Poulsen)) back in New York City.

As they try to unpack their luggage in their hotel room, the man who administers Nora’s estate, Colonel MacFay (C. Aubrey Smith), calls her. He desperately requests the Charles’ immediately pay him a weekend visit to his country house on Long Island. As she hangs up with him, his chauffeur arrives to drive them the two hours back to the Colonel’s home.

On the road outside the Colonel’s mansion, Nick spots a dead body on the side of the road with a knife in his chest. He orders the chauffeur to stop. Reluctantly he does. As Nick walks back to the body for a look-see, the chauffeur runs out of the car and Nick can not find the body. This scares Nick because he knows what he saw.

He goes back to the car and drives them the rest of the way to the Colonel’s mansion. An armed guard at the mansion’s gate gives Nick a hard time but eventually lets him through after calling MacFay. A little further down the road is another armed guard who hitches a ride on the outside of the car for the remainder of the drive. Nobody is trusting anyone on the MacFay grounds.

Once they arrive, they find MacFay in his parlor arguing with his secretary, Freddie Coleman (Tom Neal); his adopted daughter, Lois (Virginia Grey); and her fiancee, Dudley Horn (Patric Knowles). Something has completely made him fear for his life.

At dinner, MacFay claims one of his ex-engineers named Phil Church (Sheldon Leonard) just got out of jail after serving ten years and he blames MacFay for it. Now that he’s out, he wants MacFay’s money… and revenge.

Church has previously told MacFay that if he dreams something three times, whatever he’s dreamt about comes true after the third one. Now, Church says he’s has dreamt of MacFay’s death three times with a knife to the throat, and MacFay believes Church intends to kill him; especially after all the little accidents that began happening around him.

Nick is skeptical, but when someone cuts the throat of Lois’ dog, Jesse, and sets MacFay’s swimming pool on fire, Nick begins to suspect there might be something more to these “accidents”.

Phil Church lives in a cottage nearby so Nick takes Asta for a walk over there. He finds a man claiming to be a detective (Don Costello) spying on the place. Church’s goon, Dum-Dum (Abner Biberman), answers the door and takes him to Church who’s there with his female assistant/goonette, Smitty (Sheldon Leonard).

Church is preparing to leave for Cuba, but he takes the time to talk to Nick. He tells Nick about his three dreams where MacFay dies with a cut to the throat. He says that MacFay used him as the scapegoat in some unscrupulous business dealings and now owes him money.

When Church next implies that he might start dreaming about Nora and Nickie, Jr, Nick punches Church. Dum-Dum throws a knife at Nick as a warning as Smitty pulls a gun on him. Church orders them to lay off and get him his cab back to New York. Nick thanks Smitty for not shooting him and leaves with Asta.

Later that night, Horn phones the port authority in New York to confirm Church and crew have bought tickets for Cuba. MacFay breathes a sigh of relief that Church is no longer in Long Island, but Nick thinks whatever Church plans to do, he will still do.

At 11 o’clock, we see Church, Smitty, and Dum-Dum in Smitty’s NYC apartment. The “detective” shows up to question Smitty about her husband in jail, H. Culverton Smith, who he claims is friend of his, and about Church. While Church and Dum-Dum hide in another room, the detective accuses Smitty of having an affair with Church. Once he leaves, Church sends Dum-Dum off somewhere and tells Smitty he could go for a girl like her. She reciprocates her affection for him. Church tells her to make her jailhouse call to her husband while he allegedly heads off to Cuba.

Two hours pass and it’s 1am at the MacFay’s house. Everyone is in bed. Nickie, Jr wakes up which wakes Asta which wakes Nora who then uses Nickie, Jr to wake Nick. Lois is wide awake in her room so she pays the Charles’a visit. Five minutes after she enters their room, a gunshot rings out and the house goes dark. Nick and Horn go to check on MacFay. He’s dead with his throat cut open. Nick has the housekeeper, Mrs. Isabella Bellam (Phyllis Gordon) call the sheriff. As they arrive, we see the Charles’ nanny, Dorothy (Ruth Hussey), sneak out the front gate.

The cops arrive and then head to Church’s cabin to arrest him, but he’s of course allegedly on his way to Cuba. The cops put out an all points bulletin on Church. Back in MacFay’s room, the cops say his throat was cut wide open with a knife; a knife similar to the one Dum-Dum carries with him. The cops then question the entire MacFay staff, Horn, Nick, Nora, Freddie, Lois, and the kitchen sink.

Assistant District Attorney Van Slack (Otto Kruger) gives Nick his working theory on the murder. MacFay shot the gun Nick heard in selfdefense but the killer then cut his throat. Nick isn’t so sure and then gives him the license plate of the “detective” he saw spying on Church’s cottage. Then Asta finds the knife, grabs it, and runs aways from everyone. As Nick looks for Asta in the bushes, Lois runs up to Nick to get his attention.

Horn shoots at them, hitting Lois in the arm. The police immediately shoot and kill him; leaving no motive for the murder attempt, but Van Slack speculates Lois and Nick have something going on the side and a jealous Horn tried to kill Nick for it.

Back inside Van Slack questions Lois and insinuates that Horn killed MacFay because he didn’t approve of her relationship with Horn and knocking off the old man would make her rich. Freddie, who’s madly in love with Lois, tries to comfort her. Nick points out the holes in the Van Slack’s theory, wishes him luck, and says he’s going back to New York for some peace and quiet. Nora agrees and has the MacFay household go with them… so much for peace and quiet.

After a few days of newspaper headlines, the police are no closer to finding Church. Lois wakes up to find Mrs. Bellam sitting by her side. She lets it slip that she’s Lois’ real mother. Freddie enters and tells her that he’ll always be by her side.

Van Slack next pays Nick a visit at his hotel room and requests he continue helping him with the case. He tells Nick that the license plate of the “detective” belongs to a criminal named Diamond Back Vogel. He’ll pay him a visit sooner rather than later as well. As the men head out, the phone rings. Vogel’s crony (Matty Fain) threatens to kill Nick and his family if he doesn’t get off the case. He hangs up and then he and Van Slack ditch Nora and head out.

Once out, a man (Martin Garralaga) calls looking for Nick, but Nora takes the call. He gives her an address to meet him at. Meanwhile, Nick and Van Slack meet Lieutenant Guild (Nat Pendleton) outside Smitty’s apartment. The men go up to question her about Church and the murders. She says she doesn’t know anything and that Church hadn’t been there in two or three weeks. Nick knows she’s lying.

Just then her door’s buzzer goes off and Guild answers it for her. Vogel is standing in the doorway. Guild makes him come inside. Vogel admits he’s been watching Smitty and Church…for her husband… who’s a pal of his. He thinks Smitty’s going away with Church. Just then Dum-Dum walks in. He sees the cops and splits. The cops run after him as Smitty accuses Vogel of doing something to Church. The two start a fist fight as Nick watches, drinking alcohol a few steps back. He then spots a matchbook from the West Indies Club and decides that’s a good place to go. He chugs his drink, and leaves. He hails a cab to the club as the cops go back to headquarters without finding Dum-Dum. Vogel’s cronies follow Nick to the club.

At the club, after a quick dance number, “Bella Spruce” sends Nick a message asking him to join her for old times’ sake. He goes over to a table with a gaggle of men fawning over her. Bella turns out to be Nora. The men leave after Nick insinuates Nora’s under quarantine and she plays along with the gag.

Nora catches Nick all up on the mysterious caller. She says Dum-Dum owes the caller $14.75 but won’t fork it over. If Nora gives him the money, he will tell her where Dum-Dum is hiding. Turns out the man is part of the club’s band, but he can not get Nora’s attention. Nick spots him though.

Meanwhile, another man has been watching Nora and she thinks he’s the informant. She tries to get him to tell her where Dum-Dum is hiding. He just tries to seduce her. Amused, Nick lets her suffer.

As this goes on, Dum-Dum walks in. He spots Nick and goes to talk to him as Vogel’s goons watch from a side table. While the two chat, a fat man from the next table eavesdrops on them. Dum-Dum says he doesn’t know Church’s location. The fat man knows all about Church and he invites himself over and begins talking. He tells Nick that Church had a girlfriend before Smitty named Linda Mills who lives at the Chesterfield Apartments. He also says that Church isn’t in Cuba; he’s been coming into the club. Before he can give anymore information, Dum-Dum punches him in the face. A brawl breaks out and the lights go off. One of Vogel’s goons drops a gambling chip in the melee and Nick picks it up. When the lights come back on, Nick is dancing with Nora and the guy trying to seduce her has a fresh punch in the face.

The Charles’ then head to the Chesterfield Apartments where Nora pretends to be interested in renting a room. Nick claims to not know Nora. He’s there to see Linda Mills. Mrs. Dolley (Marjorie Main) sticks Nora in a single room (much to her annoyance) before taking Nick to Lindas’ apartment. Linda’s not in, but he finds a bullet hole in the wall with a trajectory that leads to a burnt spot on a rug that has gun residue on it; very similar to MacFay’s crime scene.

As he continues to look around, Vogel’s two goons enter the apartment through the fire escape with the intent to kill Nick. However, Nick had Lieutenant Guild trail him to be safe. He and his men enter through the same fire escape the goons did. They arrest the two men.

The next morning, Guild calls Nick to tell him that the fingerprints of his missing nanny match a woman named Agnes Borum and that she matches Linda Mills’ description. Suddenly, a group of men festively barge in to the Charles’ room. A felon named ‘Creeps’ Binder (Harry Bellaver) decided to throw Nickie, Jr a first birthday party and invited many of the ex-cons that Nick sent up the river (but remained friendly with). They each have their own little baby whether it’s there baby or not. Wacky (Shemp Howard) rented his kid for a dollar.

Nick heads to the bedroom to order ice cream, but spots someone snooping in in one of the other rooms. It’s Dorothy/Agnes and Nick locks her in the room before ordering room service.

Just then, Vogel shows up to see Nick, and Nora puts him in the study to wait. Then Church enters the room with a gun in his hand. He tells Nick that he’s dreamed about him being dead twice now and if he’s smart, he’ll quit the investigation. He then tells the Charles’ that if they are smart, they’ll wait five minutes before they blow any whistles. He leaves out the balcony.

Once out of sight, a gunshot rings out and Church falls off the balcony to his death. The felons at the party make a mad dash to the door with their babies before the police swarm the hotel. Freddie takes Nickie, Jr to another room for safety. Meanwhile, Vogel tries to leave, but Nick tells him to wait for the cops. In the alley below, the cops find Dum-Dum and Smitty and hold them for questioning. They were suspiciously waiting outside the building when the killing took place.

Everyone heads back to the Charles’ apartment. Guild is there with all of MacFay’s staff, Lois, Freddie, Vogel, Dum-Dum, and Smitty. Vogel, Dum-Dum, and Smitty begin accusing the other of killing Church. After Dum-Dum and Vogel scuffle, Guild restores order.

Nick pretends someone just dropped the gambling chip he found in the West indies Club and asks whose it is. Vogel claims it. Nick next recounts the case having solved it. He says that Church never killed MacFay. He pretended he did to bring all suspicion on him and be tried for the murder. Then he’d produce an airtight alibi (Smitty) so the court finds him not guilty and he can’t be later tried under double jeopardy rules.

Nick then gets Vogel to admit the truth that he runs a gambling joint. He says that Church used that knowledge to his benefit to force Vogel to keep everyone quiet or he’s reveal Vogel’s high-profile clients to the cops, which would ruin a lot of powerful men.

Nick then gives the final clue he needed to solve the case. Based on what he found in Linda Mills’ room, he reconstructs a little device that Church engineered that’s a sort of make-shift timer device to shoot a gun once.

He says that with the help of this device, MacFay was already dead when everyone heard the gunshot, and it gave the killer a five minute head start on an alibi…just like when Lois entered the Charles’ room five minutes before the gunshot went off. That makes Lois the murderer of both MacFay and Church and he also claims she’s the real Linda Mills. She killed MacFay for the inheritance and killed Church to keep him from blackmailing her for the rest of her life.

Lois confesses but says she will make Nick a deal. He lets her walk out of there safe and sound, and she will return Nickie, Jr safe and sound in a half hour. Nora goes to looks for her son in his room and finds him gone.

Suddenly the woman who rented her son to Wacky bursts into the room with Nicky, Jr and Wacky. She wants to know where her baby is at. Wacky finds Asta guarding the woman’s baby in the Charles’ bedroom and won’t let him near the boy. Lois was bluffing about having Nickie, Jr. Can’t blame a girl for trying!

The police arrest Lois and all babies are safely returned to their mothers. With the murder solved, the Charles’ take a nap on their bed for a happy ending.


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Loew's Inc. released Another Thin Man on November 17, 1939. W. S. Van Dyke directed the film starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Virginia Grey.

User Rating: 3.79 ( 4 votes)
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