Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1936: James Stewart in After the Thin Man

James Stewart did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Graham in After the Thin Man.

After the Thin Man is the very enjoyable film that continues the adventures of the sleuthing husband and wife team of Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy).

With every Thin Man film there is a group of supporting players, often regulated to only a single film, who are in some way associated with the soon to be deceased figure who's murder the two N's will need to solve. James Stewart plays David the man who's actually in love with a woman Selma whose philandering husband who seems to be just setting himself up as the man to be murdered. This is one of Stewart's earliest performances but he's already got the aw shucks down to a t. Stewart brings his usual likability to this role even and does make David seem to be such a charming man, and it seems to become so obvious that Selma should be with him. After all Stewart's portrayal of sweetness just seems so genuine that it would take a great deal of effort not to believe him. Stewart even makes it so David seems to fit right in with hanging out with Nick and Nora as there is such a warm ease about his presence. To be honest you could not find someone better than James Stewart to instantly establish a trust with.

Of course there is technically speaking plenty to suspect David of even though his affections for Selma seem so honest, since he must deal with her husband who is of such low character he's willing to give up Selma, but only if he's paid off. Stewart is quite good here because he does not allow himself to be merely some throwaway character in the film, even though most the supporting players technically speaking are here in terms of what one really watches the film for, Stewart does do well though in the scenes where David deals with her husband. Again Stewart very honestly depicts the struggle of the man as he agrees to the odd ransom while being sickened by the whole thing. Of course Stewart does not overplay his hand actually as you believe he's simply paying the ransom but that certain discontent might merely not be about hating the husband. Well the husband is not long for the world anyways and he ends up dead being shot by an unknown assailant, just before his wife was going to shoot him. Luckily for her David, one again seeming quite honest as played by Stewart, tells her to run while he will dispose of the gun, even though it was not even used for the killing.

Well if you have not guessed who the killer is, I'll help you, the prime suspect is an obvious criminal type who's just so obviously guilty of something that you know he could not possibly be the killer in this film. Well that only suspect left that would make any sense would have to be David, but he's played by Jimmy Stewart, how could that be? Stewart helps things out in his favor some more by being so earnest in his confusion of any revelations and fear for what might happen to Selma, which means he could not possibly be the killer. Well after some usual deductions by Nick and watching for the inevitable minor slip up, involving the type of facial hair on a dead man, it is revealed that David did murder Selma's husband as well as few other people to keep covered up, and planned to see Selma hang for it due to having jilted him for her husband originally. Stewart's psychotic breakdown happens to be particularly disconcerting since not only does it work as a surprise to see that the aw shucks Stewart has only been a lie in the film, but also because Stewart can be quite intense when he wants to be. That's the case here as he effectively becomes a violent mess in just a matter of seconds, making the most out of the killer revealed moment. Stewart's role overall is particularly substantial, as the Thin Man series is more noted for the interactions between Nick and Nora than the mysteries themselves, but he makes the most of it.


RatedRStar said...

Louis are you planning on seeing all the other Thin Man films? as I have a feeling they wont be quite as good though as the first two but ya never know.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Your thoughts on Bloody Sunday and your rating & thoughts on Nesbitt.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: I found Bloody Sunday to be a very effective telling of the massacre as it was rather low key and played like a real life event on screen.

Nesbitt (4.5) Nesbitt is good early on as he shows Cooper to be quite optimistic and excited in getting the civil rights march to happen, then as the situation gets worse he is great in showing utter confusion as to why this is happening, although he is not always focused on I found him to be the lead, I bumped him from a 4 to a 4.5 as his scenes where he trys to comfort various families to be very well done, and his final scene is amazing, as he struggles to give the interview and physically breaks down as the names are mentioned, and when he finally walks out of the interview as a broken man, is truly amazing.

I will count Bloody Sunday as a film and I will suggest it when Bonus 2002 appears.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Fair enough. I would prefer a review sooner rather than much later.

Anonymous said...

Louis what are your thoughts and rating on Stewart in You Can't Take It With You? I thought he was even better at the aw shucks.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

What are everyone's top 10 James Stewart performances (Louis included)?

1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. Vertigo
3. Harvey
4. Mr Smith Goes to Washington
5. The Shop Around the Corner
6. Rear Window
7. Anatomy of a Murder
8. The Glenn Miller Story
9. Shenandoah
10. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

First 9 are incredibly strong 5's, and he's constantly veering between a 4.5 and a 5 for Liberty Valance, The Mortal Storm, and Rope.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I too really like him in You Can't Take It With You but I'd probably settle for a 4 with him there since it's a fairly standard 'aw shucks' routine, any of the Anthony Mann westerns, all which he'd get a 4.5 for.

luke higham said...

1=. It's A Wonderful Life And Vertigo
3. Anatomy Of A Murder
4. Rear Window
5. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
6. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
7. The Shop Around The Corner
8. Shenandoah
9. Harvey
10. The Naked Spur
5s for the first six and 4.5s for the remaining 4.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: Are you going to see Mad Max in the next few days, incredibly excited but I hope my doubts are proven wrong and Hardy isn't sidelined, as some of the reviews have implied.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Hell Yeah!. If Hardy gets a 4.5 from me, as well as everyone else, I'm happy enough, despite what the reviews say, with the focus being squarely on Theron (Hardy has only 20 lines, from what I've heard) and the critical response does give me hope for sequels, with complete focus on Hardy's Interpretation of the character.

It's still going to be his year, no matter what happens, I really want him to win the Oscar next year for The Revenant and 5s from Louis for said film and Legend.

L Rime said...

luke higham: I had a chance to see the movie early. Hardy certainly doesn't get many lines, but there isn't much dialogue for anyone to begin with(although I would say Hardy gets the least amount). But truly, the movie is more of an ensemble piece than anything else. Regardless, it's an action movie with an emphasis on the action part. I don't mean just explosions, car chases, and gunfights but that you learn about the characters through their actions. The movie doesn't ram dialogue down your throat to build the characters and the world. Pay attention and you'll be rewarded. It's visual storytelling at its finest.

Tom Hardy gets a 5 from me. Maybe some people will take half a point off for whatever reason, but fact of the matter is, Hardy embodies Max to such a point, that he truly doesn't need words to express the torment and trauma of his character. And there's also surprisingly just a tad bit of tragic comedy to some of his bewildered expressions. I think the only "negative" people will focus on is a somewhat inconsistent accent, but this is a character that hasn't talked to anyone in a long time. In a way, it works conceptually, as sort of Max trying to find his voice. I'm not sure if Tom did it on purpose or if it was a complete accident, but it works on that kind of level.

luke higham said...

L Rime: Thanks for your thoughts, also, lack of appropriate screen time and dialogue hardly bother me if the performer is able to embody the character as well as he or she could, which Hardy will be able to bring in spades.

luke higham said...

L Rime: What about Theron.

L Rime said...

luke higham: Theron also gets a 5. She was remarkably intense and magnetic. Her character drives the narrative forward, but just like Hardy, she says more with her eyes than with words. One of the biggest reasons this film works, is because Theron's desperation is so apparent. It makes the tension even more palpable. Most of all, she's nothing less than physically convincing. There's no way she could have held her own against Hardy otherwise.

By the way, Nicholas Hoult is about a 4. He's incredibly effective in his role as well. He's the most eccentric, but he knows when to tone it down a little when his character requires it.

luke higham said...

Whenever Louis sees Mad Max: Fury Road, there's only three words I hope to see in relation to Hardy and a great rating for Theron as well.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

The fact that Men's Rights Activist assclowns hate Fury Road is more than enough reason for me to see it.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: Fuck 'em.

Louis Morgan said...


Well I saw Shadow of the Thin man as well which I liked, so I probably see the rest eventually.


Stewart - 4(This is a performance from him that really just stresses him to be charming and not too much else. The more dramatic moments in that film are all given to Lionel Barrymore and Edward Arnold. Still Stewart gives a winning performance in doing his very likable low key manner in this way. Not his best performance but without a doubt a good one)


1. It's A Wonderful Life
2. Vertigo
3. Anatomy of a Murder
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
5. Rear Window
6. Harvey
7. Shenandoah
8. The Naked Spur
9. Rope
10. Winchester '73