This pair of Blu-rays, newly-released from Warner Archive, is peak chilled-out Myrna. The house is falling down, bullets are whizzing through the air, and Ms. Loy wrinkles her nose at it all.
Another Thin Man (1939)
I’ve always found the third edition of the Thin Man series the most sinister, because the Charles’ have a baby now and Nicky Jr. is always in danger. With all the gunfire, thugs, murderers, and even an attempted kidnapping, you just hope the kid makes it to adulthood.
Nick and Nora’s interactions with the baby are fascinating. It’s pure fantasy to be delighted to wake up in the middle of the night to play with an awake, but mysteriously not fussy baby, but it’s cute to see their delight in this small person they’ve made. It’s essentially an extension of their take on marriage: why be so serious? Why not enjoy it all? Of course there’s also the always light allusion to their open marriage, but the suggestion is by necessity only a vapor, so that the easily outraged will miss it.
Based on The Farewell Murder, this would be the last film in the series drawn from a Dashiell Hammett novel. The mystery unfolds at a lavish Long Island estate, where a wealthy colonel (C. Aubrey Smith) is under threat from a mysterious enemy. Chaos, arson, and murder ensue.
The cast is the typical bizarre grab bag that always seems to populate the series. It is unusual to see Marjorie Main, Otto Krueger, Tom Neal, Virginia Grey, Ruth Hussey, Abner Biebermen, and Shemp Howard all in the same production, but not so unusual in this world. The latter makes an appearance in what is perhaps the movie’s most memorable scene: a birthday party for Nicky Jr. full of low-level criminals who have plenty of enthusiasm, but no idea what to do with a baby.
For no apparent reason but the delight of it, the Afro-Cuban dance team René and Estela does a beautifully fluid dance number in a nightclub scene; a setting similar to the Havana-Madrid Club in New York where they performed at the time.
Special features on the disc include the musical short Love on Tap, the cartoon The Bookworm, and a theatrical trailer.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
A harrowing story based on the equally harrowing novel by Eric Hodgins, somehow this tale of a New York couple sinking money into a disastrous home construction works as a comedy.
It’s a shame that Myrna Loy and Cary Grant never made another film together. They have a similar light comedic style tinged with a sly recognition of the myriad disasters of life. I could see them succeeding together with edgier material, but watching them navigate their money pit while Loy’s ex-boyfriend (Melvyn Douglas) lingers flirtatiously in the background is entertainment enough. It isn’t as sparkling a partnership as Loy and Powell, but they are easy together, with that slight bit of friction necessary for spice.
As the couple’s daughters, Sharyn Moffett and Connie Marshall are refreshingly lacking in cutesy behavior. Instead they are clever, analytical observers of their parent’s folly. Louise Beavers is equally charismatic in what should be a thankless role as the family maid, but she’s always fun to watch.
Special features on the disc include two radio productions of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, the cartoon The House of Tomorrow, and a re-issue trailer.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing copies of the films for review.