Powell's Thin Man Comeback

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In 1938, shortly after Baroness opened in theaters, William Powell took an unexpected break from Hollywood to receive an operation.

“I am able to sit in a chair and to walk a few steps, but it will be some weeks before my strength returns. As for returning to work, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”

And it would be some time before he could return to work. After the initial operation, Powell had two more related to, what he was calling it then, "abdominal pain". It wasn’t until 1963 that the actor revealed it had been cancer.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “They caught it in time.”

After being away from the screen to recover in private, audiences were more than ready for their star to return. And so was the studio.

In his long absence – what he would later refer to as “18 months of heartbreaking illness” – MGM considered replacing him for The Thin Man Returns (which became Another Thin Man) with Melvyn Douglas or Reginald Gardiner. Thankfully, they waited.

When he finally returned, everyone was enthusiastic. In fact, the trailer for Another Thin Man shouts, “He’s back! And William Powell’s return to the screen is the best movie news in two years!”

Returning to the franchise was a welcoming experience for Powell, who described it as “coming home again.”

He said, “Myrna and Woody [director W. S. Van Dyke] were wonderful. If they had been sentimental or emotional about it, I don’t think I could have stood it. I was so choked up. But those two knew. All they said was, ‘Well, Powell at last – and late again.’”

Loy was equally excited for him to be back again too and arrived early on set to see him. “They cut it out and he survived – and how! He still seemed a bit frail… but he wasn’t giving up a thing.”

Powell said, “It takes hard work to make us appreciate a good rest – and it takes idleness to convince us of the pleasure of working.”