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MOVIES: Charlie Chan in Egypt
Charlie Chan in Egypt
Fox Film Corporation
Production: April 1935
Copyright: Fox Film Corporation, June 21, 1935
Opened: Roxy, New York, N.Y., the week of June 21, 1935
Sound: Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 8 reels, 6,600 feet
Running Time: 72 minutes (65 minutes)
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 905
Source: Based on the character “Charlie Chan” created by Earl Derr Biggers
Producer: Edward T. Lowe
Director: Louis King (incorrectly credited as Luis King)
Original Screenplay: Robert Ellis and Helen Logan
Photography: Daniel B. Clark
Art Director: Duncan Cramer and Walter Koessler
Editing: Al De Gaetano
Gowns: Helen Myron
Musical Direction: Samuel Kaylin
Sound: Albert Protzman
CAST (as credited):
Warner Oland: Charlie Chan
Pat Paterson: Carol Arnold
Thomas Beck: Tom Evans
Rita Cansino: Nayda
Stepin Fetchit: Snowshoes
UNCREDITED CAST (alphabetical):
Anita Brown: Kitten
Frank Conroy: Professor [John] Thurston
John Davidson: Daoud Atrash [David Atrash]
Nigel de Brulier: Edfu Ahmad
James Eagles: Barry Arnold
John George: Ali
George Irving: Professor Arnold
Paul Porcasi: Fouad Soueida
Frank Reicher: Dr. Jaipur
Arthur Stone: Dragoman
Jameson Thomas: Dr. Anton Racine
From Paris (see: Charlie Chan in Paris), Charlie Chan goes to Egypt on behalf of the French Archeological Society to investigate Professor Arnold’s excavation of Ahmeti’s tomb, because artifacts from the tomb have been found in other museums, contrary to the agreement that Arnold had made with the Society. Once there, however, Chan finds out from the Professor’s daughter Carol, his son Barry, his brother-in-law, Professor Thurston, and Tom Evans, who is Arnold’s young assistant and Carol’s boyfriend, that Arnold has been missing for a month.
When Carol is overcome by worry for her father, Tom sends for Dr. Anton Racine, who arrives shortly after Carol hallucinates that she is being menaced by Sekhmet, the goddess of vengeance, whose statue was guarding Ahmeti’s tomb.
Meanwhile, in a basement laboratory, Chan, Thurston, and Tom examine Ahmeti’s mummy using an X-ray machine. When Chan notices a bullet in the mummy’s chest, they unwrap it and discover not Ahmeti, but Professor Arnold. Thurston then tells Chan that he sold the artifacts to pay off the money he had borrowed from Racine. Barry overhears them discussing his father’s death and collapses in hysterics, certain that the tomb’s curse will kill the entire family.
Chan decides to investigate the tomb that night, so with Tom and his helper Snowshoes, he sets off. Once inside the tomb, they are startled by an image of Sekhmet.
The next day, Chan goes to Luxor to question Daoud Atrash, the chemist who fills Racine’s prescriptions for Carol. That night, when Chan returns to the Arnold house, an autopsy of the deceased professor is underway. After the others leave, he extracts the bullet from near Arnold’s heart.
Chan then rejoins the others upstairs and questions Racine about mapouchari, a drug that causes hallucinations and death, and which, Chan believes, has been placed on Carol’s cigarettes to trigger her attacks. They are just about to talk to Barry about the secret treasure his father was trying to find when Barry suddenly dies while playing his violin.
Later, Chan, Tom, and Snowshoes return to the tomb, where they find a secret water passageway. Tom swims to the next room, which is a storage room for Ahmeti’s treasures. He is shot by someone whom he recognizes. As he falls, he hits a lever that opens a door between the rooms, and Chan and Snowshoes take him back to the house.
After the bullet is removed from Tom, Chan takes it for evidence, and then goes to search Barry’s room. Chan deduces that Barry was killed by poison gas that was released as he played his violin. He demonstrates to Thurston and Racine how the instrument’s vibrations shattered a tiny vial that was planted within the instrument, releasing the deadly gas. He then tells them that it was the hidden treasure room which was the motive for the two murders and the attempt on Tom’s life.
Upstairs, Racine examines Tom, after which Thurston sends Carol to rest. Alone with Tom, Thurston prepares to stab him through his wounds with Racine’s lancet, but Chan arrives just in time. Chan explains that the bullets recovered from Arnold and Tom came from Thurston’s gun, and the police take Thurston away. Tom regains consciousness, and is enfolded in Carol’s loving embrace.
NOTES: The American Film Institute Catalog correctly lists the running time for Charlie Chan in Egypt as 72 minutes. However, recent sources have stated that it is actually 65 minutes in length. The larger figure certainly relates to the original running time, while the smaller running time may indicate that some surviving prints of this film have been shortened. The music and the appearance of the opening title and credits lend further credence to this probability, as the music and accompanying sound of water splashing can be traced to a scene that occurs 51 minutes into the film. It is likely that the original opening title sequence has been lost and the current version was a reconstruction, possibly owing the film having been shortened in length at some point in its existence. The present title card credits only Warner Oland, Pat Patterson, Thomas Beck, Rita Cansino, and Stepin Fetchit, and there are no closing credits. It is unlikely that this was originally the case. It is interesting to note, however, that publicity stills for Charlie Chan in Egypt also credit only these same five actors. Charlie Chan in Egypt features an early film appearance by Rita Hayworth, who was at that stage of her career still using her birth name, Rita Cansino.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
CHARLIE CHAN’S APHORISMS:
Drop of plain water on thirsty tongue more precious than gold in purse.
Reverence for ancestors most commendable.
Insignificant molehill sometime more important than conspicuous mountain.
X-ray machine most useful for seeing where eye cannot reach.
Every detail most important where murder concerned.
Waiting for tomorrow waste of today.
Cannot read printing in new book until pages cut.
Theory like mist on eyeglasses – obscures facts.
Impossible to prepare defense until direction of attack is known.
Story of man very short: life, death. Am reminded of ancient sage, Confucius, who write, “From life to death is reach of man.”
Hasty conclusion easy to make, like hole in water.
Kind thoughts add favorable weight in balance of life and death.
Admitting failure like drinking bitter tea.
Courage greatest devotion to those we love.
Journey of life like feather on stream – must continue with current.
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:
Beauty of Egyptian night captured in simple melody. (To Carol Arnold regarding Barry Arnold’s violin playing)
Cannot believe piece of carved stone contain evil, unless dropped on foot. (To Professor Thurston regarding a statue of Sekhmet)
Sekhmet disappear like Cheshire Cat of Alice in Land of Wonder. (To Tom Evans)
(Tom Evans: “It looks like somebody’s gunning for us.”) As son Lee would say, “You telling me?”
Variety, June 26, 1935
Latest story framed around Earl Derr Biggers’ Chinese crime snooper takes a flyer among the tombs of the Pharaohs and the outcome has all that it takes to satiate the general run of mystery addicts. ‘Charlie Chan in Egypt’ combines a suavely sustained concept of drama, another surehanded interpretation of the central role by Warner Oland and an effective interplay of background color. Film should fare nicely both along the main stems and the nabes.
Chan pops up just outside of Luxor shortly after a noted archaeologist has disappeared. From this mysterious incident stems the plot, which, before reaching the denouement, accounts for two slayings and a near murder. Chan, whose mission is to find out for a French museum why objects taken by the missing explorer have found their way into the open market instead of being shipped to France, uncovers the first murder with the aid of an X-ray machine. The body is located in a sarcophagus which is supposed to contain a mummy.
Obsessed with a dread of impending harm are the dead professor’s daughter and son, Pat Patterson and James Eagles. Before Chan can lay his hand on the culprit the son meets with a sudden and mysterious death. Chinese detective’s probings take him in and out of an open tomb and a scientific laboratory, with the narrative building up horror and diverse suspicions as it proceeds to a deftly confected solution.
Next to Oland’s, the standout performance is that of Eagles, whose superstitious fears drive him to near insanity and are brought to an end by his sudden death by a mysterious source. Jameson Thomas and Nigel de Brulier conduct themselves suggestively enough to draw suspicion in their direction, while Frank Conroy nimbly averts the pointed finger. For comedy relief, and plenty of it, there’s Stepin Fetchit. Most of his material is founded on the old hoke reactions of the Negro to anything connected with the dead, but it is a hit with an ebony Egyptian maid that Fetchit delivers his biggest kernel of mirth.
PROBABLE DATE: Late April 1934
DURATION: Two days
LOCATION: Luxor, Egypt
THE NAME OF THE WORKER WHO DIED FROM THE GAS ESCAPING FROM THE NEWLY OPENED TOMB: Ali
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN LANDMARKS THAT CHARLIE CHAN’S BIPLANE FLEW OVER ON HIS WAY TO LUXOR:
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali (completed 1848)
The Pyramids of Giza, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu (completed circa 2560 BC), the Pyramid
of Khafre (completed circa 2520 BC), and the Pyramid of Menkaure (completed circa 2490 BC)
The Great Sphinx (built circa 2500 BC)
THE AMOUNT OF MONEY CHARLIE CHAN WAS WILLING TO PAY FOR SOME WATER: 25 cents (Snowshoes: “You mean you’d give two-bits for some plain water?”)
THE ORGANIZATION THAT SENT CHARLIE CHAN TO EGYPT TO INVESTIGATE THE ILLEGALLY SOLD ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURES: French Archeological Society (of Paris)
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE TOMB DISCOVERED BY PROFESSOR ARNOLD: “…tomb of High Priest Ahmeti.”
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE PRESENT LOCATION OF THE STOLEN AHMETI ITEMS: “…private collector and rival museums in Europe.”
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE DATE OF THE DISCOVERY OF AHMETI’S TOMB: “…discovered six months ago…” (about mid-December 1933?)
THE TWO PICTURED ITEMS FROM AHMETI’S TOMB THAT WERE ILLEGALLY SOLD, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN:
Charlie Chan: “This necklace, with identifying seal of Ahmeti.”
Charlie Chan: “This ring of Ahmeti now in Berlin museum.”
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE PRESENT LOCATION OF THE RING SHOWN IN THE PICTURE: “This ring of Ahmeti now in Berlin museum.”
THE MUSEUM MENTIONED THAT, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, HAD THE RIGHTS TO ALL ITEMS FROM THE TOMB OF AHMETI: “…(French Archeological) Society Museum.”
THE TIME AS CHARLIE CHAN FIRST VISITS DR. ARNOLD’S LAB: 8:35 p.m. (as determined from a clock on the wall)
ACCORDING TO DR. THURSTON, WHEN BARRY ARNOLD “NEARLY MET HIS DEATH” FROM A COLLAPSING TOMB WALL: “…ten years ago.”
AHMETI: According to Professor Thurston, “…one of the most powerful priests of the 21st dynasty.”
ACCORDING TO TOM EVANS, THE AGE OF AHMETI AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH: “…he kicked off at the ripe old age of 78.”
THE NAME OF THE PERSON WHOM CAROL ARNOLD WAS WRITING TO HELP LOCATE HER MISSING FATHER: “…Colonel Bailey at Napata.”
THE LOCATION WHERE PROFESSOR ARNOLD WAS SEARCHING FOR THE “ROYAL BURIAL TOMBS”: Napata
THE TOMB, ACCORDING TO TOM EVANS, WHERE BARRY ARNOLD WAS BADLY INJURED TEN YEARS AGO: “…Sakri’s tomb.”
THE PAJAMA SIZE REQUESTED BY CHARLIE CHAN OF TOM EVANS: “Size 52…”
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, WHEN PROFESSOR ARNOLD HAD LEFT FOR NAPATA: “…four weeks ago…”
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE DATE OF THE SUPPOSED LETTER FROM PROFESSOR ARNOLD: “…two weeks ago.”
ACCORDING TO TOM EVANS, ALL OF THE OTHERS, BESIDES HIMSELF, WHO HAD USED OR HAD HAD ACCESS TO HIS TYPEWRITER: “Thurston, Barry (Arnold), Edfu Ahmad, even Snowshoes.”
ACCORDING TO TOM EVANS, EDFU AHMAD’S CLAIMED RELATIONSHIP TO HIGH PRIEST AHMETI: “…a direct descendent of Ahmeti.”
THE DRUG FOUND BY CHARLIE CHAN IN CAROL ARNOLD’S CIGARETTES: Mapuchari
THE ACTUAL CAUSE OF PROFESSOR ARNOLD’S DEATH ACCORDING TO DR. RACINE: “There’s evidence that a heavy blow at the base of the brain induced a cerebral hemorrage.” (He also noted that there was a “small incision at the jugular vein” to drain the blood for mummification.)
THE EFFECTS OF MAPUCHARI, ACCORDING TO DR. RACINE: “The effects depend largely on the individual. In general, the victim loses all sense of time and reality. Suffers from false convictions, hallucinations. The doses are sufficiently powerful, death ensues.”
DR. RACINE’S THEORY ON THE SUDDEN DEATH OF BARRY ARNOLD: “Apparently a violent reaction of the heart, which may be occasioned by a sudden shock, or terrific fright.”
ACCORDING TO TOM EVANS, THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HIROGLYPHICS AT THE TOP OF THE WALL INSIDE AHMETI’S TOMB: “…Ahmeti’s prayer to the goddess Sekhmet for protection.”
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE EXTENT OF TOM EVANS’ INJURIES SUFFERED INSIDE AHMETI’S TOMB: “Two bullets in chest.”
THE TIME AS DR. RACINE NOTES THAT A LANCET IS MISSING FROM HIS MEDICAL BAG: 11:10 p.m. (determined from a clock visible on the wall)
baksheesh– (Egyptian)(1) Almsgiving. (2) For services rendered. (3) For the granting of favors.
Dragoman: “But first, baksheesh.”
cartouche – An oval or oblong figure which contains Egyptian hieroglyphics expressing the names or epithets of royal or divine personages.
Charlie Chan in Egypt – Professor Thurston: “There’s the identifying cartouche suspended around his neck.”
dragoman– A near eastern interpreter, agent, or guide for travelers. Dragoman: “I best dragoman in Luxor!”
effendi– (Turkish) Master; sir; a title of a Turkish state official and man of learning, especially one learned in the law.
Dragoman: “Ah, Effendi Snowshoes.”
hants – (Slang – Southern U.S.) Ghosts or other supernatural beings.
Snowshoes: “Mr. Tom, you stirrin’ up them hants again.”
kicked off – (Idiom) Died.
Tom Evans: “…he kicked off at the ripe old age of 78.”
Luxor – The Luxor area of Upper Egypt was the Thebes of the ancient Egyptians – the capital of Egypt during the Middle and New Kingdoms. Today it is famous for its temples and the nearby Valley of the Kings.
Carol Arnold: “No, he’s in Luxor.”
mapuchari – (Egyptian)Egyptian colloquial term for confection containing hashish.
Charlie Chan: “Dr. Racine perhaps buy mapuchari here.”
Napata– An ancient city of Nubia near the Fourth Cataract of the Nile River in modern-day Sudan. It flourished during the eighth century BC.
Professor Thurston: “Our last communication came from Napata.”
rattletrap – A rickety, poorly running automobile.
Professor Thurston: “I thought I heard that old rattletrap of yours…”
Sekhmet – Ancient Egyptian goddess. Sekhmet means “The Mighty One,” and she was considered one of the most powerful of the gods and goddesses. Sekhmet was the goddess who carried out divine punishment to the enemies of the gods and of the pharaoh.
Professor Thurston: “That is Sekhmet, Goddess of Vengeance.”
two bits – (Idiom) Twenty-five cents.
Dragoman: “Two bits baksheesh. Two bits.”
yowza – (Slang interjection; became current circa 1932) An exclamation of delight or approval; yes, sir; also: yowzah or youzer. Tom Evans: “…one of these days I’m going to send home for some jazz – the old maestro stuff, yousa!”