MOVIES: The Trap

The Trap

Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, November 30, 1946
Production: Late July to mid-August 1946
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, November 26, 1946; LP728
Sound: Western Electric Sound System
Film: Black and white
Running Time: 69 minutes
Source: Based on the character created by Earl Derr Biggers
Producer: James S. Burkett
Director: Howard Bretherton
Assistant Director: Harold Knox
Original Screenplay: Miriam Kissinger
Director of Photography: James Brown
Technical Director: Dave Milton
Supervising Film Editor: Richard Currier
Editor: Ace Herman
Set Decorations: Raymond Boltz, Jr.
Musical Direction: Edward J. Kay
Recorder: Tom Lambert
Makeup: Harry Rose
Production Manager: William Callihan, Jr.
CAST (as Credited):

Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Victor Sen Young: Jimmy Chan
Tanis Chandler: Adelaide
Larry Blake: Rick Daniels
Kirk Alyn: [California Highway Patrol] Sergeant Reynolds
Rita Quigley: Clementine
Anne Nagel: Marcia
Helen Gerald: Ruby
Howard Negley: Cole King (also called “the Maestro”)
Lois Austin: Mrs. [Irene] Thorn
Barbara Jean Wong: San Toy
Minerva Urical: Mrs. Weebles
Margaret Brayton: Madge Mudge
Bettie Best: Winifred
Jan Bryant: Lois

Walden Boyle: George “Doc” Brandt
Cole King’s variety troupe, along with press agent Rick Daniels and Mrs. Thorn, the wardrobe mistress, occupy a Malibu, California beach house.  When Adelaide, a showgirl, criticizes Marcia, the overbearing star of the show and King’s girlfriend, Marcia threatens to reveal that Adelaide is secretly married to physician George Brandt.  She also hints that she knows Brandt’s real identity.  Marcia later forces showgirl Lois to steal letters from Adelaide’s trunk, threatening to tell King that Lois is underage, having lied about her true age to get a job in the variety troupe.

Marcia disappears later, and Lois’ body is discovered by San Toy, a Chinese member of the troupe.  Because Lois has been strangled, a murder technique said to be favored by the Chinese and the French, both San Toy and Adelaide are under immediate suspicion.  To avoid the bad publicity that a murder would bring, Daniels suggests that Lois’ death be made to appear as an accidental drowning.

San Toy, who is a friend of Jimmy Chan, asks his father to investigate.  Chan hurries to the scene, mistakenly thinking that San Toy, in the message that she had given his assistant Birmingham Brown, had said that Jimmy had been murdered.  “Mistake sometimes bring most fortunate relief,” says the relieved father as he learns that the message was misunderstood.

During the course of the investigation, Birmingham, San Toy, and Jimmy are each attacked.  Later, troupe member Clementine finds Marcia’s body with a silken cord wrapped around her neck, apparently washed up on the beach.

Chan later discovers Daniels in the act of burying Marcia’s bathrobe.  When Chan reveals that the cord from the robe was the one used in the murders, Daniels claims that the robe was planted on King to frame him.  King then accuses Daniels of murdering the women and trying to hide the evidence.

Privately, Chan reveals his knowledge that Brandt was once accused of his wife’s murder.  Although Brandt was exonerated, his career was ruined.  He had gone to war and, while in Paris, had met and married Adelaide.  It was at this time that Marcia had first met them.  Brandt admits that he had found Lois’ body and had removed personally damaging letters, but denies killing her.

Chan decides to set a trap for the killer.  That night, King confesses that he took a box from Brandt’s suitcase that contained incriminating papers.  Jimmy later finds the missing box in the furnace.  He then sees someone trying to strangle San Toy and intervenes, inadvertently spoiling his father’s trap.


Chan, Jimmy, and Birmingham chase the attacker, who speeds away from the beach house in a car.  During the high-speed car chase, the assailant, who is revealed to be Mrs. Thorn, crashes and is fatally injured.  As she lies dying, Mrs. Thorn tells how she had deserted King, her husband, and when she wanted to return to him, he had humiliated her by offering her a job as his wardrobe mistress.  She then killed the two women and tried to frame King in order to get revenge.  It was her letters that were in the box that King had stolen from Brandt.

Later, Chan assures Brandt that the California Board of Medical Examiners will reinstate his license and he will now be free once again to practice medicine under his real name.
NOTES: Working titles for The Trap were Murder in Malibu Beach and Charlie Chan in the Trap.  This is one of two Chan films in the series proper to have been filmed in large measure on location, the other being The Black Camel (1931).  The Trap marked the final film appearance for Sidney Toler, who died on February 12, 1947.  Roland Winters assumed the role of Charlie Chan in the 1947 film The Chinese Ring.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960