An online museum devoted to detective Charlie Chan
MOVIES: The Films of Charlie Chan
Warner Oland was the first actor to portray Charlie Chan – as we know him – in sixteen films produced at Fox studios (later Twentieth Century-Fox) from 1931 until his death in 1938.
Beginning in 1938, Sidney Toler carried on the role, taking the Oriental detective through eleven more adventures at Twentieth Century-Fox and an additional eleven films at Monogram Pictures until his passing in 1947.
Roland Winters took Charlie Chan through his final six cases at Monogram, until the series finally ended in 1949 after a run of nearly two decades.
What follows is a chronological listing of all forty-four of the films that comprise the Charlie Chan series. The title for each film is also a link that will take you to much more information for each film, including film credits, an in-depth synopsis, and more.
Yes, there have been various “other” Charlie Chan films made throughout the decades and up to recent years. To view information regarding those movies, please visit our section devoted to the Other Charlie Chan Films.
Inspector Duff, a Scotland Yard detective, and a friend of Charlie Chan, is pursuing a murderer who is a part of an around-the-world tour group. While his ship is docked in Honolulu, the detective is shot and wounded by the killer. Duff in critical condition, Charlie Chan carries on the pursuit for his fallen friend.
Hollywood star Shelah Fane, who is in Hawaii shooting a film on location, is murdered in her beach house in Waikiki. Detective Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police Department is called on to investigate. “Death is a black camel that kneels unbidden at every gate.Tonight black camel has knelt here,” Chan tells the assembled suspects.
Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police, and Inspector Fife of Scotland Yard tour the offices of the New York Police Department with Inspector Flannery, in order to study the methods used by that department. Sir Lionel Grey, former chief of Scotland Yard is found dead, apparently of natural causes, in the penthouse apartment office of Barry Kirk in Wall Street. Noting a dead cat in the same room, Chan surmises that Grey’s death was not natural, stating, “Cat is like rich man’s heir – never dies out of sympathy.”
In Honolulu, two brothers, Dan and Amos Winterslip have had a decades-long feud which worsens when Dan announces his engagement to a scandalous, younger woman.Dan is found murdered in his beachside home, Charlie Chan is called on to investigate.As the list of suspects grows, the case becomes increasingly dangerous for both Charlie Chan and Dan’s nephew, John Quincy, who seeks to find his uncle’s killer.
Hired to deliver a valuable necklace for Sally Jordon, a wealthy Honolulu resident for whom Charlie Chan had worked as a houseboy decades earlier, the detective shows up at the desert ranch estate of P.J. Madden, posing as a servant. In his servant guise, Charlie monitors the comings and goings of a number of suspects as it becomes apparent that that a murder has taken place at the Madden estate.
When a young Englishman, Paul Gray, is convicted of murder and sentenced to hang, his sister, convinced of his innocence, asks Charlie Chan, who is visiting London, to investigate and find the real murderer. To that end, Chan visits a large country manor house in England where the killing occurred. There are a number of suspects among the large group of fox hunters who are staying at the manor, and it soon becomes clear that the killer is still actively trying to avoid capture. Charlie Chan must work fast to discover the real murderer’s identity and save Paul Gray from the gallows.
Charlie Chan is hired by British investors to investigate a bond-forgery racket involving a Parisian bank. Upon his arrival in Paris, Chan, who pretends to be on vacation, is made harshly aware through a warning note that the true nature of his visit is known. Later, his agent, a nightclub dancer named Nardi is killed before she can tell give the detective any information. Surprised by the appearance of his Number One Son, Lee, father and son work as a team on a dangerous case that is complicated by a false murder accusation for banker’s daughter Yvette.
Charlie Chan travels to Egypt on behalf of the French Archeological Society to investigate Professor Arnold’s excavation of Ahmeti’s tomb, as artifacts from the tomb have been found in other museums, contrary to the agreement that Arnold had made with the Society. When the archaeologist disappears during the excavation of other ancient art treasures, Chan must sort out the stories of the archaeological team to find out why priceless treasures are ending up in the hands of private collectors, while confronting a series of seemingly supernatural events.
Charlie Chan travels to his ancestral homeland, China, at the request of Sir Stanley Woodland, a prominent official in Shanghai, to help break up an opium-smuggling organization. When Chan is honored at a Shanghai banquet, Sir Stanley informs the detective that he has discovered some sinister activities. Before Sir Stanley can share this information he is silenced by a booby-trapped box. With Number One Son, Lee, at his side, Chan seeks to discover the secrets of the smuggling activities in Shanghai as well as the identity of Sir Stanley’s killer.
An ocean liner sinks near Hawaii and Allen Colby, heir to the family fortune, is presumed dead. However, as his is the only body unaccounted for, Charlie Chan, who is seeking proof of Colby’s demise, is not so sure. The detective, working for Henrietta Lowell, the sister of Allen’s father flies to San Francisco to investigate further. The missing Colby appears at Colby House ahead of him, but is knifed by a hidden killer in the back before seeing anyone. Further events revolve around spiritualist Mrs. Lowell, her family of suspicious characters, and the spooky Colby House, where the body of Allen Colby dramatically turns up during a séance with Chan in attendance.
Charlie Chan takes his wife and twelve children, who are sightseeing on the mainland, to a circus owned by kindly John Gaines and his unscrupulous partner, Joe Kinney. Kinney, who had sent Chan free passes to bring him to the circus, tells the detective that he has been receiving threatening letters. Kinney, a man so widely disliked by his co-workers and employees, is murdered, and virtually any one might have killed him. Convinced to assist the investigation by circus performer Lady Tiny, Chan and Number One Son, Lee, travel with the circus seeking to unmask the killer.
Following the suspicious disqualification of his horse, Avalanche, in the Melbourne Cup, Major Kent, a friend of Charlie Chan, returning to the United States with the thoroughbred via steamship, is found kicked to death in the horse’s stall. Chan investigates when the liner stops off in Honolulu. He discovers evidence of foul play, and when the detective uncovers fraud involving another race in Los Angeles, he, along with Number One Son, Lee, seeks to expose an international gambling ring as well as the murderer.
Gravelle, a former baritone believed dead after an opera house fire seven years before, has been confined in a mental institution, suffering from amnesia. His memory, rekindled when sees a news story about his former wife’s current appearance in an opera in Los Angeles, escapes and seeks revenge for the failed attempt on his life years earlier. When those involved in the crime are found stabbed to death, Charlie Chan and son Lee try to find out if the fugitive Gravelle is the one responsible.
During flight tests over Honolulu an experimental airplane is hijacked and its pilot murdered. When the missing plane is chanced upon by Charlie Chan and son Charlie, Jr., it is discovered that the new guidance device, designed to allow military planes to fly unmanned, is missing. The detective traces the strategically important invention to the summer Olympic Games in Berlin, where spies, enemy agents, and other criminals are trying to obtain it, intent on selling it to another government. Chan’s son, Lee, a member of the U.S. Olympic swim team, is on hand to help his father recover the device and solve the mystery.
Billie Bronson, having left the country hurriedly a year earlier when sought as an important witness in a political scandal, has returned to New York City to “blow the lid off the town.” Later, Billie is mysteriously murdered and Charlie Chan is summoned from a police banquet in his honor. While seeking a motive for her murder, a second killing is discovered in the hotel room of Chan and son Lee. A package is missing from the detective’s trunk and it is realized that it must have contained Billie Bronson’s inflammatory diary. Chan must piece together a string of clues in order to find the killer.
Charlie Chan and number one son Lee are passing through Monte Carlo on their way to Paris for an art show in which Lee has a painting. They meet Inspector Jules Joubert, chief of police of Monte Carlo with whom they work to solve the murder of the courier of a wealthy financier, Victor Karnoff, who was carrying a fortune in bonds. Among the many suspects are Savarin, a bitter financial rival of Karnoff, Evelyn Gray, a beautiful blonde without visible means of support, and Al Rogers, a shady bartender who is blackmailing Mrs. Karnoff.
A murder is committed on the passenger freighter Susan B Jennings, as it reaches Honolulu. After a circuitous route to the docked ship, Charlie Chan learns that the murdered man’s identity is a mystery and that secretary Judy Hayes is the only eyewitness to the fatal shooting. The rest of the freighter’s passengers include animal keeper Al Hogan, Mrs. Carol Wayne, psychiatrist Dr. Cardigan, criminal Johnny McCoy, and police detective Joe Arnold, who is taking McCoy back to the U.S. from Shanghai. Another person is murdered and $300,000 has gone missing.
Mary Whitman has gone to Reno seeking a divorce from her husband, Curtis. While there, she is arrested on suspicion of murdering a fellow guest at her hotel, an establishment that specializes in accommodating individuals who are awaiting finalized divorces. There are many others at the hotel who harbor strong feelings against the victim. At the request of Mary’s estranged husband who is a friend of Charlie Chan, the detective travels from his home in Honolulu to solve the murder.
On a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, Paul Essex, a novelist friend of Charlie Chan, appears to have committed suicide. At the Golden Gate International Exposition, held on San Francisco Bay’s Treasure Island, Chan, with Number Two Son, Jimmy, at his side, investigates a strange mystic called Dr. Zodiac who, the detective learns, blackmails clients.
Charlie Chan is in Paris attending the twentieth anniversary gathering of members of the Intelligence Service, who have come together in that city to mark the occasion. There, as the City of Light is darkened by the gathering clouds of impending war, he investigates the murder of a munitions manufacturer who was supplying arms to the enemy.
Charlie Chan, working with the U.S. government, poses as a maker of Panama hats. Amidst a backdrop of suspicion, espionage, and murder, Chan seeks to thwart a plot which would destroy part of the Panama Canal, thus trapping the Navy fleet on its way to the Pacific.
Charlie Chan, continuing for a murdered colleague, and assisted by Number Two Son, Jimmy, seeks to uncover the identity of a strangler who strikes multiple times on an around-the-world cruise ship bound from Honolulu to San Francisco.
Escaped killer Steve McBirney vows to get even with Charlie Chan whose testimony was key in his conviction. Recovering from plastic surgery at an eerie wax museum run by Dr. Cream, the killer lies in wait. Chan is lured to the museum through an offer to participate in a live radio broadcast there. Fortuitously escaping a death trap, Chan, along with Number Two Son, Jimmy, investigates the murder of one of the other participants which is connected to a crime that occurred a decade before.
Charlie Chan arrives in New York City for a policeman’s convention, only to find that Number Two Son Jimmy, in that city to visit the World’s Fair, is there to greet him! Following the convention, Chan’s old friend, Inspector Hugh Drake, a British intelligence officer, is found dead. The killing is tied in with a gang of enemy saboteurs who are responsible for the crash of an experimental bomber. Chan must proceed through a complex web of suspects in order to capture the killer and break up the saboteur ring before another bomber and its crew meets the same fate as the first.
The lure of millions of dollars in lost pirate treasure brings together an unusual and diverse group of fortune hunters aboard an old sailing ship, including Jimmy Chan, who sneaks aboard. Patience Nodbury, who holds the treasure map, torn in four pieces, dies suddenly, the apparent victim of the ghost of a long-dead pirate. Charlie Chan, on board the docked ship to locate his wayward son now finds himself in the midst of a case of what he believes to be murder.
For detailed information on this film, please go to Dead Men Tell.
Charlie Chan and son Jimmy visit the exotic city of Rio de Janeiro in order to arrest nightclub singer Lola Dean for a murder committed a year earlier in Honolulu. Later, they find the singer has been stabbed to death in her home. Her jewels have been stolen and a number of clues have been seemingly planted at the crime scene. The suspects are numerous, and Chan must sift through the evidence to unmask the killer.
A guest is murdered at Manderley Castle, a medieval reconstruction located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, which is owned by wealthy historian Paul Manderley and his wife, Lucy, who is a descendent of the notorious Borgia family. Charlie Chan, who was summoned to the castle earlier, and Number Two Son, Jimmy, away on leave from the U.S. Army, quickly get to work trying to unravel the mystery.
A scientist, George Melton, is working on an important new invention which will protect Allied shipping from German U-boat attacks. Although he has been assigned Secret Service security protection he is murdered in his Washington, D.C. home. Charlie Chan, now working for the Secret Service in Washington, is assigned to the case. Chan is soon joined by two of his children, Number Three Son, Tommy, second daughter, Iris, as well as Birmingham Brown, the chauffeur of one of the guests. When the autopsy reveals the Melton was electrocuted, Chan must determine who among the numerous suspects is the guilty party.
Leah Manning enlists Charlie Chan’s help in solving the murder of her stepfather, Thomas, who was found slain in his study. With no concrete leads, the police have given up and only Chan’s deducing can refute a scandalous book that blames Mrs. Manning, Leah’s mother, for the crime. Number Three Son, Tommy and Birmingham Brown assist the detective as the trail to the identity of Manning’s killer leads to a ruthless diamond smuggling gang.
A murder occurs during a séance conducted by a fraudulent medium. Birmingham Brown, who happens to be on the premises when the killing occurs as is Charlie Chan’s daughter, Frances. Chan finds himself entangled in a dangerous web as he follows the killer’s trail of death in a case that has its origins a decade in the past.
Charlie Chan is assigned by the government to investigate the murder of Harper, an eccentric scientist who had been experimenting with a formula that could turn wood into a substance as hard as steel. Chan, with Number Four Son, Edward and Birmingham Brown in tow finds himself in a strange mansion that is teeming with an odd assortment of suspects, virtually all having a possible motive to do away with Harper. Several additional murders occur as the detective closes in on his quarry.
For detailed information on this film, please go to The Jade Mask.
Charlie Chan of the Secret Service is searching for the killer of an enemy agent. The trail leads to a radio and television broadcast center, where Number Three Son, Tommy and assistant Birmingham Brown accompany the detective as he winds his way through a host of suspects and hidden dangers.
Charlie Chan is sent by the government to investigate several murders connected with a bank where a vital store of radium is kept. A number of employees of the bank have been killed by an injection of cobra venom. Chan remembers a similar case back in Shanghai in 1937, but the suspect in those murders, his face disfigured in an explosion, escaped. Number Three Son, Tommy, and assistant Birmingham Brown help the detective as the trio places themselves in mortal danger as they track down the illusive “Cobra Killer.”
In Mexico City, an attempt is made to steal the papers of the mysterious Alfred Wyans. His secretary, Walter Dorn, is working undercover for the U.S. government. At the U.S. embassy, he begs that they send for Charlie Chan. The next day, Dorn is mysteriously shot during a luncheon party at Wyans’ home. Chan arrives in Mexico City, accompanied by Number Three Son Tommy and his chauffeur and assistant Chattanooga Brown. Chan reveals that Wyans’ papers relate to the discovery of a new, 95th element which could be used to make a bomb much more powerful than an atomic bomb. The detective suspects one of the party guests, setting out to find which one is responsible for Dorn’s death.
Ex-convict Thomas Harley is arrested for robbing a bank and killing a bank guard. He claims that he was summoned to a theatrical warehouse by a note that sent to him by a former cell mate named James Wyatt and was subsequently locked inside at the time the robbery and killing took place. The police do not believe his alibi because Wyatt has been dead for eight years. Fingerprints belonging to Harley are found at the crime scene, and he is put on trial, found guilty, and condemned to death. Desperate to prove her father innocent, Harley’s daughter, June asks Charlie Chan to help her and her father.
For detailed information on this film, please go to Dark Alibi.
Charlie Chan, Number Two Son, Jimmy, and assistant, Birmingham Brown, are all on a bus heading south to San Francisco to investigate a murder case involving an unidentified armless, legless, headless torso. Chan learns that an elderly woman, Mrs. Conover, is traveling to San Francisco to search for her missing granddaughter, Mary. He tells the concerned woman that he will do what he can to help her find her missing loved one.
Aboard a passenger ship in the South Seas, undercover agent Scott Pearson tells Charlie Chan that he is being sent to Samoa to investigate the sudden appearance of money and artworks stolen from Philippine banks during the Japanese invasion. Later, while the passengers gather in the salon for a ceremony to celebrate the crossing of the equator, Pearson is stabbed in the back and killed. Chan, along with Number Two Son, Jimmy, and assistant Chattanooga Brown, works to find the killer who lurks among the passengers.
The members of Cole King’s variety troupe occupy a Malibu, California beach house. One of the showgirls disappears, and her 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, who is French, are under immediate suspicion. San Toy, who is a friend of Jimmy Chan, asks his father to investigate.
For detailed information on this film, please go to The Trap.
Mei Ling, a Chinese princess, arrives in San Francisco aboard the boat Shanghai Maid, and, several weeks
later, visits Charlie Chan at his home. She gives Chan’s butler and assistant, Birmingham Brown, an ancient Chinese ring, and while she is momentarily alone, an assailant kills her by shooting a poison dart through the window. As she is dying, the princess is able to write “Capt. K” on a piece of paper, but is unable to finish the full name. Chan, with the help of Number Two Son, Tommy, and Birmingham, soon finds himself in the midst of international intrigue and danger as he seeks to discover the identity of the mysterious Captain K and the murderer of Princess Mei Ling.
Simon Lafontanne, head of a chemical company, goes to consult Charlie Chan who is staying in
New Orleans along with his number two son, Tommy, and his chauffeur and assistant, Birmingham Brown. Lafontanne suspects that he has an enemy who is having him followed everywhere he goes. Chan agrees to investigate further just before Lafontanne is nearly kidnapped in front of the detective’s residence. The next morning, a pair of Lafontanne’s business partners pressure him to sign a clause that has been added to their business agreement whereby, in the event of the death of any of the principals, his share of the profits will go to the remaining partners. A short time later, Lafontanne is found dead in his office, apparently of a heart attack, but Charlie Chan believes otherwise.
In San Francisco, Judge Wesley Armstrong is stabbed to death in his study by an intruder, and Victor, the judge’s nephew, who has come to see him, is attacked and rendered unconscious. As the police arrive at the Armstrong home, they discover Victor recovering consciousness and holding the murder knife in his hand. This, plus other incriminating evidence, makes him the prime suspect in the murder. When Charlie Chan comes to see the district attorney to apologize about a misadventure with his number two son Tommy and assistant Birmingham Brown, word is received that two sets of fingerprints were found on the knife – Victor’s and those of a criminal who was executed six months earlier. Lieutenant Mike Ruark asks for Chan’s help with the case.
In San Francisco’s Chinatown, an Arizona mine owner named Manning visits a curio shop seeking help from Charlie Chan because he believes that someone is out to kill him. While in the shop, Manning is shot at by an unseen assailant. Later, Chan agrees to help Manning. Posing as a dealer in oriental curios, Chan travels to the Manning home where he finds that Manning has been gravely injured in a mysterious accident in his mine. Very suspicious of the situation, Chan, along with his number two son Tommy and assistant Birmingham Brown proceed with what proves to be a very dangerous investigation.
In San Pablo, Mexico, an expedition prepares to look for two missing archeologists, Professors Scott and Farnsworth, who had been searching for the lost Aztec Temple of the Sun. The two men have now been missing for two months. Charlie Chan, who is on his way to Mexico City for a vacation with two of his sons, Number One Son, Lee and Number Two Son, Tommy plus chauffeur and associate, Birmingham Brown, finds Professor Scott delirious as he collapses in a field near the road to San Pablo. Later, in San Pablo, Scott explains that after he and Farnsworth had found the temple, they were held as hostages and were forced to unearth a fortune in Aztec jade and gold. However, before Scott can name his captor, the lights go out and he is murdered with a knife. A search party, including Chan, his sons, and Birmingham, is organized out to look for Farnsworth and the lost temple.
Charlie Chan and Number One Son, Lee, are passengers aboard a commercial airliner. There are also two insurance couriers who are carrying a shipment of $250,000. Minutes after drinking coffee that was served, everyone on board the plane falls asleep, including the crew. Lee is the first to awaken and he notices a limp hand protruding from the cockpit door. Upon closer inspection, discovers that one of the couriers has been stabbed to death and that the insurance money has been stolen.