Other Media

Other Charlie Chan and Related Films, Shorts, Etc.

Owing to his great popularity worldwide, Charlie Chan has appeared on the Big Screen dating almost from the release of his first adventure by Earl Derr Biggers in The Saturday Evening Post in 1925.  What we know as the series proper began in 1931 with Charlie Chan Carries On, and ran until 1949 with the release of The Sky Dragon.  What follows is a list of “other” Charlie Chan pictures, including a number of Chinese productions, a Mexican-Cuban co-production, a Spanish language version of Charlie Chan Carries On, a short film in which Warner Oland as Charlie Chan promotes the benefits of Sunday movies, a Charlie Chan documentary, and even a family-produced Charlie Chan short! 

The House Without a Key (10-episode serial – 1926)

Pathé Exchange, Inc. 
Released: Pathé Exchange, Inc., November 21, 1926 
Copyright: Pathé Exchange, Inc., October 1, 1926 (Chapter 1: The Spite Fence; LP23322; Chapter 2: The Mystery Box; LP23349); October 8, 1926 (Chapter 3: The Missing Numeral; LP23350); December 2, 1926 (Chapter 4: Suspicion; LP23397); December 5, 1926 (Chapter 5: The Death Buoy; LP23398); December 14, 1926 (Chapter 6: Sinister Shadows; LP23446); December 18, 1926 (Chapter 7: The Mystery Man; LP23447); December 24, 1926 (Chapter 8: The Spotted Menace; LP23471); December 29, 1926 (Chapter 10: The Culprit; LP23480)
Film: Black and white
Length: 10 chapters, each 2 reels, except Chapter 1 which is 3 reels
Running Time: Unknown
Source: Based on the novel The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers (Indianapolis, 1925)  

Director: Spencer Bennet
Scenario: Frank Leon Smith


Allene Ray: Cary Egan
Walter Miller: John Quincy Winterslip
E.H. Calvert: Dan Winterslip
Betty Caldwell: Barbara Winterslip
Natalie Waterfield: Minerva Winterslip
Jack Pratt; James Egan
William Norton Bailey: Harry Jennison
Frank Lackteen: Dick Kaohla
George Kuwa: Charlie Chan
Harry Semels: Saladine
Charles H. West: Bowkert
John Cossar: District Attorney
Scott Seaton: Detective
Clifford Saum: Kennedy
John Dillon


Episode One: The Spite Fence

Miss Minerva Winterslip, of Boston, visits in Honolulu.  She alternates her stay between her two brothers.  They live adjoining on the beach at Waikiki.

Amos, one brother, is partner with James Egan and part owner of the Reef and Palm Hotel.  Between his home and that of his brother Dan is a “spite fence” erected twenty years before.  Amos is in rather lowly circumstances; Dan is rich.

James Egan is a hard-luck, lost nerve of the Pacific.  He is fond of Amos Winterslip but joins with him in hatred of Dan.

As the story opens Minerva, who is past the bloom of youth but still beautiful, has failed in her efforts to reconcile Amos and Dan.

Dan is a big and important-looking man.  He has a house that is a garden paradise.  Koahla, a Hawaiian, knows something out of the past of Dan and has been blackmailing the rich man.

There is an air of plots and counterplots.  Saladine, a character of mystery, flits in and out of the scenes.  Amos and Egan in conversation hint at a crime that Dan committed twenty years before.

On the S.S. Matsonia, sailing from San Francisco for the islands, is John Quincy Winterslip, also of Boston, nephew of Minerva, Dan, and Amos.  He carries a heavy bag in which is a mysterious oaken box, containing something of vital importance in the life of Dan Winterslip and which he has been asked by his uncle to drop into the Pacific in mid-ocean.  Also aboard the ship is Barbara Winterslip, daughter of Dan, and Cary Egan daughter of James Egan.

John Quincy received the box on his arrival in San Francisco from Boston.  It came down from the attic of his uncle Dan’s old home there.  Bowker, a steward, has information in his possession which makes him curious about the box.  He would obtain it.

Barbara Winterslip is accompanied on the trip by Harry Jennison, attorney for her father.  He plans to marry Barbara, and resents a cousinly kiss he bestows on John Quincy.  Cary Egan betrays an interest in John Quincy.

In Honolulu, Dan Winterslip is nervous in his great house.  He sits and reads the papers anxiously.  Mysterious men flit through the tropic growth surrounding the house.  A knife is hurled and buries itself in the back of the chair in which Dan is seated.  If he had not been leaning forward to pick up a piece of the newspaper it would have entered his body.  It is an eerie time in the great mansion.

On board the Matsonia, John Quincy reads his instructions regarding the box.  He is ordered by his uncle Dan to throw it overboard “because his life and safety depend on it.” When they reach mid-ocean he departs from his stateroom to toss the box into the sea.  Three men set upon him and they fight for the box.  John Quincy tosses it aside and engages them.  Cary Egan rushes up and grabs it, running away pursued by one of the men.

The other two get John Quincy in a corner.  They grab him by the legs, kicking and struggling.  They heave him overboard.  On a beautiful night, John Quincy Winterslip finds himself afloat in the Pacific with the Matsonia steaming away to Honolulu.

Episode Two: The Mystery Box

John Quincy Winterslip, of an aristocratic Boston family, on his way to visit his uncle Dan in Honolulu at the insistence of his aunt Minerva, is entrusted with a mysterious box that means so much to Daniel Winterslip, the richest man in the Islands.  Daniel and his brother Amos have been at outs for twenty years and a spite fence separates their homes.  Daniel is in the hands of blackmailers and his past contains much that makes him fear and be feared.

John Quincy is ordered to throw the box overboard on reaching the deepest ocean lanes.  Bowker, a steward, knows of the box and its contents, as does Cary Egan, daughter of island neer-do well James Egan.  When John Quincy attempts to toss the box into the sea, he is set upon by three men.  They throw him overboard as Cary Egan grabs the box.

Swimming in the wake of the Matsonia, John Quincy clutches the rope that holds the rotating log propeller.  He is pulled along.  Cary, struggling with the ruffians for possession yells “man overboard.”  The ship’s officers hear the cry and the Matsonia is stopped.  John Quincy is pulled from the sea.

Barbara Winterslip watches the rescue and when she learns it is her cousin rushes to him and implants a big kiss on his wet cheek.  This is not pleasing to Jennison, who would marry Barbara.  John Quincy learns that it was Cary Egan who gave the alarm that led to his rescue.  Bowker is snooping around, obviously desiring to get possession of the box.

In Honolulu, Dan Winterslip walks forth.  A hammer narrowly misses him as it falls from the hands of Kaohla, who is placing screening on the house at Dan’s direction.  Dan then accuses him of throwing the knife meant to kill him on the night before.  This the native denies.

Minerva tries again to reconcile the two brothers but her efforts fail.  Saladine mysteriously comes in and out of the picture, listening here and watching there.  He is under suspicion.

Because of the delay in picking up John Quincy, the Matsonia is forced to lie outside all night in Honolulu harbor.  Bowker and his aides steal the box from Cary’s room.  She discovers this when she returns with John Quincy, having planned to open the box with him present.

Bowker by arrangement plans to deliver the box to Kaohla, who comes out to get it in his outrigger canoe.  On deck, John Quincy and Cary plan to fight for it.  One of Bowker’s henchmen goes aloft and drops a heavy block and tackle to the deck.  It strikes John and Cary as the episode ends. 

Episode Three: The Missing Numeral

John and Cary are felled to the deck of the ship.  Bowker indicates to Jennison that Kaohla has the box.  This is the first indication that the attorney may be involved in the plot.  Jennison loves Barbara, Dan’s daughter.  John Quincy has fallen in love with Cary Egan.  Barbara for the first time outwardly shows affection for Harry Jennison on the deck of the ship.  Now, she produces a cable from her father which absolutely prohibits any thought of marriage to the attorney.  Of course, this does not please the young man, who promises he will find a way to overcome the objection and is very significant in his working of this statement with her.

John also has his troubles for Cary, because he has made no effort to recover the box and accuses him of being a true Winterslip, working only for the interests of his uncle Dan, who hates Cary’s father.  John Quincy, being rebuffed by the girl follows her to her cabin, and standing at the porthole, proposes marriage.  Cary slams the porthole shut.  John tells Barbara he plans to marry Cary.

In Honolulu, Dan Winterslip calls James Egan on the phone and demands that he come to his house at once.  Dan’s manner is very brusque.  On the telephone at first was his brother Amos whom he had not spoken with for twenty years.  Amos recognized his brother’s voice.  Egan makes his way toward Dan’s home.

(Note: The following paragraph makes sense if the character referred to as “Cope” is James Egan.  Because it is uncertain that this is correct, it is printed exactly as originally written.)

At the Winterslip home, Minerva meets Cope.  They have a very tender meeting.  It is evident that they have been something to each other in the past.  When Cope leaves, he flips away a cigarette.

Minerva retires and is awakened in the night.  She feels that something is happening.  She hears a noise in the quarters of Dan.  She summons a native woman and they enter.  They see a dim figure and clearly the gloved hands of a man.  On the man’s wrist is a watch with a luminous dial.  Its figure three is missing.  It is a few minutes past two o’clock.  The figure disappears.  Minerva finds Dan Winterslip dead.  There is much evidence of a struggle.  The floor is wet – the killer had wet feet, the servant speculates.

The Matsonia lands.  All is gay.  Minerva is at the dock with Amos.  Jennison pays money to Bowker, the steward.  barbara learns her father has been slain.  John Egan awaits his daughter who has a moment before promised, in a way, to marry John Quincy when the two families end their feud.  As Egan meets Cary he is placed under arrest by Hallet, chief of detectives, for the murder of Dan Winterslip. 

Episode Four: Suspicion

John Quincy stands between love and duty.  Cary urges him to stick to his people.  Enter Detective Sergeant Charlie Chan of the Honolulu police, a Chinese and the shrewdest sleuth on the islands.  he decides to find the slayer and takes to John Quincy, who would prove Egan innocent for he loves his daughter.

At the investigation, Minerva sides against her nephew.  She thinks Egan is guilty, for he did have an appointment with the dead man.  The slayer had wet feet, and Egan’s clothing had been found dripping water.  Kaohla’s clothes were also wet following the finding of the body.

A cablegram is revealed showing the police that John Quincy had in his possession in San Francisco the mysterious box which told much of the past of Dan Winterslip.  Where is this box?

Kaohla has it.  Jennison tells him to get rid of it.  Amos Winterslip plans to leave the islands.  He begins to tear down the spite fence.  Kaohla decides to bury the box in one of the post holes of the uprooted fence.  It also had developed that Egan had cabled his daughter to get the box from John Quincy.

At the fence, Kaohla hears someone coming and darts into cover, leaving the box.  Cary finds it.  The Hawaiian, fearful, throws a blanket around her.  John Winterslip, coming near, hears the girl’s screams.  As he runs up, Kaohla tosses Cary over a wall.  The blanket catches on the barbed wire of the spite fence and holds the girl from plunging to her death.  The fence post starts to pull out.  John Quincy runs up to the rescue.  Kaohla trips him and he falls into space as the episode ends.

Episode Five: The Death Buoy

John Quincy saves himself by grabbing a fence post.  Saladine, lurking nearby, grabs the fallen box, then changes his mind and replaces it.  Charlie Chan arrives as John struggles to aid Cary.  He helps the two reach safety.  They tell him of the box, but find it again missing.  Kaohla has returned and made away with it, observed by Saladine.

Cary faints, and they take her to the home of the slain man.  There, Jennison receives a call from Kennedy, one of the sailors who attacked John Quincy aboard the Matsonia.  The man demands money for placing a “can” in the harbor at a designated point.  Jennison sends Kaohla to deliver a reply to him at the Reef and Palm Hotel.

John Quincy and Chan have escorted Cary back to the hotel.  She and Quincy see Kaohla deliver the note.  They recognize the sailor.  John Quincy grapples with him in a fight outside the hotel.  Kennedy gets away, dropping the note in his fight.  Saladine picks it up and gives it to the desk clerk to deliver to John and Cary.  They read: “In the morning the contents of the can you anchored off the reef will be replaced with money and a full set of instructions.”

The next morning Kaohla gets the anchored can.  He replaces it with one containing dynamite controlled by a mechanism.  If it is pulled from the water, it will explode.Kennedy comes for the can in a skiff.  John and Cary race up in a launch as he grabs it.  The explosion blasts him and the boat from the water.  As the launch speeds into the geyser caused by the explosion it rises into the air but rights itself in a scene of great confusion. 

Episode Six: Sinister Shadows

Cary, John, and Saladine are thrown into the water by the blast.  Launches are put out from shore, Chan in one.  John helps the others aboard his boat.  They question Saladine, who will only say that he is a wholesale grocer from Des Moines.  John decides to cable Iowa to check the story.  Men in the other launch search for the body of Kennedy.

Another native sees Kaohla with the can from the buoy, but Kaohla will not explain.  He takes it in his canoe to a deserted dock.  The dock shed is large, gloomy, and dusty.  Huge sails hang from the rafters.  A trap door is cut in the floor.  He gives the can to Jennison and tells of the explosion.  Jennison gives him instructions for activities that night, then goes to arrange the funeral of Dan Winterslip.  The man is buried during a tropical rainstorm.

At the hotel, a call from Saladine summons Cary to come with John to 52 Harbor Street that night.  Unable to reach him, she goes alone.  John leaves Jennison at the Winterslip home, then goes to the hotel where he receives a cablegram stating that Saladine does not live in Des Moines.  At that same time, he gets Cary’s message.  John takes a revolver and starts for the Harbor Street address.

Cary arrives at the rendezvous as the storm rages outside.  This is the dock shed.  A mysterious cloaked figure moves about.  When Cary calls out, he reveals himself as Saladine.  He seizes her and demands to know what she knows about it all.  Kaohla is also there with henchmen.

John rushes into the shed, meets Cary and reassures her.  It is very eerie there.  A mysterious figure moves in back of the hanging sails.  Four men come through the trap door. John gives Cary his pistol.  The men attack him and try to toss him through the trap door into a boat.  He puts up a fight.  Cary watches, clinging to one of the canvas sails.  It comes down, burying her in one of the folds, and revealing the mysterious man who stood behind. 

Episode Seven: The Mystery Man

The attempted kidnapping of John and Cary at the old dock shed is blocked by the arrival of the harbor police boat.  A large number of kidnappers are captured.  Saladine escapes arrest by crouching down and covering himself with his long cloak. Cary explains that she came to the shed expecting to get the information that would establish the innocence of her father.  The note sent to Saladine is found as this character sneaks away.

Saladine spots Charlie Chan in the lobby of the Reef and Palm and goes to his room another way without being seen.  He packs his bag.  Cary and John show Chan the note, and he decides to search Saladine’s room.  As they open it with a pass key, he gets out the verandah door.  The search reveals false beards and other disguises, small arms, and a shotgun.  This bewilders the searchers.  They find no clues to the murder.

At the Winterslip home the next morning, Saladine, peering from the shrubbery hears Jennison berate Kaohla for letting John and Cary escape the night before.  He gives the Hawaiian some money, then goes inside where all have assembled to go over the story of the slaying.  Minerva remembers that the killer wore a wristwatch with a missing number.  Outside, Saladine looks at his wrist.  A white mark there shows where a watch had been worn.  This clue gives John an idea, and he rushes away. Chan is elated.

Barbara takes clothing to James Egan in the city prison and learns that he suspects Amos Winterslip of the murder.

Saladine returns to his room at the Reef and Palm by the verandah.  It is a shaky structure.  He digs up a wristwatch that he had forgotten the night before.  John Quincy Winterslip rushes into the room and confronts the mysterious character.  grabbing his wrist, he notes the mark made by a wrist strap.  The men fight all over the room, then onto the balcony.  Cary runs in.  The porch sways beneath the fighting men then gives way, plunging them into the sea.  Other guests who have been watching scramble to safety.  Cary is caught outside and grabs a railing and dangles above the sea.  The board she clings to gives way and she swings downward as the episode ends. 

Episode Eight: The Spotted Menace

Cary falls into the sea near John Quincy.  Natives help him rescue her.  Saladine escapes, hidden by floating wreckage.  Jennison and Barbara, out riding, hear the commotion and join Cary and John.  John resents Jennison’s attitude regarding Egan.

At Dan Winterslip’s home, detective Chan interviews Minerva.  Several boys come to the home and are given cakes by Kam, a servant and grandmother of Kaohla.  The boys announce that they are playing pirates.  In a secluded glen the kids have unearthed the hidden box of mystery and are playing with it.  Saladine, dripping wet, comes sneaking through the shrubbery.  Kaohla finds the boys playing with the precious box.  Chan comes on the scene and grabs it.  Saladine sees him carry the box away, leaving Kaohla crestfallen.

All the principals are present in the home of Dan Winterslip when the box is opened.  it discloses the log of the schooner Maid of Shiloh, written in Dan’s handwriting.  The log reveals that Amos Winterslip and James Egan had delivered to Dan Winterslip money and jewels worth $100,000.  This was twenty years ago.  Kaohla states that he was Dan’s cabin boy on the schooner.  Dan was to have taken the box and its contents to Sydney, Australia, but the ship was wrecked.

Cary Egan accuses Dan Winterslip of having robbed her father and his brother Amos.  Jennison turns her words against her and says that this was the motive for her father to murder Dan.  Barbara says she will pay every dollar back.  Jennison resents this, as he would marry her.

They all ask: Where is Amos Winterslip?  Kaohla reveals that he is at the cove.  They decide to go there in a speed boat.  Saladine hears this.  Kaohla loads them all aboard Dan’s speed boat.  They wear bathing suits, for the sea is rough.

At the cove, Amos is with the Hawaiians in their village.  The native mothers fear for their children because the sea is filled with white sharks.  The boat with Chan, John, and Cary comes near.  They cannot make the beach.  It is planned to swim ashore and return with a skiff.  John and Cary jump into the water.  Amos rushes out with natives to warn them of the white sharks.

The surface of the water is cut by the fins of the man-eaters.  John and Cary see them and try to get back to the boat.  Chan would help them aboard.  Koahla fells him with a boat hook.  Saladine comes up in another speed boat.  It takes Kaohla aboard and rushes away.

The swimmers can’t reach the high rail of the speed boat.  The sharks are all around them as the episode ends. 

Episode Nine: The Wrist Watch

Amos Winterslip, with the aid of natives, frightens away the sharks that menace John Quincy and Cary.  They are brought into his launch.  Saladine shuts down his power boat and then covers Kaohla with a revolver.  He makes terms with the Hawaiian whereby the plotter agrees to take him on his “game.”  Chan, Amos, and the others give chase in the launch, but are out-distanced.  Chan promises that the Honolulu police will get them.

At the Winterslip home, Barbara cancels her engagement to marry Jennison and decides to make restitution to her uncle Amos and Egan for the money her father stole.

That night Jennison meets Kaohla at a riverfront Chinese shop.  The boy is there with Saladine.  Jennison announces that he is going to close up his affairs and clear out.  He also says that he will get rid of John Quincy.  He takes Saladine in on the plot.  Jennison has Wu Fong, impersonating Chan, phone John Quincy to come to the riverfront dive.  Now, he orders “everything” sold out for cash.

John Quincy Winterslip, lured to the place, is bound and gagged and placed under guard.  Jennison has arranged with a ship captain to take him out to sea.  Also aboard the steamer is Bowker, the steward in his employ.  Jennison sends him to the dive to clean up the cash.

At police headquarters, plans are being made to capture the conspirators.  Chan gets the papers.  The captain who is to take John Quincy away comes to the shop and bargains for the tinned goods of mystery.  He is told only cash goes.  John recognizes Bowker and hopes he will help his escape.  The steward only ties him tighter.

Cary, worried, gets the address of the shop and arrives there just as the men carry John out.  Saladine then turns character and knocks up the guard’s gun when that conspirator fires at John Quincy.  Saladine is wounded.  He starts a fight.

The police, led by Chan, descend on the dive.  All are fighting.  Cary is in the midst of the melee.  Suddenly she sees a wrist on which is the watch with the missing numeral.  “The watch, the watch!” she cries out.  Hands grab for her and she goes down in the crowd as the episode ends. 

Episode Ten: The Culprit

Federal officers and Honolulu police cooperate in a raid on the Chinese dive and shop where John Quincy and Cary are surrounded by a fighting mob of enemies.  Jennison is aboard ship ready to sail away.  Saladine tries to help Cary as she battles bravely.  Chan leads his men on.  Kaohla is suddenly grabbed by Saladine.  John is carried out to a skiff and tough men are ready to shove off for the ship.  A harbor patrol boat sweeps in and the police grab the thugs.  Some help John.

The fight at the dive continues.  John comes back and engages Kaohla.  After the battle, Saladine binds up his wounds.  Now he is revealed as the chief of the federal narcotic squad in the islands.  He explains that this is the end of an organized band of dope dealers led by Jennison.  Saladine had thought that the Winterslip family was behind the band.  Bowker was one of the gang.  Cary tells about the wristwatch she had seen.

The watch is found on the arm of a native among the prisoners.  He says that he found the watch when diving during the last trip that the Matsonia made into the harbor.  He says that Bowker is the man he saw throw it out of a port hole.  Bowker points out that at the time of the murder he was miles out in the bay.  Harry Jennison gave him the watch.  He says that Jennison is aboard the ship now ready to sail and accuses him as the head of the opium gang.

John Quincy races to the ship and finds the attorney.  The men fight.  Chan comes aboard.  Jennison gets a gun and is about to crush the skull of John Quincy when a revolver is thrust into his back by someone standing in the open porthole.  Jennison releases John and turns to face Charlie Chan.  They take the attorney to the police station.

Bowker tells his story to the prosecutor.  The prosecutor explains events to the others.  Many years before, Dan Winterslip took the gold and jewels belonging to his brother and James Egan.  He also kept the box and the log book that told the story.  When his nephew, John Quincy, sailed from San Francisco he had gotten the box and the log book at his uncle’s direction and was to have thrown it into the sea.  Cary had been sent by her father to get the box.

Jennison knew of the box and arranged with the steward Bowker to get it away from John.  He figured with the log he would be able to force Dan Winterslip to agree to his marriage to Barbara.  Then he found that Dan was about to change his will.  Jennison, when the ship anchored ten miles out, being once the champion swimmer of the islands, swam ashore, killed Dan Winterslip and would have gotten away with it had not Bowker, being on deck, discovered him as he came aboard.  Jennison gave the wristwatch to Bowker and the steward threw it overboard the next morning as the ship docked.

So the mystery is revealed and it is presumed that Barbara was glad she was saved.  John of course must have married Cary, but at any rate the mystery and the serial ends.

Adapted from: Charlie Chan’s Number One Movie, by Jim Stringham, Cliffhanger, Issue #21, May 1995

The Chinese Parrot (1927)

Universal Pictures Corporation
Released: Universal Pictures Corporation, October 23, 1927 
Copyright: Universal Pictures Corporation, August 24, 1927;   LP24331 (Renewed June 1, 1955; R150787)
Sound: Silent
Film: Black and white
Length: 7 reels (7, 304 feet)
Running Time: About 65 minutes 
Source: Based on the novel The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers (Indianapolis, 1926)

Presenter: Carl Laemmle 
Director: Paul Leni
Screenplay: J. Grubb Alexander
Titles: Walter Anthony
Photography: Ben Kline


Marian Nixon: Sally Phillimore 
Florence Turner: Sally Philimore (older)
Hobart Bosworth: Philip J. Madden/Jerry Delaney
Edward Burns: Robert Eden
Captain Albert Conti: Martin Thorne
Kamiyama Sojin: Charlie Chan (also known as Ah Kim)
Fred Esmelton: Alexander Eden
Ed Kennedy: Maydorf
George Kuwa: Louie Wong
Slim Summerville: Prospector
Dan Mason: Prospector
Anna May Wong: Nautch Dancer
Etta Lee: Gambling Den Habitué
Jack Trent: Jordan


Sally Randall, daughter of a wealthy Hawaiian planter, marries Phillimore, the man of her father’s choice, even though she has sworn her love to Phillip Madden; tearing from her throat the expensive pearls given to her by her father, Madden declares that one day he will buy her at the same price. Twenty years later, now a widow in unfortunate financial straits, Sally offers the pearls for sale in San Francisco.  Accompanied by her daughter, Sally, she is astonished to discover madden bargaining for the pearls, which she has entrusted to Chinese detective, Charlie Chan, with the sale contingent on her delivery of the pearls to Madden’s desert home.

Madden is taken prisoner by thieves and is impersonated by Jerry Delaney, who welcomes sally and Robert Eden, the jeweler’s son.  While Chan is secretly conducting an investigation, the pearls are stolen by various parties, but it develops that a Chinese parrot has witnessed the kidnapping of Madden and has told the detective about it.

Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960


Variety, January __, 1928

(Please note:  This vintage review from Variety contains numerous instances of slang which is, by today’s standards, quite offensive.  The review is presented intact, as it was originally written.  Perhaps it should be noted by readers that the unfortunate attitude exemplified by the reviewer is something that Charlie Chan would soon do so much to overcome during the course of the Charlie Chan series.  In this, the great Chinese detective was most successful, indeed, in helping to radically change a culture’s perception of the Chinese people and their rich heritage.)

A very good Universal program of the thrilling mystery stuff, made by Paul Leni. Who also directed U’s Cat and Canary.  This picture will do more than nicely for the U trade and elsewhere for the strictly fan patronage, but as a story or a thriller or a mystery, it’s terrible applesauce.

This epic, opus or vehicle strings out over some pearls with a grouch on or in them.  Whoever monkeys with them goes dead or dead broke.  Large pearls too, every one, large even in a film.  Worth a lot of dough, and one gal sold her soul for ‘em, thereby losing a steady lover.  This loving boy was so steady he hung around in the offin’, for 20 years to get the pearls and the girl who turned him down.

Meanwhile the girl had had a daughter, her original hub had bumped himself off, and there she was with only a daughter, a discarded lover and a thousand pearls or so, waiting in Frisco for a Chink sleuth to drag the junk over from the straw skirt country.

The mystery of the story is whammed in with the mysteries of photography at times.  At times it’s good photography, creepy, freaky and ofttimes hazy.  It jumps to Chinatown, and there’s the mob waiting to grab the shiners, but the Chink detect gets past the crowd, while the deserted lover tells the women folks to bring the stuff to his place in the desert the next night.

His place in the desert is a bearcat for style.  There they wear tuxes day and night.  Also the Chink sleuth as a Lon Chaney cook-waiter, and if he weren’t doing a Chaney it was because Chaney can’t stoop that low.  Another two inches lower and the Chink would have been doing Bugs Baer’s lizard gag on Lon.

Much sneaking along the hallways in that swell joint in the sand.  Also shooting and the parrot.  The parrot could understand Chinese and translate it into English.  And with a better memory than an act stealer.  But that’s about all the relativity between the title and the story.

Really the only mystery was how a Chinese coolie could so easily walk off a ship and off the wharf on United States territory.

So then they gave the pearls to an Indian, calling them beads, and told him to give them to his squaw, without asking if he had a squaw.

Love stuff, but not strong.

E. [sic] Sojin played the Chink, and from the name he is.  He did good enough, considering he had the meat role.  Florence Turner was the weepy mother, always with the give.  Marian Nixon, the daughter, with Hobart Bosworth in a duel role that had to be handled without double exposure toward the finish.  Bosworth is always a good actor.

Anna May Wong looked oke as a cooch dancer in the prolog, but she passed out on the knife route, slipped her by a treacherous looking brute.  That meant one day’s work and featuring.

Edmond Burns is the juvenile, always looking ready to go, but appearing in trouble getting set.  The picture is now listed at 7,300 feet, so maybe a lot of footage had to be chopped.

Still, withal of general appeal to a low or high percentage of appreciation, according to your pressure or mind.  But again okay, with Leni’s directorial work quite outstanding when you think of what he must have had to sidestep in this to prevent duplication of the “cat and” thing. 

Behind That Curtain (1929)

Fox Film Corporation
Released: Fox Film Corporation, June 30, 1929
Copyright: Fox Film Corporation, June 28, 1929; LP506
Sound: Movietone
Film: Black and white
Length: 10 reels, 8,320 feet
Running time: 91 minutes
PCA Certificate Number: 507
Source: Based on the novel Behind That Curtain by Earl Derr Biggers (Indianapolis, 1928)

Presented By: William Fox
Director: Irving Cummings
Assistant Director: Charles Woolstenhulme
Scenario: Sonya Levien and Clarke Silvernail
Adaptation: George Middleton
Titles: Wilbur Moorse, Jr.
Photography: Conrad Wells, Dave Ragin, and Vincent Farrar
Film Editor: Alfred De Gaetano
Sound Recording: George P. Costello


Warner Baxter: [Col.] John Beetham
Lois Moran: Eve Mannering
Gilbert Emory: Sir Frederic Bruce
Claude King: Sir George Mannering
Philip Strange; Eric Durand
Boris Karloff: Sudanese Servant
Jamiel Hassen: Habib Hannah
Peter Gawthorne: Scotland Yard Inspector
John Rogers; Alf Pornick
C. Montague Shaw: Hilary Galt
Finch Smiles: Galt’s Clerk
Mercedes De Velasco: Nunah
E.L. Park: Charlie Chan


Kathrin Clare Ward: Eve Mannering’s Landlady


Eve Mannering, daughter of a wealthy Englishman, marries Eric Durand, a fortune hunter, who kills the investigator hired by Eve’s father to examine his past.  Upon discovering the plot, Eve leaves him and joins an old family friend on a desert expedition from India to Persia.  Later, fearing that she will implicate him in her affairs, Eve deserts him and travels to San Francisco. 

Sir Frederic Bruce of Scotland Yard is attracted to the case by a mysterious pair of slippers that were found on the victim’s body – a gift from the explorer, John Beetham.  His investigation leads to a San Francisco lecture hall where Beetham is speaking.  There, Durand is revealed to be the murderer and is shot dead by Charlie Chan while attempting to evade the law.  This leaves Eve with a happy future with the explorer.

NOTES: The novel Behind That Curtain, by Earl Derr Biggers, was originally published serially in The Saturday Evening Post between March 31 and May 5, 1928.  Behind That Curtain, a film in which Charlie Chan appears only at the climactic moments at the close of the picture, was later remade as Charlie Chan’s Chance (1932).

Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960

Eran Trece (There Were Thirteen) (1931)

Fox Film Corporation
Released: Fox Film Corporation, December 4, 1931 
Copyright: Fox Film Corporation 
Film: Black and white 
Running Time: 79 minutes 
Source: Based on the novel Charlie Chan Carries On by Earl Derr Biggers (Indianapolis, 1930)

Producer: William Fox
Director: David Howard
Spanish Dialogue: José López Rubio
Photography: Sidney Wagner
L.B. Abbott: Assistant Photographer



Manuel Arbó: Charlie Chan 
Rafael Luis Calvo: Inspector Duff
Ana Maria Custodio: Elen Potter
Juan Torena: Dick Kennaway
Julio Villareal: Dr. Lofton
Raul Roulien: Max Minchin
Blanca de Castejón: Peggy Minchin
Martin Garralaga: John Ross (alias Jim Menard)
Carmen Rodriguez: Señora Rockwel
Antonio Vidal: Paul NelsonJose Nieto: Señor Kin
Ralph Navarro: Inspector Gardner
Lia Torá: Sybil Conway
Carlos Diaz de Mendoza: Walter Decker


Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard receives a call about the murder of the wealthy Louis Potter, who was strangled with a suitcase strap while on an around-the-world tour with a party of other Americans.  Dr. Lofton, the tour conductor, discovers that the strap came from his bag.  Duff interrogates Walter Decker, a theatrical manager occupying the room next to Potter’s, who hopes to meet his estranged wife, actress Sybil Conway, at San Remo and persuade her to join him on the trip.  Duff then realizes that he cannot hold the twelve remaining tourists because he has no motive or evidence.

After they leave for Paris, Duff learns that Decker paid a hotel servant not to reveal that he and Potter had exchanged rooms on the night that Potter was murdered.  That night, as the Lofton party stops over in Nice, a gloved hand fires a shot from some bushes and places the gun in the hand of the deceased – Decker.

When Duff arrives the next day, he learns that Decker is dead, apparently a suicide.  Duff calls Decker’s estranged wife Sybil, who meets him at San Remo and tells him that the murderer is someone named Jim Menard, a jewel thief to whom she had been unhappily married.  Years earlier, she and Decker had run away together, taking with them two bags of diamonds.  Menard had vowed to kill them both.  Sybil agrees to point out the killer, but the figure with the gloved hand kills her as she rides in an elevator with Duff.

During the next leg of the trip, Dick Kennaway, the traveling companion to Patrick Tait, an elderly criminal lawyer, becomes fond of Drake’s granddaughter, Elen Potter, who is continuing the trip intent on tracking down her grandfather’s killer.  In Hong Kong, Elen and Mark, while in a shop, hear a street merchant say the name Jim Everhard, motioning toward a group of men from the tour who are passing by.  Elen, trying to determine which member of the group is Everhard, calls out his name.  However, they all turn around at the same time.  Mark realizes that this move has placed Elen in great danger, and as she sends a cable to Duff, the gloved hand fires a shot at her, but Mark pulls her aside in time.

Duff travels to Honolulu, which is the Lofton party’s next destination.  While visiting his friend, Inspector Charlie Chan, in his office at the Honolulu Police Department, he is shot in the back through an open window.  Outraged, Chan vows to find Duff’s assailant.  He prepares to join the party on their voyage to San Francisco, and asks his chief to tell Duff that “Charlie Chan carries on.”

In his cabin on the ship, Chan notices movement by his window and, grabbing a gloved hand that is reaching for a briefcase containing important evidence, pulls the glove off as he attempts to hold on to the intruder.  After clues implicate various members of the party, the ship approaches San Francisco. However, the detective is at a loss as to the identity of the killer.  With a flash of inspiration, he writes identical letters to all suspects.

At a party, as the ship has nearly reached its destination, Chan explains to the guests, all members of the Lofton tour, that Potter was murdered by mistake, for Everhard had intended to kill Decker.  The detective says that in order to save Everhard embarrassment, he has informed him in a note that he will not arrest him until the ship docks at San Francisco.

Each of the male members of the Lofton tour then finds a note in their cabin that Chan has left for them, as the detective prepares a dummy in front of the window of his cabin.  As he and Mark hide in wait in a lifeboat across from Chan’s cabin, a light switch is turned on at the proper moment, revealing Chan’s silhouette in the window.  As the murderer attempts to shoot what he thinks is Chan he is quickly apprehended by Charlie and Mark.

As the others enter, the murderer is revealed to be John Ross, a Tacoma, Washington lumberman.  He asks Chan how he knew it was him, and Chan reveals that he did not know, and that he had written the notes to all suspects in order to draw the real killer out.

Chan then dictates a cable to Inspector Duff, and, seeing Mark and Elen together, adds, “Miss Potter and Mr. Kennaway have decided to become one – for now.”

NOTES: Eran Trece was the Spanish language version of Charlie Chan Carries On, using Spanish-speaking actors and actresses in its cast, and following the original script, with minor changes.  This was the only Spanish version of a film from the Charlie Chan series.  Some sources erroneously include Luana Alaniz in the cast of Eran Trece.  In his autobiography, L. B. Abbott notes that he assisted photographer Sidney Wagner on Eran Trece.  Eran Trece was the only Spanish version in the Charlie Chan series.

Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960

Movies on Sundays (1935)

Loew’s, Inc.
Released: Loew’s, Inc., January 1, 1935 (limited)
Film: Black and white
Running Time: About 8 minutes total (running time of Warner Oland segment – 1:56)

CAST (for the entire presentation):

Irvin S. Cobb: Himself 
Kay Francis: Herself
Warner Oland: Charlie Chan
May Robson: Herself

This short film, released in 1935, was sent to individual movie theaters throughout the state of Pennsylvania.  The purpose of the picture was to convince moviegoers to vote on a measure to allow the showing of Sunday movies.  This issue was on the statewide ballot in the election of 1935. The full film features notable actors Warner Oland, Kay Francis, May Robson, and writer Irvin S. Cobb in four short monologues, each making the case for the benefits of Sunday movies. 

(Bowing) “Biggest mysteries are not always crimes.  Most mysterious is what mankind does to itself for reasons difficult to understand.  For instance, Eskimo will not eat meat of seal in certain season even if starving.  Men in India will go barefoot on hot coals to prove devoutness.  South Sea Islanders may not smoke before grandfather.  African tribesman put painful sticks through nose to be beautiful, and his lady love stretch neck like ostrich to be more beautiful.”

“And in honorable state of Pennsylvania, populace will not permit itself to enjoy motion pictures on Sunday.”

“Old proverb says, ‘Strange laws make even more strange bedfellows.’  Humble self very much puzzled why one man may play golf game on Sunday, and other man cannot see Charlie Chan bring criminal to justice on same day.”

“Respectfully suggest you use mighty power of ballot on fifth day of November to remove unnecessary obstacle to innocent pursuit of happiness.”

(Bowing) “Thank you – so much.”


Biggest mysteries are not always crimes.

Old proverb says, “Strange laws make even more strange bedfellows.”


Movies on Sundays

La Serpiente Roja (The Red Serpent) (1937)

Noticiario Royal News (Cuba) 
Released: Noticiario Royal News (1937)
Premier: May 1937, Havana, Cuba
Film: Black and white
Length: 7,000-plus feet (8 reels) 
Running Time: 80 minutes

Director: Ernesto Caparrós
Screenwriter: Félix B. Caignet
Photography: Ernesto Caparrós, Ricardo Delgado, Laureano Rodriguez Gavaldón
Set Decorations: Ernesto Caparrós
Sound: Alejandro Caparrós


Aníbal de Mar: Chan Li Po
Felix B. Cagnet: Talu
Paco Alfonso
Carlos Badias
Aurelio CaviaJuan de Aragón
Pituka de Foronda
Roberto Insua
Pedro Segarra
Antonio Trigo
Ramón Valenzuela
Delores Zabala

This Cuban-made Spanish language film was set in London, England.  It featured investigator Chan Li Po, a very popular character, based on Charlie Chan and created by Felix Benjamin Caignet, from a Cuban radio series that ran in the 1930s and ’40s.  While not, strictly speaking, a Charlie Chan movie, there were clear links to the original character created by Earl Derr Biggers and made famous on the American screen.  Therefore, Chan Li Po can be seen as something of a “very close cousin” to his American counterpart and inspiration, Charlie Chan.

Watch the trailer for:

La Serpiente Roja

The Pearl Tunic (1938)

(Information contributed by Douglas Wulf and Don Marion)

New China Picture Company (Shanghai, China) 
Released: New China Picture Company (1938) Sound 
Film: Black and white
Length: Unknown
Running Time: Unknown

Director: Xinfu Xu
Screenwriter: Xinfu Xu
Photography: Shimu Zhou


Ziyuan Xu: Charlie ChanLanjun Gu
Meijun Gu: Meina ChanQiong Liu
Xiu Jiang
Weilian FuHong Bai
Guangzhao You
Jingling Hong
Zhiyuan Tan
Furong Ge
Ye Xiao Chu
Jianfei He


The Zhao family’s ancient tomb is robbed, and one of the lost objects is a priceless shirt with pearls.  Having returned from overseas, Charlie Chan is staying with his daughter, Meina, in the Zhao family home, and therefore participates in the investigation. 

In the ancient tomb, a bullet is found, used by a bodyguard, Deisheng Xu, at the Datong Club.  Chan hurries away only to discover someone has already been killed, and there follows a series of murders.  Charlie Chan sets a dark cloth trap in the robbers’ cave.  Meina receives a radio signal from her father, which leads to the capture of the thieves and the recovery of the lost jewelry.  Jiawei Zhao congratulates Charlie Chan, but at the same time expresses regret that the shirt with pearls was not also recovered.  However, Charlie Chan shows little concern, then he has Meina produce the shirt with pearls.

Murder at the Taiwan National University Radio Station (1939)

(Information contributed by Douglas Wulf)

Xinhua Motion Picture Company (Shanghai, China) 
Released: Xinhua Motion Picture Company (1939) 
Film: Black and white
Length: Unknown
Running Time: Unknown

Director: Xinfu Xu
Screenwriter: Xinfu Xu
Photography: Shimu Zhou


A female broadcaster is killed at a radio station in Taiwan, and Charlie Chan helps the police solve the case.  A singer, Xie Huitian, regularly goes to the radio station to broadcast a program.  Because the singer always wears a disguise, even the people at the radio station do not know his true appearance.  For their fifth anniversary celebration, the radio station, in various ways and with great effort, finally persuades Huitian to agree to perform for an audience without any disguise on the upcoming celebration day. 

Many music fans are greatly excited.  As the singer steps up on stage, the lights suddenly go out.  When they come back on, Huitian is found dead.  Detective Zhang asks Charlie Chan and his daughter to assist in solving the case.  Soon after Chan takes over the investigation, another female radio broadcaster is murdered.  During the investigation, Charlie Chan discovers that Huitian was very recently engaged to the woman, Hu Liying, but Hu Liying had another boyfriend.  Charlie Chan follows up on a clue and enters a life-and-death struggle with the criminal.

The Great Charlie Chan Smashes an Evil Plot (1941)

(Information contributed by Douglas Wulf and Don Marion)

New China Picture Company 
Released: New China Picture Company (1941) 
Film: Black and white
Length: Unknown
Running Time: Unknown

Director: Xinfu Xu
Screenwriter: Xinfu Xu
Photography: Pengguojun


Ziyuan Xu: Charlie Chan
Meijun Gu: Meina Chan
Qiuxia Gong


A thief uses a secret stealth method to commit a crime, and Charlie Chan helps Detective Zhang solve the case.  Detective Zhang has called on Chan and his daughter, Meina, to help investigate an ongoing series of weird thefts.  Charlie Chan’s friend, Xiao Yougin, also helps out.  

Chan and his daughter are invited to attend a large lavish birthday banquet, where another of the bizarre thefts happens again.  Although valuables had been put into a safe, the precious jewelry vanishes into thin air, and a servant is also killed.  Jia Yi and Lu Shaoting, two suspicious individuals, are in attendance at the banquet, but there is no definite evidence of who is guilty.  Jia Yi’s girlfriend, Zhou Yuehua, behaves very strangely, but it is not clear why.  Qian Manyun accidentally discovers that Zhou obtained jewelry that is very much like the jewelry that she has lost.  Chan and his daughter go about investigating but run into danger. 

Afterward, Charlie Chan invents spectacles that may possibly reveal the stealth technique that is used to commit the thefts.  However, he must wait to use the spectacles when they cannot be found, so the case comes to a halt.  Xiao Yougin is extremely disappointed.  Then, Meina comes up with an idea.  She sets up a snare trap that captures the stealth robbers who walk into the trap.

Net of Devine Retribution (1947)

(Information contributed by Douglas Wulf)

The Art Film Company
The Art Film Company Company (1947) 
Film: Black and white
Length: Unknown
Running Time: Unknown
Producer: Xiebingjun
Director: Gong-liang Yang
Screenwriter: Haiqing Yin
Original Music: Ge Xin
Photography: Cao Jin-yun
Editing: Shiqing Zhou, Qi Dexin
Arts Guide: Yi Guangfu
Backdrop: Chen Rui
Costume Design: Yan
Recording: Sun Bing Classics


Ziyuan Xu: Charlie Chan
Yuan Ping: Detective
Yukun Lu: Cima Ming
Fan Ping: Chen Ping
Wen Yan: Xu Ma
Wu Chia Hsiang: Thief
Huanwen Chen: Officer
Rui Jiang: The Owner Remanded
Nan Jiang: Apartment Doorman
Gaodian: Zhang Zao
Chen Fei: Sergeant


The wealthy Cima Ming is clearly attracted to his live-in sister-in-law Liu Manling, and he has a falling out with his wife, Manna.  Ming’s good friend, the great Detective Charlie Chan, advises Ming and Manna to go to the villa of Xiao Zhu to help the couple rescue their feelings for one another.  Ming deliberately injures Manna, and amidst the resulting disarray says farewell to Shang Yao going off to handle company business.  

Manna decides to drive to the villa to wait for him in advance.  At that time, Manna goes to look for Charlie Chan.  Chan gives Manna one white chrysanthemum, wishing the husband and wife will again live together harmoniously.  Manna continues her drive to the villa, but Cima Ming ambushes her first, blocking her car on the road.  Strangling Manna, he then pushes the car with the body inside down the hill. 

Charlie Chan learns that Manna is missing.   The company realizes that the case has been reported to the police department.  At the time when Ming had signaled police, one white chrysanthemum was in her overcoat, therefore the suspicion is put on Chan, suggesting that he is the actual murderer.  

Charlie Chan deliberately lets Ming believe that Manna is still alive.  This causes him to visit the car at the scene of the murder where a group of police arrives to take him into custody.

Hero of Our Time (1948)

(Information contributed by Douglas Wulf)

Xu Production Studio
Xu Production Studio (1948) 
Film: Black and white
Length: Unknown
Running Time: Unknown
Producer: Hu Bi
Director: Hu Bi
Screenwriter: Hu Bi


Ziyuan Xu: Charlie Chan
Yan Bai: Meina Chan
Yukun Lu: Jin-Yibai Chuan
Ban Wang: Detective
Ming Jiang: Wu Huaide
Lu Hung: Dong Lizhu
Xiucen Yin
Guangzhao You
Wenbing Zhou
Fan Liao


The great detective Charlie Chan meets a wealthy member of the gentry, Guangzhou You, and investigates the riddle of the suicide of his elder brother, Guangcai You, who jumped from a building.  Charlie, in the company of daughter Meina, is given broad latitude to investigate, but only at this point begin the real murders of the villains. 

Charlie suspects the wealthy businessman, Wu Huaide, so dispatches Meina on a secret investigation.  Meina tracks Huaide’s female secretary, Dong Lizhu, to the train station, and sees her handing over a leather suitcase to a mysterious man.  Charlie and Meina trace this to a wooden shack in the suburbs.  Seizing the leather suitcase, they find it full of counterfeit money.  To defeat Huaide’s plot, a plan is offered to the police: the backroom of the counterfeiting group secretly protects its leader, so whoever knows the group’s leader can unexpectedly make the first move and get control.  

To get Huaide to return to the nest of thieves, Meina tracks Lizhu’s trail, following her back to the criminals’ hideout.  She is captured by a henchman and taken into the cellar, but fortunately, Charlie arrives in the nick of time.  It is disclosed that the primary brain behind the operation is the banking tycoon Jin-Yibai Chuan.  However, the police also arrive at the counterfeiters’ hideout and catch the whole lot in a dragnet.  During the struggle, Yibai Chuan and Huaide are shot to death.

The Wise Charlie Chan Fights the Prince of Darkness (1948)

(Information contributed by Douglas Wulf and Don Marion)

Wuzhou Film Company (Hong Kong)
Wuzhou Company Company (1948) Sound 
Film: Black and white
Length: Unknown
Running Time: Unknown

Director: Hu Bi
Screenwriter: Hu Bi


Ziyuan Xu: Charlie Chan
Yan Bai: Meina Chan
Xiucen Yin

El Monstruo en la Sombra (The Monster in the Shadows) (1955)

Clasa-Mohme, Inc. 
Released: Clasa-Mohme, Inc., 1955 
Film: Black and white
Running Time: 92 minutes

Producers: Roberto Martinez Rubio, Félix B. Caignet, Agustin P. Delgado
Director: Zacarias Gómez Urquiza
Production Design: Francisco Marco Chillet
Photography: Gabriel Figueroa
Film Editor: Charles L. Kimball
Story: Félix B. Caignet, Agustin P. Delgado
Music: Gustavo César Carrión

El Monstruo en la Sombra (The Monster in the Shadows) was a Spanish-language Mexican/Cuban co-production.  It was a horror/mystery that featured Orlando Rodriguez “as the famous Oriental detective, Chan Li Po.”  As mentioned above, Chan Li Po was a popular character based on Charlie Chan and created by Felix Benjamin Caignet.  It is fairly certain that Chan Li Po played a modest role in this movie.

The Great Charlie Chan (1968)

Zavala-Riss Productions, Inc. 
Released: 1968 
Film: Black and white
Running Time: 54 minutes
Charlie Chan Films Made Available By: Warner Bros.-Seven Arts”
Production Planned and Coordinated By: Harvey Chertok and Martha Torge for “Charlie Chan at the Museum of Modern Art”
Producer: Sheldon Riss
Script and Sequence Director: Joe Scher 
Narrator: Jim Lowe
Graphic Arts: Lewis Cohen
Film Editor: Wray Bevens

The Great Charlie Chan is a documentary that was produced by Sheldon Riss and written by Joseph W. Scher for Warner Brothers-Seven Arts.  This documentary, featuring clips from a variety of Charlie Chan movies, served as an introduction to the showing of 21 films as a part of an exhibition of Charlie Chan films at the Museum of Modern art in New York City.  This film exhibition, entitled Charlie Chan at the Museum of Modern Art, ran from March 4-17, 1968.


The Great Charlie Chan

The Return of Charlie Chan (1971)

Universal Pictures Corporation (Television) 
Completed: 1971
Released: 1972
Aired on U.S. television: July 17, 1979 
Copyright: Universal City Studios, SEM Productions, and Desmond Films, Inc., 1971 
Film: Color (Technicolor)
Running Time: 91 minutes
Produced in association with The Charlie Chan Company
Producer: Jack Laird
Director: Daryl Duke 
Associate Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Writer: Gene R. Kearney
Story: Simon Last
Director of Photography: Richard C. Glouner
Music: Robert Prince
Art Director: Frank Arrigo
Unit Manager: Burt Astor
Set Decorations: Charles S. Thompson
Assistant Director: Carl Berlinger
Film Editor: Frank Morriss
Furs Furnished By: Jaques Furs, Ltd., Vancouver, Canada
Sound: Thomas Thompson
Titles and Optical Effects: Universal Title
Editorial Supervision: Richard Belding
Title Design: Wayne Fitzgerald
Costumes: William Jobe, Burton Miller


Ross Martin: Charlie Chan
Rocky Gunn: Peter Chan
Virginia Ann Lee: Doreen Chan
Leslie Nielsen: Alex Hadrachi
Richard Haydn: Andrew Kidder
Louise Sorel: Ariane Hadrashi
Joseph Hindy: Paul Hadrashi
Kathleen Widdoes: Irene Hadrashi
Don Gordon: Lambert
Peter Donat: Noel Adamson
Soon-Taik Oh: Stephen Chan
Ernest Harada: Oliver Chan
Pearl Hong: Jan Chan
Adele Yoshioka: Mai-Ling Chan
Otto Lowy: Anton Grombach
Pat Gage: Sylvia Grombach
William Nunn: Fielding
Ted Greenhalgh: Dr. Howard Jamison
Graeme Campbell: McKenzie
Neil Dainard: Richard Lowell
John Juliani: Gian Carlo Tui


The patriarch of the ultra-wealthy Hadrachi family, Alex Hadrachi, shipping magnate and fifth-richest man in the world, is shot at aboard his luxury boat one evening as he is talking with Richard Lovell, one of his guests.  Refusing to report the incident to the nearby Vancouver police, writer Andrew Kidder, a friend of Charlie Chan, suggests that Hadrachi call on the famous detective for assistance.

Charlie Chan is now retired to a large pineapple farm which is run by his now-grown children.  He is now busy teaching his grandchildren how to observe and make deductions when Andrew Kidder arrives.  The writer convinces Charlie Chan to take the case, and the Chan family decides to assign Number Eight Son Peter to accompany him as a bodyguard, along with his daughter, Doreen. 

When Chan arrives at the airport in Vancouver, he finds himself the target of an assassination attempt.  Lambert, Alex Hadrachi’s head of security, intervenes and kills the attacker.

Chan interviews all of the passengers on Hadrachi’s ship.  Included are Paul and Irene, children from Hadrachi’s first marriage.  Their mother is dead, and Alex has married a vivacious, younger woman named Ariane.  Hadrachi suffers from heart trouble and is always attended by his personal physician, Dr. Jamison.  Other guests include Noel Adamson, a former actor now active in real estate, Gian Carlo Tui, an Italian playboy, Anton Grombach, an eccentric wine grower, and his wife Sylvia.  Kidder and his secretary, Richard Lovell, are the remaining guests.  Hadrachi’s son, Paul, is hostile toward Chan’s presence.  The detective suspects Grombach is a fraud, and so informs Alex.  Hadrtachi then reveals that Grombach is actually a German scientist named Henniger, who is working for him.

Following a lively party on board, Hadrachi’s wife runs off in a speedboat with Noel Adamson.  Alex orders Lambert to follow, and he brings them back.  Meanwhile, Richard Lovell is found dead.  Chan then begins an investigation with the help of Inspector McKenzie.  It is concluded by Chan that Lovell was first struck on the head by a fire hose nozzle, and later killed by a blow from a paperweight.  He determines that Lovell was typing something incriminating at the time of the attack and that this page was then replaced by a harmless one in his typewriter.  Chan now believes that Lovell was the intended target of the initial shooting, not Hadrachi.

Meanwhile, police suspicion falls on Adamson, who had run off with Alex’s wife.  Adamson had been trying to pull off a fast land deal with Hadrachi.  A letter found by the police suggests that Lovell had been blackmailing Adamson.  Chan notices that Adamson had changed his shirt because of a small wine spill before he left the ship.  He doesn’t believe that a murderer in flight would interrupt his escape to do this.   Instead, the detective thinks that the murderer knew of Adamson’s plans, and used them to hide his crime.

Kidder plans to leave the yacht but is stopped by Ariane.  While Chan continues to investigate, he learns that the assassin at the airport was Gunnar Johanson, Alex’s former head of security.  He believes that Dr. Jamison had known Johanson.  There is another attempt on Hadrachi’s life when a man in a raincoat breaks into his room and fires a shot.  Alex shoots back as the attempt fails.  Chan then finds Dr. Jamison deadin his cabin, an apparent suicide.  However, Chan quickly rules this out and discovers some curious evidence in the doctor’s files relating to both Alex and Johanson.  He also finds Kidder’s packet of eyeglass cleaners next to the body.  Soon, Chan is stalked and fired upon by Kidder, who tells Chan he doe not want to kill him but has no choice.  He is risking all because of Ariane whom he adores.  The detective overcomes Kidder, and the police take him into custody.


Chan then gathers all of the suspects at police headquarters.  It is learned that Ariane had begged Kidder to kill her husband.  Kidder killed the doctor who had discovered his plans, and had shot in vain at Hadrachi and Chan.  Chan reveals, however, that another individual had killed Lovell.  He explains that Lovell was actually John Sebastian, a scandalmonger who was completing a nasty expose about the Hadrachi family.  Chan’s suspects are Lambery, the Grombachs, Tui, Adamson, and the members of the Hadrachi family.

Lambert confesses, and Chan accepts the confession.  However, after the other suspects leave, he shows that Lambert could not be guilty.  He then unmasks the actual killer along with his motive, the “hidden” secret of the Hadrachi family.  Dr. Jamison had discovered that Alex had a rare, incurable disease that leads to complete physical deterioration.  This disease would also recur in his children.

NOTES: The Return of Charlie Chan was a pilot film for a projected Charlie Chan television series.  However, the project was shelved due to pressure-group complaints due to the casting of a Caucasian in the lead role.  Although the film was released theatrically in Europe in 1973, it was not seen by American audiences until it was finally aired on U.S. television by NBC in 1979.

Adapted from: A Guide to Charlie Chan Films by Charles P. Mitchell, pp. 186-187

Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)

Warner Brothers Pictures, Incorporated 
Released: February 1981 
Copyright: Warner Brothers Pictures, Incorporated 
Film: Color 
Running Time: 97 minutes

Producer: Jerry Sherlock
Director: Clive Donner
Story: Jerry Sherlock
Photoghapher: Paul Lohman
Editors: Walt Hannemann, Phil Tucker
Writers: Stan Burns, David Axelrod
Music: Patrick Williams, Ambrose Thomas
Casting: Lynn Stalmaster
Property Master: Stan Moore
Stunts: Denny Arnold, Gary Baxley, Norman Blankenship, Erik Cord, Vince Deadrick, Jr., Ted Duncan, Jeannie Epper, Hill Farnsworth, Donna Garrett, Ted Grossman, Clifford Happy, Eddie Hice, Bob Minor, John Moio, Walter Robles, Jerry Summers, Jack Verbois, Kym Washington, Richard Washington, Dianne Lynn Wilson


Peter Ustinov: Charlie Chan
Angie Dickinson: Dragon Queen
Richard Hatch: Lee Chan, Jr.
Brian Keith: Police Chief Baxter
Roddy McDowell: Gillespie
Rachel Roberts: Mrs. Dangers
Michelle Pfeiffer: Cordelia Farenington
Paul Ryan: Masten
Johnny Sekka: Stefan
Bennett Ohta: Hawaiian Chief of Police
David Hirokane: Lee Chan, Sr.
Karlene Crockett: Brenda Lupowitz
Michael Fairman: Bernard Lupowitz
James Ray: Haynes
Momo Yashima: Dr. Yu Sing
Kael Blackwood: Medical Assistant
Jerry Loo: Medical Assistant
Laurence Cohen: Reporter at Clinic
Robin Hoff: Reporter at Clinic
Kathie Kei: Reporter at Clinic
James Bacon: Reporter at Clinic
Frank Michael Liu: Homicide Detective
John Hugh: Shopkeeper
George Chiang: Shopkeeper
David Chow: Shopkeeper
Alison Hong: Maysie Ling
Dewi Yee: TV Interviewer
Joe Bellan: Reporter at Pier
Garrick Huey: Reporter at Pier
Duane Tucker: Coctail Waiter
Don Parker: Hotel Manager
John Fox: Pimp
Kenneth Snell: Pimp
Nicholas Gunn: Pimp
Don Murray: Pimp
Kai Wong: Murdered Messenger
Miya: Club Shanghai Hostess
Gerald Okamura: Club Shanghai Bouncer
Lonny Carbajal: Spaced Out Dancer
Peter Michas: Chauffeur to Dragon Queen
Vic Hunsberger: Traffic Cop
Larry Duran: Man Getting Traffic Ticket
Kay Kimler: Riding Instructor
Jim Winburn: Cop at Beach
Molly Roden: Lady Rodeworthy (Classic Chan Film)
Pavla Ustinov: Charlie (Classic Chan Film)
Trevor Hook: Col. Blass (Classic Chan Film)
Paul Sanderson: Mr. Finnegan (Classic Chan Film)

UNCREDITED CAST (Alphabetical):

Luther Fear: Reporter
Henry Kingi
Cheryl Song


The film opens in 1940s Honolulu.  Charlie Chan solves the murder of Bernard Lupowitz, proving he was killed by his mistress, known as the “Dragon Queen.”  Her reason for killing Lupowitz was his decision to return to his wife, Sylvia.  An unusual clue of a fork left in a cup of tea provides the means of Chan’s solving this case.  His son, Lee, saves him when the Dragon Queen tries to shoot him.  As she is taken away, she places a curse on Chan and his descendants.  Chan believes that the curse may be real after Lee starts to become romantically involved with Brenda Lupowitz, the daughter of the murdered man.

The story now shifts to the 1980s.  Lee Chan, Jr. is Charlie Chan’s grandson, half-Jewish and half-Chinese.  He lives with his maternal grandmother, Sylvia Lupowitz, in a San Francisco mansion.  The household is populated with eccentric servants, including a sinister butler in a wheelchair, a paranoid housekeeper, and an elegant black chauffeur.  Lee, Jr. is the complete opposite of his famous grandfather.  He constantly stumbles into things, knocking them over, leaving a scene of utter chaos in his wake.  He is engaged to Cordelia, a lovely, but bubble-headed heiress who adores him.  Lee, Jr. wants to be a detective and has started a business as a private eye.  Meanwhile, the Dragon Queen has finished her lengthy sentence and is seen lurking around the Lubowitz estate.

A series of weird murders, such as a killing in the acupuncture clinic where the victim was impaled with a giant spike, has struck San Francisco.  The blustery and foul-tempered Police Chief Baxter has called on his old friend, Charlie Chan, to help capture the fiendish murderer, dubbed the “Bizarre Killer” by the press.  Chan arrives by helicopter, and Lee, Jr. hopes to help him with his investigation.  A matchbook clue leads him to the Shanghai Club where they witness the electrocution of the saxophone player on stage with the band.

When Chan visits Lee, Jr.’s office, a wounded man appears at the door with a note stuck to his back with a knife.  The man dies, and the note tells Chan to head to the park.  At the park, the Dragon Queen throws a knife at him.  After a long chase involving horse-drawn carriages, the Dragon Queen escapes.

On the day of Lee, Jr.’s wedding, he and his bride are called by the Dragon Queen who tells them that she has Charlie Chan as a prisoner in the loft of the Etinge Theater which is showing a retrospective festival of Charlie Chan films.  She is lying, of course, and the young couple falls into her trap.  Chan, the police, and the wedding party learn of this ploy and immediately rush off to rescue them.  They succeed, but then the Dragon Queen pulls a gun on Chan and threatens to fulfill her curse.  Lee, Jr. knocks the gun out of her hand, and Police Chief Baxter arrests her.  Charlie Chan then reveals that, while the Dragon Queen did indeed try to kill him, she wasn’t the Bizarre Killer, and that he will now reveal the identity of the killer.


Chan’s suspects are all members of the Lupowitz household; Gillespie, the butler, Mrs. Dangers, the housekeeper, Stefan, the chauffeur, and Mrs. Lupowitz herself.  Chan then reveals astonishing secrets about each of the suspects before revealing the identity of the killer.  In the stunned pause following Chan’s revelation, the Bizarre Killer then bolts from the scene, and another chase ensues.  The killer is trapped in the movie theater where a Charlie Chan film is being shown, and the murderer is captured after arguing with the figure of Chan on the screen.  The story ends with the wedding of Lee, Jr., and his bride.

Adapted from: A Guide to Charlie Chan Films by Charles P. Mitchell, pp. 18-19.

Charlie Chan in Transylvania (2011)

Big B Productions in association with Tubby Town Studios 
Premiered: June 26, 2011 at Monster Bash Movie Conference and Film Festival, Butler, Pennsylvania 
Video Disc: Black and white 
Running Time: 19 minutes 
Based on the character “Charlie Chan” created by Earl Derr Biggers

Producer: The Nichols Family
Director: Brian Nichols
Music: Kevin Slick
Sets: Brian Nichols, Todd Creekmore, Ronnie Kincaid
Photography: Todd Crekmore, Brian Nichols, Diana Nichols, Liana Nichols
Prop Builders: Robert Eddy, Brian Nichols, Todd Creekmore
Props and Set Materials: Melissa Bailey, Cathy Agada, Ritchie Lindsey, Ted Wagner, Phyllis Webb, Scott Webb
Artwork: Joe Cole, Sr.
Location Scout: Tammy Hawley


Brian Nichols: Charlie Chan 
Liana Nichols: Sue Chan
Nickolas Mostowfi: Count Karbelon
Melanie Creekmore: Vampire Girl
Ronnie Kincaid: Detective R. Miller
Mark Redfield: Added Voice


Charlie Chan in Transylvania was produced independently by the Nichols Family on a shoestring budget.  Though purposed as something of a novelty short film for the 2011 Movie Conference and Film Festival, it represents a “Charlie Chan Mystery” that presented competent acting and production value, offering a fitting tribute to the renowned Chinese detective.           

The picture opens with Charlie Chan and Number One Daughter, Sue, driving through the Transylvania countryside as Chan seeks to find his friend Detective Miller.  Father and daughter soon come upon Castle Karbelon.  Crossing the castle grounds, the sun is setting, and wolves can be heard howling nearby.  Within the castle, Sue notes that it seems deserted.  “Empty cave often hides rattlesnake,” warns her father.

As the sun sets, things begin to change inside the castle.  Sue points out bloody finger marks on a wall which seem to indicate a struggle.  Coming upon a crypt, the duo enters to find a pair of closed coffins.  Opening one, Chan is shocked to find the lifeless body of his old friend, Detective Miller.  Noting twin puncture wounds on the victim’s neck, Chan, with an apology to his old friend, sends a stake into his heart.  In Miller’s clenched fist, the detective finds a button that has been pulled from a coat.  Suddenly, from the other coffin, a female vampire attacks Chan and Sue.  The detective thinks to use a crucifix to overpower the undead attacker.


Hearing piano music, the father and daughter find the source to be Count Karbelon, himself.  Chan, asking the Count if he has seen Detective Miller, realizes that it is he who murdered the detective, noting the missing button on the Count’s clothing.  Revealing himself to be a vampire, Count Karbelon attacks Chan.  Sue finds a long sword and slices the Count from behind, soon finishing him off with a thrust through the heart.

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