Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Distributed: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, August 7, 1936
Production: May 18 to mid-June 1936
Copyright: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, August 7, 1936; LP6667
Sound: Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 7 reels, 6,300 feet
Running Time: 70 minutes
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 2353
Source: “Based on the character ‘Charlie Chan’ created by Earl Derr Biggers”
Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
Assistant Director: Aaron Rosenberg
Associate Producer: John Stone
Screenplay: Robert Ellis, Helen Logan, and Edward T. Lowe
Story: Lou Breslow and Saul Elkins
Photography: Harry Jackson
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer
Film Editor: Nick DeMaggio
Sound: Alfred Bruzlin and Harry M. Leonard
Musical Direction: Samuel Kaylin
Contributing Writer: Joseph Hoffman (not credited)
Technical Director: Monroe Liebgold (not credited)
Cameraman: Lucien Andriot (not credited)
CAST (as credited):
Warner Oland: Charlie Chan
Keye Luke: Lee Chan
Helen Wood: Alice Fenton
Thomas Beck: Bruce Rogers
Alan Dinehart: George Chester
Gavin Muir: Bagley
Gloria Roy: Catherine Chester
Jonathan Hale: Warren Fenton
G.P. Huntley, Jr.: Denny Barton
George Irving: Major [Gordon] Kent
Frank Coghlan, Jr.: Eddie Brill
Frankie Darro: “Tip” Collins
John Rogers: Mooney
John H. Allen: “Streamline” Jones
Harry Jans: Al Meers
UNCREDITED CAST (alphabetical):
Sidney Bracey: Waiter
James Eagles: Chick Patton
Bob Ellsworth: Police Officer
Eddie Fetherston: Reporter #2
James Flavin: Detective
Sammy Finn: Gangster
Paul Fix: Lefty
Sam Flint: Ship’s Captain [Captain Blake]
Jack Green: “Blackton” Guard
Bobby Hale: Race Track Patron
Ed Hart: Detective
Holmes Herbert: Melbourne Cup Chief Steward
Lew Hicks: Police Officer
Ray Hanson: Third Officer
Sam Hayes: Track Announcer
Robert E. Homans: Judge
Boothe Howard: Ship’s Doctor [Dr. Johnson]
H. Bruce Humberstone: Gambler
Selmer Jackson: J.L. Lansing
Jerry Jerome: Chuck
Josephine the monkey: Lollipop
Colin Kenny: Judge
Al Kikume: Detective
Wilbur Mack: Gangster
George Magrill: Detective
Clyde McAtee: “Blackton” Guard
Tom McGuire: Track Official
Ivan “Dusty” Miller: Captain Wade
Lucille Miller: Secretary
Bruce Mitchell: Gateman
Jack Mulhall: Second Purser
Billie Oakley: Seaman
Pat O’Malley: Track Official
Cyril Ring: Race Track Extra
Les Srechley: Seaman
Harry Strang: Detective
Larry Steers: Railbird
Bobby Tanzel: Gilroy
Forrest Taylor: Photo Booth Worker
David Thursby: Steward
Harlan Tucker: Gangster
Max Wagner: Joe
Robert Warwick: Honolulu Police Chief Inspector
Billy Wayne: Smithers
William Wayne: Seaman
Charles Williams: Reporter #1
Norman Willis: Gangster
David Worth: Detective
After jockey “Tip” Collins, riding Avalanche, the horse in the lead in the Melbourne Sweepstakes, fouls another rider, Avalanche is disqualified. Major Gordon Kent, who gave Avalanche as a wedding present to the internationally known American sportsman George Chester when Chester married his daughter Catherine, believes that a big gambling ring is behind the flagrant foul.
The major then has a telegram sent to his old friend, Charlie Chan, requesting the detective to meet their boat in Honolulu on their way to compete in America. However, during the voyage, Kent dies, seemingly from being kicked by Avalanche in the horse’s stall.
Upon the arrival of the ship in Honolulu, Chan conducts an investigation of Kent’s death and determines from the position and shape of the blood spatters in the stall that the horse could not have kicked the major. Chan reveals to his chief and to the ship’s captain a piece of the ship’s winch, a “winch shoe,” the twin of which is missing, which could make the same impression as that of a horse’s shoe. Chan’s chief suggests that the detective travel with the boat to investigate what they now suspect is a murder.
Aboard the ship, Chester receives a typed note warning him not to enter Avalanche in the Santa Juanita Handicap. Chan’s son, Lee, who, against his father’s wishes, got on the boat as a cabin boy, later determines that the note was typed on the typewriter of Major Kent’s competitor, Warren Fenton. At Chan’s instruction, Lee makes sure that a number of other passengers also receive notes: Fenton, who had offered Chester $20,000 for the horse; Bruce Rogers, Kent’s assistant, who is in love with Fenton’s daughter, Alice; gambler Denny Barton, who also loves Alice, but whom she has rebuked; and Chester again.
A fire breaks out in the forward hold where Avalanche is being kept. After it is brought under control, although Chester sees it as yet another warning, Chan finds evidence suggesting that it was set as a diversion. Chester requests his gun, and when it is brought to him, it discharges, seemingly by accident, wounding Chan in the leg.
In Los Angeles harbor, Chan notices that “Streamline” Jones’ monkey, Lollipop, who had earlier, aboard the ship, caused Avalanche to violently bolt, now causes Fenton’s horse, Gallant Lad, to act similarly, while Avalanche seems to be unaffected by the monkey’s presence. Chan now realizes that the purpose of the fire aboard the ship was to provide a cover while the two horses were switched. “Fenton’s” horse could then win the upcoming race at very high odds. The switch, involving the use of black dye to cover a white marking on Gallant Lad’s nose, was engineered by Avalanche’s trainer, Bagley, working with a gang of gamblers.
On the day of the race, Chan and Lee are kidnapped by members of the gambling gang. They manage to escape, and, hurrying to the race track, Chan has his son create a diversion while the detective sneaks into the stables and switches the horses. Bagley, noticing the switch, quickly places a call to the gamblers and is arrested as he does so. “You lose before race start,” proclaims Chan.
As the race begins, Al Meers, a track employee who is in league with the gamblers, switches a timing device at the three-quarter mark, with one that is fitted with a dart, set to fire at the lead horse. As Avalanche, who is in the lead, passes the device, the horse is hit by the dart, but Avalanche wins the race anyway, collapsing at the finish line. As a crowd surrounds Avalanche, someone removes the dart. Chan, announcing that Avalanche is all right, gathers Denny, Bagley, Meers, Chester, and Fenton in the racing association office. When the dart is found in Fenton’s pocket, Fenton accuses Denny of putting it there, but Chester accuses Fenton of wanting to buy Avalanche all along and murdering Major Kent with the winch shoe because Kent would have noticed that the horses had been switched.
Chan then points out that no one other than himself, his chief, the ship’s captain, and…the murderer…knew about the winch shoe. He continues, stating that he had suspected Chester all along because Chester, who admittedly had suffered gambling losses, did not use his glasses to read the first threatening note. However, he needed his glasses to read the second note, which Lee had typed, because Chester had, himself, typed the first one, and knew what it said. He had sent the threatening note to himself to throw off suspicion. Chan then reveals the fresh bloodstain from the dart in the lining of Chester’s pocket.
After Chester has been taken away by the authorities, Fenton confesses that he had known about the switch of the horses all along and tells the racing secretary that he will remove his stable from the track.
Bruce Rogers states that he has won enough money from the race to furnish a flat for himself and Alice, prompting Charlie Chan to state, “Good wife best household furniture.” Suddenly, Lee rushes in, stating that he has found an important clue, to which Chan replies, “Save for next case, please.”
NOTES: The Roxy Theatre in New York billed this film as At the Race Track with Charlie Chan. Variety reviewed the movie as Chan at the Race Track. According to Motion Picture Herald and Liberty, some scenes in the film were shot at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California, and the film contained footage of “some of the most spectacular events of the recent racing season.” Motion Picture Herald also notes that the film “has a semi-topical significance in as much as a great antipodean horse, Pharlap, brought to this country a few years ago [from Australia], died under circumstances that have never been fully explained.” Liberty notes that Technical Director Monroe Liebergold had been a jockey for the well-known horse breeder H. P. Whitney. Although Hollywood Reporter production charts list Neil Fitzgerald and John Mooney as additional actors, only Neil Fitzgerald’s participation in the final film has been confirmed.
Horses are, by nature, not loners. It has long been a common practice for thoroughbred racehorses to be paired with a horse known as a companion pony which provides both a source of friendship and support. However, as we see in the case portrayed in Charlie Chan at the Race Track of Streamline’s pet monkey, Lollipop, these companion animals are not limited to horses. Other animals, such as dogs, goats, sheep, and, yes, monkeys, have been known to provide companionship to racehorses. In her article What is a Companion Pony? Jill Pellettieri notes that the famous horse Seabiscuit had a number of different companion animals and a horse named Pumpkin enjoyed the company of a dog named Pocatell and a spider monkey named Jo-Jo.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
CHARLIE CHAN’S APHORISMS
Murder without bloodstains like Amos without Andy – most unusual.
Smart fly keep out of gravy.
When player cannot see man who deal cards, much wiser to stay out of game.
Suspicion often father of truth.
Easy to criticize, more difficult to be correct.
Sea voyage good for health.
All forgotten, like last year’s bird’s nest.
Confucius say, “No man is poor who have worthy son.”
Hasty conclusion like toy balloon – easy blow up, easy pop.
Surprise attack often find enemy unprepared.
Long road sometime shortest way to end of journey.
Foolish to seek fortune when real treasure hiding under nose.
Rabbit run very fast, but sometime turtle win race.
Ocean have many fish.
Foolish rooster who stick head in lawn mower end in stew.
Innocent grass may conceal snake.
Man who flirt with dynamite sometime fly with angels.
Roots of tree lead in many directions.
Man with gun like lightning – never strike twice in same place.
Useless talk like boat without oar – get no place.
Cold-blooded murder no joke.
Truth sometimes like stab of cruel knife.
Good wife best household furniture.
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:
Shirt tail now bob tail. (To Lee after losing money bet on a horse race)
Frequent spanking when young make rear view very familiar. (To Lee, after having slapped him on the behind)
Happy bullet in leg rather than heart. (To George Chester after being shot)
(Lee: “Got your gun, Pop?”) Make excellent bedfellow.
(Denny Barton: “I hear you ran into a bullet.”) Contradiction, please, bullet ran into me.
Perfection of mechanical brain make Charlie Chan very humble. (To Al Meers, regarding photo-electric timing and photographic devices)
“Hay do not grow in hotel.” (To Lee upon finding a tell-tale piece of hay on Lee’s shoulder, an indication he had been out investigating)
(“Blackton” Guard: “You couldn’t get in there if you were first cousin to the favorite [horse].”) Do not claim relationship with noble animal.
(Captain Wade: “This will force the head of the gambling ring into the open. We’ll hit him in his most vital spot.”) Like bumblebee in pants.
You lose before race start. (To gambling gang member, Bagley)
(Lee: “Hey, Pop, I’ve got another hot clue.”) Save for next case, please.
Variety, August 19, 1936
This most recent addition to the Chan sleuth pictures is the happiest of the last several. Warner Oland, at his best, has a fairly credible story, slick direction, even support and fast tempo. It will please the Chan fans and should satisfy others who go for crime-detective bafflers.
While it follows the general Charlie Chan formula, there is crooked horse racing, a strange murder aboard ship, switching of the fave mount, a camera-photographing machine that shoots a strange dart, and the accepted gang maneuverings to add variety. Operations of the Oriental are brightened much of the time through the by-play of word and action with his son, who is an enthusiastic amateur Sherlock.
Suspecting an attempt by a gambling ring to harm his race horse, the owner seeks Chan’s aid. Before the ship carrying him from Australia to America reaches Honolulu, the horseman is slain. Chan is detailed to investigate by the native police and carries on while the ship sails to the U.S. Here he lays the groundwork for much of the startling developments that arise after the steamer arrives in California.
In Los Angeles, the detective fights off the track gangsters. After he has escaped from mob headquarters, where temporarily held prisoner, Chan races to the track to change the horses, switched and disguised by the gangsters, and seems about to record another triumph. Neat anti-climax is introduced in having the winner shot down by means of a mechanical gun that tosses a dart, but not until the horse has crossed the finish line.Scripters have done a smooth job of adapting the story. Director H. Bruce Humberstone, though confronted with innumerable factual details, has moved from one phase of the plot to another and kept things happening. Writers and megger never allowed the interest to drag. There are the customary ‘Thank you so much’ replies and other typical Chan sayings, but they are dwarfed by the action. Dialog is crisp.
Aside from Oland’s skilled portrayal, Keye Luke, as his son, is tops in an excellent supporting cast. Alan Dinehart furnishes his customary suave role. Helen Wood and Gloria Roy are pleasing enough in the slight romantic episodes.
PROBABLE DATE OF CHARLIE CHAN’S INVOLVEMENT: Mid- to late September 1936
DURATION: About two weeks
LOCATIONS (INVOLVING CHARLIE CHAN): Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii and Los Angeles, California
THE THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BLOOD SPATTERS AS DEMONSTRATED TO DETECTIVES OF THE HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT BY CHARLIE CHAN:
1. “Drop of blood falling in straight line from short distance make round spot, so.”
2. “Falling from greater distance exhibit sunburst effect.”
3. “Drop of blood thrown forward as from knife held in hand, make entirely different mark.” (later, Charlie Chan comments that these spatters appear to be in a “shape like exclamation marks”)
THE AMOUNT OF TIME, ACCORDING TO LEE CHAN, HE HAD LEFT TO PLACE BETS WITH THE LOCAL BOOKIES BEFORE THE START OF THE RACE: “…three minutes…”
THE BET AMOUNTS MADE BY THREE OTHER DETECTIVES: $10, $5, $1
THE NAME OF THE DETECTIVE WHO LOANED $1 FOR A BET: Mack
CHARLIE CHAN’S “OLD FRIEND”: Major Kent (Charlie Chan: “Will become reckless gambler for sake of old friend.”)
CHARLIE CHAN’S BET ON THE MELBOURNE SWEEPSTAKES: 50 cents (Charlie Chan: “Will bet tail of shirt, 50 cents, on Schnozolola [Avalanche].”)
THE FOUR HORSES ANNOUNCED AT THE MELBOURNE SWEEPSTAKES RACE:
THE AMOUNT OF MONEY WAGERED BY CATHERINE CHESTER WITH DENNY BARTON: $100
THE AMOUNT OF THE RAISED BET BY GEORGE CHESTER WITH DENNY BARTON: $1,000
THE NAME OF THE HORSE THAT WAS FOULED BY AVALANCHE: Stardust
AVALANCHE’S “TENDENCY” ACCORDING TO BAGLEY: “…a slight pull to the left…”
“TIP” COLLINS’ PENALTY FOR HIS FLAGRANT FOUL: Two years suspension
“TIP” COLLINS’ PAYOFF FROM THE GAMBLING RING: $2,000
THE AMOUNT THAT “TIP” COLLINS HAD EXPECTED: $5,000
THE TEXT OF THE S.S. OCEANIC CAPTAIN’S LOG ENTRY:
THE HONOLULU STANDARD FRONT PAGE AND HEADLINE:
THE LENGTH OF TIME, ACCORDING TO THE SHIP’S STEWARD, THAT “TIP” COLLINS HAD BEEN “COOPED UP” IN HIS CABIN: “…ten days…”
THE LENGTH OF TIME BEFORE MAJOR KENT’S DEATH THAT DENNY BARTON HAD SEEN HIM: Ten minutes
ACCORDING TO WARREN FENTON, THE NAME OF THE PHYSICIAN WHO RULED MAJOR KENT’S DEATH AN ACCIDENT: “Johnson…”
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE LENGTH OF TIME THAT MAJOR KENT HAD OWNED AVALANCHE: “Avalanche know Major four years.”
THE NAME OF “STREAMLINE” JONES’ PET MONKEY: Lollipop
OTHER HORSES SEEN IN THE HOLD OF THE S.S. OCEANIC: Gallant Lad, Wild Billy, Dean Gay
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE SHAPE OF THE BLOOD SPATTERS IN AVALANCHE’S STALL: “Shaped like exclamation marks lying down; pointed ends toward rear of stall.
“CHARLIE CHAN’S THEORY AS TO THE MURDER WEAPON USED TO KILL MAJOR KENT: Winch clutch control
THE DEPARTURE TIME OF THE S.S. OCEANIC FROM HONOLULU TO LOS ANGELES: 6:00 (p.m.) (Charlie Chan: “Boat sail at six.”)
CHARLIE CHAN’S CABIN ABOARD THE S.S. OCEANIC: 212, B-Deck
THE TEXT OF THE NOTE RECEIVED AND READ BY GEORGE CHESTER:
“Don’t enter Avalanchein the Santa JuanitaHandicap – A Dead Horsecan’t win a race –“
THE R.M.S. EMPRESS OF JAPAN, THE ACTUAL SHIP SHOWN IN THE DEPARTURE SCENE, AS WELL AS EARLIER, WHILE AT SEA (PLUS A VINTAGE POSTCARD PICTURING THE SHIP):
THE NOTE RECEIVED BY GEORGE CHESTER AND THE SHEET OF PAPER CONTAINING THE SAME WATERMARK AS COMPARED BY CHARLIE CHAN AND SON, LEE:
THE FULL NOTE SHOWING THE DISTINCTIVE FILLED-IN LETTER “E”:
THE DELIVERY TIME, ACCORDING TO GEORGE CHESTER, THAT WAS STAMPED ON THE BACK OF THE ENVELOPE CONTAINING THE ABOVE MESSAGE: “Four minutes past six.”
ACCORDING TO GEORGE CHESTER, THE CURRENT TIME BASED ON THE TIME STAMPED ON THE ENVELOPE: “That’s only ten minutes ago.” (about 6:14 p.m.)
WARREN FENTON’S OFFER TO GEORGE CHESTER FOR AVALANCHE: “I’ll give you $20,000 for him.”
LEE CHAN’S AUNT (CHARLIE CHAN’S SISTER-IN-LAW?): Aunt Ling who lives “at the other end of the island (of Oahu).”
LEE CHANS DESCRIPTION OF THE TRAITS PECULIAR TO THE TYPEWRITER USED TO TYPE THE NOTE RECEIVED BY GEORGE CHESTER: “The E’s are closed up, and the R’s a little above the line.”
THE CABIN NUMBER OF THE PERSON WISHING TO SEE BRUCE ROGERS: 219 (Steward: “The gentleman in 219…”)
THE “LOVE POEM” TYPED BY LEE TO TEST WARREN FENTON’S TYPEWRITER:
THE TEXT OF THE NOTE TYPED BY LEE AND SLIPPED INTO WARREN FENTON’S POCKET AS READ BY FENTON: “A dead horse isn’t worth $20,000.”
CHARLIE CHAN’S BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: Sarsaparilla
THE TEXT OF THE NOTE TYPED BY LEE AND DROPPED NEAR BRUCE ROGERS: “It’s dangerous to know too much about other people’s business.”
THE TEXT OF THE NOTE TYPED BY LEE AND DELIVERED BY A WAITER TO DENNY BARTON: “A smart gambler knows a dead horse can’t win.”
THE TEXT OF THE NOTE TYPED BY LEE AND DROPPED ON THE STAIRS IN FRONT OF WARREN CHESTER: “Withdraw Avalanche from the Santa Juanita Handicap – This is your last warning.”
THE TEXT OF LEE’S NOTE WRITTEN TO HIS POP IN CHINESE, AND AS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FROM CHINESE:
THE NAME OF THE EXTRA GUARD PLACED IN THE FORWARD HOLD OF THE OCEANIC TO GUARD THE HORSES: Smithers
ACCORDING TO DENNY BARTON, THE LENGTH OF TIME HE WAS IN HIS ROOM UNTIL THE FIRE ALARM SOUNDED: “About ten minutes, maybe fifteen…”
“STREAMLINE” JONES’ DRINK OF CHOICE: Gin (“…for the misery in my feet.”)
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE LENGTH OF TIME TAKEN FOR THE CIGARETTE/MATCHBOOK “FUSE” TO BURN AS SHOWN BY HIS TEST: “…12 minutes…”
THE NAME OF THE HORSE SHOWN BEING LIFTED IN ITS STALL TO THE DOCK AT LOS ANGELES (SAN PEDRO): Pancho
THE AMOUNT OF MONEY GIVEN TO “TIP” COLLINS BY BAGLEY TO “TIDE HIM OVER”: $200
THE NAME OF “BLACKTON” GUARD WHO IS EVIDENTLY IN CHARGE OF SECURITY AT THE SANTA JUANITA RACE TRACK: Captain Wade
AVALANCHE’S TIME AT THE AT THE FIRST QUARTER OF HIS PRACTICE RUN, ACCORDING TO DENNY BARTON: “23 flat…”
THE TIME OF THE PRACTICE RUN BY AVALANCHE (AS GALLANT LAD): 1:38 4/5
THE NAME OF THE GAMBLING RING MEMBER WHO WAS LISTENING TO CHARLIE CHAN’S TAPPED TELEPHONE LINE: Joe
THE NAME OF THE OTHER GAMBLING RING MEMBER WHO HELPED AL MEERS WITH THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE DART GUN: Lefty
THE SECRETARY OF THE SANTA JUANITA RACING ASSOCIATION: J.L. Lansing
THE TEXT OF THE LAST NOTE TO CHESTER (RECEIVED JUST BEFORE THE BIG RACE), AS READ BY CHESTER: “This is your last chance – Withdraw Avalanche before it’s too late.”
THE SIZE OF THE CROWD ON HAND AT SANTA JUANITA RACE TRACK: 80,000THE RACE ODDS ON GALLANT LAD FROM PHILADELPHIA: 18-1
THE AMOUNT OF THE BET PLACED ON THE PHILADELPHIA ODDS BY THE GAMBLING RING: $2,000
THE RACE ODDS ON GALLANT LAD FROM SAN FRANCISCO: 20-1
THE AMOUNT OF THE BET PLACED ON THE SAN FRANCISCO ODDS BY THE GAMBLING RING: $10,000
THE AMOUNT OF MONEY “HANDLED” BY CINCINNATI: $5,000
THE NAME OF THE JOCKEY ASKED BY WARREN FENTON TO RIDE AVALANCHE: Gilroy (refused the suggestion)
THE AMOUNT OF MONEY PROMISED TO EDDIE BRILL BY GEORGE CHESTER IF HE RODE AVALANCHE TO VICTORY: $10,000
THE LAST TIME THAT EDDIE BRILL HAD WON THE SANTA JUANITA HANDICAP: Two years ago (1934)
THE TEXT OF THE ODDS BOARD LISTING (SANTA JUANITA – 6TH RACE):
THE PARTIALLY VISIBLE NAME OF THE LAUNDRY PAINTED ON THE SIDE OF THE LAUNDRY TRUCK DRIVEN BY LEE CHAN: “SALLER(?) HAND LAUNDRY”
THE LICENSE PLATE NUMBER OF THE LAUNDRY TRUCK DRIVEN BY LEE CHAN: 7W5719
THE LOCATION OF THE TIMING HEAD THAT WAS REPLACED BY A DART GUN: 3/4 post
THE NAME OF THE GAMBLING RING MEMBER WHO WAS ASKED TO CHECK ON CHARLIE CHAN: Frank
THE HORSES AND JOCKEYS FOR THE 6TH RACE AT SANTA JUANITA AS ANNOUNCED:
ACCORDING TO A DETECTIVE, THE LOCATION OF WHERE AND WHEN “TIP” COLLINS’ BODY WAS FOUND: “…the ocean at Santa Monica this morning.”
THE PERSON WHO HAD SWITCHED GALLANT LAD FOR AVALANCHE: Bagley
For a complete glossary list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.