Fox Film Corporation
Distribution: Fox Film Corporation, April 12, 1931
Production: December 26, 1930 to late January 14, 1931
Opened: Roxy, New York, N.Y., the week of March 20, 1931
Copyright: Fox Film Corporation, February 11, 1931; LP2031
Film: Black and white
Length: 8 reels; 6,375 feet
Running Time: 69 minutes
Passed by the National Board of Review
Source: Based on the novel Charlie Chan Carries On by Earl Derr Biggers
Director: Hamilton MacFadden
Assistant Director: Sam Wurtzel
Original Music: Samuel Kaylin
Original Story: Earl Derr Biggers
Screenplay and Dialogue: Philip Klein; Barry Conners
Photography: George Schneiderman
Settings: Joseph Wright
Film Editor: Al DeGaetano
Costumes: Sophie Wachner
Sound Engineer: George P. Costello
Wardrobe: Sam Benson (not credited)
CAST (As credited in the “Final Shooting Script”):
Warner Oland: Charlie Chan
Marguerite Churchill: Pamela Potter
John Garrick: Mark Kennaway
Warren Hymer: Max Minchin
Marjorie White: Sadie Minchin
C. Henry Gordon: John Ross
William Holden: Patrick Tait
George Brent: Captain Ronald Keane
Peter Gawthorne: Inspector Duff
John T. Murray: Doctor Lofton
John Swor: Elmer Benbow
Goodee Montgomery: Mrs. Benbow
Jason Robards, Sr.: Walter Honywood
Lumsden Hare: Inspector Hayley (billed as Inspector Hanley)
Zeffie Tillbury: Mrs. Luce
Betty Francisco: Sybil Conway
Harry Beresford: Kent
John Rogers: Martin
J.G. Davis: Eben
Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard receives a call about the murder of the wealthy Hugh Morris Drake, 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 Honywood, a theatrical manager occupying the room next to Drake’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 Honywood paid a hotel servant not to reveal that he and Drake had exchanged rooms on the night that Drake 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 – Honywood.
When Duff arrives the next day, he learns that Honywood is dead, apparently a suicide. Duff calls Honywood’s estranged wife Sybil, who meets him at San Remo and tells him that the murderer is someone named Jim Everhard, a jewel thief to whom she had been unhappily married. Years earlier, she and Honywood had run away together, taking with them two bags of diamonds. Everhard 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, Mark Kennaway, the traveling companion to Patrick Tait, an elderly criminal lawyer, becomes fond of Drake’s granddaughter, Pamela Potter, who is continuing the trip intent on tracking down her grandfather’s killer. In Hong Kong, Pam 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. Pam, 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 Pam 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 Drake was murdered by mistake, for Everhard had intended to kill Honywood. Charlie 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 lumberman who walks with a slight limp. He asks Chan how he knew it was him. Chan reveals that he did not know the murderer’s identity 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 Pam together, adds, “Honorable Mr. Kennaway and Miss Potter join in best wishes before joining to receive blessings of astonished relatives.”
NOTES: This is one of the four “lost” Charlie Chan films, having been destroyed in the fire that consumed the 20th Century-Fox film storage facility at Little Ferry, New Jersey on July 9, 1937. An illustrated script-based reconstruction of Charlie Chan Carries On can be viewed in our collection of the four “lost” Charlie Chan films. Earl Derr Biggers’ novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post between August 9 and September 13, 1930. Many records refer to the character played by Lumsden Hare as Inspector Hanley. However, very reliable information indicates with near certainty that this character was actually called Inspector Hayley in the finished film. Some sources erroneously include Luana Alaniz in the cast of the Spanish version, Eran Trece. In his autobiography, L. B. Abbott notes that he assisted photographer Sidney Wagner on Eran Trece. Eran Trece (There Were Thirteen) was the only Spanish version of a film in the Charlie Chan series. In 1940, Twentieth Century-Fox again filmed Biggers’ novel as Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
CHARLIE CHAN’S APHORISMS
“Each man thinks his own cuckoos better than next man’s nightingales.” (Inscribed on a family photo given to and read by Inspector Duff)
Only very brave mouse make nest in cat’s ear.
All mischief begins with opening of mouth.
Man seldom scratches where he does not itch.
Sometime dull stone make very sharp knife.
Talk will not cook rice.
He who feeds chicken deserves egg.
Every man must wear out at least one pair of fool’s shoes.
Good wife best household furniture.
Man should never hurry except when going to catch a flea.
Careless shepherd make excellent dinner for wolf.
Big head is only good place for very large headache.
Man who fights law always loses – same as grasshopper is always wrong in argument with chicken.
It is only once in a very great time that man bites own nose.
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:
Events explode suddenly like firecrackers in the face of innocent passerby. (To Mrs. Chan)
(Max Minchin: “You seen what happened to Inspector Duff, didn’t you? You better get yourself some iron underwear – you know B.V.D’s.”) Oh, I see. B.V.D. – before very dead. Thank you, so much.
Guess I’m trying to hunt rabbit with blind dog. (To Max Minchin)
I imagine I am very clever man – now find slight mistake. (To Pamela Potter)
Kindly fate has sprinkled your contemptible substitute with a shower of good fortune. (In his message to Inspector Duff)
Variety, March 25, 1931
In this story of the Honolulu detective, who solves a murder mystery that baffled Scotland Yard and Europe, Fox has a clever box office talker. It is well directed and aptly photographed. Cast shows smart selection.
What aids the film more than anything is that the mystery angle is kept paramount to the romance in it. This is between Marguerite Churchill and John Garrick, both personable. She is the granddaughter of a wealthy American found dead in a London hotel. Garrick is the companion of the old man. This romance is kept mild and gets its film start only after the dead body is found by the police. While the romance ends before the mystery, both follow fast to a happy ending with a wisecrack.
The picture is full of wisecracks. The flippant pieces of philosophy spoken by Chan in almost doggerel English and the more funny lingo of Warren Hymer, as the Chicago racketeer. Hymer is a laugh whenever he shows.
When Marjorie White, as his wife, comes trotting down a Hongkong street with some huge bundles that turn out to be a reading lamp, it’s Hymer’s backhand retort:
“I suppose she’ll buy a book, now.”
“No,” says the lady, “I’ve already got one.”
Hymer pulls other nifties as when the second murder occurs, that of a woman in Nice, right in the arms of a Scotland Yard inspector:
“That’s just like home in Chicago,” or something like that. “A guy being put on the spot with the dicks watching!”
Warner Oland takes his Oriental character swell although a bit lethargic. That may be due to the picture pace which lacks some punch that maybe could have been stuck in.
It’s at the dock when Chan suddenly decides to leave Honolulu and pick up the trail after his British police friend has been shot in his own office. Chan’s son asks permission to use the family bus while the elder Chan is away. Chan bades him to take good care of the bus in his quaint way that will be liked by audiences, by saying:
“He who feeds the chicken deserves the egg.”
But when Chan himself is later baffled and the tour of the suspected individuals is almost at an end as the ship returns from its world tour and is ready to dock in the San Francisco harbor, he pulls a crackling bit like this, to prove his own conceit:
“Big head only good for big headache.”
Between Hymer and Oland in their contrasting roles, the customers can be assured of enjoyable laughter.
Two murders and an attempted third occur among the 12 or 13 tourists that originally started on a world tour before one is finally caught through a Chan ruse. He simply made all feel they were under suspicion and wrote each a note before docking that he would be held. Then he spotted a dummy in one man’s room and kept watch. When the murderer fired at the dummy thinking it was Chan the latter reached out of a lifeboat cover and nabbed him.
The film will create extra patronage in the met centres from an Oriental trade. It showed at the Roxy. Whether that may be from the title or the fact that Earl Derr Biggers’ story has been translated for Chinese interest is something to figure and advantageously. No doubt that the millions of readers who first found Chan in the “Saturday Evening Post” and later in book form will be attracted to him.
Chan’s quaint characteristics and much of his epigrammatical philosophy is kept intact to make the picture seem as doing proper justice to the book. There is the full fascination of foreign backgrounds for audiences including a Hongkong street scene, and various interiors at Nice, San Remo, London, Honolulu and the ships.
Interest is held high by the good work of the cast. When suspicioned they make one to feel they know it. All are contrasting and include, among others, retired lumberman; retired lady; gentleman of fortune; an actor; criminal lawyer; tour director, besides the racketeer and others mentioned.
But if anything will tickle it’s Hymer’s explanation of why he didn’t take his kid on the world tour. To satiate the kid’s desire he saved hotel labels for the boy to make him believe he made the trip anyway. Hymer stated the kid’s education came first and somebody had to stay home and manage the estate in case he, Hymer, got bumped.
Roxy held over its fourth anniversary show, although switching for this picture, and justified.
POSSIBLE DATE: Summer 1930
DURATION: Charlie Chan’s involvement is perhaps about five days
LOCATIONS (DURING CHARLIE CHAN’S INVOLVEMENT): Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, and aboard the S.S. President Arthur en route to San Francisco, California
ACCORDING TO INSPECTOR DUFF, THE NAME OF THE CHANS’ NEWEST CHILD: Duff
THE NAME OF THE HOTEL IN LONDON, ENGLAND WHERE THE MEMBERS OF THE LOFTON TOUR STAYED: Broome’s Hotel
THE NUMBER OF THE ROOM AT BROOME’S HOTEL IN WHICH HUGH MORRIS DRAKE WAS MURDERED: 28
THE LENGTH OF TIME THAT DR. LOFTON HAD MANAGED “LOFTON’S ROUND-THE-WORLD TOURS”: 15 years
THE ORIGINAL NUMBER OF TOURISTS IN THE GROUP: 13
WALTER HONEYWOOD’S ROOM NUMBER AT BROOME’S HOTEL: 29
ACCORDING TO WALTER HONYWOOD, THE LENGTH OF TIME SINCE HE AND HIS WIFE, SYBIL, HAD SEPARATED: “About two months…”
ACCORDING TO EBEN THE NIGHT WATCHMAN AT BROOME’S HOTEL, THE TIME AS HE HAD MADE HIS ROUNDS: “…last night at two o’clock.”
THE NUMBER OF THE ROOM IN FRONT OF WHICH EBEN HAD SEEN A MAN STANDING DURING HIS ROUNDS: 27
THE TIME AS A MAN RAN INTO EBEN, KNOCKING HIM DOWN: 4 a.m.
THE SUBSTANCE USED BY MARK KENNAWAY TO REVIVE PATRICK TAIT: Amyl nitrate
THE MILITARY BRANCH IN WHICH CAPTAIN TAIT HAD CLAIMED TO HAVE SERVED: The British army (in India and South Africa)
THE NUMBER OF TRIPS AROUND THE WORLD, ACCORDING TO MRS. LUCE, THAT SHE HAD TAKEN: “This is my fourth trip around the world.”
MRS. LUCE’S ROOM NUMBER AT BROOME’S HOTEL: 27
JOHN ROSS’ STATED PROFESSION AND HOME TOWN: “I am a lumberman from Tacoma, Washington.”
PATRICK TAIT’S ROOM NUMBER AT BROOME’S HOTEL: 30
THE TIME AS PATRICK TAIT HAD GONE TO SLEEP ON THE PREVIOUS NIGHT, ACCORDING TO MARK KENNISON: “…about twelve…”
THE HOME TOWN OF MAX AND SADIE MINCHIN: Chicago, Illinois
THE HOME TOWN OF THE BENBOWS: Akron, Ohio
ACCORDING TO ELMER BENBOW, THE LATE HUGH MORRIS DRAKE’S TRADE: “…an automobile manufacturer…”
ELMER BENBOW’S TRADE, AS STATED BY HIMSELF: “…I make tires.”
THE REMAINING ITINERARY OF THE LOFTON TOUR, ACCORDING TO INSPECTOR HAYLEY: “…tonight they’re in Paris, then Nice — San Remo — Egypt — Singapore — Honolulu — around the world.”
THE AMOUNT PAID TO MARTIN BY WALTER HONYWOOD TO SILENCE HIM: 100 pounds (two 50-pound notes)
ACCORDING TO MARTIN, THE TIME AS HE DELIVERED A CABLEGRAM TO WALTER HONYWOOD: “…ten o’clock last night…”
THE TIME, ACCORDING TO MARTIN, AS WALTER HONYWOOD GAVE HIM THE MONEY: “…seven o’clock the next morning…”
THE CONVEYANCE USED BY INSPECTOR DUFF TO REACH THE CONTINENT: “…the night boat to Dieppe.”
THE TRAIN TAKEN BY INSPECTOR DUFF TO NICE, FRANCE: “The Riviera Express”
ACCORDING TO HIS NOTE, THE RESIDENCE OF WALTER HONYWOOD’S ESTRANGED WIFE, SYBIL CONWAY: “Palace Hotel, San Remo”
THE NAME OF THE HOTEL WHERE THE LOFTON TOUR STAYED IN NICE, FRANCE: Hotel Excelsior Grande
THE NUMBER OF BAGS OF DIAMONDS THAT SYBIL CONWAY AND WALTER HONEYWOOD HAD STOLEN FROM JIM EVERHARD: Two
THE LOCATION WHERE THE THEFT TOOK PLACE: South Africa
THE LOCATION OF PATRICK TAIT’S ROOM AT THE HOTEL EXCELSIOR GRANDE: Fourth floor
THE BIRTHPLACE OF PAMELA POTTER: Boston, Massachusetts
ACCORDING TO PAMELA POTTER, HER PLACE OF RESIDENCE: “…Beacon Street, Boston…”
THE PRICE OF THE STRING OF JADE THAT PAMELA POTTER LOOKED AT IN THE SHOP IN HONG KONG: $280
THE CITY WHERE INSPECTOR DUFF WAS HEADED WHEN HE RECEIVED PAMELA POTTER’S CABLEGRAM: Tacoma, Washington
THE CITY WHERE INSPECTOR DUFF FLEW TO CATCH A BOAT TO HONOLULU: San Francisco
THE SCHEDULED TIME OF DEPARTURE FOR THE LOFTON TOUR’S BOAT TO SAN FRANCISCO FROM HONOLULU: 10 p.m.
THE TYPE OF CAR OWNED BY CHARLIE CHAN, ACCORDING TO HIMSELF: “…a brand new, second-hand 1919 Model Y.” (“Model why“)
THE NAME OF THE SHIP TAKEN BY THE LOFTON TOUR: S.S. President Arthur
THE APPROXIMATE TIME AT WHICH INSPECTOR DUFF WAS SHOT BY THE MURDERER IN CHARLIE CHAN’S OFFICE: 9:30 p.m.
THE LABEL ADHERED TO THE SIDE OF ONE OF MARK KENNAWAY’S TRAVEL BAGS: “Great Eastern Hotel” (Calcutta)
THE PROMINENT INITIALS ON THIS BAG: “M.K.”
amyl nitrate – A vasodilator that is sometimes used to treat angina pectoris.
Mark Kennaway: “Amyl nitrate – it’ll bring him around in a moment.”
B.V.D.’s – A trademark used for undershirts and underpants worn by men and boys. This trademark sometimes occurs in print with a final “‘s.”
Max Minchin: “You seen what happened to Inspector Duff. You better get yourself some iron underwear – you know, B.V.D.’s.”
chamois – A soft leather made from the hide of this animal or other animals such as deer or sheep.
(Script directions): He stands a moment, puzzled, then turns to Hayley, who enters to him, holding a small chamois bag in his hands.
Chinaman – (Today considered offensive) A person of Chinese descent.
Pamela Potter: “The Chinaman in that shop pointed out Jim Everhard to me.”
dick – (Slang) A detective.
Max Minchin: “Why Should I? He’s a dick, ain’t he?”
Dieppe – A city of northeast France on the English Channel north of Rouen. It is a port for channel steamers and a beach resort.
Inspector Duff: “I’ve just time to catch the night boat for Dieppe.”
Honolulu – The capital and largest city of Hawaii, on the southeast coast of Oahu. Honolulu’s harbor was first entered by Europeans in 1794. Settlement of the area began in 1816, and the city soon gained prominence as a whaling and sandalwood port. Honolulu has been a major tourist center since the early twentieth century. Population – 1930: 202,807; 1940: 257,696.
Honolulu was the home of Charlie Chan and his multitudinous family who lived on the slope of Punchbowl Hill. This city is at least the starting point for a number of adventures, and, in two films, including Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case and The Black Camel (filmed on location), serves as the backdrop for the entire film. Other titles where at least some of the plot, if only implied, takes place in Honolulu include Charlie Chan Carries On, Charlie Chan’s Secret, Charlie Chan at the Race Track, Charlie Chan in Honolulu, Charlie Chan in Reno, and Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise.
For a complete glossary list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.