Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Distributed: Twentieth Century-Fox film Corporation, June 21, 1940
Production: Began late January 1940
Copyright: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, January 21, 1940; LP9750
Opened: Palace, New York, N.Y., the week of May 2, 1940
Sound: Western Electric Sound System
Film: Black and white
Length: 6,315 feet
Running Time: 75 minutes
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 6084
Source: “Based on the story Charlie Chan Carries On by Earl Derr Biggers”
Executive Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel
Associate Producer: John Stone
Director: Eugene Forde
Assistant Director: Saul Wurtzel (not credited)
Screenplay: Robertson White and Lester Ziffren
Director of Photography: Virgil Miller
Art Direction: Richard Day and Chester Gore
Film Editor: Harry Reynolds
Set Decorations: Thomas Little
Costumes: Helen A. Myron
Musical Direction: Samuel Kaylin
Sound: Joseph E. Aiken and William H. Anderson
CAST (as credited):
Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Marjorie Weaver: Paula Drake
Lionel Atwell: Dr. Suderman
Sen Yung: Jimmy Chan
Robert Lowery: Dick Kenyon
Don Beddoe: Frederick Ross (incorrectly billed as James Ross)
Leo Carroll: Professor Gordon
Cora Witherspoon: Suzie Watson
Kay Linaker: Mrs. Pendleton
Harlan Briggs: Coroner
Charles Middleton: Mr. [Jeremiah] Walters
Claire Du Brey: Mrs. [Sarah] Walters
Leonard Mudie: Gerald Pendleton
James Burke: Wilkie
Richard Keene: Buttons
Layne Tom, Jr.: Willie Chan
Montague Shaw: Inspector [John] Duff
UNCREDITED CAST (alphabetical):
Wade Boteler: Honolulu Police Chief Inspector
Cliff Clark: Lt. Wilson
John Dilson: Police Doctor
Sherry Hall: Radio Operator
J. Anthony Hughes: Detective
Paul McVey: Mrs. Pendleton’s Doctor
Walter Miller: Ship’s Officer
Harry Strang: Guard
Emmett Vogan: Hotel Manager
Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard visits Charlie Chan in Honolulu to enlist his aid in trapping a strangler who is lurking among the ten members of an around-the-world cruise that is being conducted by Dr. Suderman. However, before Duff can divulge his plan, he falls victim to the strangler in Chan’s office at police headquarters. Thus, Chan begins his own investigation into the murders.
His first stop is a visit to the Imperial Hawaiian Hotel where the members of Dr. Suderman’s tour are staying. Upon his arrival at the hotel, Chan finds that another murder has just been committed. The victim, Mr. Kenyon, is discovered with a bag containing thirty silver dimes. Chan deduces that he was killed in the next room, which is the room of fellow passenger Gerald Pendleton, and was later dragged into Kenyon’s own room. Chan meets with the remaining members of the party when Suzie Watson screams upon sighting a man on her balcony who had taken a shot at her but had missed. The group assembles in her room and realizes that there is a killer in their midst.
In addition to Suderman, the party consists of Kenyon’s nephew Dick, Suzie Watson’s secretary Paula Drake, playboy Frederick Ross, Professor Gordon, an archeologist, the jumpy Gerald Pendleton, and the puritanical Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Walters. In a panic, they resume their voyage to San Francisco, and amid a sea of false clues.
Jimmy Chan stows away aboard the ship, and when he is caught by members of the crew, Charlie Chan pretends not to know who he is. Chan later explains to his son who has been put to work to earn his passage, “Man can more safely search for gold if world think he dig ditch,” welcoming Jimmy’s undercover assistance.
For the most part, the cruise proceeds uneventfully, until Pendleton is murdered on the night the ship is to dock. Chan finds the traces of a message that Pendleton had planned to radio to his wife. Looking at a copy of the radiogram that was sent, Chan discovers that the message states the opposite of what Pendleton had intended. It also reveals the time that the killer had sent the message. Deducing that the murderer was absent at that time from the farewell party that was being held at the time of Pendleton’s death, the detective begins to develop negatives from the pictures that were taken during the party which will reveal who was missing. However, the killer steals the evidence and flees, but is soon shot rather mysteriously and is unmasked as Ross. Chan remains skeptical, however.
After the ship docks, members of the party are gathered at the coroner’s inquest. Chan presents Mrs. Pendleton who, it had been announced, had been in an accident. Mrs. Pendleton, her face covered in bandages, explains that the killer is her demented, vengeful ex-husband whose name is Jim Eberhardt, and that Ross was only his unwilling accomplice. Chan then tricks the killer into attempting to kill Mrs. Pendleton and he is unmasked as Professor Gordon.
NOTES: Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise is a much looser adaptation of Earl Derr Biggers’ novel, Charlie Chan Carries On (1930), than was Fox studios’ original adaptation, also titled Charlie Chan Carries On, from 1931, which was closely scripted to reflect the original Biggers Chan mystery. The working titles of this film were variously Charlie Chan’s Cruise, Charlie Chan’s Oriental Cruise, and Chan’s Murder Cruise. According to materials contained in the UCLA Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Robert Ellis and Helen Logan wrote the first treatment for this film, which was followed by a treatment and screenplay written by John Larkin. Their contribution to the final film has not been determined.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
CHARLIE CHAN’S APHORISMS
Like cotton wool, filial devotion softens weight of parental crown.
Sometimes quickest way to brain of young sprout is by impression on other end.
Better ten times a victim than let one man go hungry.
Truth like oil – will in time rise to surface.
To speak without thinking is to shoot without aiming.
Life has been risked for jewels far less valuable than friendship.
Hours are happiest when hands are busiest.
Man can more safely search for gold if world thinks he dig ditch.
Most happy to find man without enemies.
In China, mahjong very simple; in America very complex – like modern life.
When Chinese emperor have eight suspects of murder, he solve problem very quickly…chop off eight heads – always sure of getting one criminal.
Not always easy to reduce many suspects to one.
Most happy to celebrate – even without reason.
Judge always honorable position.
One cloud does not make storm, nor one falsehood criminal.
Trust must be shared.
Unfortunate profession make detective suspect innocent with guilty.
Dead men need no protection.
Better a father lose his son than a detective his memory.
In darkness, sometimes difficult to distinguish hawk from vulture.
After wedding bells, prefer no phone bells.
Opportunity will never knock again.
Mere identification of suspect no proof of crime.
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:
In Honolulu schools, “E” not symbol for excellence. (To Willie who tried to intercept a poor report card on its way to his Pop)
Explain, please, ability to stay with hunt without glimpse of fox. (To Inspector Duff who had traveled with ten suspects without seeing who the murderer was)
Will do utmost to prevent murder from causing annoyance. (To Dr. Suderman)
Old friend has joined honorable ancestors. (Upon being informed of the death of Inspector Duff)
(Suzie Watson: “I thought I heard something.”) Echo of imagination, perhaps.
Elusive offspring, like privacy, sometimes hard to find. (To Jeremiah Walters)
(Jeremiah Walters: “will you be so kind as to tell me why your son was rifling my cabin?”) Perhaps eager twig only bending to duty.
(Jimmy: “The man whose pocket was torn murdered Mr. Kenyon.”) Thread of evidence weaker than thread of pocket.
Only knowledge of horse race is empty pocket book. (To Dr. Suderman)
Offspring return to footwork, parent take care of headwork. (To Jimmy)
Young man’s explanation, like skin of sensitive woman, very thin. (To Paula Drake regarding Dick Kenyon)
(Unfortunate profession make detective suspect innocent with guilty.) Not so with lovers. (To Paula Drake)
Suggest you rest overworked brain and exercise watchful eye. (To Jimmy)
Fear mask covers more than continence. (Regarding Frederick Ross’ disguise)
Memory of number two son still elusive like soap in bathtub. (To Jimmy)
Variety, May 8, 1940
Everybody takes cruises these days, so why not Charlie Chan? It’s sort of a busman’s holiday, however, as the ‘Murder Cruise’ title naturally indicates, and again the Chinese detective comes through with not only the culprit, but also a fair enough mystery meller that’ll nicely take care of the action half in dual situations.
The Chan series follows a general pattern, plus the philosophic platitudes, and this one’s no exception. Even with three murders by strangulation in the story, the Honolulu detective hardly becomes perturbed and never seems to want for a ‘Confucius Say.’ He plays with the criminal like a cat with a mouse, then uncovers the least-suspected suspect within the cheerful confines of the San Francisco morgue.
If the seems to wander, that’s regulation mystery. First an inspector of Scotland Yard is killed in Chan’s Honolulu office as he’s about to tell Chan of his plan to trap a murderer on a world cruise party. Then a member of the party is strangled in his hotel bed, so Chan joins the cruise, during which still another murder is committed. When the ship reaches Frisco, though, Chan sets the stage for the denouement.
Sidney Toler, who replaced the late Warner Oland in the title role, does a good job with the detective part, even if sometimes missing important clues which make the amateurs in the audience wonder about his true ability. He had a pretty good supporting cast in this edition. Lionel Atwill, Cora Witherspoon, Leo Carrol and Don Beddoe carrying through the mystery motif in nice fashion. The romantic angle is injected by pert Marjorie Weaver and stumbling Robert Lowery, but it’s not very important to the general works. Sen Yung, as Chan’s meddling son, is okay.
Both the direction and camera work are up to the Chan series average.
PROBABLE DATE: August 1939
DURATION: About one week
LOCATIONS: Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, aboard the passenger freighter Southland, and San Francisco, California
THE SIGNAGE ON CHARLIE CHAN’S OFFICE DOOR:
CHARLIE CHAN’S CURRENT DETECTIVE RANK: Lieutenant
THE NUMBER OF YEARS, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THAT HIS “CAREFUL ASSISTANT” HAS LEFT THE MAIL IN A CERTAIN SPOT ON HIS DESK: “For 15 years, careful assistant has placed mail here.”
“OLD FRIEND” OF CHARLIE CHAN: Inspector Duff (Charlie Chan: “Inspector Duff very old and honored friend.”)
THE NUMBER OF SONS FATHERED BY INSPECTOR DUFF: Two
ACCORDING TO INSPECTOR DUFF, DR. SUDERMAN’S PROBABLE TOUR DEPARTURE LOCATION AND DATE: “…from New York, about four months ago.” (May 1939)
THE NAME OF THE SHIP USED BY DR. SUDERMAN’S TOUR GROUP: The Southland
INSPECTOR DUFF’S DESCRIPTION OF THE SOUTHLAND: “…a small passenger freighter.”
THE HOTEL USED BY DR. SUDERMAN’S TOUR GROUP IN HONOLULU: Luani Hotel
THE NAMES OF THE TWO OFFICERS CALLED BY THE CHIEF OF DETECTIVES TO HELP WITH THE STRANGLED INSPECTOR DUFF: Jim, Harry
MURDER VICTIM KENYON’S ROOM NUMBER: 342
NAME OF THE LUANI HOTEL’S NIGHT WATCHMAN WHO FOUND MR. KENYON’S BODY: Joe
WHEN, ACCORDING TO THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, HE DISCOVERED MR. KENYON’S BODY: “On my 11 o’clock rounds…”
THE TIME OF MR. KENYON’S MURDER ACCORDING TO THE CORONER: “He’s been dead for about two hours.” (after 8:30 p.m.)
RICHARD KENYON’S STATED PROFESSION: “…I’m a lawyer.”
PAULA DRAKE’S ROOM NUMBER AT THE LUANI HOTEL: 340
ACCORDING TO DICK KENYON, THE LAST TIME THAT HE SAW HIS UNCLE ALIVE: “It was around 8:30.”
THE NUMBER OF DIMES IN THE POUCH FOUND IN MR. KENYON’S HAND: 30
THE MEANING OF THE 30 SILVER DIMES, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: “Thirty pieces of silver…Symbol of ancient betrayal.”
ACCORDING TO GERALD PENDLETON, THE HOTEL WHERE HE WANTED TO MOVE: “I’m moving to the Imperial Hawaiian.”
THE TIME, ACCORDING TO FREDERICK PENDLETON, AS HE LEFT HIS ROOM AT THE LUANI HOTEL: “…around eight (p.m.).”
THE CALIBER OF THE GUN FOUND BY JIMMY CHAN: .38
FREDERICK ROSS’ SELF-DESCRIPTION: “Name: Frederick Ross, weight: 168 pounds, height: five foot ten, and a bit to 35.”
THE NAME OF THE OFFICER WHO WAS FOLLOWING PENDLETON: Wilson
THE TIME OF THE FIRST SCENE ABOARD THE SOUTHLAND ACCORDING TO THE SHIP’S BELLS: 10:30 p.m.
JIMMY CHAN’S JOB TITLE ABOARD THE SOUTHLAND AFTER HE WAS CAUGHT AS A STOWAWAY: Steward’s assistant
THE TIME THAT JIMMY CHAN’S WORKDAY BEGAN ABOARD THE SOUTHLAND: 5 a.m.
THE DATE, ACCORDING TO GERALD PENDLETON, WHEN HIS WIFE HAD BEEN ATTACKED BY THE STRANGLER: “…Five years ago…” (1934)
THE GAME PLAYED BY DICK KENYON AND PROFESSOR GORDON: Mahjong (American style)
ACCORDING TO PROFESSOR GORDON, HIS WINNING MAHJONG HAND: “An 8-16 hand.”
THE MAJONG TILE REJECTED BY BY DICK KENYON: “Four bam.” (Four bamboo)
THE ANCIENT CHINESE DYNASTY MENTIONED BY PROFESSOR GORDON: Han dynasty
JEREMIAH AND SARAH WALTERS’ CABIN NUMBER ABOARD THE SOUTHLAND: 6
CHARLIE CHAN’S CABIN NUMBER ABOARD THE SOUTHLAND: 20
THE LENGTH OF TIME TAKEN BY THE SOUTHLAND TO MAKE THE CROSSING FROM HONOLULU TO SAN FRANCISCO: Five days (Frederick Pendleton had been in his cabin for four days, and Dr. Suderman mentioned that that evening would be their “last night aboard”)
THE FAMOUS DETECTIVE REFERRED TO BY CHARLIE CHAN: Sherlock Holmes (Charlie Chan to son Jimmy: “Miniature Sherlock now suspect worthy doctor?”)
THE WINNER OF THE FIRST HOBBY HORSE RACE AS ANNOUNCED BY DR. SUDERMAN: “The winner of the first race, Slippery Sam. Jockey, Mr. Frederick Ross; owner, Miss Suzie Watson; time, one minute and ten seconds.”
THE TIME OF THE NEXT HOBBY HORSE RACE, AND THEIR SCHEDULE, AS ANNOUNCED BY DR. SUDERMAN: “There will be races every 15 minutes on the quarter hour. The next race will be at 8:15 exactly.” (the first race was at 8:00)
GERALD PENDLETON’S CABIN NUMBER ABOARD THE SOUTHLAND: 12
THE TIME, ACCORDING TO WILKIE, THAT BUTTONS BROUGHT GERALD PENDLETON HIS DINNER: “…around 8:30 (p.m.)”
THE TEXT OF GERALD PENDLETON’S RADIOGRAM AS FOUND ON A NOTEPAD BY CHARLIE CHAN:
THE TIME AS THE MESSAGE WAS TELEPHONED BY PENDLETON TO THE SHIP’S RADIO OPERATOR: 9:04 p.m.
THE MESSAGE TELEPHONED BY PENDLETON TO THE SHIP’S RADIO OPERATOR AND SENT TO MRS. PENDLETON:
THE NUMBER OF THE CABIN SEARCHED BY JIMMY CHAN FOR THE MISSING LEATHER SHOELACES: 26
THE NAME OF THE SAN FRANCISCO POLICE OFFICER AT THE COUNTY CORONER’S INQUEST: Lieutenant Wilson
THE SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY CORONER’S FINDINGS: “…murder and justifiable homicide.”
THE NAME OF THE PERSON FROM WHOM THE CORONER REQUESTED COFFEE OVER THE PHONE: Tom
THE START OF THE SUDERMAN AROUND THE WORLD TOUR, ACCORDING TO SUZIE WATSON: “…last May…”
THE DEPARTURE TIME FOR PROFESSOR GORDON’S PLANE: Midnight
THE DATE OF JIM EBERHARDT’S RELEASE FROM PRISON: May 1939 (Mrs. Pendleton: “Last May he was released.” (at about the same time that the Suderman tour probably left on its around-the-world tour)
ACCORDING TO THE NEW YORK POLICE REPORT, FREDERICK ROSS’ PERMISSION: Wholesale jeweler (Charlie Chan: “Suspected of being fence for stolen gems…”)
THE NUMBER ON THE DOOR OF THE ROOM WHERE DR. SUDERMAN HID DURING HIS “ESCAPE”: 220
THE HOTEL WHERE DICK KENYON AND PAULA DRAKE PLANNED TO STAY FOLLOWING THEIR WEDDING THAT NIGHT: Adelphi
ACCORDING TO SUZIE WATSON, HER RESIDENCE WHILE STAYING IN SAN FRANCISCO: YWCA
THE “GOLDEN ERA” OF CHINA ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: “Golden era Shang dynasty, north China.”
beggar – (Informal) A man or boy.
Jeremiah Walters: “I caught the little beggar red-handed.”
bluenose – A puritanical person.
Jimmy Chan: “I’m going to keep my eye on that old bluenose.”
coot – (Informal) An eccentric or crotchety person, especially an eccentric old man.
Buttons: “Crazy coot.”
crowned – (Informal) To have been hit on the head.
Wilkie: “…somebody crowned me.”
fast one – (Informal) A shrewd trick of swindle; a deceitful or treacherous act.
Seaman: “Trying to pull a fast one, eh?”
fiddlesticks – (Interjection) Used to express mild annoyance or impatience.
Mr. Walters: “Duty, fiddlesticks!”
fence -(1) One who receives and sells stolen goods. (2) A place where stolen goods are received and sold.
Charlie Chan: “…had sufficient evidence to convict Ross as fence.”
gag – A trick or practical joke.
Jimmy Chan: “…Pop would be too smart to fall for that gag.”
gave…the slip – (Idiom) To escape the pursuit of.
Lt. Wilson: “…he gave me the slip just after he left the hotel.”
Han Dynasty– The Han Dynasty lasted four hundred years, from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. The Han dynasty is the East Asian counterpart of and contemporary with Rome in its golden age. During this dynasty, China officially became a Confucian state, prospered domestically, and extended its political and cultural influence over Vietnam, Central Asia, Mongolia, and Korea before finally collapsing under a mixture of domestic and external pressures.
Professor Gordon: “Your beautiful game has suffered many changes since its introduction in the Han Dynasty.”
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.
in the doghouse – (Idiom) In great disfavor or trouble.
Frederick Ross: “I guess that puts me in the doghouse.”
jump – (Slang) To spring upon in a sudden attack, assault, or ambush.
Jimmy Chan: “I didn’t jump him.”
lay off – (Idiom) To stop doing something; quit.
Jimmy Chan: “Hey! Tell him to lay off!
mahjong– (Chinese) A game of Chinese origin usually played by four persons with tiles resembling dominoes and bearing various designs, which are drawn and discarded until one player wins with a hand of four combinations of three tiles each and a pair of matching tiles.
Charlie Chan: “Majong with two players? Most unusual.”
nightcap – An alcoholic drink taken just before bedtime.
Professor Gordon: “How about a nightcap, Doctor?”
rifling – (1) To search with the intent to steal. (2) To ransack or plunder; pillage. (3) To rob.
Jeramiah Walters: “Will you be so kind to tell me why your son was rifling my cabin?”
Shang Dynasty – The Shang Dynasty (1766 B.C. to 1027 B.C.), considered by many to be the earliest Chinese dynasty, ruled parts of northern and central China. Its capital city was located at Anyang near the border of Henan from about 1384 B.C. This dynasty was based on agriculture; millet, wheat, and barley were the primary crops grown. Aside from their agricultural prowess, the Shang dynasty was also advanced in metallurgy. Bronze ships, weapons, and tools were found from that era.
Charlie Chan: “Golden era Shang Dynasty, north China.”
stiffs – (Slang) Corpses.
Coroner: “Well, I know none of those stiffs in there took it!”
For a complete glossary list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.