Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, May 25, 1946
Production: Began mid-December 1945
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, March 26, 1946; LP184
Sound: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 5,528 feet
Running Time: 61 minutes
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 11408
Source: “Based on the character created by Earl Derr Biggers”
Producer: James S. Burkett
Director: Phil Karlson
Assistant Director: Theodore Joos
Second Assistant Director: Joel Kronish (not credited)
Original Screenplay: George Callahan
Script Supervisor: Ilona Vos (not credited)
Photography: William Sickner
Assistant Cameraman: Joe Farley (not credited)
Second Camera: Al Nicklin (not credited)
Operator: Al Nicklin (not credited)
Loader: Bud Davidson (not credited)
Special Effects: Larry Glickman and Mario Castegnaro (neither credited)
Technical Director: Dave Milton
Supervising Film Editor: Richard Currier
Editor: Ace Herman
Set Dresser: Max Pitman (not credited)
Musical Direction: Edward J. Kay
Recording: Tom Lambert
Recorder: Dean Spencer
Mike Man: Louis Johnson
Re-recording and Effects Mixing: Joseph I. Kane (not credited)
Music Mixing: William H. Wilmarth (not credited)
Production Manager: Glenn Cook
Still Man: Bill Wallace (not credited)
Cable Man: H.G. Bavaird (not credited)
Prop Man: Johnny Orlando (not credited)
Second Prop Man: Al Seiger (not credited)
Grip: Harry Lewis (not credited)
Second Grip: George Carstensen (not credited)
Wardrobe Man: Harry Bourne (not credited)
Wardrobe Woman: Nanette Smith (not credited)
Gaffer: John Lee (not credited)
Electrical: M.H. Serotte (not credited)
Special Effects: Augie Lohman (not credited)
Casting – Parts: Menifee Johnstone (not credited)
Casting – Bits: Rose Alexander (not credited)
Casting – Extras: Bert Hampton (not credited)
Makeup: Harry Ross (not credited)
Hairdresser: Sandra Walters (not credited)
CAST (as credited):
Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Ben Carter: Benjamin [Brown]
Benson Fong: Tommy Chan
Teala Loring: June Harley
George Holmes: Hugh Kensey
Joyce Compton: Emily Evans
John Eldridge: Anthony R. Morgan
Russell Hicks: Warden Cameron
Tim Ryan: Foggy
Janet Shaw: Miss Petrie
Edward Earle: Thomas Harley
Ray Walker: Danvers
Milton Parsons: Johnson
Edna Holland: Mrs. Foss
Anthony Warde: Jimmy Slade
George Eldredge: Brand
Meyer Grace: Punchy
UNCREDITED CAST (alphabetical):
Chet Brandenburg: Convict
Frank Marlowe: Barker
Matthew McCue: Convict
Tom Quinn: Criminologist
William Ruhl: Thompson
When ex-convict Thomas Harley arrives at a boarding house where he lives with his daughter June, he is arrested for robbing a bank and killing a bank guard. He claims that he was summoned to the Carey Theatrical Warehouse by a note sent to him by his former cellmate, Dave Wyatt, and was subsequently locked inside. The police do not believe his alibi because Wyatt has been dead for eight years. Fingerprints belonging to Harley are found at the crime scene, and he is put on trial, found guilty, and condemned to death.
Desperate to prove her father innocent, June asks Charlie Chan to recommend someone who can help her and her father. Chan writes a name and address on a piece of paper and hands it to June. The note bears Chan’s name and that of his hotel. He agrees that the case against her father is suspect.
Together with June’s boyfriend, prison guard Hugh Kensey, Chan questions Mrs. Foss, the landlady of the boarding house, who often rents rooms to ex-convicts. It is determined that the note that was supposedly sent to June’s father by Wyatt was written on Foss’ typewriter. Chan then questions the other boarders: Miss Petrie, who works for a small salary at a social foundation; Mr. Johnson, a bookkeeper for the Carey Theatrical Warehouse; Mr. Danvers, a bank alarm salesman; and Emily Evans, a showgirl whose costume was found at the warehouse. Both Danvers and Evans had traveled to other cities immediately before banks in those locations were robbed.
The next day, Chan, his son Tommy, and chauffeur Birmingham Brown drive to San Quentin Prison where Thomas Harley is awaiting his nearing execution. On the way there, an unknown assailant shoots at them. Chan deduces that only the persons at the boarding house knew of his plan to visit the prison that day.
Chan becomes convinced that the fingerprints that were found at the scene of the crime were somehow forged. After studying the police reports, Chan discovers that although a different man was convicted for each of the previous robberies, each man had been jailed at the same prison, and the modus operandi used was identical in each case.
Miss Petrie is revealed as the wife of Jimmy Slade, a convict trustee, who is employed in the fingerprint bureau of the prison. When Petrie disappears, Chan, Birmingham, and Tommy hurry to the warehouse. Outside of the warehouse, they are nearly run down by a delivery truck which then speeds off. Inside, they locate Johnson, who suspiciously feigns hearing difficulty. A little later, Petrie is run down and killed by the same delivery truck that had earlier attempted the same on Chan and his party.
When Chan returns to the prison, he finds that the fingerprint cards have been tampered with. Slade overhears Chan and is mortally wounded during a futile attempt at escape when the gun he is using misfires and shoots him due to a plugged barrel. After stating that he will not take the rap, Slade dies.
Chan then takes fingerprints of all of the borders at Mrs. Foss’ boarding house and finds Johnson’s on one of the cards from the prison’s files. Returning to the warehouse, Chan finds the equipment necessary for forging fingerprints in the back of the truck that had killed Petrie. Danvers then tries to kill Chan, as he did Johnson, to prevent him from talking.
After Harley is cleared, Chan explains that Slade had sent the prints to Johnson, who had copied them for Danvers, who had carried out the robberies. He adds that Kensey was the leader of the gang, and when Harley had opposed his marriage to June, the guard framed him.
NOTES: The film’s working titles were Fatal Fingerprints, Fatal Fingertips, and Charlie Chan in Alcatraz. Stock footage used in Dark Alibi shows California’s San Quentin State Prison. The opening title card reads: “Charlie Chan in Dark Alibi.” The Call Bureau Cast Service Lists Minerva Urecal as “Mrs. Foss.” However, production information included in the file on the film at the American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library states that she was replaced by Edna Holland, who is listed in the onscreen credits.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
CHARLIE CHAN’S APHORISMS
Ancient proverb say, “One small wind can raise much dust.”
Honorable grandmother always say, “Do not think of future – it come too soon.”
Ugliest trade sometimes have moment of joy. Even gravedigger know some people for whom he would do his work with extreme pleasure.
Remember old saying: “Earthquake may shatter the rock, but sand upon which rock stood still right there in same old place.”
What is my reputation compared to man’s life?
Never believe nightmare no matter how real it may seem.
Accidents can happen, if planned that way.
Nothing is impossible.
Am detective, not magician.
Skeletons in closets always speak loudest to police.
Bad men leave marks wherever they go.
No experiment is failure until last experiment is success.
Many contemptible persons in prison.
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:
Government work keep me hopping like dissatisfied flea from dog to dog.
Wish you would wear out brains instead of seat of pants. (To Birmingham and Tommy)
He is like tooth which has been pulled. Tooth is missing, but gap remains. From gap, we may deduce why tooth is gone. (Regarding Thomas Harley)
(Mrs. Foss: “That’s all I have to say.”) That’s what woman always say, yet go right on talking.
(Birmingham: [driving to the prison] “Mr. Chan, is this the shortest way to prison?”) No, shortest way is commit crime.
You surprise yourself, huh? Usually you surprise me. (To Tommy)
At moment, I am like man trying to set clock by guess. And as time does not stand still, perhaps better not stand still myself.
First time I hear cuckoos outside of clock. (Regarding Tommy and Birmingham)
You will get out of here [jail cell] before they put you in a garment suitable to your personality. (Birmingham: “What kind of garment is that?”) Straight jacket. (To Tommy and Birmingham)
Son Tommy is noisy woodpecker on family tree.
He finish school – now he try to finish me. (Regarding Tommy)
For time, I nurse theory – very excellent theory – but now, instead of nurse, I fear theory needs undertaker.
Instead of undertaker, doctor arrive, and theory now very healthy again.
You two not afraid? (Tommy: “Afraid of what, Pop?) You sit down so much you get concussion of brain. (To Tommy and Birmingham)
(Tommy: “Pop, I’ve got a swell idea.”) Good, save it for old age.
Everything now in lap of gods. Very soon I give very hardy shove, perhaps clue fall off of laps.
You are travelling salesman. This time – no sale. (To Danvers)
THE WIT AND WISDOM OF BIRMINGHAM BROWN
(To Charlie Chan after he and Tommy packed luggage into Chan’s car) “All packed, Mr. Chan; tighter than toothpaste in a tube!”
“You know what, Tommy? I got a headache.”
Tommy: “A headache?”
“Mm-hm. Don’t know where I got it, but I got one.”
(To Tommy) “Now, on a case like this, what would Confusion say?”
Tommy: “It’s not Confusion, it’s Confucius!”
“Every time you open your mouth, it’s confusion to me!”
(Hearing a knocking at the door) “You hear that one brain knockin’? It’s you.”
Tommy: “It’s the door!”
“Uh-oh – that’s me!” (He goes to open the door)
“Did you see that bee come through here with that jet-job motor?” (Referring to an assassin’s bullet that just passed through Chan’s car)
Tommy (while Birmingham is ducking because of the bullets shots at Chan’s car): “Where’s Birmingham? The car’s going by itself!”
(Reappearing behind the steering wheel) “No it ain’t! I was steerin’ by remote control!”
Tommy: “Did you see that man give Pop the eye?”
“You mean that tough guy?”
“You mean the convict?”
Birmingham Brown and Benjamin “Brown” engage in “indefinite talk”:
Benjamin: “Well, Birmingham Brown!”
“Look at old Benjamin! Whaddya say, boy?”
Benjamin: “Not much. Man, it’s sure good to see a new face around here!”
“Yeah, but this face ain’t stayin’!”
Tommy: “Neither is mine!”
(scene break; resuming…)
Benjamin: “Birmingham, you’re always late, even comin’ to see me. Don’t you ever do anything on time?”
“Sure, I bought a car once.”
“On time. You know what made me late, Benjamin?”
“I had to take my girl out to –“
Benjamin: “No beauty shop can help her.”
“No?”Benjamin: “Why, no. Why, she got a face that would –“
“Not that bad. The lady at the beauty parlor said she was gonna –“
Benjamin: “They can’t recap them wrinkles.”
“No?”Benjamin: “No. Now what they should do is –“
“They did. And while we was over there… Do you know what –“
Benjamin: “I know – I know. Now look.”
Benjamin: “Is that the same gal –“
“No, she don’t weigh that much now.”
“No. All she weighs now is, uh –“
Benjamin: “That’s still too heavy. Why don’t you get her to go on the same diet my gal uses. Get her to take two vi –“
“No, they don’t make that stuff anymore”
“No. Now what I want to give her is some –“
Benjamin: “That’ll give her hay fever.”
Benjamin: “Why, sure. Look.”
Benjamin: “In that case, why don’t you take her over –“
“I did. And you know who I saw there?”
“I saw old, uh –“
Benjamin: “Is he still out there?”
Benjamin: “I thought he was –“
“He was, but he got out.”
Benjamin: “Is that so?”
“Mm-hm.”Benjamin: “They must be charging –“
“No, not that much.”
“No, all he’s payin’ is –“
Benjamin: “That’s a fair price.”
“Well, looky here.”
“I got to go now. I’ll be over to see you –“
Benjamin: “I’ll be workin’ there.”
“Oh, well I’ll be seein’ –“
Benjamin: “I’ll be lookin’ for you, now.”
“Okay.”Benjamin: “Sure, look me up, now.”
“I’ll do that.”Benjamin: “Okay.”
Tommy: “Who is that man?”
“Oh, he’s a fella used to hang around my house. That’s my brother, Ben.”
(Birmingham laughs and exits)
(Inside the prison bailing shed)
Tommy: “The men who we’re following are hiding behind these bails.”
“Maybe we oughta hide and keep ’em from followin’ us.”
Tommy (Overhearing one of the prisoners apparently planning a murder): “They are planning a murder! We gotta find out who he’s going to kill!”
“We gonna find out? You gonna find out!”
(Upon prisoner “Foggy” finding Birmingham and Tommy hiding in his cell)
Foggy: “Are youse guys followin’ me?“
“No, sir! We got here first, but you can have it!”
“I been thinkin’. Tommy, you are wrong!”
Tommy: “You mean you are! You don’t even know what a lawsuit is!“
Sure I do! It’s somethin’ that the police wears.”
Tommy (To Charlie Chan): “Want a good suggestion, Pop?”
Charlie Chan: “Yes, but let me make suggestion first: keep quiet!”
Tommy: “Well, sure, Pop. But if I do, I won’t be able to give you my suggestion.”
Charlie Chan: That is idea.”“Very good idea.”
(While inside the theatrical warehouse, after mistaking a prop figure for a person; speaking to his shaking right leg) “Whoa, boy! Whoa, boy! That ain’t real. But if anything happens I want you to stay with me. Be dependable.”
(Inside the theatrical warehouse, eeing a stuffed prop leopard; speaking to his shaking legs) “Oh. Oh, oh, Don’t get excited now. He ain’t real. He was real. Don’t get excited, now. He’s in a trance, but not us. Just stay with me and I’ll let you know when to go.”
(Inside the theatrical warehouse, seeing a large prop reptilian head) “Whoa! Hm…a gila monster! This place is gettin’ crowded!”
(While trapped inside a prop cage with a skeleton) “Mr. doorman? Mr. doorman? You better open this door. You don’t, you gonna lose it!”
Charlie Chan (To Birmingham): “Go watch door.”
“Yes, sir! That’s the best thing I heard you say!”
Birmingham Brown and Benjamin engage in more “indefinite talk”:
Benjamin: “Well, Birmingham Brown!”
Tommy: “Oh, no, not again!”
“Well lookit old Benjamin! Hi, boy!”
Benjamin: “Hi, how are you!”
“I’m sure glad to see you!”
“Yeah! Looky here, is you still in?”
Benjamin: “Is you still out?”
Benjamin: “Hi, how are you!”
“Then, while you were out did you run into –“
Benjamin: “Then while you were out did you run into –“
“Oh, yeah, I went over and I saw him.”
“You see, nobody introduced us, so I walked up to him and I said –“
Benjamin: “That’s the wrong approach.”
Benjamin: “Sure. Why didn’t you ask –“
“I did. And we killed it.”
Benjamin: “No.” (Laughing)
“So, I tried to borrow his uh –“
Benjamin: “I thought the finance company got that.”
“Oh, they did, but he got another one.”
Benjamin: “Oh, I see.”
Benjamin: “Say, uh, is he still going with –“
“No, I’m keeping company with her.”
Benjamin: “I thought all the time, you –-“
“Oh, she’s married.”Benjamin: “No!”
“Yeah, she married a fellow by the name of –“
Benjamin: “He’s a nice fellow!”
“Oh, he is?”
Benjamin: “Yeah, wait a minute.”
Benjamin: “Let me tell you somethin’!”
Benjamin: “You know what I heard?”
Benjamin: “I heard –“
“Not until Christmas.”
“No, I never did believe that uh –“
Benjamin: “I don’t believe anything he says, either!”
“No?”Benjamin: “In fact, I don’t believe that he –“
“He? Who-who-who’s he?”
“Oh, I didn’t know you was talkin’ about –“
Benjamin: “I don’t know him myself! We been strangers for years!”
“Yeah! (Laughs) You know what, Benjamin?”
“That’s why I like to talk to you.”
“Because me and you seem to agree with each other!”
Benjamin: “We sure do, don’t we!”
Tommy: “A dead man. I guess something did happen!”
“Yeah, we better go before somethin’ happens to us!”
Tommy: “Pop, I got a swell idea!”
Charlie Chan: “Good. Save it for old age.”
Tommy (To Birmingham): Look –“
“Save one for me, too.”
Tommy: “Let us do some investigating on our own. Come on!”
“Let us you go and let us me stay here.”
(Startled by an imposing prop figure inside the theatrical warehouse; speaking to his right leg) “Oh, boy! Not now. But when I ask you to make a departure, do not leave me here.”
(Seeing a prop suit of armor during a tense moment inside the theatrical warehouse) “Now this is exactly what I need, a removable foxhole.”
Tommy (After gunshots were fired): “I see where the bullets are coming from!”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to look no bullets in the eye!”
Birmingham Brown and Benjamin engage in one more round of “indefinite talk” as Charlie Chan and Tommy join in:
Benjamin: “Well if it’s not Birmingham Brown!”
Tommy: “Oh, no, this is too much.”
“Well, hello there, Benjamin.”
Benjamin: “Hello, Birmingham. Hey, I just been thinkin’! Do you know you owe –“
“I don’t owe you nothin’! All I owe you is –“
Benjamin: “Oh, no. You forgettin’ the time that –“
“No I ain’t! Do you know I had to spend around –“
Benjamin: “You ain’t never spent that much in your life. Look, my uncle wrote and told me –“
“Charlie Chan: “No, no, no. Birmingham not do that. He go see landlady and she tell him –“
“Benjamin: “She lied! I don’t owe her a cent! Listen, Mr. Chan, did you know her –“
Charlie Chan: “Yeah, I met him last time, you know, in –“
“That’s right, Mr. Chan! That’s the time I took it over to –“
Tommy: “Took what over to where?”
Charlie Chan: “The check to the taylor.”
Benjamin: “Oh, that’s what happened to that suit I never got to wear!”
Charlie Chan: “Yeah. Birmingham go out in rain, suit shrink, taylor refuse same, so Birmingham must pay for suit!”
Benjamin: “Well, where’s the suit now?”
“Still shrinkin’! My little nephew got it on his teddy bear.”
Charlie Chan: “You know, that’s why I like meet you boys; we understand each other so well!”
Tommy: “I don’t get it! I never understand that kind of a talk. How do you do it?”
Charlie Chan: “You are familiar with pidgin English?”
Tommy: “Oh, sure!”
Charlie Chan: “Same difference.”
THE POSSIBLE DATE OF CHARLIE CHAN’S INVOLVEMENT IN THIS CASE: Fall 1945 (between the 8th and the 14th of some month)
DURATION: Seven days
PROBABLE LOCATIONS: Los Angeles, California and San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California (Located about 20 miles north of San Francisco on San Francisco Bay)
CHARLIE CHAN’S “OLD FRIEND”: Warden Cameron
THE NAME OF THE BOARDING HOTEL: Foss Family Hotel
THE NAME OF THE BANK THAT WAS ROBBED: Citizen’s State Bank (Thomas Harley was convicted of robbing this bank)
THE NAME OF THE THEATRICAL WAREHOUSE: Carey’s Theatrical Warehouse
THE NOTE WRITTEN TO THOMAS HARLEY:
THE BUILDING SHOWN RELATING TO THE THOMAS HARLEY TRIAL:
The Hall of Records Building, Los Angeles, California.
This building was located next to the Los Angeles County
Courthouse. It opened in 1906 and was demolished in 1973.
THE SUPERIMPOSED STAR DISPATCH FRONT PAGE AND HEADLINE AND STORYLINE:
SECOND SUPERIMPOSED HEADLINE:
THIRD SUPERIMPOSED HEADLINE:
FORTH SUPERIMPOSED HEADLINE:
THE DATE SET FOR THOMAS HARLEY’S EXECUTION: 17th of the month
THE TIME REMAINING UNTIL THOMAS HARLEY’S EXECUTION: Nine days
THE NOTE GIVEN TO JUNE HARLEY BY CHARLIE CHAN:
THE ABOVE NOTE, SEEN IN THE FILM, WAS ACTUALLY WRITTEN BY SIDNEY TOLER HIMSELF AS EVIDENCED BY THE WRITING SAMPLES BELOW WHICH WERE ALSO WRITTEN BY TOLER:
CHARLIE CHAN’S HOTEL AND ROOM NUMBER: Larchmont Hotel, Room 325. Larchmont is a small community located within the city of Los Angeles.
THE TOWNS WHERE BANKS WERE ROBBED: Lamont and Rordon. Lamont is a “census-designated place” located in California’s Kern County about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and 8 miles south of Bakersfield. Rordon may have been a location in California that no longer exists.
THE NAME OF THE PERSON CONVICTED OF ROBBING THE LAMONT BANK: Stephen Briggs
THE NAME OF THE PERSON CONVICTED OF ROBBING THE RORDEN BANK: Stanley Grey
THE PRISON WHERE THOMAS HARLEY WAS INCARCERATED: San Quentin State Prison
THE INMATE NUMBER OF PRISONER JIMMY SLADE: 8251
THE INMATE NUMBER OF PRISONER BEN CARTER, BIRMINGHAM BROWN’S “BROTHER”: 1452
THE INMATE NUMBER OF PRISONER THOMAS HARLEY: 8150
“FOGGY’S” CELLMATE: “Punchy”
THE EX-CONVICT WHOSE FINGERPRINTS WERE USED: Louis Mack, who was falsely accused of the murder of Miss Petrie
LOUIS MACK’S STATE PRISON INFORMATION CARD:
OF INTEREST, PERHAPS. A CALENDAR SEEN IN THE OFFICE OF THE THEATRICAL WAREHOUSE SHOWING DECEMBER 1944:
Confucius (551-469 BC) – A Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period (771-476 BC). The philosophy of Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity.
Tommy Chan: “It’s not Confusion, it’s Confucius!”
in stitches – (Idiom) Laughing uncontrollably.
Danvers: “…she always leaves me in stitches!”
foxhole – A quickly dug pit for individual protection from enemy fire.
Benjamin: “Now this is exactly what I need, a removable foxhole.”
frame – (Informal) Made up evidence or contrive events so as to falsely incriminate a person.
Warden Cameron: “…our prison cards couldn’t have been used to frame these men.”
recap – To retread an automobile tire by replacing the worn-out treading.
Benjamin: “They can’t recap them wrinkles.”
sent up – (Idiom) Sent to prison. Short for “sent up the river.”
Anthony R. Morgan: “Harley was sent up for the bank robbery in this city.”
the needle – (Idiom) To tease.
Danvers: “Always giving me the needle…”
whatchamacallhim (whatchamacallit) – (Idiom) A person or thing the name of which or of whom cannot be recalled.
Birmingham Brown: “He? Who-who-who’s he?”
Birmingham Brown: “Oh, him!”
For a complete glossary list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.