Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Distributed: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, December 13, 1940
Production: Began mid-July 1940
Copyright: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, December 13, 1940; LP10207
Sound: RCA Sound System
Film: Black and white
Running Time: 65 minutes
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 6517
Source: “Based on the character ‘Charlie Chan’ created by Earl Derr Biggers”
Executive Producer: Sol M. Wurzel
Director: Harry LachmanAssistant
Director: William Eckhardt (not credited)
Original Screenplay: Lester Ziffren
Director of Photography: Virgil Miller
Art Direction: Richard Day and Lewis Creber
Set Decorations: Thomas Little
Film Editor: Louis Loeffler
Sound: Joseph E. Aiken and Harry M. Leonard
Musical Direction: Emil Newman
CAST (as credited):
Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Marjorie Weaver: Patricia Shaw (also known as Patricia West, Mrs. Paul Narvo)
Robert Lowrey: David Elliott
Ricardo Cortez: George Kirby
Donald MacBride: Inspector Vance
Melville Cooper: Herbert Fenton
Joan Valerie: June Preston
Kane Richmond: Ralph Percy
Sen Yung: Jimmy ChanJohn Sutton: Keith Jeffrey
Leyland Hodgson: [Robert] Boggs
Clarence Muse: Butler
Frederick Worlock: Hugh DrakeLal
Chand Mehra: Ramullah (also known as Aga Singh)
UNCREDITED CAST (alphabetical):
Trevor Bardette: Hindu Businessman
Stanley Blystone: Fingerprint Expert
Nick Borgani: Hindu Businessman
Eddy Chandler Police Officer [Lefty]
Frank Coghlan, Jr.: Frankie O’Shaunessy
Catherine Craig: Stewardess
Alan Davis: Pilot [Lt. Cooper]
Dorothy Dearing: Mrs. Percy
Jimmie Dundee: Police Officer [Bill]
Ralph Dunn: Second Police Officer
Frank Fanning: Police Officer
Carl Faulkner: Police Officer
Bud Geary: Second Mechanic
Shemp Howard: “Shorty” McCoy (also known as “The Canarsie Kid;” “The Great Rashid”)
Paul Kruger: Guard
Jack “Tiny” Lipson: Hindu in Police Lineup
Eric Mayne: Suspicious-looking Man
Paul Palmer: Police Officer
Lee Phelps: First Police Officer
Nick Shaid: Hindu Businessman
Bhogwan Singh: Hindu Businessman
Brick Sullivan: Police Officer
Charles Tannen: Voice of Radio Announcer
George Walcott: First Mechanic
Shirley Warde: Mrs. Felton
While flying to an annual police convention in New York City, Charlie Chan meets his old friend, Hugh Drake. Formerly an inspector for Scotland yard, but now, during the war in Europe, a British intelligence officer, Drake is on the trail of Paul Narvo, a spy who has been sabotaging U.S.-built bomber planes bound for England. Drake, suspecting that Narvo is responsible for the recent crash of the TR-3 bomber in New York, is also on his way to that city. At the airport in New York, Drake is met by his host, aircraft tycoon George Kirby, who invites Chan to a party that he is giving for Drake.
Later that night, following their dinner at the police banquet, Charlie Chan and his son Jimmy arrive at Kirby’s party. As they are shown into Kirby’s office where Drake is waiting, they are shocked to find the intelligence officer dead. While it is first suggested that Drake had died of a heart attack, Chan discovers that the bird in a nearby cage has also died. “Canary, unlike faithful dog, do not die for sympathy,” says the detective, revealing that Drake has been murdered by a poison gas pellet, the pieces of which are found, and it is Jimmy who notes the telltale smell of tetrogene gas.
Aided by police inspector Vance, Chan interrogates the guests, who include Herbert Fenton, Drake’s old school friend; actress June Preston; stockbroker Keith Jeffrey; Ralph Percy, an aircraft designer; and Kirby’s butler, Boggs. Learning little from the guests, Chan tracks down Narvo’s ex-wife, Patricia Shaw, who explains that she had fled her husband and his sinister servant, Ramullah, upon learning that he was a spy. Chan also questions David Elliott, a chemist who had visited Drake shortly before his death.
After Chan’s search for Ramullah ends in the servant’s death, and Kirby is found poisoned, Chan assembles all of the suspects aboard the new TR-4 bomber. Secretly, the night before, saboteurs had positioned a poison gas-filled glass pellet which is set to break when the plane goes into a dive. The guests, believing that they are there only to see the plane on the ground, are alarmed as the engines start and the bomber takes off with all aboard. As the plane levels off at 15,000 feet, Chan observes the reactions of those around him. Suddenly, the plane goes into its dive. As the glass pellet drops, Fenton quickly catches it, threatening everyone that he will drop it if captured.
The plane returns to the airport, and, as it comes to a stop, Fenton suddenly exits the bomber, tossing the pellet inside and slamming the door. However, the police are waiting, and grab Fenton. Chan and the others emerge unharmed from the plane, as the detective explains that he had discovered the poison gas pellet earlier that morning, and had replaced it with a harmless facsimile. Chan also declares that Fenton is too old to be Narvo.
Back at police headquarters, while Fenton is being questioned with the remaining suspects present, Chan tricks the real Paul Narvo into revealing himself. Just as Fenton is about to drink from a cup of water that Kieth Jeffrey has brought for him, Chan stops him. Examining the liquid, the detective declares that it has been poisoned, exposing Jeffrey as Narvo.
NOTE: The working title of this film was Charlie Chan in New York. According to Fox publicity material contained in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library files, the studio changed the title in order to prevent the public from confusing this film with other Chan features.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
CHARLIE CHAN’S APHORISMS
Officer of law cannot escape long arm of same.
Needle can be found when correct thread located.
British tenacity with Chinese patience like royal flush in poker game – unbeatable.
Canary, unlike faithful dog, do not die for sympathy.
Coincidence like ancient egg – leave unpleasant odor.
Nut easy to crack often empty.
Fresh weed better than wilted rose.
Person who ask riddle should know answer.
Happy solution never see light if truth kept in dark.
One man with gun have more authority than whole army with no ammunition.
Anything can happen in hour’s time.
Door of opportunity swing both ways.
Wishful thinking sometimes lead to blind alley.
Faces may alter, but fingerprint never lie.
Important events, like insistent alarm clock, demand attention.
Eye easily deceived.
Same leopard can hide beneath different spots.
Kitchen stove most excellent weapon – good for cooking goose.
Desire to live still strongest instinct in man.
Trick sometimes necessary in order to trap criminal.
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:
Charm of Inspector Drake still best key to hospitality. (to Hugh Drake)
Inspector Vance, this is favorite offspring, Jimmy, without whose assistance, many cases would have been solved much sooner. (to Inspector Vance)
(Jimmy: “What are you going to do with all of your collection of keys to cities?”) No good as doorstops. Perhaps make excellent teething rings for future grandchildren.
Number two son very promising detective – promise very much, produce very little. (to Inspector Vance)
(Butler: “I’s completely in the dark.”) Condition appear contagious. (referring to the fact that no one has any useful information to offer)
Thought at present like dog chasing own tail – getting no place. (to Jimmy)
Will inform honorable mother that aid from number two son like interest on mortgage – impossible to escape. (to Jimmy)
Energetic detective seems to have as much difficulty making decision as fly in bakery shop. (to Jimmy, who could not make up his mind as to the identity of suspects in a police lineup)
(Inspector Vance: “What are we going to do, have a family picnic?” [regarding Chan’s desire to have all suspects gather at the airport]) Very good idea. Perhaps locate “bad egg” in picnic basket.
Keep hands in pockets – own pockets. (to Jimmy)
Confidence of favorite son like courage of small boy at dentist – most evident after tooth extracted. (to Inspector Vance)
Variety, December 4, 1940
Charlie Chan arrives in New York, and immediately is drafted to unravel the mystery of a spy ring that is directed against the airplane industry, especially bombers designed for England. Story is regulation formula for the Chan series, and will satisfy the followers of the series as whodunit entertainment.
Picture, in tying in current sabotage activities of foreign agents, also carries the usual number of murders to mystify the audience – and Chan’s No. 2 son, Jimmy. As usual, the latter stumbles along the trail, as excess baggage assistant for his father, but is in for the final disclosure of the real culprit. Mysterious goings-on under the nose of Chan fails to upset his stoic pose.
Arrival of British Intelligence officer Frederick Worlock sets off the string of murders and plottings. Worlock is the first to be bumped off, with plenty of suspects handy to confuse the amateur sleuths. But Chan plods through and eventually discloses the leader of the spy ring in a test flight of a new bomber which carries all of the suspects aloft over the city.
Harry Lachman directs to point up the meller angles of the plot without detours. Cast is okay for requirements and photography is standard.
PROBABLE DATE: September 1940 (determined from other information and the calendar on the wall in Inspector Vance’s office)
DURATION: Three days
LOCATION: Los Angeles (Glendale – Grand Central Air Terminal), California (departure) and New York City (final destination)
GRAND CENTRAL AIR TERMINAL, GLENDALE, CALIFORNIA:
THE DEPARTURE SCHEDULE, AS POSTED IN THE GRAND CENTRAL AIR TERMINAL (GLENDALE, CALIFORNIA):
CHARLIE CHAN’S FLIGHT TO NEW YORK: American Airlines trip 19 (leaving [Gate 3] from Los Angeles [Glendale] and stopping at Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, Nashville, Washington, New York, and all eastern connections)
THE TIME SHOWN ON THE AIRPORT CLOCK: 10:15 (a.m.)
THE SCHEDULED DEPARTURE TIME OF FLIGHT 19: 10:15 a.m.
THE SCHEDULED ARRIVAL OF FLIGHT 19 IN NEW YORK: 4:30 a.m. (actually, the plane appeared to have arrived at about 12 noon)
THE TYPE OF PLANE: American Airlines Flagship Sleeper New York Douglas DC-2 (registration number: NC16001)
CHARLIE CHAN’S REASON FOR TRAVELING TO NEW YORK CITY: “Must attend annual police convention…”
CHARLIE CHAN’S “OLD FRIEND”: Hugh Drake (Charlie Chan: “Humble services at disposal of old friend.”)
THE REASON, ACCORDING TO HUGH DRAKE, THAT HE WAS NO LONGER WITH SCOTLAND YARD: “…I moved over to the Intelligence Department over a year ago.”
THE DAILY GLOBE HEADLINE, SUBHEADING, AND PARTIAL TEXT:
ACCORDING TO HUGH DRAKE, WHEN PAUL NARVO “MURDERED AN OFFICIAL OF THE BRITISH AIR MINISTRY”: “…three years ago.”
THE PLACES, ACCORDING TO HUGH DRAKE, THAT HE HAD GONE FOLLOWING THE TRAIL OF PAUL NARVO’S WIFE, AS STATED BY HUGH DRAKE: “I followed her to Shanghai where she was working in a cabaret, to Bombay where she was a secretary, to Copenhagen where she was an elevator girl, then back to the orient, and back across to San Francisco.”
THE CURRENT LOCATION OF PAUL NARVO’S WIFE: New York City
GEORGE KIRBY’S ADDRESS AS STATED BY HIMSELF: “…Courtney Arms Apartments on East 67th Street.”
THE REASON, GIVEN BY JIMMY CHAN, THAT HE HAD COME TO NEW YORK FROM LOS ANGELES: “…my roommate at college was driving east, and he asked me along to see the World’s Fair.”
THE TIME AS HUGH DRAKE HAD EXCUSED HIMSELF FROM THE PARTY TO DO SOME WORK IN GEORGE KIRBY’S LIBRARY: 9 p.m.
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE COURSE OF STUDY TAKEN BY HIS SON JIMMY IN COLLEGE: “Number two son student of chemistry…”
THE TYPE OF GAS RESIDUE DETECTED BY JIMMY CHAN: Tetragene (Jimmy Chan: “It’s a new gas discovered only a few months ago…It kills with one whiff, and then evaporates quickly, leaving a slight, harmless scent.”)
THE FINDINGS OF HUGH DRAKE’S AUTOPSY, ACCORDING TO INSPECTOR VANCE: “The autopsy shows gas in both lungs.”
THE ITEMS BELONGING TO HUGH DRAKE THAT WERE FOUND IN THE WALL SAFE, AS NOTED BY INSPECTOR VANCE: “Passport, traveler’s checks, cash, a guest card to the British Imperial Club.”
THE NAME OF THE POLICE OFFICER WHO WAS DIRECTED TO NOTE THE STATEMENTS OF THOSE AT GEORGE KIRBY’S RESIDENCE: Joe
THE COLLEGE IN ENGLAND WHERE HUGH DRAKE AND HERBERT FENTON STUDIED TOGETHER: Oxford
THE NUMBER OF YEARS THAT ROBERT BOGGS HAD WORKED FOR GEORGE KIRBY: Three
THE NAME OF THE OFFICER SENT TO FIND GEORGE KIRBY’S OTHER BUTLER: Pat
THE NAME OF THE AIRCRAFT COMPANY WHERE THE EXPERIMENTAL BOMBERS WERE BUILT: Metropolitan Aircraft Corporation (George Kirby, President and Ralph Percy, Chief Designer)
CHARLIE CHAN’S COMMENT REGARDING JUNE PRESTON: “Miss Preston play engagement in Honolulu last season.”
JUNE PRESTON’S STATED REASON FOR HAVING BEEN IN HONOLULU: “I stopped off on my way to Australia.”
THE TEXT OF THE WESTERN UNION CABLEGRAM FROM SCOTLAND YARD THAT HAD BEEN OPENED THEN RESEALED BY BOGGS, AS READ BY INSPECTOR VANCE: “Acknowledge inquiry regarding Robert Boggs. Will forward information immediately.”
DAVID ELLIOT’S PROFESSION: Chemical research
THE POLICE OFFICER’S DESCRIPTION OF DAVID ELLIOT: “28 years old, six feet tall, black hair, and…”
THE TIME THAT, ACCORDING TO JUNE PRESTON, SHE HAD LAST PLAYED IN A THEATER IN LONDON WITH PAUL NARVO’S WIFE: “…five years ago.”
JUNE PRESTON’S ADDRESS, ACCORDING TO GEORGE KIRBY: “Roxbury House on Sutton Place.”
PATRICIA WEST’S ADDRESS, ACCORDING TO JUNE PRESTON: “She lives in a rooming house at 21 Washington Square.”
JUNE PRESTON’S FULL ADDRESS: 3 Sutton Place, apartment 44
PATRICIA WEST’S ROOM NUMBER: 4
CHARLIE CHAN’S CURRENT DETECTIVE RANK: Lieutenant
THE LOCATION OF PATRICIA SHAW’S RESIDENCE IN LONDON FIVE YEARS AGO AS MRS. NARVO: Barclay Square
THE CITY TO WHICH PATRICIA SHAW WENT WITH PAUL NARVO AFTER LEAVING LONDON: Calcutta, India
THE CITY WHERE PATRICIA SHAW HAD WORKED AS A MANICURIST: Capetown, South Africa
THE NAME OF THE OFFICER ASKED BY INSPECTOR VANCE TO ROUND UP ALL HINDUS IN NEW YORK: Flynn
THE NAME OF THE OFFICER ASKED BY INSPECTOR VANCE IF THERE WERE ANY MORE “ALI BABAS”: Frank
THE NAME OF THE OFFICER ASKED BY INSPECTOR VANCE TO GET SOAP AND WATER TO WASH THE FACE OF “THE GREAT RACHID”: Lefty
THE ACTUAL IDENTITY OF “THE GREAT RACHID”: “Shorty” McCoy, “The Canarsie Kid”
THE ADDRESS OF AGA SINGH’S (RAMULLAH’S) CURIO SHOP: 214 East Russell Street
THE TIME THAT THE AUCTION HAD ENDED AT AGA SINGH’S CURIO SHOP THE NIGHT BEFORE: 11 p.m.
THE NAME OF THE OFFICER WHO INSPECTOR VANCE THOUGHT HAD SHOT RAMULLAH: Bill
THE NAME OF THE OTHER OFFICER WHOM BILL THOUGHT HAD SHOT RAMULLAH: Murphy
THE TEXT OF THE SECOND CABLEGRAM FROM SCOTLAND YARD AS READ BY CHARLIE CHAN AND SON JIMMY: “Recent information proves Robert Boggs falsely convicted.”
THE OFFICER WHO INFORMED INSPECTOR VANCE THAT THE NIGHT CLERK AT THE BRITISH IMPERIAL CLUB KNEW THE WHEREABOUTS OF HUGH DRAKE’S BRIEFCASE: Bill
THE EVENING SHIFT CLERK AT THE BRITISH IMPERIAL CLUB WHO CAME TO INSPECTOR VANCE WITH IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Franky O’Shaunessy
ACCORDING TO FRANKY O’SHAUNESSY, THE AMOUNT OF TIME HE HAD BEEN WAITING TO SEE INSPECTOR VANCE: “…over 34 minutes…”
THE TIME AS HUGH DRAKE LEFT HIS BRIEFCASE AT THE BRITISH IMPERIAL CLUB, ACCORDING TO FRANKY O’SHAUNESSY: “…about 5:30 yesterday afternoon.”
PATRICIA WEST’S ADDRESS: 21 Washington Square, apartment 4
GEORGE KIRBY’S SUITE NUMBER: 242
THE NOTE SUPPOSEDLY WRITTEN BY GEORGE KIRBY TO BOGGS ALONG WITH OTHER JOTTINGS:
ACCORDING TO DAVID ELLIOT, WHEN GEORGE KIRBY HAD TELEPHONED HIM TO MEET HIM AT HIS RESIDENCE: “…about 15 minutes ago.”
THE PICTURE AND INFORMATION SHOWN ON THE SCOTLAND YARD PHOTOGRAPH CARD FOR RAMULLAH:
THE PICTURE AND INFORMATION SHOWN ON THE SCOTLAND YARD PHOTOGRAPH CARD FOR MRS. PAUL NARVO:
THE PICTURE AND INFORMATION SHOWN ON THE SCOTLAND YARD PHOTOGRAPH CARD FOR PAUL NARVO:
PAUL NARVO’S FINGERPRINTS FROM THE SCOTLAND YARD BUREAU OF RECORDS CARD:
THE DRINK ORDERED BY INSPECTOR VANCE FROM BOGGS: Rum Collins (changed to scotch and soda)
JUNE FENTON’S “PET NAME” FOR HER HUSBAND, HERBERT: “Snooky”
THE PULP MAGAZINE BEING READ BY THE POLICE OFFICER IN THE PATROL CAR OUTSIDE OF THE BRITISH IMPERIAL CLUB: DETECTIVE BOOK MAGAZINE (NOTE: Detective Book Magazine was an American pulp magazine, published by Fiction House in 1930 to 1931 and from 1937 to 1952. Each edition contained the complete text of a detective novel as well as one or more shorter detective fiction stories.)
THE MODEL DESIGNATION OF THE CRASHED TEST BOMBER: TR-3
THE MODEL DESIGNATION OF THE NEW TEST BOMBER: TR-4 (the plane used is a Lockheed L-12a Electra Junior)
THE SCHEDULED TIME FOR THE TEST OF THE TR-4 BOMBER: 10 a.m.
THE TR-4 TEST PILOT: Lt. Cooper
THE ALTITUDE AT WHICH THE TR-4 WAS TO GO INTO ITS DIVE: 15,000 feet
bird – (Slang) A person, especially one who is odd or remarkable.
Jimmy Chan: “Well, I thought it was him until I saw this bird.”
Canarsie – A section of Brooklyn, New York.
Lefty: “Well, this is ‘Shorty’ McCoy, the ‘Canarsie Kid.'”
cinch – A sure thing; a certainty.
Jimmy Chan: “With Narvo’s photograph and fingerprints, it’ll be a cinch.”
conked – (Slang) A blow, especially on the head.
Jimmy Chan: “Just as I stepped in the elevator, he conked me!”
fast one – (Informal) A shrewd trick of swindle; a deceitful or treacherous act.
Seaman: “Trying to pull a fast one, eh?”
Inspector Vance: “I’m going to pull a fast one, Charlie.”
fifth column – A clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy’s military and political aims.
Kieth Jeffery: “Probably some more of that fifth column work.”
gat – (Slang) A pistol.
Jimmy Chan: “I’ll never go on a case like this again without a gat.”
gave…the slip – (Idiom) To escape the pursuit of.
Inspector Vance: “Say, don’t you think the guy that gave you the slip at Ramullah’s could be Boggs?”
Hindu – (1) An adherent of Hinduism. (2) A native of India, especially northern India.
Patricia West: “…his Hindu servant, Ramullah, arrived.”
lavalier – A jeweled pendant worn on a chain around the neck.
Charlie Chan: “Very beautiful lavalier.”
mug– (Informal) The human face.
Inspector Vance: “We’re going to start with a little cleansing of your mug.”
socked – (Slang) Hit by a hard blow or punch.
Jimmy Chan: “Somebody socked me on the head and stole the briefcase!”
sprung– (Slang) To have caused to be released from prison or other confinement.
Inspector Vance: “And to think I had that guy sprung.”
tetragene – A fictitious poisonous gas.
Jimmy Chan: “It’s [tetragene] a new gas discovered only a few months ago…It kills with one whiff, and then evaporates quickly, leaving a slight, harmless scent.”
the slip – (Idiom) To escape the pursuit of.
Inspector Vance: “Say, don’t you think the guy that gave you the slip at Ramullah’s could be Boggs?”
For a complete glossary list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.