Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, November 30, 1946
Production: Late July to mid-August 1946
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, November 26, 1946; LP728
Sound: Western Electric Sound System
Film: Black and white
Running Time: 69 minutes
Source: “Based on the character created by Earl Derr Biggers”
Producer: James S. Burkett
Director: Howard Bretherton
Assistant Director: Harold Knox
Original Screenplay: Miriam Kissinger
Director of Photography: James Brown
Technical Director: Dave Milton
Supervising Film Editor: Richard Currier
Editor: Ace Herman
Set Decorations: Raymond Boltz, Jr.
Musical Direction: Edward J. Kay
Recorder: Tom Lambert
Makeup: Harry Rose
Production Manager: William Callihan, Jr.
CAST (as Credited):
Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Victor Sen Young: Jimmy Chan
Tanis Chandler: Adelaide
Larry Blake: Rick Daniels
Kirk Alyn: [California Highway Patrol] Sergeant Reynolds
Rita Quigley: Clementine
Anne Nagel: Marcia
Helen Gerald: Ruby
Howard Negley: Cole King (also called “the Maestro”)
Lois Austin: Mrs. [Irene] Thorn
Barbara Jean Wong: San Toy
Minerva Urical: Mrs. Weebles
Margaret Brayton: Madge Mudge
Bettie Best: Winifred
Jan Bryant: Lois
Walden Boyle: George “Doc” Brandt
Cole King’s variety troupe, along with press agent Rick Daniels and Mrs. Thorn, the wardrobe mistress, occupy a Malibu, California beach house. When Adelaide, a showgirl, criticizes Marcia, the overbearing star of the show and King’s girlfriend, Marcia threatens to reveal that Adelaide is secretly married to physician George Brandt. She also hints that she knows Brandt’s real identity. Marcia later forces showgirl Lois to steal letters from Adelaide’s trunk, threatening to tell King that Lois is underage, having lied about her true age to get a job in the variety troupe.
Marcia disappears later, and Lois’ body is discovered by San Toy, a Chinese member of the troupe. Because Lois has been strangled, a murder technique said to be favored by the Chinese and the French, both San Toy and Adelaide are under immediate suspicion. To avoid the bad publicity that a murder would bring, Daniels suggests that Lois’ death be made to appear as an accidental drowning.
San Toy, who is a friend of Jimmy Chan, asks his father to investigate. Chan hurries to the scene, mistakenly thinking that San Toy, in the message that she had given his assistant Birmingham Brown, had said that Jimmy had been murdered. “Mistake sometimes bring most fortunate relief,” says the relieved father as he learns that the message was misunderstood.
During the course of the investigation, Birmingham, San Toy, and Jimmy are each attacked. Later, troupe member Clementine finds Marcia’s body with a silken cord wrapped around her neck, apparently washed up on the beach.
Chan later discovers Daniels in the act of burying Marcia’s bathrobe. When Chan reveals that the cord from the robe was the one used in the murders, Daniels claims that the robe was planted on King to frame him. King then accuses Daniels of murdering the women and trying to hide the evidence.
Privately, Chan reveals his knowledge that Brandt was once accused of his wife’s murder. Although Brandt was exonerated, his career was ruined. He had gone to war and, while in Paris, had met and married Adelaide. It was at this time that Marcia had first met them. Brandt admits that he had found Lois’ body and had removed personally damaging letters, but denies killing her.
Chan decides to set a trap for the killer. That night, King confesses that he took a box from Brandt’s suitcase that contained incriminating papers. Jimmy later finds the missing box in the furnace. He then sees someone trying to strangle San Toy and intervenes, inadvertently spoiling his father’s trap.
Chan, Jimmy, and Birmingham chase the attacker, who speeds away from the beach house in a car. During the high-speed car chase, the assailant, who is revealed to be Mrs. Thorn, crashes and is fatally injured. As she lies dying, Mrs. Thorn tells how she had deserted King, her husband, and when she wanted to return to him, he had humiliated her by offering her a job as his wardrobe mistress. She then killed the two women and tried to frame King in order to get revenge. It was her letters that were in the box that King had stolen from Brandt.Later, Chan assures Brandt that the California Board of Medical Examiners will reinstate his license and he will now be free once again to practice medicine under his real name.
NOTES: Working titles for The Trap were Murder in Malibu Beach and Charlie Chan in the Trap. This is one of two Chan films in the series proper to have been filmed in large measure on location, the other being The Black Camel (1931). The Trap marked the final film appearance for Sidney Toler, who died on February 12, 1947. Roland Winters assumed the role of Charlie Chan in the 1947 film The Chinese Ring.
Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG – Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960
CHARLIE CHAN’S APHORISMS
Mistake sometimes bring most fortunate relief.
Obstructing justice is very serious crime.
Best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go a little bit haywire.
Puzzle always deepest near the center.
Leisurely hunter have time to stalk prey, but hunter in haste must set trap.
Levity is a great cure-all.
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS
Repetition of your merit only go to prove your fear of fault. (To Rick Daniels)
I have trap all set, and you put big foot in it. (To Jimmy)
THE WIT AND WISDOM OF BIRMINGHAM BROWN
Jimmy (Suggesting he and Birmingham follow a suspicious character down into the cellar): “C’mon, this’ll square us with Pop.”
“I’m already square with your pop.”
Jimmy (To a hesitant Birmingham): “Well you stay here, I’m goin’ in!”
“That’s just what I’m – Gangway! I’ve changed my mind!”
Jimmy (Regarding the attacker who clubbed Birmingham in the cellar): I saw him running! He had a bundle in his hands!”
“Yeah, he may have had a bundle in one hand, but he sure had a club in the other one!”
(Upon walking into a room and seeing Charlie Chan with a rope standing over the motionless Jimmy on the floor) “Good gracious alive, Mr. Chan! I knowed it was gonna happen sometime!”
“Oh, Mr. Chan, maybe that girl didn’t see the killer at all. Maybe the killer was transparent.”
Charlie Chan: “Oh… No further deductions…”
(As Jimmy opens the cellar doors from underneath upon which Birmingham rests, causing him to fall to the ground) “Earthquake! Earthquake! Earthquake! Run for cover everybody! Run for cover!”
Jimmy: “If we find the box, everything’s okay.”
“Oh, is it a long box, about six feet tall, and got flowers piled up on it?”
Jimmy: “…I figure the Maestro’s guilty.”
“Yeah, but I ain’t figurin’.”
Jimmy: “You stay here. If anything happens, I’ll hear you yell.”
“You ain’t kiddin’.”
(To his jittery knees after seeing an ominous shadow on the adjacent wall) “Whoa, boy. Whoa, boy. Not now. I’ll tell you when. I’ll tell you when. Not now.”
Sgt. Reynolds (Seeing Birmingham opening the cellar doors): “Where’re you goin’?”
“Oh, a policeman. Phew. Now, well, you see, one time, there, somebody went down in there, so I followed him, see? So after they went second, I went first. And I come out first after I –“
Sgt. Reynolds: “So?”
“Well, what it was, I went down in there second, and when I followed them, they come out first. And what I was tryin’- Don’t you get it?”
Sgt. Reynolds: “I’m no good at geometry.”
(In the cellar, hearing Jimmy’s voice calling through the heating duct where he is stuck) “Are you talkin’ from this side?”
Jimmy: “What do you mean, ‘this side’?”
“I want to know if you talkin’ from this side of the world or the other side.”
Jimmy (After causing the heating duct to collapse and then exiting from the dormant furnace, his face covered with soot and holding the box he was seeking): “I tell you I got it!”
“You sure have. You got it all over your face.”
THE PROBABLE DATE OF CHARLIE CHAN’S INVOLVEMENT IN THIS CASE: Summer 1946
DURATION: Two days
LOCATION: Malibu, California (near Los Angeles where Charlie Chan was staying)
ART JONES’ MALIBU INN AND REAL ESTATE OFFICE, A MALIBU LANDMARK FOR MANY YEARS AS SEEN IN THE OPENING SCENES:
THE BEACH HOUSE RENTED BY COLE KING’S VARIETY TROUPE: The Rutherford mansion
THE ADDRESS OF THE RUTHERFORD HOUSE: 26 Malibu Drive (Malibu Drive appears to be just off of the Roosevelt Highway (today the Pacific Coast Highway), and, although this was the address that was given to Birmingham Brown by San Toy, the number at the front door reads “624.”)
THE TIME AS SEEN ON THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK AT THE FOOT OF THE STAIRWAY AS THE WOMEN FILE UPSTAIRS FOLLOWING CHARLIE CHAN’S ARRIVAL AT THE RUTHERFORD HOUSE: 12:45 (a.m.)
THE OTHER CASE MENTIONED BY RICK DANIELS: The “March Case,” which, as mentioned by Rick Daniels, was worked on by Charlie Chan whom he had met while he (Daniels) was working for the March Flour Mills.
ACCORDING TO “DOC” BRANDT, THE TYPE OF KNOT THAT WAS USED BY THE MURDERER: “…a granny knot…”
ACCORDING TO “DOC” BRANDT, THE CONDITION OF THE VICTIM’S (MARCIA) THROAT: “…the trachea was flattened.”
ACCORDING TO “DOC” BRANDT, THE “PERIOD OF IMMERSION” (IN THE OCEAN) OF MARCIA’S BODY: “Ten to twelve hours.”
WHEN AND WHERE, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THAT “DOC” BRANDT HAD BEEN ACCUSED OF MURDERING HIS WIFE: “Six years ago  in New York City.”
THE ADDRESS AS WRITTEN ON THE ENVELOPE OF THE LETTER THAT ROSE WAS DELIVERING TO THE POST OFFICE FOR GEORGE BRANDT:
MRS. THORN’S FULL NAME AND ADDRESS WHEN SHE LIVED IN PARIS AS SEEN ON THE OLD ENVELOPE ADDRESSED TO HER:
cabana (cabaña) – (Spanish) (1) A shelter on a beach or at a swimming pool used as a bathhouse. (2) A cabin or hut.
“Doc” Brandt: “…I was just in the cabana.”
chiseler – (1) One who cheats or swindles. (2) One who obtains by deception.
Rick Daniels: “This kid Lois was a chiseler.”
clipped – (Slang) To have hit with a sharp blow.
Jimmy Chan: “Yeah, he clipped Birmingham.”
Coast Highway – State Route 1 (SR 1) is a major north-south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of California. It is the longest state route in California with a total length of over 600 miles. Several portions are designated as either Pacific Coast Highway, Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway, or Coast Highway.
Charlie Chan: “We make-up time on Coast Highway.”
dame – (Slang) A woman.
Jimmy Chan: “It’s a dame, Sarge!”
framed – (Slang) Having been incriminated by made-up evidence or contrived events.
Rick Daniels: “I was trying to keep someone from being framed.”
gangway – (Interjection) Get out of the way!
Birmingham Brown: “Gangway!”
garroted – The act of being strangulated in a manner reminiscent of the old Spanish method in which prisoners were executed, usually by the use of an iron collar.
“Doc” Brandt: “She was garroted, a cord around her neck.”
in Dutch – (Idiom) In disfavor or trouble.
Jimmy Chan: “Pipe down, I’m already in Dutch with Pop.”
pipe down – (Idiom) To stop talking; quiet down.
Jimmy Chan: “Pipe down, I’m already in Dutch with Pop.”
prohibition days (prohibition era) – The period from 1920 to 1933 when the sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in the United States by a constitutional amendment.
Charlie Chan: “Sliding panel is merely relic of old prohibition days.”
sarge – (Informal) Short for sergeant.
Jimmy Chan: “It’s a dame, Sarge!”
the finger – (Slang) (1) To inform on or identify to the authorities. (2) To designate, especially as an intended victim.
Rick Daniels: “Then Chan caught me and the finger was on me.”
third degree – Mental or physical torture used to obtain information or a confession from a prisoner.
Rick Daniels: “Let’s get him out of here where we can give him the third degree.”
trachea – The airway that extends from the larynx into the thorax where it divides into the right and left bronchi. Also called windpipe.
“Doc” Brandt: “…the trachea was flattened.”
zut – (French interjection) You be hanged! Confound it! Hang it! etc.
Adelaide: Zut! We know her too well!”
For a complete glossary list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.