The House on Punchbowl Hill





















Charlie Chan in London

Fox Film Corporation
Distributed: Fox Film Corporation, September 12, 1934
Production: July 9 to early August 1934
Copyright: Fox Film Corporation, September 14, 1934; LP4951
Sound: Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 8 reels, 7,026 feet
Running time: 77-79 minutes
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 171
Source: Based on the character "Charlie Chan" created by Earl Derr Biggers
 

Producer: John Stone
Director: Eugene Ford
Assistant Director: Ed O'Fearna (not credited)
Original Screenplay: Philip MacDonald
Photography: L.W. O'Connell
Sound: E. Clayton Ward
Settings: Duncan Cramer
Gowns: Royer 
Musical Director: Samuel Kaylin
Contributing to Screenplay Construction and Dialog: Stuart Anthony (not credited);
   Lester Cole (not credited)
Assistant Camera: John Schmitz; Robert Surtees (not credited)
Wardrobe: Sam Benson (not credited)
Stunts: Joe Flores, Clint Sharp (not credited); Walter Nobles (not credited);
   Opal Ernie (not credited)
Stand-ins: Ann Doran (not credited); Alex Chivra (not credited)  

CAST:

Warner Oland: Inspector Charlie Chan
Drue Leyton: Pamela Gray
Raymond Milland: Neil Howard
Mona Barrie: Lady Mary Bristol
Alan Mowbray: Geoffrey Richmond
Murray Kinnell: Phillips (alias Captain Seton)
Douglas Walton: Paul Gray (incorrectly billed as Hugh Gray)
Walter Johnson: Jerry Garton
E. E. Clive: Detective Sergeant Thacker
George Barraud: Major Jardine
Madge Bellamy: Mrs.[Betty] Fothergill
David Torrence: Sir Lionel Bashford
John Rogers: Lake
Paul England: Bunny Fothergill
Elsa Buchanan: Alice Perkins
Perry Ivans: Kemp
Claude King: RAF Commandant (not credited)
Reginald Sheffield: Commander King (not credited)
Helena Grant: Miss Judson (not credited)
Montague Shaw: Doctor (not credited)
Phillis Coghlan: Nurse (not credited)
Margarett Mann: Housemaid (not credited)
Carlie Taylor: Manor Guest (not credited)
Doris Stone: Manor Guest (not credited)
Arthur Clayton: Warden (not credited)
Mary Gordon: Prison Matron (not credited)    



SUMMARY:

Pamela Gray goes with Geoffrey Richmond to appeal to the Home Secretary to intervene and stop the planned execution of her brother Paul, Richmond's former hunt secretary.  In three days, her brother will be hanged for the murder of Captain Hamilton of the Royal Air Force, who had been a guest at Richmond's country home at Retfordshire.  After the Home Secretary refuses to help, Kemp, his private secretary, instructs Pamela and her fiancÚ, Neil Howard, to seek the help of Inspector Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police Department, has brought back to London a wanted British criminal whom he had captured in Honolulu.

When Neil, who is Paul's barrister, tells Chan that he feels Paul is guilty, Pamela overhears his comments and calls off their engagement.  Chan, who wants to help, follows her to Retfordshire, where guests are gathered for a hunt.  He now has less than three days to save Paul Gray.

Lake, the stud groom who, Chan suspects, knows more than he admits is found dead, apparently a suicide. However, Chan points to facts that prove that Lake was actually murdered.  Later, while Chan is investigating in the study, he is almost killed by a dart from an air-powered pistol.

The next day, during the hunt, Chan goes to the Farmwell Aerodrome where he learns that Hamilton, an inventor, had developed a method to silence warplanes just before he died.  Returning to Refordshire, Chan learns that Lady Mary Bristol, Richmond's fiancÚ, who is off on a fox hunt, had very important information to tell the detective.  Realizing that she may be in great danger, Chan and Neil Howard hurry to meet the hunting party, only to learn that Lady Mary has just had a near-fatal riding accident.  Later, Chan finds that pepper was used to blind the "noble animal" that Lady Mary was riding.

CONCLUSION:

After Chan informs the suspected guests that the murderer's fingerprints will be found on Hamilton's missing plans, he tricks Richmond into firing at him with a gun that is filled with blanks as Chan appears to have the papers.  Richmond is revealed to be a spy named Paul Frank whom military intelligence has been following for years.

Saved only a few hours from execution, Paul Gray is quickly released from prison, and joins Pamela and Neil, who have been reunited, and Charlie Chan for dinner.  Paul offers the detective a toast: "To the greatest detective in the world," to which Charlie Chan modestly replies, "No, not very good detective, just lucky old Chinaman."

NOTES: This was the first film in the Charlie Chan series that was not based on a particular novel by Chan's creator, Earl Derr Biggers. The New York Times commented that this film, written by Philip MacDonald, a noted detective novelist himself, "maintains the Chan tradition."

Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG - Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960



CHARLIE CHAN'S APHORISMS:

Front seldom tell truth.  To know occupants of house, always look in back yard.
 
Every front has back.
 
Little things tell big story.
 
Tearing hands suggest torn heart.

Begin at best place - beginning.
 
Detective cannot work miracle.
 
It is unasked question which prevent sleep.
 
Englishmen mind own business, not always Chinamen.

Thoughts are like noble animal - unchecked, they run away causing painful smash-up.
 
More fear, more talk.

Murder not very good joke - quite unfunny.

Little things tell story.

Money talks.
 
Man in lowly station does not kill self when possessing much money.
 
Habit of being sometimes invisible very useful.  

When death enters window, no time for life to go by door.

If you want wild bird to sing, do not put him in cage.
 
 
OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:
 
Excuse silent movement - habit of profession.  (To Kemp)

Much honored to be of humble service to British lion.  (To Sir Lionel Bashford regarding his being congratulated by Sir Lionel Bashford for his work on the "Barstow case")

(Sir Lionel Bashford: "You certainly have sharp eyes, Mr. Chan.")  Humble eyes have much practice.

World is large - and me, a lowly Chinaman.  (To Pamela Gray)

Ancient history not necessary.  (To Geoffrey Richmond who had begun to tell Charlie Chan about the mutual dislike between Hamilton and Paul Gray)

Time is enemy here.  (To Geoffrey Richmond)
 
(Major Jardine: "I decided to mind my own business.")  Admirable British quality.
 
No time to expose lies, must expose truth(To Geoffrey Richmond)

Regret do not understand English, only American.  (To Geoffrey Richmond)
 
Control of noble animal by lowly man - most interesting.  (To Geoffrey Richmond regarding Lake's ability to quiet the horse Hellcat)
 
I am very curious man.  (To Lake)

More fear, more talk. More talk, more chance for us.  (To Pamela Gray regarding Lake's reticence)

(Geoffrey Richmond: "Aren't you rather jumping at conclusions?")  No, conclusions jump at me.

Lake cannot talk, but death talks.  (To Pamela Gray after Lake was found murdered)

Case like inside of radio - many connections, not all related.  (To Geoffrey Richmond)
 
(Richmond: "You mean you've got something?")  Much, but do not know what is.  Frequent state of mind for detective.

Charlie Chan very curious man, want the answer to many questions.   (To Geoffrey Richmond)
 
You are good marksman, Sergeant, you hit bull's-eye.  (To Detective Sergeant Thatcher who had just stated the obvious)

(Commander King: "I don't catch your drift, Mr. Chan.")  Drift catch me.
 
(Neil Howard: "There you are.  I told you I'd find them."  [Following a high-speed car ride])  Nearly find ancestors.

(Paul Gray: [Offering a toast]  "To the greatest detective in the world.")  No, not very good detective, just lucky old Chinaman.



REVIEW:

Variety, September 18, 1934

As mystery stories go this is well above average.  The most conspicuous item about "London" is that although it is not by the creator of the Chan series, the tempo is so well imitated by Phillip MacDonald it would pass as an original Biggers composition.  In achieving this the production owes a lot of credit to Warner Oland, for whom the Chan role now is veritably a second nature.

Most of the action takes place on luxurious interior sets of a wealthy country home in England.  The story takes advantage of the locale to inject a fox hunt, which adds color without being superfluous.  In fact every situation, and there are many, has a definite position in the story.

An actor less talented for this particular part than Oland, and a necessary dependence upon dialog to thread the continuity would probably confuse the audience.  Although he talks all the time, with a Chinese proverb planted here and there, Oland possesses such complete at-home amiability in the part as to lend it and most of the cast a positive naturalness.  Just who committed the murder is not paid off in any detail until the last
reel. Suspicion starts with a stableman and a lawyer.  No audience will be able to dope in advance that the genial host of the country home is the guilty party. While the cast is well chosen its members are so completely subjugated to Chan's importance - he is in every sequence, and flash - that they impress collectively rather than as individual players.



FILM NOTES:

THE DATE OF CHARLIE CHAN'S INVOLVEMENT WITH THIS CASE: April 2, 1934 (As was seen on one of the London newspapers announcing that Paul Gray was to be hanged in three days.) 

DURATION:  Three days on the actual case and probably about one week total including work done after the solution of the case
 
LOCATIONS: London, England and countryside environs (Retfordshire)
 
THE LONDON PLANET PLACARD HEADLINE:

THE  LONDON DAILY POST (12 O'CLOCK EDITION) HEADLINE AND STORY:

UNKNOWN NEWSPAPER HEADLINE AND SUB-HEADS:

THE LONDON GAZETTE PLACARD HEADLINE:

THE PRISON WHERE PAUL GRAY AWAITED EXECUTION: Pentonville Prison, London
 
THE TIME, ACCORDING TO GEOFFREY RICHMOND, OF HIS AND PAMELA GRAY'S SCHEDULED APPOINTMENT WITH THE HOME SECRETARY, SIR LIONELL BASHFORD: "We've got to be at the Home Secretary's office by 12:30 [p.m.]." (Tuesday)
 
THE CASE THAT BROUGHT CHARLIE CHAN TO LONDON:  The "Barstow case."  Charlie Chan caught Barstow in Honolulu and brought him to England.  (Miss Judson: "Was that the Chinese detective who caught Barstow in Honolulu and brought him back over here?  Kemp: "Yes, a wonderful piece of detective work.") (Sir Lionel Bashford: "It's remarkable, Mr. Chan, how you ever suspected Barstow.  He puts up an excellent front.")
 
ANOTHER PAST CASE MENTIONED THAT WAS SOLVED BY CHARLIE CHAN: The "Martin case" (related to Sir Lionell Bashford by the "Chief Inspector of Police") (Sir Lionel Bashford: "He [the Chief Inspector] said no other detective in the world could have solved it.")
 
PAMELA GRAY'S TELEPHONE NUMBER: Knightbridge 4243
 
CHARLIE CHAN'S LONDON HOTEL ROOM NUMBER: 624
 
THE TIME AS PAMELA GRAY AND NEIL HOWARD VISIT CHARLIE CHAN'S HOTEL ROOM: 4 p.m. (Tuesday - with 65 hours remaining until Paul Gray's execution)  (Charlie Chan: "In one hour, catch train for boat to Honolulu.")
 
BASED ON THE ABOVE, THE SCHEDULED DEPARTURE TIME OF CHARLIE CHAN'S TRAIN: 5 p.m.
 
ACCORDING TO NEIL HOWARD, THE DAY AND TIME SET FOR PAUL GRAY'S EXECUTION: "...nine o'clock on Friday morning."
 
ACCORDING TO NEIL HOWARD, THE DATE OF THE "STABLE MURDER": "...three months ago." (February 1934?)
 
THE LOCATION OF GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S COUNTRY HOME: Retfordshire
 
THE TIME SHOWN ON THE LARGE CLOCK ON THE OUTSIDE OF GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S HOME: 9:23 (p.m.)
 
THE NAME OF LADY MARY BRISTOL'S HORSE: Hellcat
 
GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S OPINION OF HELLCAT: "She's nappy."
 
WHEN, ACCORDING TO GEOFFREY RICHMOND, THAT HE AND LADY MARY BRISTOL WERE TO BE MARRIED: "...in a month..."
 
THE ROOM GIVEN TO PAMELA GRAY AT GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S HOME: The West Room
 
THE TIME OF CHARLIE CHAN'S ARRIVAL AT GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S HOME: Probably after 11 p.m. (Tuesday).
 
THE TIME AS CHARLIE CHAN DISCUSSES THE GRAY CASE WITH THE ASSEMBLED GUESTS AT GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S HOME:  About midnight (Paul Gray was to be executed "in 57 hours")
 
THE "STABLE MURDER" VICTIM: Captain Hamilton of the Royal Air Force
 
ACCORDING TO GEOFFREY RICHMOND, THE PERSONS WHO OVERHEARD CAPT. HAMILTON AND PAUL GRAY ARGUING ON THE NIGHT OF HAMILTON'S MURDER: "Mr. Fothergill, Major Jardine, and Mr. Garton."
 
THE SUBJECT OF THE ARGUMENT BETWEEN HAMILTON AND GRAY, ACCORDING TO MAJOR JARDIN: "It was about that chorus girl."
 
THE INVESTIGATIVE TECHNIQUE USED BY CHARLIE CHAN: Reconstruction (Charlie Chan: "Method of French police - sometime very good.")
 
ACCORDING TO GEOFFREY RICHMOND, THE LOCATION WHERE HAMILTON'S BODY WAS FOUND: "In the stables near the end box."
 
THE TERM GIVEN BY LAKE FOR HIS LIVING QUARTERS ABOVE THE STABLES: "Loose box"
 
THE THREE QUESTIONS THAT CHARLIE CHAN ASKED LAKE (WITH LAKE'S ANSWERS):
 
1. Charlie Chan: "You were in this 'box' [living quarters] when murder was done?"
(Lake: "No...I wasn't here because it was me night off.")
 
2. Charlie Chan: "Second question: This noble animal  - he was here, in same place on night of murder?"
(Lake: "If you mean Hellcat, she's a mare.  Yes, of course she was here.")
 
3. Charlie Chan: "Third question: You did not, then, see body of Hamilton lying there?"
(Lake: "I tell you I wasn't here!  I was out!  It was me night off!")
 
THE NAME USED BY CHARLIE CHAN TO REFER TO HELLCAT: "Cat of Hell"
 
THE TIME AS CHARLIE CHAN LEFT RICHMOND'S HOME TO LOOK FOR CLUES: 6 a.m. (Wednesday)
 
THE APPROXIMATE TIME AS CHARLIE CHAN FINDS THAT LAKE HAS BEEN MURDERED: About 9 a.m. (Wednesday - 48 hours until Paul Gray was to be hanged)
 
ACCORDING TO DETECTIVE SGT. THACKER, THE CAUSE OF LAKE'S DEATH: "Suicide."
 
DETECTIVE SERGEANT THAKER'S NAME FOR CHARLIE CHAN: "Mr. Chang"
 
THE TIME AS PAMELA GRAY VISITS HER BROTHER, PAUL, AGAIN AT PENTONVILLE PRISON: Wednesday at 1:00 p.m.  (Paul Gray: "...in forty hours...I'll be DEAD..!)
 
THE NAME OF ONE OF THE TWO PRISON GUARDS WATCHING PAUL GRAY: Bostock
 
NEIL HOWARD'S SELF-DESCRIPTION AS GIVEN TO SGT. THACKER: "Surname: Howard, Christian name, Neil; profession: barrister-at-law; financial position: sound; health: good; social standing: somewhat --"
 
THE DAY OF THE FOX HUNT: Thursday (morning)
 
THE TIME AS CHARLIE CHAN LEFT GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S HOME FOR FARNWELL AERODROME: 7 a.m.
 
THE VEHICLE USED BY CHARLIE CHAN TO REACH THE AERODROME: Geoffrey Richmond's Rolls Royce
 
ONE OF CAPT. HAMILTON'S INVENTIONS, ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDANT AT FARNWELL AERODROME: "...the adaptation of the Merton gyroscopic stabilizer."
 
ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDANT, THE DATE WHEN CAPT. HAMILTON'S LAST INVENTION WAS COMPLETED: "...about eighteen months ago."
 
ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDANT, THE NAME OF HAMILTON'S ONLY FRIEND: Flight Commander King
 
THE INVENTION MENTIONED BY COMMANDER KING THAT HAMILTON HAD WORKED ON JUST PRIOR TO HIS DEATH: "He had a wild scheme for silencing war planes."
 
THE TIME AS CHARLIE CHAN RETURNS TO RICHMOND'S HOME FRON THE AERODROME: 11:00 a.m. (Thursday - 22 hours before Paul Gray was to be hanged)
 
LADY MARY BRISTOL'S NOTE TO CHARLIE CHAN:

ACCORDING TO NEIL HOWARD, THE SPEED THAT HE HAD GOTTEN OUT OF HIS CAR: "...a hundred and twenty..."
 
ACCORDING TO THE DOCTOR, THE EXTENT OF LADY MARY BRISTOL'S INJURIES: "A serious fracture at the base of the skull."
 
THE NURSE'S STATEMENT TO JERRY GARTON REGARDING LADY MARY BRISTOL: "I think she has a very good chance...She'll be unconscious for at least twenty-four hours."
 
THE TIME, GIVEN BY THE PRISON GUARD IN ANSWER TO PAUL GRAY'S QUESTION REGARDING THE TIME: "A quarter of five." (Friday morning)
 
THE TIME AS SHOWN ON THE CLOCK AT GEOFFREY RICHMOND'S HOME: 5 a.m. (Friday - four hours until Paul Gray's scheduled hanging)
 
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE CURRENT SIZE OF HIS FAMILY: "...twelve children and one wife."

 
 

GLOSSARY:

aerodrome - (Chiefly British)  An airfield equipped with control tower and hangers as well as accommodations for passengers and cargo. 
Charlie Chan: "To aerodrome at Farnwell."
 
Chinaman - (Today considered offensive)  A person of Chinese descent.
Charlie Chan: "No, not very good detective, just lucky old Chinaman."
 
deuce - (Informal)  Used as an intensive
Geoffrey Richmond: "What the deuce!"
 
hush money - (Slang)  A bribe paid to keep something secret.
Charlie Chan: "Hush money, given by murderer."
 
nappy(Mainly British)  Of a horse that is jumpy or irritable; nervy.
Charlie Chan in London - Geoffrey Richmond: "She's [the horse Hellcat] nappy."
 
Pentonville prison - Opened in 1840 in London, England, Pentonville prison became the model for British prisons.  Between 1902 and 1961, 120 men were hanged at Pentonville, and this prison remains a major London prison to this day.
 
tomfoolery - (1) Foolish behavior.  (2) Something trivial or foolish; nonsense.
Major Jardine: "If you think I'm going on with this tomfoolery..."
 
For a complete list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.

 
 

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