The House on Punchbowl Hill





















Charlie Chan in Honolulu

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Distributed: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Production: October 31 to late November 1938
Previewed: Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California, December 16, 1938
Copyright: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, January 13, 1939; LP8722
Sound: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 7 reels, 6,074 feet
Running Time: 67-68 minutes
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 4861
Source: Based on the character "Charlie Chan" created by Earl Derr Biggers

Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel (not credited)
Associate Producer: John Stone
Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
Assistant Director: Saul Wurtzel (not credited)
Original Screenplay: Charles Belden
Contributing Writer: Chandler Sprague (not credited)
Photography: Charles Clarke
Art Direction: Richard Day and Haldane Douglas
Film Editor: Nick DeMaggio
Set Decorations: Thomas Little
Costumes: Helen A. Myron
Musical Direction: Samuel Kaylin
Sound: Joseph E. Aiken and William H. Anderson
Casting Director: James Ryan (not credited)  

CAST:

Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Phyllis Brooks: Judy Hayes
Sen Yung: James [Jimmy] Chan
Eddie Collins: Al Hogan
John King: [Chief Officer George] Randolph
Claire Dodd: Mrs. Carol Wayne (alias Mrs. Elsie Hillman)
George Zucco: Dr. Cardigan
Robert Barrat: Captain Johnson
Marc Lawrence: Johnny ["Mac"] McCoy
Richard Lane: [Detective] Joe Arnold 
Layne Tom, Jr.: Tommy Chan
Philip Ahn: Wing Foo
Paul Harvey: [Chief] Inspector Rawlins
Grace Key: Mrs. Chan (not credited)
Florence Ung: Ling (not credited)
Iris Wong: Number Two Chan Daughter (not credited)
Barbara Jean Wong: Number Three Chan Daughter (not credited)
Faye Lee: Number Four Chan Daughter (not credited)
Margie Lee: Number Five Chan Daughter (not credited)
Sinclair Yip: Older Chan Son (not credited)
David Dong: Chan Son (not credited)
Frank Dong: Chan Son (not credited)
Allen Hoo: Chan Son (not credited)
Al Kikume: Police Officer (not credited)
Arthur Loft: Peabody (not credited)
Grace Hayle: Stout Woman (not credited)
Shirley Louie: Telephone Operator (not credited)
James Pierce: Police Officer (not credited)
Constantine Romanoff: "Stanislav Usepopokovski" (not credited)
James Spencer: Hawaiian Peddler (not credited)
Blue Washington: Seaman (not credited)
Billy Wayne: Seaman (not credited)
Richard Alexander: Tough Sailor with Cigar (not credited)
James Flavin: Desk Officer (not credited)  



SUMMARY:

Charlie Chan, enjoying dinner with his "multitudinous family," receives news from his son-in-law, Wing Foo, of the immanent arrival of his first grandchild.  After Chan, Wing Foo, and most of the family rush off to the hospital, a call comes in for the detective to investigate a murder aboard the passenger freighter Susan B. Jennings.  Chan's number two son, Jimmy, who wants to start a detective practice of his own, is persuaded by his younger brother Tommy to answer the call himself, and prove to his Pop that he is a good investigator.

Tommy secretly tags along as Jimmy goes to the freighter which has just arrived in Honolulu from Shanghai.  Captain Johnson assumes that Jimmy is the famous Charlie Chan, and explains that the murdered man's identity is a mystery, and that secretary Judy Hayes is the only eyewitness to the fatal shooting.  Jimmy decides to question the rest of the freighters' passengers, who include animal keeper Al Hogan, Mrs. Carol Wayne, psychiatrist Dr. Cardigan, criminal Johnny McCoy, and police detective Joe Arnold, who is taking McCoy back to the U.S. from Shanghai.

Judy reveals that that her lawyer employer in Shanghai had told her to deliver a package containing $300,000 to a man who was to meet her in Honolulu.  The man, who had identified himself by a pre-arranged signal, was shot by an unknown assailant before the transaction could be completed.

First mate George Randolph, who has fallen in love with Judy, takes Jimmy on deck to interview the surly crewmembers.  Jimmy's questioning angers the rough bunch, and when Joe Arnold appears and declares that Jimmy is no more Charlie Chan than he himself is, the group picks up the amateur sleuth in order to toss him overboard.  Boarding the ship and calmly witnessing the event with a reserved smile, Charlie Chan, who had received news of the murder from his boss, Inspector Rawlins, while at the hospital, stops the crew members, noting, "Honolulu police frown on choking bay with bodies."

Chan questions Carol Wayne, who states that she was on the freighter to rest while her suit for divorce was being heard, and that she had recently become a widow anyway.  Continuing his search aboard the freighter, Chan finds a wrapper for some of the missing money in Dr. Cardigan's cabin.  The detective becomes more suspicious of Judy when she slips off of the ship to call her employer about the stolen funds during the momentary commotion caused by Oscar the lion's appearance on the gangplank.

Wayne reveals that Randolph had given Judy a gun with which to protect herself.  Upon examination of the weapon, Chan finds that one shot has been fired.  Randolph explains that he had earlier used the gun to shoot at a shark that was following the ship.  Judy then protests to Randolph that she is being framed when he questions her about the missing money that had been found hidden in her cabin.

Later, after Chan and Jimmy find Carol Wayne strangled in her cabin with a scarf, and the missing money is found in the possession of McCoy, who had hidden it in a lifeboat.  Chan announces that Arnold is in reality Mike Harrigan, who, while in league with McCoy, had murdered the real Detective Arnold after escaping from prison.  The detective then calls everyone to meet in Captain Johnson's cabin.

CONCLUSION:

Before the meeting, Chan, with the help of Dr. Cardigan, sets a trap to catch the murderer.  After the group assembles, Chan reveals that Carol Wayne was actually Mrs. Elsie Hillman, the dead man's wife.  Judy states that although she did not know about Carol, she was delivering the money to the man so that he would not have to declare it in his divorce settlement.

Chan's trap works, as the killer shuts off the lights and attempts to grab the murder weapon, triggering a hidden flash camera.  After Dr. Cardigan develops the film, the resulting image reveals that the murderer is Captain Johnson.  Chan explains that Johnson had killed Mr. Hillman in order to get the money the money.  When Carol had later become suspicious of him, he killed her, too.

Minutes before, during the meeting, Chan had received a call from Wing Foo announcing that he was about to become a father.  He is called by Tommy, who, now back at the hospital, holds the telephone receiver near the newborn baby as the proud detective listens as his grandson cries into the phone.

NOTES: This film was the first in which Sidney Toler appeared as Charlie Chan.  According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, associate producer John Stone had chosen Toler to be the successor to Warner Oland, who had played Chan from 1931 until his death in 1938, after seeing him play a Chinese character in the Paramount film King of Chinatown.  Toler was the thirty-fifth actor tested for the role, with Hollywood Reporter noting that others considered for the role included Leo Carillo and Cy Kendal, who had played Chan on the radio.  Toler continued to play Chan until his death in 1947.  This was also the first film in which Sen Yung played Jimmy Chan.  Yung had replaced Keye Luke, who had portrayed Lee Chan in earlier entries in the series.  Luke left the series after Oland's death, when he and Twentieth Century-Fox disagreed on his new contract.  According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the search for Luke's replacement was "frantic," and led to casting director James Ryan seeking applicants among the Los Angeles university students and Chinatown residents.  The New York Times had speculated that Charlie Chan in Honolulu would cost $300,000 to produce, and that Toler would receive $15,000 per Chan film.  Many reviewers applauded Toler's and Yung's performances and noted that followers of the series would be satisfied with the new actors.  The Motion Picture Herald review remarked on the novelty of a Chan film being previewed at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and stated that the December 16, 1938 showing was very well received by the "top ranking executives, the most sought after reviewers and commentators and invited guests" who attended.  According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Richard Lane was originally signed to play the "romantic lead" opposite Phyllis Brooks.  A tribute to Warner Oland appears in the film Mr. Moto's Last Warning, starring Peter Lorre.  During that picture's production in August 1938, cast and crew learned of Oland's passing in his native Sweden while on the final leg of a tour of Europe.  Oland was set to resume his role as Charlie Chan upon his return in a film that was to have been Charlie Chan in Honolulu.  In one scene during a quick passing shot over the title "Charlie Chan in Honolulu," starring Warner Oland, on the bill of the Sultana Theatre of Variety, they placed the banner "Last Day."

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



CHARLIE CHAN'S APHORISMS:

Ancient ancestor once say, "As mind is fed with silent thought, so should body absorb its food."

Bills sometimes more difficult to collect than murder clues.

Hospital is for sick, not playground for healthy.

When money talk, few are deaf.

Opinion like tea leaf in hot water - both need time for brewing.

Making bedfellow of serpent no guarantee against snakebite.

Caution very good life insurance.

Bait only good if fish bite on same.
 
Photograph does not lie.


OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:

Save football tactics for gridiron.  (To his children at the dinner table)

(Jimmy: "I could probably be the best [detective] in the Islands with your help.")  Am afraid you overestimate ability of parent.

Do not ridicule good intentions of elder brother.  (To his children who were ridiculing their brother Jimmy after expressing his desire to become a detective)

Wrong flavor.  (To a nurse who presented him with a black newborn baby)

Honolulu police frown on choking bay with bodies.  (To the crew members of the Susan B. Jennings as they tried to toss Jimmy overboard)

(Capt. Johnson: "...who's this young squirt?!")  Young squirt merely chip masquerading as block.  (Regarding Jimmy)

(Jimmy: "I thought I'd handle the case myself. I was making headway, too!")  Making headway toward ship rail.
 
(Dr. Cardigan: [to Chan and Jimmy] "Pardon me, gentlemen, I thought this cabin was occupied only by the corpse.")  Sorry to disappoint. 

Have humble impression psychiatry of no value when brain cease to function.  (To Dr. Cardigan)

Young man suffer from over-developed impulses and under-developed control.  (To Dr. Cardigan regarding Jimmy)
 
(Joe Arnold: "Seems like I know you, I've seen your picture so many times.")  Not in Rogues' Gallery, I hope.

(Jimmy: "...I was almost unconscious!")  Have suspected same since birth!

Must compliment sparrow with eye of eagle.  (To Jimmy)

Unlike old adage, much smoke, but no fire.  (To Captain Johnson regarding the fire aboard his ship)

(Dr. Cardigan: "What a wonderful contribution to science your brain would make, Mr. Chan.")  Thank you so much, but for present would prefer to keep same for own use.

(Hogan: "Congratulations, Mr. Chan." [on the birth of Chan's grandson])  Contradiction, please.  In present case, am only innocent bystander.



REVIEW:

Variety, December 21, 1938

Adventures of Charlie Chan get off to a fresh start, with Sidney Toler handling the title role in most capable fashion.  His Chan has more poise and lightness, and is less theatric than previously.  Followers of the series should quickly accept him as Chan, and if comparisons with the late Warner Oland's conception are made they will generally be made in his favor.

Toler is not new to Oriental roles, having handled such assignments several times in recent years.  In addition to Toler, sees the temporary - and likely permanent - departure of Key [sic] Luke, who handled the part of Lee Chan, oldest son of the detective.  Second son, Jimmy, is introduced to carry prominent spot in future pictures.  Sen Yung has been tied by the studio for the role, but possible return of Key [sic] Luke is carried in dialog, which describes his departure for art school in the east.

Replacement of Key [sic] Luke was necessary, due to contract difficulties between 20th and the Chinese player on a new deal.

Story is of standard murder-mystery pattern, with the wily Chan assigned to clear it up and disclose the culprit's identity.  This time it's aboard a tramper which drops anchor in Honolulu bound for the U.S. Victim is shot while boarding the ship, and Chan ties up the boat until he can round up the suspects and catch the murderer.

While Chan is awaiting birth of his first grandchild, son Sen Yung ambitiously takes the assignment in his father's place, complicating matters until the arrival of Toler to speedily clear matters by standard devious procedure.

Eddie Collins romps through with several comedy passages as the keeper of a shipment of wild animals aboard, rating numerous laughs with routines with a tame lion that is allowed to wander loose in the hold.  George Zucco is good as the doctor at whom suspicion is directed by the audience until the murderer is uncovered.

Story is typical of previous Chan murder mysteries, providing several suspects for Chan to gradually
eliminate.  It's all quite interesting, with direction okay for this type of picture.

'Chan in Honolulu' measures up to mark set by previous releases of the series, and will prove a good programmer, especially in those spots where series enjoys a good following.



FILM NOTES:

POSSIBLE DATE: Fall 1938 (as Lee has recently begun attending a "New York art school")
 
DURATION: One day 

LOCATION: Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii
 
LEE CHAN'S WHEREABOUTS, ACCORDING TO JIMMY CHAN: "...the New York art school."

THE TEXT OF JIMMY CHAN'S NEW BUSINESS CARD:
 
"JAMES CHAN
ASSOCIATED WITH
CHARLIE CHAN, Private Detective
Expert in Criminology, Ballistics
(Bills Also Collected)"
 
THE ITEMS "OFFERED" BY CHAN FAMILY MEMBERS FOR JIMMY CHAN'S HOPED-FOR DETECTIVE'S OFFICE:
 
Charlie Chan: "Will donate one desk and one hat rack to same."
 
Tommy: "I'll give you a couple of old blotters."
 
Unidentified Sister: "I have some nice rubber bands you may have, too."

THE NAME OF THE FREIGHTER WHERE THE MURDER OCCURRED: S.S. Susan B. Jennings

ACCORDING TO THE HOMICIDE BUREAU OFFICER,THE LOCATION OF THE SUSAN B. JENNINGS WHEN THE MURDER OCCURRED: "...off Kaneho (Kaneha) Point."
 
ACCORDING TO CAPTAIN JOHNSON, THE NUMBER OF PASSENGERS ABOARD THE SUSAN B. JENNINGS:  "...just six."
 
THE NAMES THAT DR. CARDIGAN, WHILE FEIGNING POOR HEARING, CALLED JIMMY CHAN: "Mr. Ham" and "Mr. Clam"

ACCORDING TO JUDY HAYES, WHEN THE ATTORNEY IN SHANGHAI HAD HER SAIL TO HONOLULU ABOARD THE SUSAN B. JENNINGS: "Two weeks ago..."

ACCORDING TO JUDY HAYES, THE AMOUNT OF MONEY SHE WAS CARRYING: "300 thousand dollars."

THE NAME OF THE LION IN THE CARE OF ANIMAL KEEPER AL HOGAN: Oscar
 
THE DESTINATION OF THE ANIMALS ABOARD THE SUSAN B. JENNINGS, ACCORDING TO AL HOGAN: "I'm takin' them to a 'Frisco zoo."

THE NAME GIVEN, WHEN ASKED BY JIMMY CHAN, BY THE NON-ENGLISH-SPEAKING SUSAN B. JENNINGS CREW MEMBER: "Stanislav Usepopokovski"
 
CHARLIE CHAN'S CURRENT DETECTIVE RANK: Lieutenant (Charlie Chan: "Lieutenant Chan, Honolulu Police.")
 
THE TYPE OF COIN TOSSED BY CHARLIE CHAN TO TEST THE HEARING OF DR. CARDIGAN: A silver dollar

THE "MISTAKEN" REFERENCE MADE BY CHARLIE CHAN REGARDING HIS SON TOMMY: "Number five son."

THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN THE CHAN FAMILY AT THIS POINT: 13  (Charlie Chan: "Nine more at home.") Of the Chans' 13 children, two were not living at home.  Daughter Ling was married and was in the hospital having the Chans' first grandchild, and son Lee was, according to Jimmy Chan "at the New York art school."  With sons Jimmy and Tommy both aboard the Susan B. Jennings, there were, indeed, "nine more at home." 
 
THE NAME OF ONE OF THREE HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT. OFFICERS AT THE SUSAN B. JENNINGS MENTIONED BY CHARLIE CHAN: Molokai

THE INSCRIPTION ON THE RING OF THE MURDER VICTIM AS READ BY CHARLIE CHAN: "Engraving say: E.H. to R.H."
 
ACCORDING TO JUDY HAYES, THE NAME OF THE PERSON WHO SENT HER TO HONOLULU WITH THE MONEY: "Mr. John Emory of Shanghai."
 
ACCORDING TO JUDY HAYES, HER POSITION WITH JOHN EMORY: "I'm just a secretary..."
 
ACCORDING TO DR. CARDIGAN, THE IDENTITY OF THE BRAIN THAT HE HAD KEPT ALIVE FOR SIX MONTHS: "That of Chang Ho Ping, the famous Chinese murderer."

THE MONEY AMOUNT PRINTED ON THE MONEY BAND FOUND BY CHARLIE CHAN IN DR. CARDIGAN'S CABIN: "$10,000"

THE NAME OF THE BANK PRINTED ON THE MONEY BAND: "National Bank of Shanghai"

AL HOGAN'S AGE, ACCORDING TO HIMSELF: "I make it...37."

JOHNNY MC COY'S SENTENCE, ACCORDING TO JOE ARNOLD: "...a hundred and ten years, counting time off for good behavior."

DR. CARDIGAN'S CABIN NUMBER: C

ACCORDING TO WING FOO, THE FIRST FOOD ITEM DESIRED BY LING IN THE HOSPITAL: "...watermelon."

ACCORDING TO WING FOO, THE NAMES CHOSEN FOR THE NEW BABY: "Lotus, Cherry - Leng if it's a boy." (NOTE: Leng is pronounced "Lung")

THE HEIGHT OF JUDY HAYES ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: "Five feet, five inches tall."

THE HOTEL USED BY DR. CARDIGAN IN SHANGHAI: The Shanghai Hotel

THE ITEMS THAT DR. CARDIGAN ADMITTED "STEALING" FROM HIS HOTEL: "Two bars of soap"

THE DRINK REQUESTED BY CAROL WAYNE OF CAPTAIN JOHNSON: Brandy

THE TIME INDICATED BY THE SHIP'S BELL OF THE SUSAN B. JENNINGS: Six bells (7:00 p.m.)
 
THE INSCRIPTION ON CAROL WAYNE'S (ELSIE HILLMAN'S) BRACELET, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: "R.H. to E.H."
 
CAROL WAYNE'S CABIN NUMBER: A
 
JUDY HAYES' (ELSIE HILLMAN'S) CABIN NUMBER: B
 
JIMMY CHAN - "IT WAS A TRICK YOU ONCE TRIED, REMEMBER?": Jimmy used a "trick" similar to that noted by his Pop and brother Lee in "Charlie Chan at the Race Track," which also related to a match book "time fuse" being used to set a relatively harmless fire aboard ship.
 
THE NAME OF THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE OWNERS OF THE SUSAN B. JENNINGS: Mr. Peabody  

THE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER ON MIKE HANNIGAN'S WANTED POSTER MUG SHOT: 95066
 
THE CRIME FOR WHICH MIKE HANNIGAN WAS WANTED: Murder 

THE LOCATION AND TIME OF THE DISCOVERY OF THE REAL JOE ARNOLD'S BODY ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: "Recovered from Yangtze River in China ten days ago."

ACCORDING TO WING FOO, THE SECOND FOOD ITEM, DESIRED BY LING: "...gumdrops."

ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE KNOT USED TO TIE SCARF AROUND THE NECK OF CAROL WAYNE (ELSIE HILLMAN): "...a sailor's knot."

THE NAME OF CHARLIE CHAN'S NEW GRANDSON: Leng (as the baby was a boy)

 
 

GLOSSARY:

all wet - (Slang)  Entirely mistaken.
Charlie Chan in Honolulu - Johnny McCoy: "You're all wet!"
 
big house - (Slang)  A prison. 
Joe Arnold: "The boys will love him back at the big house."
 
bilge water - (Slang)  Nonsense.
Captain Johnson: "Aw, bilge water!"
 
boner (Slang)  A blunder or an error.
Joe Arnold: "Pull another boner like that and I'll losen up that thick skull of yours."
 
cannon (Slang)  A gun.
Al Hogan: "...somebody drops this cannon down the ventilator."

chump - A stupid or foolish person; a dolt

Joe Arnold: "...this chump don't look any more like him than I do!" 

cockeyed (Slang)  Foolish; ridiculous; absurd.
Joe Arnold [Mike Hannigan]: "Where do you get that cockeyed dope?"
 
cop a sneak (Slang)  Steal.
Johnny McCoy: "Who wouldn't try to cop a sneak with his hooks on 300 grand?"
 
dame - (Slang)  A woman.
Joe Arnold: "You wouldn't be the first dame..."
 
dick (Slang)  A detective.
Johnny McCoy: "You're acting just like a dick."
 
dope (Slang)  Factual information, especially of a private nature.
Joe Arnold [Mike Hannigan]: "Where do you get that cockeyed dope?"
 
eggs (Slang)  Persons.
Randolph: "...some of them are pretty tough eggs."
 
frame - (Slang)  Made up evidence or contrive events so as to falsely incriminate a person. Charlie Chan in Honolulu - Randolf: "They were trying to frame her."
 
framing - (see: frame) 
Judy Hayes: "It was a beautiful little piece of framing..."
 
grand - (Slang)  A thousand (usually dollars).
Johnny McCoy: "Who wouldn't try to cop a sneak with his hooks on 300 grand?"
 
heavy sugar (Slang)  Flattery (from the opposite sex.)
Joe Arnold: "You wouldn't be the first dame in the world to fall for heavy sugar."
 
hep (Slang)  Keenly aware of or knowledgeable about the latest trends or developments.
Joe Arnold: "If he ever gets hep that I'm Mike Hannigan..."
 
hooks (Slang)  Hands.
Johnny McCoy: "Who wouldn't try to cop a sneak with his hooks on 300 grand?"
 
hot seat (Slang)  An electric chair.
Joe Arnold: "That's when I end up on the hot seat..."
 
on the up and up (Slang)  Open and honest. 
Joe Arnold: "Do you think she's on the up and up?"
 
pinch - (Slang)  To take into custody; arrest.
Joe Arnold: "I ought to pinch you for impersonating an officer!"
 
pipe down - (Slang)  To stop talking; be quiet.
Randolph: "Pipe down, all of you!"
 
racket - (Slang)  A business or occupation.
Joe Arnold: "Yeah, what's your racket?"
 
sap (Slang)  A gullible person; a dupe.
Joe Arnold: "...that Chan guy is no sap."
 
snappy (Slang)  Lively or energetic; brisk. 
Charlie Chan: "Make short and most snappy, please."
 
squirt - (Slang)  A small or young person.
Captain Johnson: "...who is this young squirt."
 
stem to stern (Nautical idiom)  Front to back, throughout.
Joe Arnold: "I've been around this tub from stem to stern..."
 
stevedores - Workers who are employed in the loading or unloading of ships.
Captain Johnson: "We've just docked and a gang of stevedores will be on board any minute."
 
stir bug (Slang)  A prisoner.
Joe Arnold: "Wait'll I get my hands on that stir bug!"
 
take a powder (Idiom)  To make a quick departure; run away.
Joe Arnold: "Trying to take a powder on me, eh?"  
 
tommy rot - (Slang)  Utter foolishness; nonsense.
Captain Johnson: "I've listened to enough of this tommy rot!"
 
tub (Slang)  A wide, clumsy, slow-moving boat.
Joe Arnold: "I've been around this tub from stem to stern..."
 
washed up - (Slang)  To be eliminated or be eliminated as unsatisfactory.
Captain Johnson: "I'd like to get this case washed up as soon as possible."
 
yammering (Informal)  (1) Complaining peevishly or whimperingly; whine.  (2) Talking volubly and loudly.
Captain Johnson: "I have enough trouble without all this yammering."
 
For a complete list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.

 
 

Return to The Films of Charlie Chan

Return to Charlie Chan Family Home ENTRANCE