The House on Punchbowl Hill





















Shadows Over Chinatown


Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, July 27, 1946
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, July 5, 1946; LP420
Sound: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Film: Black and white
Running Time: 64 minutes
Source: Based on the character created by Earl Derr Biggers
 


Producer: James S. Burkett
Director: Terry Morse
Assistant Director: William Callahan, Jr.
Original Screenplay: Raymond Scrock
Photography: William Sickner
Technical Director: Dave Milton
Supervising Film Editor: Richard Currier
Editor: Ralph Dixon
Musical Director: Edward J. Kay
Technical Director: Dave Asilton 
Recording: Tom Lambert
Makeup: Harry Ross
Production Manager: Glenn Cook
  

CAST:

Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Victor Sen Young: Jimmy Chan
Tanis Chandler: Mary Conover (alias Mary McCoy)
John Gallaudet: Jeff Hay (alias for Craig Winfield) 
Paul Bryar: Mike Rogan
Bruce Kellogg: [Corporal] Jack Tilford (alias Joe Thomas; Corporal Joe Thompson)
Alan Bridge: Captain Allen
Mary Gordon: Mrs. Conover
Dorothy Granger: Joan Mercer
Jack Norton: Cosgrove
George Eldredge: Lannigan
Tyra Vaughn: Miss Chalmers
Lyle Latell: Police Clerk
Myra McKinney: Kate Johnson
Harry Depp: Dr. Denby 
Gladys Blake: Myrtle
Jack Mower: Hobart (not credited)
Jack Hamilton: Pronnet (not credited) 
Charlie Jordan: Jenkins (not credited)
Louise Franklin: Maid (not credited)
Frank Mayo: Police Lieutenant (not credited)
Kit Carson: Hotel Clerk (not credited)
Doris Fulton: Angie (not credited)
Jimmy Dugan: Police driver (not credited)
James B. Leong: Chinese Curio Shop Owner (not credited)
George Chan (not credited)



SUMMARY:

Charlie Chan and his number two son, Jimmy, along with chauffeur Birmingham Brown are all on a bus heading south to San Francisco during a rainy night to investigate a murder case involving an unidentified armless, legless, headless torso.  A short time later, when the bus breaks down, the group takes refuge from the storm inside a bus station waiting room.  Suddenly, a hand holding a gun reaches through an open window and shoots at Chan.  The detective falls to the floor, apparently badly wounded.  While Jimmy and others try to assist the unconscious detective, Chan recovers, discovering that he was saved by a pocket watch, now embedded with the assailant's bullet, that was given to him as a birthday gift from his number two son.

Soon, several of the passengers find that they have been robbed.  After they are joined by a U.S. Marine on leave named Jack Tillford, who is momentarily suspected of being the person who shot at Chan, the detective speaks privately to another passenger, Cosgrove.  Chan suggests that he return the items that he has stolen, in exchange for not revealing his crime.  "Goods returned, crime avoided," suggests the detective.  The grateful pickpocket promises to return the favor in the future.

Back on the bus, after the necessary repairs have been made, Chan learns that Mrs. Conover is traveling to San Francisco to search for her missing granddaughter, Mary.  He tells the concerned woman that he will do what he can to help her find her missing loved one.

In San Francisco, Chan, Jimmy, and Birmingham visit the Bureau of Missing Persons, where the detective reveals to Captain Allen that he has two purposes: The first, on behalf of an insurance company, is to discover the identity of the torso; the second is to learn the whereabouts of Mary Conover.  Chan suspects that the torso belongs to a former showgirl named Grace Gortner, whose wealthy husband, Homer B. Pendleton, had died after taking out a large insurance policy.  On Allen's desk, Chan sees a photograph of an AWOL (Away Without Leave) Marine, Corporal Joe Thompson, and realizes that he is the same person who had called himself "Tillford" at the bus station.

Chan returns to the hotel where Mrs. Conover is staying with her friend, Kate Johnston.  After reassuring her that the body, which has an appendectomy scar, cannot be that of her missing granddaughter, he and Jimmy have lunch in the hotel restaurant.  There, Chan recognizes their waitress as Mary Conover with dyed blonde hair. The detective leaves to bring Mary's grandmother to confirm her identity, but while he is gone, Mary is also recognized by her former employer, Mike Rogan.  Mary tries to sneak past Rogan and leaves the restaurant.  However, Rogan, who is on a pay phone informing his boss of his discovery, hurries out to follow the young woman.  Jimmy and Birmingham also follow, but, when Chan meets them at Mary's apartment, they are joined by private detective Jeff Hay, who informs Chan that he has followed their bus driver, who is actually Mike Rogan, to this location. Inside the apartment, they discover Kate's body, and Chan suspects that her killer had mistaken her for Mary Conover.

Chan returns to the Bureau of Missing Persons and learns that, before her marriage to Pendleton, Grace Gortner had once been in love with a man named Craig Winfield.  Thompson, the AWOL Marine, is picked up by the police, and he explains that he went AWOL in order to try to find Mary, with whom he is in love.  He adds that Mary had worked at an escort bureau and was frightened of her employer, Rogan.

When Chan returns to his hotel, Hay is waiting with the information that he has found Rogan in Chinatown. However, when they arrive there, they find that Rogan is dead.  Mary is then picked up.  She explains that Rogan had discovered that Thompson's father was wealthy and had suggested to her that she marry John, take out a large insurance policy, and become a wealthy widow.

CONCLUSION:

After reuniting Mary with her grandmother, Chan asks Mary to help him set a trap for the owner of the escort bureau.  At the bureau, Mary is waylaid by Hay, but when he runs into a police trap, and learns that Mary is part of it, Hay returns with her to the escort bureau.

In the meantime, a photograph has come over the police wire service that identifies Hay as Winfield.  Realizing that Mary is in great danger, Chan follows a hunch and finds Hay and Mary in Chinatown.  Although Hay tries to shoot Chan, Cosgrove, the pickpocket, who had earlier "bumped into" Hay, had removed the bullets from Hay's gun.  Chan then explains that it was Hay who had killed Kate Johnson, having mistaken her for Mary.  He was also the one who killed Rogan, in order to blame him for the other deaths, including the "Torso Murder."

NOTES: This film's working titles were Corpus Delecti and The Mandarin's Secret. Shadows Over Chinatown featured the return of Sen Yung (Victor Sen Young) as Charlie Chan's Number Two Son, whose previous appearance had been as a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on leave in Castle in the Desert (1942).  Victor Sen Yung's return to the Chan series, now being produced at Monogram Pictures, in a case of art mirroring life in the case of Jimmy Chan, followed his return to civilian life after having served in the Army Air Forces during the war.           

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

 
 

CHARLIE CHAN'S APHORISMS:

Numbers cannot control life expectancy.
 
Goods returned - crime prevented. 

Lending sympathetic ear to lady in distress is pleasure, not trouble.

Sometimes, surgeon's scar speak louder than fingerprints.

Confucius say, "Sleep only escape from yesterday."

Business conversation at table very bad for digestion.

Blond hair can be obtained from a bottle - or wigmaker.

Deception is bad game for amateurs.

Morbid curiosity sometimes draw murderer back to scene of crime.
 
Many criminals carry knife.

Ancient proverb say, "Never bait trap with wolf to catch wolf."

Cornered rat usually full of fight.


OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:

Momentarily I think United States lose one Chinese detective, but now I discover I am living on borrowed time.  (After being shot, but saved by his pocket watch)

Bullet intended as one-way journey to join honorable ancestors.  But birthday watch, given by number two son, altered trip.

Hot stove make all the world kin on a night like this.  (Regarding the cold and rainy night)

Stranger who seek refuge from storm should not object to proving his good intentions.

Always grateful for favors.

My sitting assistants will take chairs and again practice art of relaxation until I return.  (To Jimmy and Birmingham)

I am looking for something.  When I find what, I return and tell my assistants.  (To Jimmy and Birmingham)

As nurse say to father of newborn twins, "Pleasure is double."

You have shoestring on wrong foot - I come for your help.  (To Flannagan)

Number two son like flea on dog - always must have fine-toothed comb to find same.

Perhaps voice from dim past may lift curtain to oblivion.

(Jimmy: "Did you find out anything, Pop?")  Not enough to fill ear of gnat.

What Confucius say to this too terrible even for Charlie Chan to repeat.  (To Jimmy and Birmingham after their car runs out of gas)

Pieces of jigsaw puzzle gradually begin to fit together.

(Flannagan: "My private detective sure gets around, doesn't he?")  Like influenza epidemic, he cover wide territory, but accomplish very little good.

I recall story of farm hand who find cow he had lost by trying to figure out where he would go if he were cow.

 
 

REVIEW:

Variety, September 18, 1946

Standard Charlie Chan fare.  A slimly-budgeted film, "Shadows Over Chinatown" is cooked up from the familiar recipe of oriental epigrams and occasional corpses which have been the trademark of this series since the late Warner Oland first quoted Confucius.  Plot originality in this one is negligible but dialoging is snappy, and film is well-paced.

As usual, Sidney Toler plays the sage slant-eyed sleuth with comedy support from his two fumbling aides, Mantan Moreland and Victor Sen Young.  Story revolves around the efforts of the Chinese detective to crack an insurance racket outfit.  Mixed up in the case is a missing girl, thought to be a torse-murder victim, but who is on the lam from the mobsters because of their plot against her fiance.  Plot converges in San Francisco's Chinatown where Chan tracks down the leader of the gang.

Minor romantic interest is furnished by Tanis Chandler and Bruce Kellogg with John Gallaudet, Paul Bryar and Jack Norton giving okay support in stock parts.  Straight camera work and musical effects par the general level of the production.

 
 

FILM NOTES:

POSSIBLE DATE: Mid-May 1946
 
DURATION: Two days
 
LOCATIONS: Emigrant Gap, California and San Francisco, California
 
THE SAN FRANCISCO HALL OF JUSTICE AND ACCOMPANYING PLAQUE AS SHOWN:
     

THE OFFICE THAT IS SHOWN IN THE HALL OF JUSTICE: Bureau of Missing Persons
 
THE FRONT PAGE AND HEADLINE AS SEEN ON THE SAN FRANCISCO TRIBUNE NEWSPAPER THAT IS POSTED ON THE BULLETIN BOARD:

THE DESTINATION POSTED ON THE FRONT OF THE BUS TAKEN BY CHARLIE CHAN AND COMPANY: San Francisco 
 
THE FRONT PAGE AND HEADLINE ON THE SALT LAKE HERALD NEWSPAPER THAT WAS BEING READ BY CHARLIE CHAN ON THE BUS:

THE NUMBER OF PERSONS RIDING ON THE BUS: 13
 
THE HIGHWAY THAT THE BUS TOOK FROM SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH TO SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: US Highway 40, AND THE LOCATION WHERE THE BUS STOPPED FOR REPAIRS: Emigrant Gap

THE NUMBER OF PERSONS RIDING ON THE BUS: 13
 
THE SUBJECT OF THE TRAVEL POSTERS SEEN IN THE LOBBY OF THE EMMIGRANT GAP BUS STOP: Yosemite National Park

THE "BORROWED TIME" THAT SAVED CHARLIE CHAN'S LIFE: A pocket watch that was a gift from Number Two Son, Jimmy

THE PRICE QUOTED BY THE BUS DRIVER TO JACK TILLFORD FOR THE RIDE TO SAN FRANCISCO: "...six bucks." 
 
THE TUNNEL AND BRIDGE SEEN OUT OF THE REAR WINDOW OF THE BUS AS IT ENTERED THE CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO:

The Waldo Tunnel, seen in the background, which
connects the Golden Gate Bridge with Sausalito.

The Golden Gate Bridge with one of its twin
suspension towers seen in the background.

CHARLIE CHAN'S DESCRIPTION OF THE "TORSO VICTIM": "...canyon victim."
 
THE NAME OF THE BUS COMPANY: Greyhound Lines
 
THE POINT OF ORIGIN OF THE BUS TO SAN FRANCISCO: Salt Lake City, Utah
 
THE GENERAL ARRIVAL TIME OF THE BUS IN SAN FRANCISCO: Morning
 
THE NAME OF THE MAN CALLED BY THE BUREAU OF MISSING PERSONS WORKER TO ASSIST WITH A DEAF MAN: Joe
 
THE NAME OF THE PERSON WHOSE PICTURE WAS REMOVED FROM THE MISSING PERSONS ALBUM: Mary Conover
 
MARY CONOVER'S PHOTOGRAPH AND ACCOMPANYING INFORMATION:

THE ACQUAINTANCE OF CHARLIE CHAN: Chief of Police 
 
THE CASE MENTIONED BY CHARLIE CHAN THAT WAS SIMILAR TO THE "TORSO MURDER": "...New Orleans Trunk Murder." 
 
THE PLACE WHERE THE "TORSO MURDER" WAS COMMITTED: Immigrant Gap
 
THE NAME AND INFORMATION ON THE MISSING WOMAN, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: "Grace Gortner, age 30, wife of Homer B. Pendleton, last known address, Avon Apartments."
 
THE PHOTOGRAPH AND SOME OF THE ACCOMPANYING INFORMATION SHOWN FOR THE AWOL (AWAY WITHOUT LEAVE) MARINE AS SEEN BY CHARLIE CHAN AT CAPTAIN ALLEN'S OFFICE:

CHARLIE CHAN'S MISTAKEN NAME FOR CORPORAL JOE THOMAS: "...Corporal Joe Thompson..."
 
THE LOCATION OF IMMIGRANT GAP, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: "...100 miles north of here (San Francisco)..."
 
THE DISTINGUISHING SURGICAL MARK NOTED BY CHARLIE CHAN ON THE "TORSO MURDER" VICTIM'S BODY: An appendectomy scar "...several years old."
 
CHARLIE CHAN'S ORDER AT THE MAYFAIR HOTEL'S COFFEE SHOP: "Pot of tea, please...  Just tea."
 
JIMMY CHAN'S ORDER AT THE COFFEE SHOP: "I think I'll have some chop suey...  Also, I'll have some ice cream and a cup of coffee."
 
JIMMY CHAN'S COMMENT TO HIS POP REGARDING CHOP SUEY: "Oh, it's good stuff, Pop, you ought to try it sometime."
 
THE LUNCH ITEM ORDERED BY MIKE ROGAN FROM MARY CONOVER: "...breaded veal chops."
 
THE NAME OF THE COFFEE SHOP AT THE MAYFAIR HOTEL: Mairfair Coffee Shop  
 
THE NAME OF THE COFFEE SHOP WORKER TO WHOM MARY CONOVER HAD SAID SHE NEEDED TO GO SEE A DOCTOR: Myrtle
 
THE NAME OF THE HOTEL WHERE CHARLIE CHAN WAS STAYING IN SAN FRANCISCO: Mayfair Hotel
 
THE ALIAS USED BY MARY CONOVER: Mary McCoy
 
ACCORDING THO MYRTLE AT THE COFFEE SHOP, THE NAME OF THE ELDERLY LADY WHO HAD ASKED ABOUT MARY MCCOY (MARY CONOVER): "...Kate Johnson..."
 
THE NAME OF THE CORNER BUSINESS FROM WHERE JIMMY CHAN AND BIRMINGHAM BROWN WATCHED MARY CONOVER ENTER HER RESIDENCE: Joe's Ice Cream Parlor
 
THE NAME OF THE APARTMENTS WHERE MARY CONOVER LIVED: Randolf Apartments
 
MARY CONNOVER'S APARTMENT NUMBER: 36
 
FROM INFORMATION CONTAINED IN HER FILE, THE NAME OF THE BURLESQUE COMPANY TO WHICH GRACE GORTNER HAD ONCE BELONGED: Bon Ton Burlesque Company

THE ACCOMMPANYING LETTER FROM GRACE GORTNER'S FILE THAT WAS READ BY CHARLIE CHAN:

THE NAME OF THE FORMER MANAGER OF THE BON TON BURLESQUE COMPANY: Craig Winfield
 
THE LENGTH OF TIME, ACCORDING TO CAPTAIN ALLEN, SINCE GRACE GORTNER HAD BELONGED TO THE BON TON BURLESQUE COMPANY: "...twelve years..."

OTHER ALIASES OF MIKE ROBERTS, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: "Mike Rogan, Mickey Rodgers, Marty Roman..."
 
THE NAME OF THE ESCORT COMPANY FOR WHICH MARY CONOVER HAD ONCE WORKED: Bay City Escort Bureau
 
THE NAME OF THE WOMAN IN CHARGE OF THE BAY CITY ESCORT BUREAU: Joan Mercer
 
THE NAME OF THE MANAGER OF THE BAY CITY ESCORT BUREAU: Mr. Kearney
 
ACCORDING TO JOAN MERCER, MR. KEARNEY'S CURRENT WHEREABOUTS: "...Mr. Kearney is in New York."

THE LISENSE PLATE OF THE POLICE CAR IN WHICH CHARLIE CHAN AND CAPTAIN ALLEN RODE:

THE PHOTOGRAPH KATE JOHNSON FOUND IN MIKE ROBERT'S APARTMENT:

THE METAL SCULPTURE OF KWAN YIN (GUANYIN) SEEN JIMMY CHAN AND BIRMINGHAM BROWN (AND SHOWN WITH TITLE AND OPENING CREDITS FOR THIS FILM) IN THE YANG FOO CURIO SHOP:

THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE POLICE CAR, ACCORDING TO THE RADIO CALL, IN WHICH CHARLIE CHAN AND CAPTAIN ALLEN RODE: "...BMP car 10A."
 
THE NAME OF THE OFFICER CALLING CAPTAIN ALLEN ON THE RADIO: Jenkins
 
THE MISSING PERSONS POSTER OF GRACE GORTNER PENDLETON:

THE WIRE PHOTO OF CRAIG WINFIELD RECEIVED BY POLICE HEADQUARTERS:

THE NAME OF THE CORNER BUSINESS IN FRONT OF WHICH MARY CONOVER WAS STOPPED: Kuff's Bar
 
ACCORDING TO THE POLICE RADIO DISPATCHER, POLICE CARS INVOLVED IN THE SEARCH FOR THE RED CONVERTIBLE: "Car 44...Car 31...Car 33..."
 
SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICTS COVERED IN THE SEARCH: Mission District, North Beach District, Nob Hill District

 
 

GLOSSARY:

beat it - (Informal)  To leave or depart.
Mike Rogan: "Hold it, Boss, that dizzy dame's beating it!"
 
blackjack - A leather-covered bludgeon with a short, flexible shaft or strap, used as a hand weapon.
Charlie Chan: "...you walk in path of descending blackjack."
 
buck -  (Slang)  A dollar. 
Bus Driver: "Okay bud, cost you six bucks."
Mike Rogan: "Well, I'm always ready to talk business when there's a few bucks to be made on the side."
 
bud - (Informal)  Friend; chum.  Used as a form of familiar address, especially for a man or boy.
Bus Driver: "Okay, bud, cost you six bucks."
 
choke - (As used)  To reduce the air intake of (a carburetor), thereby enriching the fuel mixture.
Jimmy Chan: "Did you choke it?"
 
chump - A stupid or foolish person; a dolt.
Jeff Hay: "I guess I'm the chump of the year."
 
civvies - (Slang)  Civilian clothing as opposed to a military uniform.
Jeff Hay: "What about the civvies?"
 
cooking on all burners - (Slang)  Proceeding well or rapidly.
Birmingham Brown: "Now you're cooking on all burners."
 
dame - (Slang)  A woman. 
Mike Rogan: "Hold it, Boss, that dizzy dame's beating it!"
 
dizzy - (Slang)  Scatterbrained or silly. 
Mike Rogan: "Hold it, Boss, that dizzy dame's beating it!"
 
Emigrant Gap -  A small community in Placer County, California.  Emigrant Gap is located a quarter mile south of Emigrant Gap, a pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains traveled by early settlers in the 1840s.  It lies at an elevation of 5,180 feet on Interstate Highway 80 (formally US 40, the Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast U.S. highway). 
Bus Driver: "Well, folks, looks like we'll make Emigrant Gap before this thing gives up on us."
 
frisk - To search.
Jeff Hay: "You're under suspicion and I'm going to frisk you."
 
Man o' War - (1917-1947) One of the greatest racehorses of the 20th century, Man O'War is the yardstick that greatness is still measured against in horse racing.  His lifetime record, during a racing career lasting 16 months between 1919 and 1920, was 21 starts with 20 wins and a second place and he retired as the leading money winner in America at the time.  He set 8 records, 3 world records, 2 American records, and 3 track records and broke most by several seconds.
Birmingham Brown: "Who do you think I am, Man o' War?"
 
packing - (Informal)  To be carrying or having available for action, usually in reference to a gun.
Jeff Hay: "You're packing a gun, aren't you?"
 
peeling - (Slang)  The taking off of one's clothing.
Joan Mercer: "You heard me, start peeling."
 
shadow To follow, especially in secret; trail. 
Jimmy Chan: "Come on, Birmingham, we gotta shadow that girl."
 
slugged - Hit hard, especially with a fist. 
Jeff Hay: "Someone slugged him in Salt Lake."
 
third degree - Mental or physical torture used to obtain information or a confession from a prisoner.
Jack Tillford: "Say, what's the idea of this third degree?"
 
For a complete list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.

 
 

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