The House on Punchbowl Hill



















 
 

CHARLIE CHAN:

Cliffhanger, Number 21, May 1995

 
 

Frank Lackteen as Dick Kaohla.

Frank Lackteen appeared in another menacing role as Dick Kaohla, a
Hawaiian accomplice of the smugglers. (Courtesy of the Author's Collection)

Charlie Chan's Number One Movie

By Jim Stringham

"'The House Without a Key' has for its sixth chapter an episode entitled 'Sinister Shadows,' in which Allene Ray and Walter Miller, the co-stars, are in danger of their lives.  Charlie Chan, Chinese detective, does his best to protect these two, who never give a thought to danger when running down a clue that may possibly lead to the murderer of Dan Winterslip, for Cary cannot believe that her father committed the crime, and John, too, is eager to prove that his uncle was not killed by the father of the girl he loves.  This serial was adapted by Frank Leon Smith from the popular 'Saturday Evening Post' story by Earl Derr Biggers." 

By the mid-twenties, the trade magazines had pretty much lost interest in the serials.  They ran full and multi-page ads, but usually limited reviews to a short column, probably taken from press material, which had little to say about the picture.  They generally listed principal players, director, and the source of the story, in this case a mystery published in the 'Saturday Evening Post.'

'Moving Picture World' ran such a review, but, on November 27th of 1926, added the above comments on chapter six of "The House Without a Key" and Charlie Chan's part in the story.

It was a small, but important, role.  Others have mentioned Charlie's movie debut in a serial, but given few details.  Considering his subsequent film career, he deserves better.  A genuine oriental played the part in this first screen appearance.  He did not appear until chapter four, but, after that...

Allene Ray: Cary Egan
Walter Miller: John Quincy Winterslip
E.H. Calvert: Dan Winterslip
Betty Caldwell: Barbara Winterslip
Natalie Waterfield: Minerva Winterslip
Jack Pratt; James Egan
William Norton Bailey: Harry Jennison
Frank Lackteen: Dick Kaohla
George Kuwa: Charlie Chan
Harry Semels: Saladine
Charles H. West: Bowker
John Cossar: District Attorney
Scott Seaton: Detective
Clifford Saum: Kennedy
John Dillon was listed as a player in early publicity
 
Distributor: Pathe
Realeased: November 21, 1926
Director: Spencer Bennet
Scenario: Frank Leon Smith
From the 'Saturday Evening Post' story by: Earl Derr Biggers

Episode One
The Spite Fence

Miss Minerva Winterslip, of Boston, visits in Honolulu.  She alternates her stay between her two brothers.  They live adjoining on the beach at Waikiki.
 
Amos, one brother, is partner with James Egan and part owner of the Reef and Palm Hotel.  Between his home and that of his brother Dan is a "spite fence" erected twenty years before.  Amos is in rather lowly circumstances; Dan is rich.
 
James Egan is a hard-luck, lost nerve of the Pacific.  He is fond of Amos Winterslip but joins with him in hatred of Dan.
 
As the story opens Minerva, who is past the bloom of youth but still beautiful, has failed in her efforts to reconcile Amos and Dan.
 
Dan is a big and important looking man.  He has a house that is a garden paradise.  Koahla, a Hawaiian, knows something out of the past of Dan and has been blackmailing the rich man.
 
There is an air of plots and counter plots.  Saladine, a character of mystery, flits in and out of the scenes.  Amos and Egan in conversation hint at a crime that Dan committed twenty years before.
 
*********
 
On the S.S. Matsonia, sailing from San Francisco for the islands, is John Quincy Winterslip, also of Boston, nephew of Minerva, Dan, and Amos.  He carries a heavy bag in which is a mysterious oaken box, containing something of vital importance in the life of Dan Winterslip and which he has been asked by his uncle to drop into the Pacific in mid-ocean.  Also aboard the ship is Barbara Winterslip, daughter of Dan, and Cary Egan daughter of James Egan.
 
John Quincy received the box on his arrival in San Francisco from Boston.  It came down from the attic of his uncle Dan's old home there.  Bowker, a steward, has information in his possession which makes him curious about the box.  He would obtain it.
 
Barbara Winterslip is accompanied on the trip by Harry Jennison, attorney for her father.  He plans to marry Barbara, and resents a cousinly kiss he bestows on John Quincy.  Cary Egan betrays an interest in John Quincy.
 
*********
 
In Honolulu, Dan Winterslip is nervous in his great house.  He sits and reads the papers anxiously.  Mysterious men flit through the tropic growth surrounding the house.  A knife is hurled and buries itself in the back of the chair in which Dan is seated.  If he had not been leaning forward to pick up a piece of the newspaper it would have entered his body.  It is an eerie time in the great mansion.
 
*********
 
On board the Matsonia, John Quincy reads his instructions regarding the box.  He is ordered by his uncle Dan to throw it overboard "because his life and safety depend on it." When they reach mid-ocean he departs from his stateroom to toss the box into the sea.  Three men set upon him and they fight for the box.  John Quincy tosses it aside and engages them.  Cary Egan rushes up and grabs it, running away pursued by one of the men.
 
The other two get John Quincy in a corner.  They grab him by the legs, kicking and struggling.  They heave him overboard.  On a beautiful night, John Quincy Winterslip finds himself afloat in the Pacific with the Matsonia steaming away to Honolulu.

Scene from "The House Without a Key."

The principal players in a scene from The House Without a Key, probably from the last chapter.  Dick Kaohla is taken into custody by John Quincy Winterslip and Charlie Chan after the raid on the waterfront dive used by the smugglers.  Cary Egan looks on. (Courtesy of Author's Collection)

Episode Two
The Mystery Box

John Quincy Winterslip, of an aristocratic Boston family, on his way to visit his uncle Dan in Honolulu at the insistance of his aunt Minerva, is entrusted with a mysterious box that means so much to Daniel Winterslip, the richest man in the Islands.  Daniel and his brother Amos have been at outs for twenty years and a spite fence separates their homes.  Daniel is in the hands of blackmailers and his past contains much that makes him fear and be feared.
 
John Quincy is ordered to throw the box overboard on reaching the deepest ocean lanes.  Bowker, a steward, knows of the box and its contents, as does Cary Egan, daughter of island neer-do well James Egan.  When John Quincy attempts to toss the box into the sea, he is set upon by three men.  They throw him overboard as Cary Egan grabs the box.
 
Swimming in the wake of the Matsonia, John Quincy clutches the rope that holds the rotating log propeller.  He is pulled along.  Cary, struggling with the ruffians for possession yells "man overboard."  The ship's officers hear the cry and the matsonia is stopped.  John Quincy is pulled from the sea.
 
Barbara Winterslip watches the rescue and when she learns it is her cousin rushes to him and implants a big kiss on his wet cheek.  This is not pleasing to Jennison, who would marry Barbara.  John Quincy learns that it was Cary Egan who gave the alarm that led to his rescue.  Bowker is snooping around, obviously desiring to get possession of the box.
 
In Honolulu, Dan Winterslip walks forth.  A hammer narrowly misses him as it falls from the hands of Kaohla, who is placing screening on the house at Dan's direction.  Dan then accuses him of throwing the knife meant to kill him on the night before.  This the native denies.
 
Minerva tries again to reconcile the two brothers but her efforts fail.  Saladine mysteriously comes in and out of the picture, listening here and watching there.  He is under suspicion.
 
Because of the delay in picking up John Quincy, the Matsonia is forced to lie outside all night in Honolulu harbor.  Bowker and his aides steal the box from Cary's room.  She discovers this when she returns with John Quincy, having planned to open the box with him present.
 
Bowker by arrangement plans to deliver the box to Kaohla, who comes out to get it in his outrigger canoe.  On deck, John Quincy and Cary plan to fight for it.  One of Bowker's henchmen goes aloft and drops a heavy block and tackle to the deck.  It strikes John and Cary as the episode ends.

Episode Three
The Missing Numeral

John and Cary are felled to the deck of the ship.  Bowker indicates to Jennison that Kaohla has the box.  This is the first indication that the attorney may be involved in the plot.  Jennison loves Barbara, Dan's daughter.  John Quincy has fallen in love with Cary Egan.  Barbara for the first time outwardly shows affection for Harry Jennison on the deck of the ship.  Now, she produces a cable from her father which absolutely prohibits any thought of marriage to the attorney.  Of course, this does not please the young man, who promises he will find a way to overcome the objection and is very significant in his working of this statement with her.
 
John also has his troubles for Cary, because he has made no effort to recover the box accuses him of being a true Winterslip, working only for the interests of his uncle Dan, who hates Cary's father.  John Quincy, being rebuffed by the girl follows her to her cabin, and standing at the porthole, proposes marriage.  Cary slams the porthole shut.  John tells Barbara he plans to marry Cary.
 
*********
 
In Honolulu, Dan Winterslip calls James Egan on the phone and demands that he come to his house at once.  Dan's manner is very brusque.  On the telephone at first was his brother Amos whom he had not spoken with for twenty years.  Amos recognized his brother's voice.  Egan makes his way toward Dan's home.
 
(Note: The following paragraph makes sense if the character referred to as "Cope" is James Egan.  Because I can't be sure this is correct, it is printed exactly as written.  J.S.)
 
At the Winterslip home, Minerva meets Cope.  They have a very tender meeting.  It is evident that they have been something to each other in the past.  When Cope leaves, he flips away a cigarette.
 
Minerva retires and is awakened in the night.  She feels that something is happening.  She hears a noise in the quarters of Dan.  She summons a native woman and they enter.  They see a dim figure and clearly the gloved hands of a man.  On the man's wrist is a watch with a luminous dial.  Its figure three is missing.  It is a few minutes past two o'clock.  The figure disappears.  Minerva finds Dan Winterslip dead.  There is much evidence of a struggle.  The floor is wet - the killer had wet feet, the servant speculates.
 
The Matsonia lands.  All is gay.  Minerva is at the dock with Amos.  Jennison pays money to Bowker, the steward.  barbara learns her father has been slain.  John Egan awaits his daughter who has a moment before promised, in a way, to marry John Quincy when the two families end their feud.  As Egan meets Cary he is placed under arrest by Hallet, chief of detectives, for the murder of Dan Winterslip.

Episode Four
Suspicion

John Quincy stands between love and duty.  Cary urges him to stick to his people.  Enter Detective Sergeant Charlie Chan of the Honolulu police, a Chinese and the shrewdest sleuth on the islands.  he decides to find the slayer and takes to John Quincy, who would prove Egan innocent for he loves his daughter.
 
At the investigation, Minerva sides against her nephew.  She thinks Egan is guilty, for he did have an appointment with the dead man.  The slayer had wet feet, and Egan's clothing had been found dripping water.  Kaohla's clothes were also wet following the finding of the body.
 
A cablegram is revealed showing the police that John Quincy had in his possession at San Francisco the mysterious box which told much of the past of Dan Winterslip.  Where is this box?
 
Kaohla has it.  Jennison tells him to get rid of it.  Amos Winterslip plans to leave the islands.  He begins to tear down the spite fence.  Kaohla decides to bury the box in one of the post holes of the uprooted fence.  It also had developed that Egan had cabled his daughter to get the box from John Quincy.
 
At the fence, Kaohla hears someone coming and darts into cover, leaving the box.  Cary finds it.  The Hawaiian, fearful, throws a blanket around her.  John Winterslip, coming near, hears the girl's screams.  As he runs up, Kaohla tosses Cary over a wall.  The blanket catches on the barbed wire of the spite fence and holds the girl from plunging to her death.  The fence post starts to pull out.  John Quincy runs up to the rescue.  Kaohla trips him and he falls into space as the episode ends.

Advertisement for "The House Without a Key."

Pathe was still spending money on its serials with muli-page ads in the trade magazines and the purchase of stories for adaptation.  This ad uses two stars, the story from the 'Saturday Evening Post' serial, and writer and director as its selling points.  Again, Charlie chan is not mentioned. (Xerox Courtesy of Author's Collection.)

Episode Five
The Death Buoy

John Quincy saves himself by grabbing a fence post.  Saladine, lurking nearby, grabs the fallen box, then changes his mind and replaces it.  Charlie Chan arrives as John struggles to aid Cary.  He helps the two reach safety.  They tell him of the box, but find it again missing.  Kaohla has returned and made away with it, observed by Saladine.
 
Cary faints, and they take her to the home of the slain man.  There, Jennison receives a call from Kennedy, one of the sailors who attacked John Quincy aboard the Matsonia.  The man demands money for placing a "can" in the harbor at a designated point.  Jennison sends Kaohla to deliver a reply to him at the Reef and Palm Hotel.
 
John Quincy and Chan have escorted Cary back to the hotel.  She and Quincy see Kaohla deliver the note.  They recognize the sailor.  John Quincy grapples with him in a fight outside the hotel.  Kennedy gets away, dropping the note in his fight.  Saladine picks it up and gives it to the desk clerk to deliver to John and Cary.  They read: "In the morning the contents of the can you anchored off the reef will be replaced with money and a full set of instructions."
 
The next morning Kaohla gets the anchored can.  He replaces it with one containing dynamite controlled by a mechanism.  If it is pulled from the water, it will explode.
 
Kennedy comes for for the can in a skiff.  John and Cary race up in a launch as he grabs it.  The explosion blasts him and the boat from the water.  As the launch speeds into the geyser caused by the explosion it rises into the air but rights itself in a scene of great confusion.

Episode Six
Sinister Shadows

Cary, John, and Saladine are thrown into the water by the blast.  Launches are put out from shore, Chan in one.  John helps the others aboard his boat.  They question Saladine, who will only say that he is a wholesale grocer from Des Moines.  John decides to cable iowa to check the story.  Men in the other launch search for the body of Kennedy.
 
Another native sees Kaohla with the can from the buoy, but Kaohla will not explain.  He takes it in his canoe to a deserted dock.  The dock shed is large, gloomy, and dusty.  Huge sails hang from the rafters.  A trap door is cut in the floor.  He gives the can to Jennison and tells of the explosion.  Jennison gives him instructions for activities that night, then goes to arrange the funeral of Dan Winterslip.  The man is buried during a tropical rainstorm.
 
At the hotel, a call from Saladine summons Cary to come with John to 52 Harbor Street that night.  Unable to reach him, she goes alone.  John leaves Jennison at the Winterslip home, then goes to the hotel where he receives a cablegram stating that Saladine does not live in Des Moines.  At that same time, he gets Cary's message.  John takes a revolver and starts for the Harbor Street address.
 
Cary arrives at the rendezvous as the storm rages outside.  This is the dock shed.  A mysterious cloaked figure moves about.  When Cary calls out, he reveals himself as Saladine.  He seizes her and demands to know what she knows about it all.  Kaohla is also there with henchmen.
 
John rushes into the shed, meets Cary and reassures her.  It is very eerie there.  A mysterious figure moves in back of the hanging sails.  Four men come through the trap door. John gives Cary his pistol.  The men attack him and try to toss him through the trap door into a boat.  He puts up a fight.  Cary watches, clinging to one of the canvas sails.  It comes down, burying her in one of the folds, and revealing the mysterious man who stood behind.

Episode Seven
The Mystery Man

The attempted kidnapping of John and Cary at the old dock shed is blocked by the arrival of the harbor police boat.  A large number of kidnappers are captured.  Saladine escapes arrect by crouching down and covering himself with his long cloak. Cary explains that she came to the shed expecting to get the information that would establish the innocense of her father.  The note sent to saladine is found at [sic] this character sneaks away.
 
Saladine spots Charlie Chan in the lobby of the Reef and Palm and goes to his room another way without being seen.  He packs his bag.  Cary and John show Chan the note, and he decides to search Saladine's room.  As they open it with a pass key, he gets out the verandah door.  The search reveals false beards and other disguises, small arms, and a shotgun.  This bewilders the searchers.  They find no clues to the murder.
 
At the Winterslip home the next morning, Saladine, peering from the shrubbery hears Jennison berate Kaohla for letting John and Cary escape the night before.  He gives the Hawaiian some money, then goes inside where all have assembled to go over the story of the slaying.  Minerva remembers that the killer wore a wrist watch with a missing number.  Outside, saladine looks at his wrist.  A white mark there shows where a watch had been worn.  This clue gives John an idea, and he rushes away. Chan is elated.
 
Barbara takes clothing to james Egan in the city prison and learns that he suspects Amos Winterslip of the murder.
 
Saladine returns to his room at the Reef and Palm by the verandah.  It is a shaky structure.  He digs up a wristwatch that he had forgotten the night before.  John Quincy Winterslip rushes into the room and confronts the mysterious character.  grabbing his wrist, he notes the mark made by a wrist strap.  The men fight all over the room, then onto the balcony.  Cary runs in.  The porch sways beneath the fighting men then gives way, plunging them into the sea.  Other guests who have been watching scramble to safety.  Cary is caught outside and grabs a railing and dangles above the sea.  The board she clings to gives way and she swings downward as the episode ends.

Episode Eight
The Spotted Menace

Cary falls into the sea near John Quincy.  Natives help him rescue her.  Saladine escapes, hidden by floating wreckage.  Jennison and Barbara, out riding, hear the commotion and join Cary and John.  John resents Jennison's attitude regarding Egan.
 
At Dan Winterslip's home, detective Chan interviews Minerva.  Several boys come to the home and are given cakes by Kam, a servant and grandmother of Kaohla.  The boys announce that they are playing pirates.  In a secluded glen the kids have unearthed the hidden box of mystery and are playing with it.  Saladine, dripping wet, comes sneaking through the shrubbery.  Kaohla finds the boys playing with the precious box.  Chan comes on the scene and grabs it.  Saladine sees him carry the box away, leaving Kaohla crestfallen.
 
All the principals are present in the home of Dan Winterslip when the box is opened.  it discloses the log of the schooner Maid of Shiloh, written in Dan's handwriting.  The log reveals that Amos Winterslip and James Egan had delivered to Dan Winterslip money and jewels worth $100,000.  This was twenty years ago.  Kaohla states that he was Dan's cabin boy on the schooner.  Dan was to have taken the box and its contents to Sydney, Australia, but the ship was wrecked.
 
Cary Egan accuses Dan Winterslip of having robbed her father and his brother Amos.  Jennison turns her words against her and says that this was the motive for her father to murder Dan.  Barbara says she will pay every dollar back.  Jennison resents this, as he would marry her.
 
They all ask: Where is Amos Winterslip?  Kaohla reveals that he is at the cove.  They decide to go there in a speed boat.  Saladine hears this.  Kaohla loads them all aboard Dan's speed boat.  They wear bathing suits, for the sea is rough.
 
At the cove, Amos is with the Hawaiians in their village.  The native mothers fear for their children because the sea is filled with white sharks.  The boat with Chan, John, abd Cary comes near.  They cannot make the beach.  It is planned to swim ashore and return with a skiff.  John and Cary jump into the water.  Amos rushes out with natives to warn them of the white sharks.
 
The surface of the water is cut by the fins of the man-eaters.  John and Cary see them and try to get back to the boat.  Chan would help them aboard.  Koahla fells him with a boat hook.  Saladine comes up in another speed boat.  It takes Kaohla aboard and rushes away.
 
The swimmers can't reach the high rail of the speed boat.  The sharks are all around them as the episode ends.

Episode Nine
The Wrist Watch

Amos Winterslip, with the aid of natives, frightens away the sharks that menace John Quincy and Cary.  They are brought into his launch.  Saladine shuts down his power boat and then covers Kaohla with a revolver.  He makes terms with the Hawaiian whereby the plotter agrees to take him on his "game."  Chan, Amos, and the others give chase in the launch, but are out-distanced.  Chan promises that the honolulu police will get them.
 
At the Winterslip home, Barbara cancels her engagement to marry Jennison and decides to make restitution to her uncle Amos and Egan for the money her father stole.
 
That night Jennison meets Kaohla at a river front Chinese shop.  The boy is there with Saladine.  Jennison announces that he is going to close up his affairs and clear out.  He also says that he will get rid of John Quincy.  He takes Saladine in on the plot.  Jennison has Wu Fong, impersonating Chan, phone John Quincy to come to the river front dive.  Now, he orders "everything" sold out for cash.
 
John Quincy Winterslip, lured to the place, is bound and gagged and placed under guard.  Jennison has arranged with a ship captain to take him out to sea.  Also aboard the steamer is Bowker, the steward in his employ.  Jennison sends him to the dive to clean up the cash.
 
At police headquarters, plans are being made to capture the conspirators.  Chan gets the papers.  The captain who is to take John Quincy away comes to the shop and bargains for the tinned goods of mystery.  He is told only cash goes.  John recognizes Bowker and hopes he will help his escape.  The steward only ties him tighter.
 
Cary, worried, gets the address of the shop and arrives there just as the men carry John out.  Saladine then turns character and knocks up the guard's gun when that conspirator fires at John Quincy.  Saladine is wounded.  He starts a fight.
 
The police, led by Chan, descend on the dive.  All are fighting.  Cary is in the midst of the melee.  Suddenly she sees a wrist on which is the watch with the missing numeral.  "The watch, the watch!" she cries out.  Hands grab for her and she goes down in the crowd as the episode ends.

Episode Ten
The Culprit

Federal officers and Honolulu police cooperate in a raid on the Chinese dive and shop where John Quincy and Cary are surrounded by a fighting mob of enemies.  Jennison is aboard ship ready to sail away.  Saladine tries to help Cary as she battles bravely.  Chan leads his men on.  Kaohla is suddenly grabbed by Saladine.  John is carried out to a skiff and tough men are ready to shove off for the ship.  A harbor patrol boat sweeps in and the police grab the thugs.  Some help John.
 
The fight at the dive continues.  John comes back and engages Kaohla.  After the battle, Saladine binds up his wounds.  Now he is revealed as the chief of the federal narcotic squad in the islands.  He explains that this is the end of an organized band of dope dealers led by Jennison.  Saladine had thought that the Winterslip family was behind the band.  Bowker was one of the gang.  Cary tells about the wrist watch she had seen.
 
The watch is found on the arm of a native among the prisoners.  He says that he found the watch when diving during the last trip that the Matsonia made into the harbor.  He says that Bowker is the man he saw throw it out of a port hole.  Bowker points out that at the time of the murder he was miles out in the bay.  Harry Jennison gave him the watch.  He says that Jennison is aboard the ship now ready to sail and accuses him as the head of the opium gang.
 
John Quincy races to the ship and finds the attorney.  The men fight.  Chan comes aboard.  Jennison gets a gun and is about to crush the scull of John Quincy when a revolver is thrust into his back by someone standing in the open porthole.  Jennison releases John and turns to face Charlie Chan.  They take the attorney to the police station.
 
Bowker tells his story to the prosecutor.  The prosecutor explains events to the others.  Many years before, Dan Winterslip took the gold and jewels belonging to his brother and James Egan.  He also kept the box and the log book which told the story.  When his nephew, John Quincy, sailed from San Francisco he had gotten the box and the log book at his uncle's direction and was to have thrown it into the sea.  Cary had been sent by her father to get the box. 
 
Jennison knew of the box and arranged with the steward Bowker to get it away from John.  He figured with the log he would be able to force Dan Winterslip to agree to his marriage to Barbara.  Then he found that Dan was about to change his will.  Jennison, when the ship anchored ten miles out, being once the champion swimmer of the islands, swam ashore, killed Dan Winterslip and would have gotten away with it had not Bowker, being on deck, discovered him as he came aboard.  Jennison gave the wrist watch to Bowker and the steward threw it overboard the next morning as the ship docked.
 
So the mystery is revealed and it is presumed that Barbara was glad she was saved.  John of course must have married Cary, but at any rate the mystery and the serial ends.     -JS

 
 

Return to Study

Return to Charlie Chan Family Home ENTRANCE