Saturday, April 4, 2020

Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Warner Oland, Sidney Toler: "3" Famous Asian Literary Detectives Portrayed By Non-Asian Actors

During the 1920's through the 1940's the motion picture screen depicted Three Asian Detectives. Each was extremely popular in "Pulp Fiction" with American readers and written by Non-Asian, White, writers. This is a look at the Three Detectives and, in typical Hollywood fashion, the Non-Asian actors that portrayed them on the screen.


Mention the name Boris Karloff, or just "Karloff" and a picture of the 1931 Universal Studios "Frankenstein" monster comes to mind.

If that images doesn't come to mind. Then perhaps it's "Imhotep" of Universal Pictures 1932 "The Mummy".

Camberwell, Surrey, England, born William Henry Pratt, also in 1932 made a motion picture, but for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In it he portrayed British writer Sax Rohmer's Chinese "Yellow Peril" scientist "Dr, Fu Manchu". Who is bent on World domination of the "White Race" by the Chinese in "The Mask of Fu Manchu". A pre-motion picture code film that kept all of the racism and stereo types of Rohmer's popular novels in place.

That's  Myrna Loy with Karloff. Shortly she would become William Powell's co-star in the "Thin Man" movie series. Which were based upon the works of American writer Dashiel Hammett. In the above still Loy portrays "Fu Manchu's" sadistic daughter "Fah Lo See".
My article: Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee: Fu Manchu the Movies" can be found at:

What are often overlooked is Boris Karloff's excellent low budget detective series, from "Poverty Row's" Monogram Pictures, about Chinese Detective "James Lee Wong".

The Chinese detective was created by Zanesville, Ohio, born. World War One Veteran, Hugh Wiley. "James Lee Wong" appeared in a series of 20 short stories in "Colliers Magazine" between March 10, 1934 and April 13, 1940. Unlike Sax Rohmer's "Fu Manchu" reflective of the fears "White People", around the world, had of the Chinese aka: "The Yellow Peril".
Hugh Wiley describes "Mr. Wong" as being six feet tall, Karloff was close at five foot eleven inches, a graduate of Yale University, and an agent of the United States Treasury Department living in San Francisco, California.

MR. WONG DETECTIVE released October 5, 1938

Above one of the first posters for the series and referencing Hugh Wiley's stories.

The motion picture was directed by William Nigh. Nigh had been an actor who became a director of "B" motion pictures. His one-hundred and nineteen films span the years 1914 through 1948 and included two other entries in this series, a 1934 mystery, unrelated to this series, "The Mysterious Mr. Wong" starring Bela Lugosi in the oriental title role, another Lugosi, 1942's World War 2 spy thriller "Black Dragons" and the same years horror-mystery "The Strange Case of Doctor Rx" starring Lionel Atwill.

"Mr. Wong, Detective", as the film's poster, mentions Hugh Wiley in the opening screen credits, but was written by Houston Branch. Between 1927 and 1958 Branch wrote fifty-three mostly very low "B" screenplays.

The Main Cast:

Boris Karloff was "Professor James Lee Wong". Not only is "Mr. Wong" an ex-Treasury Agent and a Detective. He is also a "Professor of Criminology" teaching a class at an unnamed San Francisco college.

Grant Withers is "Mr. Wong's" good friend "Detective Captain Sam Street". Withers started acting in 1925. In 1930 he eloped with a 17 year old future leading actress and 1950's television star Loretta Young. He became a supporting actor starting in 1940 and many of his roles had no on-screen credit.

Among Withers credited roles were Robert Taylor's 1941 "Billy the Kid", Van Heflin's 1941 "Tennessee Johnson" and John Wayne's 1943 "In Old Oklahoma". Grant Withers was "Ike Clanton" in director John Ford's 1946 "My Darling Clementine", "Silas Meacham" in Ford's 1948 "Fort Apache" and was the "U.S. Deputy Marshall" in John Ford's 1950 "Rio Grande". Grant Withers committed suicide in 1959.

Above Grant Withers, and Boris Karloff.

Maxine Jennings was "Myra Ross". Jennings started her on-screen career with one film in 1928 and another in 1929. Then her career skipped six years to 1935. At which time Maxine Jennings worked in films into 1938. Once again she skipped movies until 1946 to be seen only in a single feature film. For her next appearances, she skipped another eighteen years to be seen in one episode each of televisions "My Three Sons", in 1964, and one episode, four more years later, on "Hawaii Five-O" in 1968.

Boris Karloff, Maxine Jennings, and Grant Withers in Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)

Above Maxine Jennings, Boris Karloff and Grant Withers.

Evelyn Brent was "Olga" aka: "Countess Dubois". Brent started her film career in 1914. She was the leading lady in several major silent features directed by Josef von Sternberg and co-starred with a young Gary Cooper in 1928's "Beau Sabreur". She moved to "B" movies with an occasional Western, but still played the sultry women with a past in 1930's and 1940's detective thrillers.

Above Evelyn Brent and Lucien Prival as "Anton Mohl" aka: "Baron Von Krantz".

The screenplay set up:

Chemical Engineer "Simon Dayton", played by John Hamilton, fears for his life and goes to see "James Lee Wong" for protection.

Above John Hamilton, who was known to my generation as "Perry White" on the television series "The Adventures of Superman", and Boris Karloff. In the background is Chinese American vaudeville actor Lee Tung Foo as "Mr. Wong's" servant "Tchin".  As with the "Professor Wong", in the Wiley's stories, the screenplay does not make his servant into a stereo typical Chinese character. A reason this series is so important to Asian characters of the period.

Returning to the screenplay:

Just prior to a second meeting with "James Lee Wong", "Simon Dayton" is found dead without a mark on his body. The police interview several witnesses who all confirm that "Dayton" was alone in his office and the door was locked from the inside. There is no other way into the office except by that locked door.

Above "Professor James Lee Wong" having received the news of "Simon Dayton's" death. Below "Detective Captain Street" and "Mr. Wong" discuss the case.

"Professor Wong" discovers a broken glass ball and upon chemical examination determines that the police finding of "Simon Dayton" suffering a heart attack incorrect. The residue in the ball goes to a poison gas that the "Dayton Chemical Company" was creating.

There are Foreign Agents after the gas formula, Business Partners wanted "Dayton" out of the way so they can have the company, and there's the actual inventor of the poison gas who feels cheated by his late boss. All become suspects for the Chinese America Detective to sort out.


Boris Karloff, Grant Withers and Lee Tung Foo were back for:

THE MYSTERY OF MR. WONG released March 8, 1939

The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)

Karloff is once again "James Lee Wong", Withers is once again "Detective Captain Sam Street", but now Lee Tung Foo's character has had his Chinese name dropped and is "Willie".

Above Karloff and Withers. Below Karloff and Tung Foo.

The motion picture was once again directed by William Nigh, but the screenplay was by Scott Darling. Darling had been writing screenplays since 1914 and among his one-hundred and ninety-seven credits are 1942's "The Ghost of Frankenstein", the same years "Sherlock Holmes in Washington" and the very good film noir 1945's "The Spider".

Above Boris Karloff with co-star Dorothy Tree as "Valerie Edwards",

The screenplay:

Wealthy gem collector "Brandon Edwards", played by Morgan Wallace, acquires the largest star sapphire in the world. It is the fabled "Eye of the Daughter of the Moon" and was stolen years before from China. During a party he is giving at his home. "Edwards" tells "Professor Wong" that his life is in danger and asks for the others assistance. During a game of charades "Edwards" is murdered and the gem stolen.

Above "Detective Captain Street" questions "Peter Harrison", played by Craig Reynolds, the boyfriend of "Brandon Edwards'" daughter "Valerie".  While "Professor Ed Janney", played by Holmes Herbert, looks on.

Unknown to "James Lee Wong", the "Eye of the Daughter of the Moon" is actually in the possession of  "Edward's" Chinese maid "Dria", played by Lotus Long. She plans to return the gem to the proper authorities in China. However, she is murdered by the same unknown person.

Lotus Long was the daughter of a Japanese American father and a pure Hawaiian mother. He birth name was Lotus Pearl Shibata.

There will be another murder and, in the end the Chinese American Detective will solve the murders and instruct "Willie" to return the gem to China.

The next film was important as it introduced a new major character to the series.

MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN released August 1, 1939

The picture was directed by William Nigh and the screenplay was once again by Scott Darling.

Back was Boris Karloff, Grant Withers and Lee Tung Loo still as "Willie. However, Withers was moved from second billing to third billing.

Marjorie Reynolds was newspaper reporter "Roberta 'Bobbie' Logan". This picture was fourteen years away from when I first saw Marjorie Reynolds as "Peg Riley" opposite William Bendix as "Chester A. Riley". On the first of the two-hundred and nineteen episodes of television's "The Life of Riley". Reynolds started acting in 1923 and also in 1939 she portrayed a "Guest at Fairoaks" in "Gone With the Wind". In 1941 Marjorie Reynolds was one of several pre-Dale Evans actresses opposite Roy Rodgers in "Robin Hood of the Pecos".

The screenplay:

A beautiful Chinese women visits "James Lee Wong" late one night, but before she can tell him the purpose of her visit. The women, "Princess Lin Hwa", played by Lotus Long, is murdered by as poison dart from a "Chinese Sleeve Gun".

As with some previous investigations, not shown in the film series, "Mr. Wong" is given important information from a San Francisco based criminal Chinese Tong Society. The leader of the Tong was played by third generation Chinese American Richard Loo. Loo would be a familiar face during World War 2 portraying Japanese Officers and later was in the 1974 "James Bond" movie "The Man With the Golden Gun".
The Tong leader informs "Mr. Wong" that the Princess came to the United States with one million dollars. At the time of this writing and adjusting for inflation. That amount would be equal to eighteen million, six hundred and nine thousand, nine hundred and twenty-eight dollars.

Also the Tong Leader informs the Professor that "Princess Lin Hwa" was the sister of a very powerful Chinese general.

Further investigation shows the money was deposited into a new bank account and has been paid out by forged checks. Suddenly, "James Lee Wong" is a target by unknown forces, before he solves the case.

Keeping the basic concept that a person contacts "James Lee Wong", before they are murdered. The final two feature films in the series were:

THE FATAL HOUR released January 15, 1940

Above Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds and Grant Withers. 

DOOMED TO DIE released August 12, 1940


Above Boris Karloff with Richard Loo.


Mention the name Peter Lorre and most likely the child murderer of director Fritz Lang's 1931 "M" comes to mind.

Another of his characters, and for its time, was the implied homosexual "Joel Cario" in director John Huston's 1941 version of detective writer Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon". In the novel and original film version there is no doubt that "Cario" is gay, but the production code got in the way for Huston.

Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

However, if you're a rare horror film buff. You might think of Peter Lorre as "Doctor Gogol" in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1935 version of the novel "The Hands of Orlac", entitled "Mad Love".

What can be overlooked, when speaking of Peter Lorre, are a group of his motion pictures about the Japanese American detective "Mr. Moto".

"Mr. Moto" was created by Newburyport, Massachusetts, born writer John P. Marquand. There were only six novels written with the first four serialized in "The Saturday Evening Post" between 1935 and 1938. The next wasn't serialized until 1941 and appeared in "Colliers Magazine". While the sixth wasn't serialized until 1956 and bacj in "The Saturday Evening Post". Compared with the other five the sixth was a definite "Cold War" thriller.

 Marquand's "Mr.Moto" calls himself "I.A. Moto"and is very capable of ruthless deadly violence on a moments notice, but appears to be a harmless eccentric. He, at times, refers to himself a being stupid. John P. Marquand first described his character:
Mr. Moto was a small man, delicate, almost fragile. … He was dressed formally in a morning coat and striped trousers. His black hair was carefully brushed in the Prussian style. He was smiling, showing a row of shiny gold-filled teeth, and as he smiled he drew in his breath with a polite, soft sibilant sound.
The first five novels are set during the expansionist period of Imperial Japan and the sixth finds "Mr.Moto" as a Secret Agent for the Japanese Government. My reader must also understand that the first five were written prior to the Japanese move on Manchuria and America's entry into World War 2.

THINK FAST MR. MOTO released July 23, 1937 in France

The motion picture was directed and co-written by Norman Foster.

Foster wrote a combination of thirty-five screenplays and television scripts between 1937 and 1966. They included six episodes of Walt Disney's "Zorro", Disney's "Davy Crockett and the Keel Boat Race" and "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates". Along with Disney's "The Nine Lives of Elfedo Baca".

As a director Norman Foster had one-hundred and twenty-seven movie and television programs to his credit between 1936 and 1976. These included fourteen episodes of Walt Disney's "Zorro",  four episodes of television's "Batman", the classic Joan Fontaine and Burt Lancaster 1948 film noir "Kiss the Blood Off My Hands" and the same years "Rachel and the Stranger" starring Loretta Young, William Holden and Robert Mitchum.

As an actor Norman Foster had fifty-two screen roles between 1927 and 1976. In the 1930's Foster was normally second, or third billed. His acting included 1933's "State Fair" starring Janet Gaynor, Will Rodgers and Lew Ayres, second billing in 1934's Orient Express" based upon writer Graham Greene's novel "Stamboul Express". 

Co-writing the pictures screenplay was Philip MacDonald. MacDonald was a writer of mainly detective fiction novels starting in 1924. His 1959 novel "The List of Adrian Messenger" became an excellent John Huston movie in 1963, His 1927 World War One novel "Patrol", became John Ford's overlooked 1934 movie "The Lost Patrol", produced by his friend Merian C. Cooper, 1933's "King Kong", and starring Boris Karloff and Victor McLaglen. In 1956 MacDonald turned the screenplay for the science fiction film "Forbidden Planet" into a novel.

Which now leads me to the cast of this 20th Century Fox Production.

Peter Lorre was "Mr. Moto". My article "PETER LORRE: Overlooked, or Forgotten Performances" can be read at:

The obvious inference from Peter Lorre's make-up as "Mr. Moto", compared to Boris Karloff's  "James Lee Wong", is the stereo typed Japanese look. Lorre also had to use a stereo typical accent at times also. However, he took this role, because he finally was given a chance to play a good guy.

Virginia Field was Gloria Danton". Field was London born and her father was Sir John Field the "King's Counsel" for the Leicester County Court circuit. Her mother was a cousin to Confederate General Robert E. Lee and her aunt was British stage actress and director Auriol Lee. Field took the stage name of "Virginia", because of Lee's home state.

Among Virginia Field's films were the Tyrone Power 1936 film "Lloyd's of London" with the actress billed sixth, she was fourth billed in 1940's "Waterloo Bridge" starring Vivian Leigh and Robert Taylor and in 1948 was "Morgan Le Fey" in the Bing Crosby musical "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court".
Peter Lorre and Virginia Field in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)

Above Virginia Field and Peter Lorre.

Thomas Beck was "Bob Hitchings, Jr.". Between 1934 and 1988 Beck only had twenty-nine roles to his credit. Among those films were four "Charlie Chan" features and another "Mr. Moto". He also portrayed "Pastor Schultz" in Shirley Temple's 1937 "Heidi".

Peter Lorre and Thomas Beck in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)

Above Peter Lorre and Thomas Beck.

Sig Ruman was "Nicolas Marloff". German born Ruman was seen in several comic performances, or as a stuffy bureaucrat. Although he did the occasional dramatic role. Among his films are 1935's "A Night at the Opera" starring the Marx Brothers, 1936's "The Bold Caballero" an early "Zorro" film, 1938's "Suez" starring Tyrone Power, 1940's 'Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet" starring Edward G. Robinson and 1942'a "To Be, or Not To Be" starring Jack Benny and Carol Lombard.

Above Sig Ruman and Peter Lorre.

The screenplay:

The film opens with "Mr. Moto" in the disguise of a street salesman. He notices a man, played by John Rodgers, with a British Flag tattoo leave a shop and "Moto" enters, supposedly, to sell the owner a rare diamond. However, he notices a body in a wicker basket and using his knowledge of judo. He proceeds to take down the shop keeper who is the front for a smuggling ring the detective is after.

Later the audience sees "Moto" on a freighter bound for Shanghai, China.

Before the freighter left port. The owner of the ship and father to passenger "Bob Hitchings, Jr." gave his son a confidential letter to the head of the company's Shanghai office. "Moto" and "Hitchings" become friends and when the ship stops over in Honolulu, Hawaii, "Gloria Danton" comes on board as a passenger. "Gloria" and "Bob" start to fall in love.

Unbeknownst to "Bob", or "Mr. Moto", is the fact that "Gloria" is a spy for "Nicolas Marloff" the head of an international smuggling operation. She is periodically sending messages to "Marloff". Meanwhile, one of the freighter's stewards looking for the letter gets it from "Bob's" stateroom. "Moto" notices the tattoo on the man's arm and knows he was the murderer of the man in the wicker basket. The two fight and "Moto" throws the other overboard. The ship arrives in Shanghai.

In Shanghai "Bob" meets with his father's representative "Joseph B. Wilkie", played by Murray Kinnell. He gives him the letter and then with "Wilkie's" assistance goes to the "International Club" to find "Gloria".

The two men are surprised when "Mr. Moto" shows up with his date "Lela Liu", played by Lotus Long. "Moto" convinces "Marloff" that he's also a smuggler and the film moves towards it climax. "Marloff" has found out about "Gloria's" love for "Bob" and has the two taken to his office, at the club, and tied up within the vault. "Mr. Moto" and "Wilkie" arrive with "Marloff" still believing the oriental detective is a fellow smuggler.

Meanwhile, "Lela" attempts to call the police and does relay her message, before she is shot. "Wilkie" demands that "Marloff" released "Bob" and "Gloria". "Moto" is revealed and "Marloff" has the two others at gunpoint. However, the detective is able to get the upper hand and tells "Wilkie" to take "Marloff's" pistol, but it explodes killing the club owner-smuggler.

The police now arrive and, below, "Mr. Moto" reveals that it is "Wilkie" who is the real leader of the international smuggling ring.

Peter Lorre, Thomas Beck, Virginia Field, and Murray Kinnell in Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)

Peter Lorre would have a change of pace following "Think Fast Mr. Moto", but only a one film change. He became World War One German Officer "Major Siegfried Gruning" in the Dolores del Rio and George Sanders excellent spy thriller "Lancer Spy" released October 8, 1937.

Peter Lorre and George Sanders in Lancer Spy (1937)

Then back as the Japanese American detective in three more "Mr. Moto" entries.

THANK YOU MR. MOTO released December 24, 1937

The motion picture was directed and co-written by Norman Foster. The other screenplay writer was Wyllis Cooper. As a screenplay writer Cooper only had eleven credits, but these included another "Mr. Moto" entry and 1939's "Son of Frankenstein". He also wrote the 1939 Chapter Serial "The Phantom Creeps" starring Bela Lugosi.

The film's cast:

Peter Lorre was back as "Mr. Moto".

Thomas Beck was now "Tom Nelson".

Pauline Frederick portrayed "Madame Chung". Fredrick had been acting since 1915 and this would be her last motion picture. Just prior she had been part of cast in the 1936 version of "Ramona" starring Loretta Young and Don Ameche. However, she is best remembered for being the first actress to portray, on film, the title role of Alexandre Bisson's "Madame X" in 1920. Pauline Frederick's would be followed in the role by Ruth Chatterton in 1929, Gladys George in 1937, Lana Turner in 1966 and Tuesday Weld in 1981.

Peter Lorre, Philip Ahn, and Pauline Frederick in Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937)

Above Lorre, Fredrick and Philip Ahn as "Prince Chnng". Ahn was seen only in very small roles at this point and had been in "Think Fast Mr. Moto" as a "Switchboard Operator".

Jayne Regan was "Eleanor Joyce". Between 1934 and 1938 Regan appeared in only twenty-three roles. Which included Shirley Temple's 1936 "Stowaway" and "B" Westerns. Jayne Regan had met Cecil B. DeMille at a party and he suggested an acting career for her. She first appeared with eighteenth on-screen credit in DeMille's 1934 "Cleopatra" starring Claudette Colbert.

Peter Lorre, Thomas Beck, and Jayne Regan in Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937)

Above Lorre, Beck and Regan.

Sydney Blackmer was "Herr Koerger". Character actor Blackmer had been on screen since 1914. Among his films were the 1934 "The Count of Monte Cristo" starring Robert Donat, Shirley Temple's 1937 "Heidi", he was "General Phil Sheridan" in 1938's "In Old Chicago" starring Tyrone Power, Alice Faye and Don Ameche, the same year he was in Power's "Suez", and he was "Teddy Roosevelt" in John Wayne's 1943 "In Old Oklahoma".

Above Lorre and Blackmer.

Sig Ruman was back as "Colonel Tchernov".

Above Lorre and Ruman.

John Carradine portrayed "Piereira". Carradine had been acting on screen since 1930. He had THREE non-screen credited roles in Cecil B. DeMille's 1932 "The Sign of the Cross", he was a non-screen credited "Informer" in James Whales's 1933 "The Invisible Man", he was a non-screen credited "Cult Organist" in the Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi 1934 "The Black Cat", again he had three non-screen credited roles in DeMille's 1934 "Cleopatra" and without on-screen credit he was a "Lost Hunter" in 1935's "The Bride of Frankenstein".

Above Lorre and Carradine.

The plot is murder and intrigue as a group of people look for seven parts of a map. Parts that when put together will reveal the lost treasure of Genghis Khan.

MR. MOTO'S GAMBLE released March 25, 1938
Peter Lorre, Dick Baldwin, and Lynn Bari in Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938)

The motion picture was directed by James Tinling. Tinling was considered the Best "B" director 20th Century Fox had during the 1930's and 1940's. However, most of his eighty-three productions remain forgotten today. Tinling also directed four Spanish language motion pictures.

The screenplay was co-written by Charles Belden. Belden wrote the screenplay for 1933's "The Mystery of the Wax Museum", that starred both Faye Wray and Lionel Atwill,and was rewritten as 1953's 3-D "House of Wax", he contributed to the screenplay for 1936's "Dracula's Daughter" and wrote four of the "Charlie Chan" series.

The other screenplay writer was Jerome Cady. Among Cady's screenplays were two hard hitting World War 2 drama's, 1943's "Guadalcanal Diary" and 1944's "The Purple Heart". 

Peter Lorre was back as "Mr. Moto".

Keye Luke was "Lee Chan". Keye Luke as Student "Lee Chan" is an interesting crossover from another Oriental Detective Series. The actor had portrayed the role in eight previous "Charlie Chan" motion pictures. The actor would be in seen over two-hundred and twenty-five roles including "Master Po" in forty-five episodes of David Carradine's television series "Kung Fu" from 1972 through 1975 and "Grandfather, Mr. Wing" in 1984's "Gremlins"

Above Luke and Lorre

Dick Baldwin was "Bill Steele". Between 1937 and 1950, Baldwin only appeared in ten motion pictures. Three of those had no on-screen credit.

Above Balwin, Lorre and Luke.

Lynn Bari was "Penny Kendall". Bari was "The Girl with the Million Dollar Look" and for some reason she could never move up to "A" list movies, but reigned supreme in "B" pictures. Her career included nineteenth billing in "Lancer Spy", second billing in 1939's "The Return of the Cisco Kid", seventh billing in the Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Power 1941 "Blood and Sand", first billing in 1941's classic "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" and second billing to George Raft in the film noir  "Nocturne" in 1946.


Above Lynn Bari.

Douglas Fowley was "Nick Crowder". Fowley's face was better known than his name and he played many a gangster. Two films in his later work, before becoming a familiar face on 1950 and 1960 television, are the 1952 musical "Singin' in the Rain" starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor and the camp 1953 3-D science fiction "Cat-Women of the Moon".  Fowley was "Doc Holliday" in several episodes of "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" starring Hugh O'Brien and was in a 1977 episode of the quirky science fiction television show "Quark".
Douglas Fowley

Above Douglas Fowley.

Jayne Regan was back as "Linda Benton".
Lynn Bari and Jayne Regan in Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938)

Above Regan and Bari.

Harold Huber portrayed "Police Lieutenant Riggs". Huber was better known for portraying a gangster hit man than a police detective and appeared in some of the "Charlie Chan" films. Like other non-Asian actors he was a Chinese outlaw named "General Ho-Fang" in the 1937 Tim Holt adventure "Outlaws of the Orient" that was more like a "B" Western. Also, like Peter Lorre, New York City born Huber portrayed a Japanese agent in 1942's "Little Tokyo, U.S.A." and was another Chinese character "General Kaimura" in the 1942 World War 2 drama "Lady from Chungking" starring actress Anna May Wong.

Peter Lorre and Harold Huber in Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938)

Above Lorre and Huber.

Maxie Rosenbloom portrayed "Wellington". "Slapsie Maxie" was a boxing legend at the time and smartly left the ring, professionally, and became a supporting "B" actor. Among his films are the Edgar G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and Claire Trevor 1938 "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse", the 1941 Bob Hope comedy "Louisiana Purchase". the 1942 comedy-horror picture "The Boggie Man Will Get You" starring Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre and on television he was in twenty-six episodes of the 1954 television series "The Joe Palooka Story" and the two part 1966 "The Concrete Overcoat Affair" on "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." For 1950's science fiction fans, look for "Maxie" as a bar tender in 1958's "I Married a Monster from Outer Space".

Peter Lorre, Keye Luke, and Maxie Rosenbloom in Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938)

Above "Slapsie Maxie", Lorre and Keye Luke

The screenplay:

Boxing was extremely popular with Americans at the time. Movies and Broadway plays with boxing  were everywhere. So having "Mr.  Moto" investigating the murder of the number one heavyweight contender fit right in. Basically "Moto" believes whomever is behind the betting is the murderer that has pinned the crime on boxer "Bill Steele".

Below the interesting ringside gun the murderer, known to "Moto", sets up to kill him without the killer being present.

MR. MOTO TAKES A CHANCE  released June 24, 1938

Peter Lorre, Rochelle Hudson, Robert Kent, and Al Kikume in Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938)

The screenplay takes place in Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the fictional Kingdom of Tong Mai in French Indochina.

Above "Mr. Moto" in disguise. Below leading lady Rochelle Hudson.

Below Robert Kent, Hudson, Chick Chandler and Lorre.

A 1938 comedy drama "I'll Give a Million" followed and then the final four "Mr. Moto" entries in a row.

MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO released on October 14, 1938

Peter Lorre, Harold Huber, and Mary Maguire in Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)

The story opens with the detective getting himself imprisoned on the French controlled "Devil's Island". So he can help his fellow inmate escape and bring down the real criminals.

Peter Lorre in Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)

Above Peter Lorre and below Lotus Long as "Lotus Liu". In this picture Long is using the more American acting name of Karen Sorrell on the screen credits.

Lotus Long in Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)

Below Lorre, Erick Rhodes, Henry Wilcoxon with his hand to his face and Mary Maguire.

Peter Lorre, Mary Maguire, Erik Rhodes, and Henry Wilcoxon in Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)

Maguire only had twelve films to her credit and Rhodes had thirty-six features. Although he primarily portrayed Foreign characters Erick Rhodes was born in Oklahoma. I

However, it's Henry Wilcoxon who is the most interesting actor in this low budget entry supporting Peter Lorre. Among Wilcoxon's motion pictures are a group all directed by Cecil B. DeMille. These features started with 1934's "Cleopatra" as "Marc Anthony" and continued with 1935's "The Crusades" as "King Richard", 1947's "Unconquered", 1949's "Samson and Delilah", 1952's "The Greatest Show on Earth" and 1956's "The Ten Commandments".

Harry Allen, Evelyn Beresford, George Calliga, Mary Maguire, Frederick Vogeding, and Henry Wilcoxon in Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938)

MR. MOTO'S LAST WARNING released January 20, 1939

Peter Lorre, John Carradine, Ricardo Cortez, and Virginia Field in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

This is an interesting movie, if for no other reason than the cast listed on the poster.

This was a Norman Foster directed and Philip MacDonald written motion picture. A group of foreign agents, as this was nine months prior to the start of World War 2 you can guess who they work for, have a plan is to blow up the "Suez Canal". It's up to Peter Lorre's "Mr. Moto" to stop them.

The cast besides Lorre.

Ricardo Cortez portrays "Fabian". For those unfamiliar with the actor among his better-known roles was playing "Sam Spade" in the original and very adult, pre-motion picture production code, 1931 "Maltese Falcon".  He was also the original "Perry Mason" and one of his best films in that series was 1936's "The Case of the Black Cat" with "B" Cowboy star "Wild Bill Elliott" in it. Cortez co-starred with Boris Karloff in the very good horror entry "The Walking Dead" from 1936,

Ricardo Cortez in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

Above Ricardo Cortez with the dummy he used as part of his cover.

My article "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of": The Maltese Falcon in Writing and on the Motion Picture Screen" can be found at:

Virginia Field was back as "Connie".
Peter Lorre, Ricardo Cortez, and Virginia Field in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

In the above still are Field, Lorre and Cortez sitting looking at the actress.

John Carradine was "Danforth".

Peter Lorre and John Carradine in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

Above Peter Lorre in clown make-up and John Carradine. Lorre would wear clown make-up again in Irwin Allen's 1959 movie "The Big Circus".

George Sanders was "Eric Novel". Besides 1937's "Lancer Spy", Sanders had been in two British H.G. Wells features in 1936. One was director William Cameron Menzies science fiction classic from a screenplay written by Wells himself "Things to Come". However, Sanders plays a pilot and you probably won't recognize him in that feature. The second movie was the "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" and Sanders is recognizable as he portrayed "Indifference" in the only other screenplay ever written by H.G. Wells. Additionally, staying in 1936, George Sanders was "Lord Everett Stacy", billed eighth behind Virginia Field, in Tyrone Power's "Lloyd's of London".

Above George Sanders.

Joan Carroll, billed as Joan Carol, was "Mary Delacour". This was eight year old Carroll's fifth motion picture.  Her next feature was Universal Studio's "Tower of London" starring Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff. In 1944 Joan Carroll played a sister to Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien in "Meet Me in St. Louis" and in 1945 was in the Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman "The Bells of St. Mary's".

Peter Lorre and Robert Coote in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

In the above photo "Mr. Moto" is confronted by "Rollo" portrayed by Robert Coote. Coote would originate the role of "Colonel Pickering" on the Broadway stage in the Lerner and Lowe musical "My Fair Lady" and "King Pellinore" in their "Camelot", but not be cast in either motion picture version. As to motion pictures are 1939's "Gunga Din", 1947's "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", 1947's "Forever Amber", the 1948 "The Three Musketeers" as "Aramis" and the 1951 "Othello" directed by and starring Orson Welles.

George Sanders and Robert Coote in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

Peter Lorre in Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

released April 7, 1939

Peter Lorre, Leon Ames, Amanda Duff, Warren Hymer, and Robert Lowery in Mr. Moto in Danger Island (1939)

This entry has "Mr. Moto" going to Puerto Rico aka: Danger Island to investigate diamond smugglers. This film was directed by Herbert I. Leeds a film editor turned into a director of "B" films by the studio. This was only his sixth feature film in that capacity.

The screenplay had too many hands in the pot.

It was based upon a story idea by John Reinhardt and George Bricker. Reinhardt wrote Spanish language movies for the studio and Bricker was one of their "B" series writers.

The initial screenplay was credited to Peter Milne. He was a solid "B" writer of every genre since 1921.

However, additional dialogue was credited to both Jack Jungmeyer and Edith Skouras. Jungmeyer was basically a "B" Western writer and Skouras only has five screenplays to her credit.

Another interesting relationship to this screenplay has J.P. Marquand acknowledged as creating the character of "Mr. Moto", but the screenplay is shown as based upon a novel by John W. Vandercook called "Murder in Trinidad". Which was made as a U.K. movie of that name in 1934 starring Nigel Bruce as  "Bertram Lynch", Victor Jory as "Howard Sutter" and Heather Angel as "Joan Cassell". In the screenplay for "Mr. Moto On Danger Island" the character's name became "Joan Castle".

The cast was mainly lower level "B" actors, but there are three names worth mentioning.

Jean Hersholt was "Sutter". Danish actor Hersholt started acting in Denmark in 1906, but had a very good career in the United States. Among his silent work is director Erich von Stroheim's 1924 "Greed", Douglas Fairbanks' 1925 "Don Q: Son of Zorro" and the same years "Stella Dallas". His sound films prior to this feature include the 1930 horror film "The Cat Creeps", the 1932 all star "Grand Hotel" and the same years Boris Karloff film "The Mask of Fu Manchu". Hersholt was the real villain in director Tod Browning's 1935 "Mark of the Vampire" and brought audiences to tears as Shirley Temple's "Grandfather" in the 1937 "Heidi".

Above Jean Hersholt who would bring a radio character, "Dr. Christian" to life in a series of "B" movies and an a 1956 one season television show later on.

Leon Ames was sixth billed Commissioner Madero". Ames started acting in 1931 and also had sixth billing in "The Mysterious Mr. Moto". In the 1930's and early 1940's he was a solid supporting actor who occasionally moved into an "A" list film. Such as playing Judy Garland's father in the 1944 "Meet Me in St. Louis", or a minor role in John Ford's 1945 "They Were Expendable". Leon Ames is best known, to my generation, as "Clarence Day, Sr." on televisions 1953 through 1955 period piece "Life With Father",  or as "Stanley Banks" on "December Bride" from 1961 into 1962. His third major television role was that of "Gordon Kirkwood" on "Mr. Ed" from 1963 through 1965.

Above Leon Ames as the Commissioner.

The third actor I wanted to mention had the non on-screen credited role of a wrestler named "Sailor Sam". The actor was Ward Bond and he had been in one-hundred and seventy-four motion pictures by this film. Some notable appearances were the 1929 comedy drama "So This Is College".  Bond played a football player for the University of Southern California a team he had actually played on. Portraying the quarterback was the real one from Bond's team at USC. Four films later Ward Bond received no on-screen credit as "Sid Bascom", but that quarterback with a name change to John Wayne starred in director Raul Walsh's 1930 Western "The Big Trail".

Look at "Bus Driver #1" in Frank Capra's classic 1934 comedy "It Happened One Night" starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable and you'll notice Ward Bond, but look for a "Police Officer" in 1939's "Son of Frankenstein" and you'll probably miss the actor. Ward Bond's recognizable film career truly started, also in 1939, with a small role in his first motion picture for director John Ford "Young Mr. Lincoln" starring Henry Fonda.

Above Ward Bond in "Mr. Moto on Danger Island". Bond had been a boxer with cast credit as "Biff Moran" in "Mr. Moto's Gamble".

The next motion picture was Peter Lorre's last as "Mr. Moto".

MR. MOTO TAKES A VACATION released July 7, 1939

The last entry of the series was back in the hands of director and co-screenplay writer Norman Foster and screenplay writer Philip MacDonald and it showed.

Peter Lorre was of course "Mr. Moto".

Joseph Schildkraut was "Henrik Manderson". Schildkraut was born in Austria and came to the United States to become a silent movie matinee idol for women. In 1921 he co-starred with sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish is the silent classic "Orphans of the Storm". Five years later he was "Judas" in Cecil B. DeMille's "King of Kings". Schildkraut had major roles in both DeMille's 1934 "Cleopatra" and 1935's "The Crusades". Among his work between 1937 and this picture were 1937's "The Life of Emile Zola" and"Lancer Spy", 1938's "Marie Antoinette" and "Suez", 1939's "The Three Musketeers" and "The Man in the Iron Mask". In 1959 the actor took his Broadway role of the father in "The Diary of Ann Frank" to the motion picture screen.

Joseph Schildkraut in Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)

Above Joseph Schildkraut

Lionel Atwill portrayed "Professor Hildebrand". In 1932 Atwill starred with Fay Wray in the first all Technicolor horror movie "Dr. X". The duo followed that film with 1933's "The Vampire Bat" and "The Mystery of the Wax Museum" that second all Technicolor horror movie. Two years later Lionel Atwill joined Jean Hersholt in Tod Brownings "Mark of the Vampire". Atwill would also be in 1937's Lancer Spy" and join Boris Karloff and Ward Bond in 1939's "Son of Frankenstein". Lionell Atwill was also in 1939's "The Three Musketeers" and the first Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce "Sherlock Holmes" entry "The Hound of the Baskervilles".

For those on my reader interested in the three Fay Wray films I mentioned. My article "Fay Wray Before King Kong" can be read at:

Peter Lorre and Lionel Atwill in Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)

Above Lorre and Atwill.

Virginia Field was back, below, as "Eleanor Kirke".

The very good screenplay has a disguised "Mr. Moto" as an Austrian archaeologist hunting for the legendary crown of the Queen of Sheba. After locating it he has to fight off different crooks to get it.

Peter Lorre in Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)

Peter Lorre and Iris Wong in Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)


Mention the name Warner Oland and if your a fan of silent film star Douglas Fairbanks. You might know Oland from 1925's "Don Q: Son of Zorro", or the same years Zane Grey Western "Riders of the Purple Stage" starring Tom Mix. Should you be a real movie buff you know that Warner Oland portrayed Al Jolson's father in the first talkie picture 1927's "The Jazz Singer".

At the age of 13 Swedish born Johan Verne Olund came to the United States and in 1913 entered the motion picture business as Warner Oland. Like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, Oland portrayed Sax Rohmer's "Dr. Fu Manchu", first in 1929's "The Mysterious Fu Manchu" and again in 1930's "The Return of Fu Manchu".
Jean Arthur and Warner Oland in The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929)

Above Oland's "Fu Manchu" faces actress Jean Arthur. Arthur would go on to co-star as "Calamity Jane" opposite Gary Cooper in Cecil B. DeMille's 1936 "The Plainsman". Opposite James Stewart in Frank Capra's 1939 "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and Alan Ladd in George Stevens 1953 "Shane".
In 1935 Oland had the distinction of becoming the first Universal Studio's werewolf, but you never see his complete face in "The Werewolf of London" starring Henry Hull.

Henry Hull in Werewolf of London (1935)

However, Warner Oland would become famous for a role he would portray in sixteen feature films and one short subject. The character first appeared in a 1925 novel "The House Without a Key" by Warren, Ohio's writer Earl Derr Biggers.

Between that novel and the last in 1932, "Keeper of the Keys", Biggers only wrote five stories about Honolulu based Chinese American police lieutenant of detectives "Charlie Chan". Earl Derr Biggers conceived of the man in 1919, with the large family, as the specific counterpart to "Yellow Peril" Chinese characters such as Rohmer's "Fu Manchu" while visiting Honolulu.

Unlike "James Lee Wong", or "Mr. Moto", "Charlie Chan" was based upon real life Honolulu police detective Chang Apana.

Chang Apana.jpg

In 1923 Apana would meet actor Warner Oland during the filming of "The Black Camel". By that time his fellow officers were calling him "Charlie Chan" which he seemed to enjoy.

I would point out that prior to Warner Oland there had been two silent movies with "Charlie Chan" as a very minor character. The first sound film was 1929's "Behind the Curtain" and that Fox Film Corporation production is interesting, if only for two of the actors in it. As with the silents "Chan" is a very minor character even though this was Biggers third "Charlie Chan" mystery novel, The lead character "Colonel John Beetham" was portrayed by Columbus, Ohio, born Warner Baxter. Who would get the Best Actor Oscar for portraying Mexican bandit, with stereo typical voice, the "Cisco Kid", the year before, in the first all talkie Western! At sixth billing portraying "Beetham's manservant" in his already fifty-eighth film was Boris Karloff.

Although I will mention all sixteen feature film titles by Oland, I will not go into detail with them all.

CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON released April 12, 1931

The very first Warner Oland feature was directed by Hamilton MacFadden. This was MacFadden's fifth movie as a director and would have twenty-nine "B" features for Fox through 1945. Ten years earlier the studio merged with 20th Century Films to become 20th Century Fox.

The screenplay was co-written by Barry Conners and Phillip Klein. This was Conners third screenwriting assignment. Klein on the other hand had been writing since 1926 and this was his seventeenth screenplay.

The main cast:

Warner Oland was "Charlie Chan".

John Garrick portrayed "Mark Kenaway". British born Garrick only has thirty-three film credits, because World War 2 came about in 1939 for England. Probably his most interesting motion picture, available on DVD, was 1930's "Just Imagine". It's a fantasy musical produced by popular song writers, of the period, Buddy DeSilva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson. The screenplay takes place in an imagined 1980 New York City and is worth finding for the laughs as seen today, but also the ideas. "Just Imagine" also starred a "Tarzan" film series Maureen O'Sullivan.

Marguerite Churchill, John Garrick, and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan Carries On (1931)

Above John Garrick, Marguerite Churchill and Warner Oland.

Marguerite Churchill portrayed "Pamela Potter". Churchill had only twenty-eight films between 1929 and 1952, but these included being the love interest for the newly created John Wayne in 1930's "The Big Trail", co-starring with Boris Karloff, Ricardo Cortez and Edmund Gwenn in 1936's "The Walking Dead" and co-starring with Otto Kruger and Gloria Holden in the same year's sequel, kind of, to Tod Browning's 1931 "Dracula", "Dracula's Daughter".

That last film is part of my article on odd vampire films entitled:

"Not the Same Old VAMPIRE Movies, or Get Your Dentures Away from My Jugular Vein"
found at:

Warren Hymer portrayed "Max Minchin". Between 1929 and 1946 Hymer, a familiar face in many a film, appeared one-hundred and twenty-eight times usually as a touch guy in several genres. He appeared in supporting roles in films with Jean Harlow, Alan Ladd, William Powell, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart to name a few. He was also in "Mr. Moto On Danger Island".

Marjorie White portrayed "Sadie". Between 1929 and 1934 White only had a total of fifteen films.

The plot takes place in London, England---Nice, France----San Remo, Italy--Hong Kong, China---Honolulu, Hawaii, All courtesy of the Fox Studio's back lot. The story finds a wealthy man murdered in his London flat and it's up to "Charlie Chan" to solve the murder.


At this time there was no dubbing of a motion picture into another language and the studios, if they wanted a foreign language version, actually made a second feature with the cast of that language. Universal Pictures famously made a Spanish 1931 "Dracula" at night on the set being used by Tod Browning during the day with Bela Lugosi. In the case of Fox Pictures they did the same with "Charlies Chan Carries On".

Above, is the title frame for the Spanish language motion picture version, with the names of the two stars. Below is 16th-billed Manuel Arbo as "Charlie Chan" in "Eran Trece". Somewhat, indicating that the character mentioned on the Spanish language title is not the real star of the motion picture.


THE BLACK CAMEL released June 21, 1931

The immediately made second "Charlie Chan" film from Fox was directed by Hamilton MacFadden.

The novel was adapted for the screen by Hugh Stanislaus Strange. In 1914 Strange directed his only feature "The Chocolate Soldier" Strangely this silent film was adopted from a popular 1908 German Operetta by Oscar Strauss. Between 1917 and 1940 he worked on eight screenplays including this film.

The team of Barry Conners and Phillip Klein wrote the screenplay, but additional dialogue was by Dudley Nichols. Among Nichols later complete screenplays are director John Ford's 1935 "The Informer", Ford's 1939 "Stagecoach" and director Howard Hawks' classic comedy starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn 1938's "Bringing Up Baby".
The main cast and two others of interest.

Warner Oland was "Charlie Chan".

Sally Eilers was "Julie O'Neil". Between 1927 and 1950 Eilers had sixty-nine roles in "B" features. She was fourth billed in 1933's "State Fair" with Janet Gaynor and Will Rodgers. The only "A" list feature she was in.

Robert Young and Sally Eilers in The Black Camel (1931)

The young man in the above photo with Eilers is eighth billed actor Robert Young as "Jimmy Bradshaw". This was only Young's fourth film and his first with on screen credit.

Bela Lugosi portrayed "Tarneverro". This was Bela's third feature film since "Dracula", This feature would be followed by a comedy starring comedian Joe E. Brown. Then it was back to back 1932 horror films "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and the still chilling "White Zombie". The later is part of my article "ZOMBIES and Their Motion Picture Variations 1932 to 1968". The article may be read at:

Bela Lugosi, Sally Eilers, and Warner Oland in The Black Camel (1931)

Dorothy Revier portrayed "Shelah Fane". Between 1921 and 1936 Revier appeared in ninety-one "B" motion picture with the majority being Westerns. Above Oland, Revier and Lugosi.

Victor Varconi portrayed "Robert Fyfe". Hungarian Varconi would appear in a hundred and thirty-three feature films between 1912 and 1959. He portrayed Native American "Painted Horse" in Cecil B. DeMille's 1936 "The Plainsman" and "Captain Simeon Ecuyer" in DeMille's 1947 "Unconquered". Varconi's last role was in a very good low budget science fiction thriller 1959's "The Atomic Submarine".

Warner Oland, Rita Rozelle, and Victor Varconi in The Black Camel (1931)

Above Oland, Victor Varconi and Rita Rozelle as "Luana". Below the non on-screen credited Dwight Frye as "Jessup". Prior to "The Black Camel" Frye had been seen in two other 1931 motion pictures. These were "Dracula" with Lugosi and the Ricardo Cortez "The Maltese Falcon". After this picture and still in 1931 Dwight Frye was seen with Boris Karloff in "Frankenstein".
My article "DWIGHT FRYE: Overlooked Horror Icon" cam be found at:

The screenplay has "Charlie Chan" looking into the unsolved murder of a Hollywood actor ten years earlier in relation to the current murder of an actress in Honolulu. Perhaps a strange psychic might hold some of the clues to both murders, or is he the murderer?

Bela Lugosi and Warner Oland in The Black Camel (1931)

Bela Lugosi, C. Henry Gordon, and Warner Oland in The Black Camel (1931)

Bela Lugosi and Dorothy Revier in The Black Camel (1931)

Bela Lugosi, Violet Dunn, Sally Eilers, and Warner Oland in The Black Camel (1931)

The next five "Charlie Chan" films for Warner Oland were:

CHARLIE CHAN'S CHANCE released January 24, 1932.

released September 15, 1933

CHARLIE CHAN'S COURAGE released July 6, 1934
CHARLIES CHAN IN LONDON released September 12, 1934
CHARLIE CHAN IN PARIS released January 31, 1935
Then came:

CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT released June 21, 1935

Rita Hayworth, Thomas Beck, Warner Oland, Pat Paterson, and Jameson Thomas in Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)

The motion picture was directed by Louis King using the name Luis King. King was also credited on some films as Lewis King. Between 1921 and 1961 he directed both "B" Westerns and "B" Detective feature films and television Westerns. The only non television Western he directed, was a Western of sorts, Walt Disney's "The Swamp Fox". 

The screenplay was by Robert Ellis and Helen Logan. Who were actually married. Ellis wrote screenplays between 1913 and 1934. Logan wrote screenplays between 1935 and 1950.

The main cast:

Warner Oland was "Charlie Chan"

Pat Paterson was "Carol Arnold". Patricia Elizabeth "Pat" Paterson was born in Bradford, Yorkshire,England. Her acting career was only between 1931 and 1939. Paterson was married to actor Charles Boyer from 1934 until her death in 1978.

Above, Pat Paterson, Warner Oland, and Rita Cansino. 

Rita Cansino portrayed "Nayda". Margarita Carmen Cansino taught dancing in her father's studio above a store my grandfather on my father's side owned. She first appeared in motion pictures as an extra in a 1934 film and moved to small roles in "B" Westerns the showed off her dancing. For the April 30, 1937 release of "Criminals of the Air" the young actress adopted her mother's maiden British-American last name, Her father was strongly against it, because she dropped her Spanish heritage. However, from that date forward motion pictures audiences knew Rita Cansino as Rita Hayworth.

Above Rita Cansino in the film.

Thomas Beck was "Tom Evans".  It would be another two years, before he appeared with Peter Lorre in the "Mr. Moto" series.

Stepin Fetchit played "Snowshoes". Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry took the vaudeville stage name of Stepin Fetchit. Although he played dramatic characters in Negro made motion pictures of the period. This very intelligence man took his stereo typed African-American character from an extra in dance numbers to a major 1930's supporting actor making him a millionaire.

Today, many in the African-American community consider Perry a controversial person, because he appeared to have no qualms about what characters like "Snowshoes" represented to the dignity of the Negro  community of the 1930's and 1940's.

However, African-American critic Mel Watkins in his 2005 book "Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry". Argues that Perry was really an African-American prankster. Who knew just what he was doing. Perry got his White Employers to think of him in one way. Which enabled him to get those major roles by using his character of "Fetchi" in the same way slaves on plantations had done to their "Masters". This was known as "putting on old massa" and his Negro audiences knew it at the time and loved the actor. These Negro audiences represented a different point of view than seen by the NAACP and others today.

Above Fetchi on the right and below a publicity photo of the actor.

The screenplay has "Charlie Chan" discovering the body of the leader of an expedition to Egypt's "Valley of the Kings". The body is discovered within the wrappings of a mummy. It is up to "Chan" to discover who the murderer is and how Egyptian antiquities are getting into the hands of private collectors in the United States. Additionally, seemingly supernatural events are occurring.

 Thomas Beck and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)

Thomas Beck, Frank Conroy, Warner Oland, and Jameson Thomas in Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)

Rita Hayworth, Thomas Beck, Frank Conroy, Warner Oland, and Pat Paterson in Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)

CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI released October 11, 1935

Jon Hall, Irene Hervey, and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)

The picture was directed by James Tinling. There would be twelve other feature films between this "Charlie Chan" entry for Tinling and his "Mr. Moto's Gamble" in 1938 for the director.

The screenplay was by Edward T. Lowe, Jr. and Gerard Fairlie. Lowe, Jr. had been writing screenplays since 1914. He wrote the scenario for Lon Chaney's 1923 "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", the screen story for 1933's "The Vampire Bat", the screenplay for 1942's "Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Weapon" and the screenplays for both 1944's "House of Frankenstein" and 1945's "House of Dracula". Fairlie would only write twenty screenplays between 1933 and 1969 and they were all "B" Detective thrillers

The Cast:

Warner Oland was "Charlie Chan".
Warner Oland and Frederick Vogeding in Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)

Irene Hervey was "Diana Woodland". Hervey started her film career in 1933 and had seventh billing in the Robert Donat 1934 "The Count of Monte Cristo". She had fourth billing in the original 1936 "Three Godfathers" starring Chester Morris, Lewis Stone and Walter Brennan. In 1942 Hervey was fourth billed in the Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill "Night Monster". Irene Hervey's final role was as one of the passengers in the Mark Harmon and Christopher Lee television movie "Goliath Awaits".

Charles Locher was "Phillip Nash". Charles Felix Locher, like Rita Cansino, would change his name as his acting career expanded. In 1936 he changed it to Lloyd Crane for two feature films, but in 1937 he became Jon Hall for director John Ford's "The Hurricane"opposite Dorothy Lamour and Mary Astor. In 1942 he was "The Invisible Agent" fighting Japanese agent Peter Lorre and in 1944 got the "Invisible Man's Revenge". Hall was known to my generation as television's "Ramar of the Jungle" from 1953 through 1954.

Above Charles Locher and Irene Hervey.

Russell Hicks portrayed "James Andrews". Hicks started his film career in a minor role in both D.W. Griffith's 1915 "Birth of a Nation" and 1916's "Intolerance". Over his career he would be seen in the George Arliss 1935 "Cardinal Richelieu", Spencer Tracy's 1935 "Dante's Inferno", 1938's the Tyrone Power, Don Ameche and Alice Faye "In Old Chicago", he was "Porthos" in the Don Ameche and Ritz Brothers 1939 comedy musical version of "The Three Musketeers", he was in the 1940 "The Mortal Storm" co-starring Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart and Robert Young and ended his career of over three-hundred and twenty-eight roles on television in 1957.

Eddie Hart, Russell Hicks, Russell Hopton, and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)

Above Russell Hicks in the middle with Warner Oland.

Keye Luke was "Number One Son Lee Chan". The oldest son of "Charlie Chan" was a college student, but wants to be a detective like his father.

Keye Luke and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)

Above Keye Luke and Warner Oland.

In this entry "Charlie" and "Number One Son" must stop an opium smuggling ring.

This film was followed by:

CHARLIE CHAN'S SECRET released January 10, 1936.

Which would be followed by a picture that showed the entire "Chan" family for the first time.

CHARLIE CHAN AT THE CIRCUS released March 27, 1936

Shirley Deane, John McGuire, and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)

The entry was directed by Harry Lachman. His first eight features were silent travelogues. His interesting features included the Spencer Tracy and Claire Trevor 1935 "Dante's Inferno". In 1941 and 1942 Lachman directed two "Charlie Chan" entries with Sidney Toler, but it was the two low budget films in 1942 that are of interest to me. Both screenplays are flawed, but both are interesting. The first starred actress Linda Darnell in "The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe", an early life biographical film, and the second was the horror entry "Dr. Renault's Secret" starring J. Carroll Naish and Shepperd Strudwick who was "Poe" in the previous film.

Once again the married team of Robert Ellis and Helen Logan wrote the screenplay.


Warner Oland was "Charlie Chan".
Charlie Chan at the Circus

Keye Luke was "Number One Son Lee Chan".

Looking on the above poster are the names:

George and Olive Brasno, brother and sister, who portrayed "Colonel Tim" and "Lady Tim".  The two popular midget actors appeared in 1934's "The Mighty Barnum" starring Wallace Beery and the 1938 Shirley Temple film "Little Miss Broadway". Neither were in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz", but both had been in Tod Brownings 1932 "Freaks".

George Brasno, Olive Brasno, and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)

Above a publicity photo of Warner Oland and George and Olive Brasno.

Below a still of the entire "Charlie Chan" family from "Charlie Chan at the Circus".

The co-owner of the circus "John Gaines", portrayed by Francis Ford, has received several threatening letters and notices, how could he miss (?), "Charlie Chan" at the show. "Gaines" asks the detective to investigate the letters and their source. Then murder, of course, occurs.

George Brasno, Francis Ford, Keye Luke, and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)

Above Francis Ford, George Brasno, Warner Oland and Keye Luke.

Francis Ford, Keye Luke, John McGuire, and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)

Above John McGuire as "Hal Blake", Oland, Ford, and Luke in the back.

This picture was followed by the last five films in Warner Oland's career. All five were "Charlie Chan" entries:

CHARLIE CHAN AT THE RACE TRACK released August 7, 1936

Would be followed by:

CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA released January 8, 1937

I mention this entry, because of the publicity departments great gimmick on the posters and the pictures actual title card.

The one role I want to mention goes to fourth billed Charlotte Henry as "Mlle Kitty". The young actress portrayed "Alice" in Paramount Studios all-star live action 1933 "Alice in Wonderland". It is a great film and worth locating. Cary Grant is the "Mock Turtle", Gary Cooper "The White Knight" and W.C. Fields is "Humpty-Dumpty" for example. Then in 1934 Henry was "Bo-Beep" in the Laurel and Hardy version of "Babe's in Toyland".

Charlotte Henry is in the above photo with William Demarest on her left,  Demarest is best known as "Uncle Charlie" from 1965 through 1972 on television's "My Three Sons", but is in her film as "Police Sergeant Kelly" and the other man is Thomas Beck as "Phil Childers".

Next came:

CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS released May 21, 1977
CHARLIE CHAN ON BROADWAY released October 8, 1937
CHARLIE CHAN AT MONTE CARLO released January 21, 1938

Warner Oland had planned to continue in the role of "Charlie Chan", but on August 8, 1938 he passed away from Bronchial Pneumonia in Stockholm, Sweden.


Mention playwright, legitimate theater manager and actor Sidney Toler and outside of his twenty-two appearances as "Charlie Chan". Most people have no idea of his other work. Which included the 1935 version of Jack London's "Call of the Wild" starring Loretta Young, Clark Gable and Jack Oakie and the 1936 Western "The Three Godfathers".

Warrenberg, Missouri, born Sidney Toler's first appearance as the Chinese-American detective was:

CHARLIE CHAN IN HONOLULU released December 30, 1938

The motion picture was directed by H. Bruce Humberstone. Among actor turned director Humberstone's features had been three of Warner Oland's last five "Charlie Chan" entries. He also directed ice skater Sonja Henie and John Payne in the 1941 musical "Sun Valley Serenade" featuring Glenn Miller and his orchestra. In 1945 Humberstone directed Danny Kaye in "Wonder Man".

The screenplay was by Charles Belden. As I previously mentioned he wrote the screenplay for Peter Lorre's "Mr. Moto's Gamble".

The main cast:

Sidney Toler was "Charlie Chan".

Phyllis Brooks portrayed "Judy Hayes". Brooks was solid "B" actress and appeared in Shirley Temple's 1938 "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and the same years "Little Miss Broadway".
Brooks was also in the Joel McCrea and Gail Russell film noir from 1945 "The Unseen".

Phyllis Brooks and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)

Above Phyllis Brooks and Sidney Toler.

Victor Sen Yung was "Number Two Son James Chan". Sen Yung was an "On Looker" in 1937's "Thank You Mr. Moto" and a "Khmer Soldier" in 1938's "Mr. Moto Takes A Chance". On television he was seen in 1953's "Terry and the Pirates", 1954's "The New Adventures of China Smith", 1960's "Bachelor Father" and of course 1972's "Kung Fu".

Sidney Toler and Victor Sen Yung in Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)

Eddie Collins was "Al Hogan". He provided the voice (?) of "Dopey" in Walt Disney's 1939 "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" along with the noises of a chipmunk and squirrel. Collins was a major supporting player in several motion pictures until his death in 1940.

Above Eddie Collins is between Phyllis Brooks and Sidney Toler.

John "Dusty" King portrayed "Randolph".  The nickname "Dusty" came from this band singer moving to "B" Westerns. Which were his primary type of film work between 1940 and 1946.

Robert Barrat, Phyllis Brooks, John 'Dusty' King, Richard Lane, Marc Lawrence, Sidney Toler, Victor Sen Yung, and George Zucco in Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)

Above John "Dusty" King is pointing his finger at the ship's captain holding the suitcase.

Claire Dodd was "Mrs. Carol Wayne". Dodd was another "B" actress between 1930 and 1942. However, she appeared in two "A" films. In 1934 she was in "Babbit" based upon the Sinclair Lewis novel and in 1935 Dodd was in the Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers musical "Roberta". In 1941 she was sixth billed in the comedy-horror-drama "The Black Cat". The film featured Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi and Broderick Crawford. and was a very early Alan Ladd movie.

Above is probably Claire Dodd, but some sites indicate the actress in the still is Phyllis Brooks. I vote for Dodd.

George Zucco portrayed "Dr. Cardingan". Zucco had been acting in period drama's and other films. Among these were 1936's "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" and in 1937 he was in "Saratoga" starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. That same year saw Zucco in the tearjerker "Madame X". but it was 1939, after this film, that a turn in roles occurred that would lead to the actor being associated with horror films. That year he portrayed "Professor Moriarty" in the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", was seen in the Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard comedy-mystery "The Cat and the Canary" and ended the year in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara.

I could not find a still with Zucco in it, but for those who don't know him. The following is a publicity photo.

The screenplay has "Charlie" awaiting the birth of his first grandchild. However, there is a murder on board a freighter in the harbor, but the detective is not interested. What follows is a series of misadventures as "Jimmy Chan" goes to the ship claiming to be his father and this leads to Dad becoming involved.

The actor of the far right above is Richard Lane as "Joe Arnold". Starting in 1946 "Dick" Lane worked for KTLA-TV as a sportscaster and became the announcer for the wresting matches at the "Olympic Auditorium". My family owned its competitor "The Ocean Park Arena" and Lane would occasionally announce the fights there in the early 1950's. When not, according to my mother and grandmother, not baby sitting me with actor George Raft.

Below the new "Charlie Chan" family, but with some of the same actors two years later after the photo with Warner Oland. Again, notice "Number One Daughter".

Eugene Hoo, Grace Lem, Helen Quan, Sidney Toler, Layne Tom Jr., Barbara Jean Wong, Iris Wong, Victor Sen Yung, Faye Lee, David Dong, Allan Hoo, Sinclair Yip, Grace Key, Margie Lee, Florence Ung, Frances Hoo, and Hippie Hoo in Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)

Four films later, including Sidney Toler portraying another Chinese character "Dr. Chang Lee" in "The King of Chinatown", saw the actor in:

CHARLIE CHAN IN RENO released June 16, 1939

This Toler entry was directed by Norman Foster.

The screenplay was an interesting combination of writers.

The character of cours was created to Earl Derr Biggers, but the story came from another story "Death Makes a Decree" by Philip Wylie. Science Fiction fans know Wylie for his 1933 novel "When Worlds Collide" and its sequel 1934's "After Worlds Collide". He also co-wrote the screenplay for the classic horror film 1932's "Island of Lost Souls" based upon H.G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau".

The actual screenplay was written by Frances Hyland, Albert Ray and Robert E. Kent.

Hyland's screenplays were a combination of women's films and detective thrillers from 1927 through 1947. With an occasional "B" Western like 1939's "Cisco Kid and the Lady".

Ray only had twenty screenplays between 1922 and 1950. He was also an actor that appeared twenty-two times between 1915 and 1922. While also being a director of eighty-five motion pictures between 1915 and 1939.

Kent had ninety-four screenplays between 1937 through 1970. The majority of his films were detective and film noirs.

The main cast:

Sidney Toler was "Charlie Chan".

Above Slim Summerville as "Sheriff Fletcher". Comedian and dramatic actor Summerville started his career with Mack Sennett.

Ricardo Cortez was "Dr. Ainsley".
Phyllis Brooks portrayed "Vivian Wells".
Victor Sen Yung was "Jimmy Chan".

Ricardo Cortez, Phyllis Brooks, Sidney Toler, and Victor Sen Yung in Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)

 Above Brooks, Cortez, Toler and Yung

Kane Richmond was "Curtis Whitman". Richmond would become a Chapter Serial Hero. In 1942 he brought the radio and comic page hero "Spy Smasher" to screen in twelve exciting chapters. In 1944 he starred in "Haunted Harbor", in 1945 he starred in the serial "Jungle Raiders" and the same year was the boy friend of "Brenda Starr, Reporter". While in 1947 Richmond brought another popular comic strip to the serial screen in "Brick Bradford".  He was in other non-serial films such as portraying "Lamont Cranston" in three 1946 features: "The Shadow Returns", "Behind the Mask" and "The Missing Lady".

Kane Richmond and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)

Above Toler with Kane Richmond.

Pauline Moore was "Mrs. Mary Whitman". Moore started her film career as one of the bridesmaids in the 1931 "Frankenstein". Her main film career was between 1939 and 1941. During which she portrayed "Ann Rutledge" in director John Ford's 1939 "Young Mr. Lincoln" starring Henry Fonda, was "Lady Constance" in the 1939 comedy version of "The Three Musketeers", and co-starred in a series of Roy Rodgers "B" Westerns starting with 1939's "Days of Jesse James".

Pauline Moore is to the right of Ricardo Cortez and ninth billed Kay Linaker is on his left. Linaker might not be remembered from any of her fifty-seven "B" motion pictures, but to 1950's science fiction fans she should be. Kay Linkaker created the story and wrote the screenplay for 1958's "The Blob" starring the then "Steven" McQueen.

The screenplay has an old friend of "Charlie Chan's", "Mary Whitman", in Reno for a quickie divorce and finds herself accused of murdering the women her husband had planned to marry.

Charles D. Brown, Edwin Stanley, Slim Summerville, and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)

Ricardo Cortez, Charles D. Brown, Kay Linaker, Kane Richmond, and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)

Ricardo Cortez, Louise Henry, Kay Linaker, Robert Lowery, and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)

Above Sidney Toler is speaking to Robert Lowery as "Wally Burke". In 1949 Lowery became the second actor to portray "Bruce Wayne" aka: "Batman" in the Chapter Serial "Batman and Robin". In 1945 he had co-starred in the horror film "The Monster and the Ape" and was in the first picture with Rhondo Hatton as "The Creeper", 1946's "House of Horrors". On television Lowery co-starred as "Big Tim Champion" from 1956 through 1957 on "Circus Boy". He co-starred with a young Micky Dolenz in the title role and Noah Beery, Jr.

Lowery's "Bruce Wayne-Batman" is also part of my article "BATMAN Before Tim Burton" found at:

In 1939 San Francisco's "Treasure Island", located in the bay, was the site of the "Golden Gate International Exposition" and 20th Century Fox took advantage of the expo.

CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND released September 9, 1939

Norman Foster was back as director, but the picture's screenplay was by John Francis Larkin without Foster's assistance. Larkin was also writing for two more detective series at the time. One was "Ellery Queen" and the other "The Lone Wolf" with Warren Williams as "Michael Lanyard". Somehow he also did a musical 1939's "Rose of Washington Square" starring Tyrone Power and Alice Faye.

Sidney Toler was "Charlie Chan".

Victor Sun Yung using the screen name of Sun Yung was again "Jimmy Chan".

Above Toler and Yung.

Cesar Romero was "Fred Rhadini". In 1939 Romero was all over the place. He appeared as the first on screen "Doc Holliday" in "Frontier Marshall" starring Randolph Scott as "Wyatt Earp". Romero had fifth billing in the Shirley Temple feature "The Little Princess" and was "Lopez" in the last of the Warner Baxter "Cisco Kid" movies "The Return of the Cisco Kid". Before 1939 was done Cesar Romero would take over the role in "The Cisco Kid and the Lady".

Cesar Romero, Sidney Toler, and Wally Vernon in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)

Above Romero does a magic trick while Toler and tenth billed comedian Wally Vernon looks on.

Pauline Moore portrayed "Eve Cario".

Pauline Moore in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)

However, it is non on-screen credited Gerald Mohr that is the most important member of the cast to the plot. Mohr portrayed, in heavy make-up, "Dr. Zodiac".

Gerald Mohr in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)

Mohr looked like Humphrey Bogart and was confused by many people. The two appeared in 1951's "Sirocco". Gerald Mohr was in the very good low budget "Cold War" science fiction 1952's "Invasion U.S.A." with Peggie Castle and Dan O'Herlihy. He was also in 1959's "The Angry Red Planet". My article "GERALD MOHR: Radio, B Movie and Television Actor" can be found at:

The film's climax reveals that Mohr's "Dr. Zodiac" is a front for the real "Dr. Zodiac" and murderer "Fred Rhadini".

The 20th Century Fox publicity department had fun with this one in the local newspapers.

Cesar Romero, Douglas Fowley, Pauline Moore, and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)

Cesar Romero, Pauline Moore, and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)

The next two Sidney Toler entries were:

CITY IN DARKNESS released December 1, 1939

CHARLIE CHAN IN PANAMA released March 1, 1940

There is nothing like a pleasant cruise from Hawaii to California. Except when it's:

CHARLIE CHAN'S MURDER CRUISE released June 21, 1940

The entry was directed by Eugene Forde. Forde had directed Warner Oland as "Charlie Chan" twice in both 1934 and 1937. So he was familiar with the style of the series. He was a contract "B" director, but specialized in detective stories and an occasional comedy.

Robert Ellis and his wife Helen Logan adopted Earl Derr Biggers story "Charlie Chan Carries On". The actual screenplay was written by Robertson White and Lester Ziffen.

White would have only fifteen screenplays to his credit and all were "B" detective thrillers. However, some such as 1939's "Charlie McCarthy Detective" had comedy elements. He also wrote the screenplay for 1947's "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome" with Boris Karloff as "Gruesome" and Ralph Byrd in his signature role of "Dick Tracy".

Members of the Cast:

Sidney Toler was "Charlie Chan".
Victor Sun Yung returned as "Number 2 Son Jimmy Chan".
Layne Tom, Jr. portrayed "Willie Chan".

Sidney Toler, Layne Tom Jr., and Victor Sen Yung in Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)

Above Toler, Tom, Jr. and Yung.

Marjorie Weaver was "Paula Drake" and had second billing in the film's credit.Weaver was a solid "B" actress who appeared in a few "A" list motion pictures. She co-starred with Ricardo Cortez in the historical "The Californian" in 1937, portrayed "Mary Todd" in John Ford's 1939 "Young Mr. Lincoln" and was "The Lady" in Cesar Romero's 1939 "The Cisco Kid and the Lady". She also co-starred in several "Michael Shayne" mysteries starring Lloyd Nolan.

Sidney Toler and Marjorie Weaver in Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)

Above Weaver and Toler.

Lionel Atwill portrayed "Dr. Suderman".

Leo G. Carroll portrayed "Professor Gordon". Carroll had appeared in "City in Darkness", but he became a regular supporting actor for Alfred Hitchcock in 1940's "Rebecca", 1941's "Suspicion", 1945's "Spellbound", 1951's "Strangers on a Train", and 1959's "North By Northwest". However, science fiction/horror fans know Leo G. Carroll as "Professor Gerald Deemer" in 1955's "Tarantula". Television watchers know the actor as "Cosmo Topper" on the 1953 through 1955 series "Topper" and as "Alexander Waverly" on both "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E." from 1964 through 1968.

Leo G. Carroll and Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)

Above Sidney Toler and Leo G. Carroll.

Robert Lowery portrayed "Dick Kenyon".

Robert Lowery, Sidney Toler, and Marjorie Weaver in Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)

Above in this faded lobby card are Lowery, Weaver and Toler.

There is a character actor in this film I want to mention.

Charles Middleton portrayed "Mr. Walters". Middleton started acting in 1922 and would become a regular face in 1930's "B" Westerns, but in 1936 besides the small role of the Sheriff in director James Whales excellent version of the Jerome Kern's and Oscar Hammerstein II's "Show Boat". Charles Middleton became "Ming the Merciless" in the Buster Crabbe serial "Flash Gordon" and would repeat the role in two other serials.

Lionel Atwill, Claire Du Brey, Robert Lowery, Charles Middleton, Sidney Toler, Cora Witherspoon, and Victor Sen Yung in Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)

Above Charles Middleton is wearing the black hat behind the two women.

The screenplay has "Charlie Chan" attempting to identify a strangler who has murdered multiple times.

The next picture found:

CHARLIE CHAN AT THE WAX MUSEUM released September 6, 1940
Then there was a gathering of "Charlie Chan" alumnus in:

MURDER OVER NEW YORK released December 13, 1940
Sidney Toler was "Charlie Chan".
Victor Sen Yung was "Jimmy Chan".

Marjorie Weaver was "Patricia Shaw"/

Robert Lowery was "David Elliott".
Ricardo Cortez was "George Kirby".
Kane Richmond was "Ralph Percy".
All involved in the murder of an old friend of "Chan's" from Scotland Yard.

Robert Lowery, Sidney Toler, and Marjorie Weaver in Murder Over New York (1940)

That entry was followed by:

DEAD MEN TELL released March 28, 1941
CHARLIE CHAN IN RIO released September 5, 1941

Next found:

CHARLIE CHAN IN  THE DESERT released February 27, 1942

The motion picture was directed by Harry Lachman. The screenplay was by John Francis Larkin.

The cast members:

Sidney Toler was "Charlie Chan".

Victor Sun Yung was "Jimmy Chan".

Arleen Whelan portrayed "Brenda Hartford". Whelan's career was on again, off again, and on again. She started out with third billing in the "A" list 1938 version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped" and then fell into low "B" films through 1943. Dropped out for four years and restarted her film career in 1947 with the "A" list "The Senator Was Indiscreet", but switched to solid "B" Westerns until 1953. Switched to television from 1954 through 1955 and back to films 1956 through 1958. Then she dropped out of acting for four years and came back in 1962 for one television episode

Above Toler and Whelan.

Richard Derr portrayed "Carl Detheridge".  Derr was a very good "B" actor who would migrate, as many did, to television. He is best remembered for George Pal's Oscar Winning 1951 adaption of Philip Wylie's "When Worlds Collide". In  1958 he appeared as "Lamont Cranston" aka: "The Shadow" in the forgotten "Invisible Avenger".

A second Chan film role would come with Castle in the Desert (1942). (From L to R): Sidney Toler as Chan, Henry Daniell and Richard Derr.

Above Toler, Henry Daniell and Richard Derr

Henry Daniell portrayed "Watson King". Daniell was a major character actor in the 1940's. Among his films are 1938's "Marie Antoinette" starring Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power and John Barrymore, 1939's "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn, 1940's "The Philadelphia Story" starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. 1942's "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror" and 1943's "Sherlock Holmes in Washington" starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. He co-starred in the Val Lewton produced and Robert Wise directed classic version of Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Body Snatcher" with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The list goes on.

Henry Daniell, Sidney Toler, and Arleen Whelan in Castle in the Desert (1942)

Above Henry Daniell, Arleen Whelan and Sidney Toler.

The screenplay has "Charlie Chan" investigating a series of poisonings at a mysterious old mansion in the Mojave Desert.

Three non "Charlie Chan" films followed this one for Sidney Toler and then Victor Sen Yung was no longer in the series and 20th Century Fox wasn't the studio anymore. The series had moved to "Poverty Row" in Hollywood and Monogram Pictures with a lower budget.

CHARLIE CHAN IN THE SECRET SERVICE released February 14, 1944

The picture was directed by Phil Rosen. Rosen would have directed one-hundred and forty-three  films when he retired in 1951. He had started in 1915 and his titles include 1940's "The Phantom of China Town" starring Keye Luke and Lotus Long, 1941's "Spooks Run Wild" starring Bela Lugosi and the East Side Kids, 1944's "The Return of the Ape Man" starring John Carradine, Bela Lugosi and George Zucco whose scenes were all deleted, and 1945's "The Cisco Kid in Old New Mexico" starring Duncan Renaldo.

The screenplay was by George Callahan. His thirty-three screenplays include 1949's "The Babe Ruth Story" and 1955's "This Island Earth". Otherwise his work is completely forgotten.

Sidney Toler was still "Charlie Chan".

Mantan Moreland portrayed "Birmingham Brown". Comic Moreland is still criticized today by the African American community for his stereo typed "Black" humor of the 1930's and 1940's. That said, he was an excellent character actor. He would portray "Charlie Chan's" chauffeur through 1948. His career of one-hundred and thirty films spanned 1933 through 1973. In this film he was billed second behind Toler indicating his popularity.

Benson Fong was now " Number Three Son Tommy Chan".  Fond had a non on-screen credited walk on in "Charlie Chan at the Opera". His next five films had Benson Fong as a Japanese soldier, in three of them, without on-screen credit. This film was his first with on screen credit, but Fong was billed eighth

Above Toler, Fong and Moreland.

Gwen Kenyon was "Inez Arranto". Of her fifty-six films, between 1937 and 1945, thirty-four of these were without  on-screen credit, because of how small they were.

Marianne Quon portrayed "Number Two Daughter Iris Chan". Quon was in only four other movies and they were not "Charlie Chan" entries.

Arthur Loft portrayed "Inspector Jones".  Between 1932 and 1947 character actor Loft had two hundred and thirty roles.  One hundred and thirteen of those without on-screen credit. Indicating with Kenyon how a contract actor went were assigned no matter the size of the role. He was in several Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers pictures and with other "B" cowboys.

Above Arthur Loft faces the "Chan Gang".

The plot is a popular one and you could substitute any of a number of other detective characters, including Basil Rathbone's "Sherlock Holmes and Lloyd Nolan as "Michael Shayne", from other series. As "Charlie Chan" investigates the murder of an inventor by agents of the axis powers.


John Davidson, Benson Fong, Weldon Heyburn, Mantan Moreland, and Joan Woodbury in Charlie Chan in The Chinese Cat (1944)

The second Monogram entry was again directed by Phil Rosen and written by George Callahan.

Except for substituting the leading lady the three leading actors were:

Sidney Toler as "Charlie Chan".
Mantan Moreland as "Birmingham Brown" 

Benson Fong was "Tommy Chan"

Joan Woodbury as "Leah Manning". Woodbury's career had some interesting entries in it. Before this picture she had been the miniature "Queen" in director James Whale's 1935 "Bride of Frankenstein", a "Dancer in Versailles Club" in 1935's "Charlie Chan in Shanghai", another dancer in 1936's "Charlie Chan at the Opera", ninth billed "Marie Collins" in 1937's "Charlie Chan on Broadway", co-starred with Roy Rodgers and George "Gaby" Hayes in 1941's "In Old Cheyenne" and co-starred with Mantan Moreland in 1941's "King of the Zombies". After this film Woodbury co-starred with Kane Richmond in the title role of the 1945 Chapter Serial "Brenda Starr, Reporter" and in 1964 had sixth billing in Ib Melchior's science fiction film "The Time Travelers".

This locked room murder mystery was the work of director Phil Rosen and screenplay writer George Callahan,

For the next entry Benson Fong was dropped, but appeared in four major movies of 1944. These were "The Purple Heart", "Dragon Seed", "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" and "The Keys of the Kingdom", However, the team of director Phil Rosen and writer George Callahan were back for:

BLACK MAGIC released August 19, 1944

Frances Chan, Jacqueline deWit, Mantan Moreland, and Sidney Toler in Black Magic (1944)

Sidney Toler was "Charlie Chan".

Mantan Moreland was "Brimingham Brown",

Without Benson Fong the screenplay brought the viewer another member of the "Chan" family.

Francis Chan portrayed "Number One Daughter" with the very original name of "Francis Chan". She only did six films and her first was 1933's "Charlie Chan's Greatest Case" with Warner Oland.

Helen Beverley portrayed the dual roles of "Norma Duncan" and "Nancy Wood". Beverley only has twelve roles to her film credit between 1937 and 1975.

Joseph Crehan and Sidney Toler in Black Magic (1944)

Black Magic (1944)

"William Bonner", played by Crane Whitley, is murdered in the middle of a seance with eight witnesses. It is up to "Charlie  Chan" to solve the murder and identify the murderer. While "Norma Duncan" under hypnosis claims to be another women named "Nancy Wood" who may have clues to the murderer.

 The next entry only had Sidney Toler and Mantan Moreland and was:

THE JADE MASK released January 25, 1945

By this time director Phil Rosen and writer George Callahan had the Monogram formula down pat.

"The Jade Mask" was followed by another non "Charlie Chan" picture for Sidney Toler and then the last seven motion pictures were all entries in the series.

THE SCARLET CLAW released May 11, 1945

The picture saw the return of Benson  Fong as "Tommy Chan". As secret agent "Charlie Chan" along with his chauffeur "Brimingham Brown" fought axis agents after government secrets in typical low budget flag waving World War 2 action.

THE SHANGHAI COBRA released September 29, 1945

This entry found the acting trio being directed by Phil Karlson. This was Karlson's fourth motion picture and he would direct Kane Richmond as "Lamont Cranston, The Shadow" in 1946's "Behind the Mask" and perfect directing gangster and detective films. He would direct the pilot episode for television's "The Untouchables" in 1959 and in 1962 the motion picture "Kid Gallahad" starring Elvis Presley. The following year Karlson directed the made for television movie "Alexander the Great" starring William Shatner in the title role and featuring Adam West, John Cassavetes and Joseph Cotton. Phi Kasrlson would also directed Dean Martin in the first and fourth entry in the "Matt Helm" series 1966's "The Silencers" and 1968's "The Wrecking Crew".
The screenplay was mainly by George Callahan, but with assistance by a George Wallace Sayre who had no specific genre and went were assigned by Monogram Pictures.

Otherwise the plot was typical as a foreign agent is attempting to steal radium stored at a bank and a series of murders occur by cobra venom.

Phil Rosen was back directing the next entry in the series and George Callahan was the only screenplay writer..

THE RED DRAGON released February 2, 1946

For this entry Mantan Moreland was missing and he was replaced by Willie Best as "Chattanooga Brown". Best is compared to Stepin Fetchit for his comedy timing and the fact that of his one hundred and twenty-four movies. Best received screen credit for seventy-seven. However, unlike Lincoln Perry who became a millionaire. William "Willie" Best became a drug addict and died of cancer in the "Motion Picture Actors Home" in Woodland Hills, California.

Fortunio Bonanova portrayed "Inspector Luis Carvero". The Spanish born actor had a variety of roles. Blink and you'll miss him in Tyrone Power's 1940 "Mark of Zorro" as a sentry. The following year Bonanova was eleventh billed in "Citizen Kane" followed with fourteenth billing in the Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Power "Blood and Sand" and then back to being the "Headwaiter" in the 1941 Tyrone Power and Betty Grable "A Yank in the R.A.F.". In 1943 he was seventh billed in the Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman "For Whom the Bell Tolls" based upon the Ernest Hemingway novel and the same year Bonanova had the non on-screen credited role of "Imperial Prince Louis" in the Jennifer Jones "The Song of Bernadette".

Above Toler, Bonanova, Fong and Best/

In this case Government Agent "Charlie Chan" is tracking down agents of a foreign government after the formula for an Atomic Bomb. As people are being killed by bullets not fired from a gun, or rifle.

Mantan Morehead was back as "Brimingham Brown" and Willie West as "Chattanooga Brown" was out in:

DARK ALIBI released May 25, 1946

Returned to a simple investigation to prove an ex-con was innocent of both a bank robbery and murder.

Benson Fong's "Tommy Chan" was out and Vincent Sen Yung was back as "Jimmy Chan", note his last name was being misspelled as "Young" on the posters.

SHADOWS OVER CHINATOWN released June 27, 1946

Mantan Moreland, Sidney Toler, and Victor Sen Yung in Shadows Over Chinatown (1946)

This motion picture was directed by Terry O. Morse. Morse was a film editor and switched to some directing. Using the name of Terrell O. Morse he would edit and direct a very low budgeted science fiction film from 1951 called "Unknown World". That "Cold War" story is about a group of scientists who go into a volcano in search of a bomb shelter for mankind using a drilling vehicle out of Edgar Rice Burroughs. However, in 1956 Morse was one of the producers, film editors and the director of the American footage turning a 1954 Japanese atomic bomb allegory, called "Gojira", into a typical American giant monster film of the decade "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" starring Raymond Burr.

In keeping with screenplays returning to more conventional detective mysteries and away from World War 2 espionage. "Charlie Chan" investigates insurance fraud leading to murders within San Francisco's Chinatown.

DANGEROUS MONEY released October 12, 1946

Retained Victor Sen Yung as "Jimmy Chan", but brought back Willie Best as "Chatanooga Brown". This Sidney Toler entry was written by Miriam Kissinger. She would have only one more credit and that was Sidney Toler's final film. Note that Yung's last name was again misspelled as "Young".

The screenplay is set on another cruise ship and involves a Treasury Agent "Charlie Chan" knew from his previous government work. The man reveals there have been two attempts on his life and wants "Chan" to help him stay alive and find the attempted murderer.

The next motion picture was also Sidney Toler's final on-screen appearance.

THE TRAP released November 30, 1946

This picture was directed by Howard Bretherton. Bretherton started directing motion pictures in 1926 and was a Monogram contract director who did everything from comedy, drama, "B" Westerns and detective thrillers.

The screenplay was the other one by Miriam Kissinger and is about a troupe of show girls relaxing in Malibu Beach, California, and two are garroted by an unknown person. "Charlie Chan" is called in to investigate.

Once again Monogram switched Moreland and Best and Yung with Fong.

The interesting piece of casting was Kirk Alyn as "Police Sergeant Reynolds". 

Above Toler and Alyn.

In 1948 Kirk Alyn would have the title role in the fifteen Chapter serial "Superman" and would repeat the role in the 1950's serial "Atom Man vs Superman". In 1952 he brought the comic strip and radio character "Blackhawk" to the screen in another chapter serial "Blackhawk: Fearless Champion". 

Sidney Toler was preparing for the next installment in the "Charlie Chan" series when he died of intestinal cancer on February 12, 1947.

Above is a newspaper release showing left to right Warner Oland, Sidney Toler and Monograms replacement in the role of "Charlie Chan" Roland Winters. Boston Massachusetts born Winters would make six films for Monogram.

The first of the six films was "The Chinese Ring" released December 6, 1947.

Above Roland Winters on the right as "Charlie Chan".

Irish New Yorker and character actor J. Carroll Nash would become "Charlie Chan" on television for 39 episodes of "The New Adventures of Charlie Chan" in 1957.

It should be noted that during the 1930's into the early 1940's in China. Five "Charlie Chan" motion picture were made with Chinese actor Xu Xinyuan.


Above is Xinyuan and Gu Meijun as "Chan's" daughter and assistant.

The joke at the time was about a Chinese Actor portraying a Swede, Warner Oland, portraying a Chinese Detective.

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