26 user 8 critic

Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)

Approved | | Comedy, Crime, Mystery | 27 March 1936 (USA)
While visiting the circus with his family, Charlie is recruited by the big top's co-owner to investigate threatening letters that he's received.



(original screen play), (original screen play) | 1 more credit »

On Disc

at Amazon


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A dangerous amnesiac escapes from an asylum, hides in the opera house, and is suspected of getting revenge on those who tried to murder him 13 years ago.

Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
Stars: Warner Oland, Boris Karloff, Keye Luke
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

When a friend of Charlie's is found kicked to death by his own race horse on board a Honolulu-bound liner, the detective discovers foul play and uncovers an international gambling ring.

Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
Stars: Warner Oland, Keye Luke, Helen Wood
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

When a strategically important new aerial guidance system is stolen, Charlie traces it to the Berlin Olympics, where he has to battle spies and enemy agents to retrieve it.

Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
Stars: Warner Oland, Katherine DeMille, Pauline Moore
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

While investigating the theft of antiquities from an ancient tomb excavation , Charlie discovers that the body of the expedition's leader concealed inside the mummy's wrappings.

Director: Louis King
Stars: Warner Oland, Pat Paterson, Thomas Beck
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Charlie visits a wealthy country home in England. Suspects in the murder range from a housekeeper, to a stableman, to a lawyer.

Director: Eugene Forde
Stars: Warner Oland, Drue Leyton, Ray Milland
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

When a prominent official is murdered at a banquet honoring Charle Chan, the detective and son Lee team up to expose an opium-smuggling ring.

Director: James Tinling
Stars: Warner Oland, Irene Hervey, Jon Hall
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

The heir to a huge fortune is presumed drowned, then shows up, is then murdered.

Director: Gordon Wiles
Stars: Warner Oland, Rosina Lawrence, Charles Quigley
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Returning from European exile where she avoided testifying against her criminal associates, a former singer with a tell-all diary is murdered to ensure her silence.

Director: Eugene Forde
Stars: Warner Oland, Keye Luke, Joan Marsh
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Although Charlie and Lee are in Monaco for an art exhibit, they become caught up in a feud between rival financiers which involves the Chans in a web of blackmail and murder.

Director: Eugene Forde
Stars: Warner Oland, Keye Luke, Virginia Field
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Hired to investigate forged bonds, Charlie is thwarted by the murder of his undercover agent, but the arrival of son Lee helps him uncover the true culprits.

Directors: Lewis Seiler, Hamilton MacFadden
Stars: Warner Oland, Mary Brian, Thomas Beck
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

When Charlie's old friend from Scotland Yard is murdered when they attend a police convention in New York, Chan picks up the case he was working on.

Director: Harry Lachman
Stars: Sidney Toler, Marjorie Weaver, Robert Lowery
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Mary Whitman, an old friend of Charlie's in Reno for a divorce, finds herself accused of murdering the woman her husband planned to marry after the decree became final.

Director: Norman Foster
Stars: Sidney Toler, Ricardo Cortez, Phyllis Brooks


Complete credited cast:
George Brasno ...
Olive Brasno ...
John Gaines
Maxine Reiner ...
Marie Norman
John McGuire ...
Hal Blake
Shirley Deane ...
Louise Norman
Paul Stanton ...
Joe Kinney
Tom Holt
Boothe Howard ...
Dan Farrell
Nellie Farrell
Wade Boteler ...
Police Lt. Macy
Shia Jung ...
Su Toy


Charlie receives fourteen free passes to the circus for him and his entire family but soon realizes that there are strings attached as the big top's co-owner asks his guest to investigate threatening letters that he's received. Before the famous detective can, the man is murdered. Charlie soon finds out that the co-owner was not a particularly pleasant or well-liked individual, and among the many suspects are his partner, a snake charmer and the menagerie's gorilla. Son Lee, usually an enthusiastic assistant for his father, is distracted by the show's beautiful contortionist. Written by duke1029

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

27 March 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan no Circo  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The action occurs mostly at the Kinney & Gaines Combined Circus. See more »


Charlie turns on a gramophone to play some eastern music in order to 'charm' a snake on his bed, but snakes follow the movements of the snake-charmer rather than the rhythm of the music, and Charlie Chan remains still. See more »


Charlie Chan: Cannot tell where path lead until reach end of road.
See more »


Follows Charlie Chan Carries On (1931) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

"Mind Like Parachute, Only Function When Open"
12 January 2005 | by (Flushing, NY) – See all my reviews

Charlie and all 13 members of the immediate family are given passes to the Kinney and Gaines traveling circus, compliments of Joe Kinney, who wants Charlie to investigate some threatening letters he's been receiving. Anyone at the circus could have sent them, since Kinney is as popular as cancer, driving partner Gaines to bankruptcy and using violence on other performers at the circus. Naturally he is found murdered in the business wagon, which Charlie and Lee believe was done by the wild ape Ceasar. Tiny, one half of a man and wife midget sideshow, asks Charlie to work further on the case, which Mrs. Chan, Lee, and the other 11 children plead with him to do. Charlie and Lee travel with the circus and find out that one performer, Nellie Farrell, married Kinney in Mexico, which drives the rift with Marie Normand, trapeze artist and Kinney's fiancé. Marie doesn't believe that Kinney was with Nellie on the marriage date, but.... well that's her own secret and that may cost her life from the mysterious killer. Above average entry in the Chan series, and probably the most humorous entry (especially from the Fox series). The mystery angle is prevalent throughout the movie but is played down because of the humor which by the 50 minute mark does seem to get old and have the audience wanting the mystery we expect from the series. The circus setting really does look authentic giving the audience of being at the big top. Lachman uses plenty of low and high angle shots to create suspense and character interpretations, but in the context of the film itself it wasn't necessary. It was nice to see all 14 members of the family in an appearance rather than the photograph used in previous entries. Rating, 7.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: