While steaming from Honolulu to Los Angeles the owner of a prize racehorse headed for the Santa Anita Handicap is killed, apparently kicked to death by his stallion. Not so, deduces Charlie. Leter he exposes efforts to fix a race at the famous track. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
When the climactic race begins, only half of the horses announced (Gringo, Wild Bill, Shrapnel, Gallant Lad, Golden Fleece, Elsie Lee, Avalanche, Hold Away) match the names seen earlier on the odds board (Golden Fleece, Money Maker, Shrapnel, Blue Boy, Court Jester, Gallant Lad, Avalanche, Pico). See more »
Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) and son Lee Chan (Keye Luke) become involved "At the Race Track," from 1936.
When a friend of Charlie's is murdered by his race horse on board ship, Charlie is asked to investigate when the ocean liner stops in Honolulu. Looking at the horse's stall, Charlie doubts the horse had anything to do with it -- this was a human's doing.
His investigation continues, and Charlie and Lee board ship and travel to Santa Anita raceway to continue their investigation. He soon discovers fraud and a nefarious gambling ring, and he has to ferret out a murderer.
This is a very lively and fun Charlie Chan, with Lee posing as an attendant on the ship to find the typewriter on which threatening notes were typed; and later, at a crucial point, he drives a Chinese laundry truck. Charlie, meanwhile, is shot in the leg and laid up for part of the film.
Some excellent racing footage and beautiful horses are also shown.
It's not perfect. A horse falls, and I absolutely hate seeing that. They would trip them with chicken wire, and it was quite cruel. The second and more egregious thing, particularly by today's standards but I think it might have been embarrassing even then, was the role of the black stable boy, done as a Stepinfetchit type character. Cringe-worthy. Frankly, I liked it much better when Mantan Moreland came on as Birmingham. First of all, he was hilarious, and secondly, he was treated as an equal. Yes, he had some scenes where he was supposedly afraid of his shadow, but it was better than what is in this film.
Oland is a warmer Chan than Sidney Toler, though both brought a great deal to the role. There is something a little less intimidating about Oland.
"Charlie Chan at the Race Track" is very enjoyable, somewhat reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes story "Silver Blaze" -- so that's probably why the story is so good.
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