26 user 8 critic

Charlie Chan's Secret (1936)

Approved | | Comedy, Crime, Horror | 10 January 1936 (USA)
The heir to a huge fortune is presumed drowned, then shows up, is then murdered.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 4 more credits »

On Disc

at Amazon


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

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.

Director: Harry Lachman
Stars: Warner Oland, Keye Luke, George Brasno
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 | 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
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 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 | Musical | Mystery
    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 7.5/10 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
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 housekeepe to a stableman to a lawyer.

Director: Eugene Forde
Stars: Warner Oland, Drue Leyton, Ray Milland
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 7.7/10 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 | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

While Charlie is distracted with the birth of his first grandchild, son Jimmy impersonates his father in order to investigate a murder aboard a freighter in the harbor.

Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
Stars: Sidney Toler, Phyllis Brooks, Victor Sen Yung
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Charlie's investigation of a phony psychic during the 1939 World Exposition on San Francisco's Treasure Island leads him to expose a suicide as murder.

Director: Norman Foster
Stars: Sidney Toler, Cesar Romero, Pauline Moore
Adventure | Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Inspector Chan investigates a group of travelers, one of whom is a saboteur.

Director: Norman Foster
Stars: Sidney Toler, Jean Rogers, Lionel Atwill


Complete credited cast:
Rosina Lawrence ...
Charles Quigley ...
Dick Williams
Edward Trevor ...
Fred Gage
Astrid Allwyn ...
Janice Gage
Herbert Mundin ...
Jonathan Hale ...
Warren T. Phelps
Egon Brecher ...
Gloria Roy ...
Ivan Miller ...
Inspector Morton
Arthur Edmund Carewe ...
Professor Bowen (as Arthur Edmund Carew)


An ocean liner sinks off Honolulu and Allen Colby, heir to millions, is presumed dead...but local sleuth Charlie Chan is not so sure, and flies to San Francisco to investigate further. Somehow, the missing Colby is there ahead of him...but is knifed in the back before seeing anyone. Further events revolve around spiritualist Mrs. Lowell, her family of suspicious characters, and the spooky, untenanted Colby mansion, where the body turns up during a seance! Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


San Francisco is the scene of Chan's newest and most baffling mystery!


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

10 January 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chans Geheimnis  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The thirteenth of forty-seven Charlie Chan movies. See more »


When the camera dollies back from Charlie working with his forensic kit, its shadow can be clearly seen. See more »


Baxter: Now, I think ...
Henrietta Lowell: You don't think. You think you think. I think!
See more »


Follows Behind That Curtain (1929) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

"Best place for skeletons is in family closet."
18 February 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Missing for seven years, Allen Colby, heir to his father's fortune is no longer welcome at the Colby/Lowell home. His arrival would mean that the supply of funds doled out by his father's estate under matriarch Henrietta Lowell, Bernard Colby's sister, would come to an abrupt halt. Henrietta has an abiding interest in all things psychic, and has spent nearly one hundred thousand dollars on psychic research, séances, and payments to Professor Bowen and wife Carlotta to stay in touch with the dead.

Although it's presumed Allen Colby drowned when a cruise ship went down, detective Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) has his doubts. With no body, and a recovered briefcase bearing the initials "A.C.", Chan believes the missing heir will show up. Indeed he does, but not as expected. Gaining entrance to the old Colby homestead, Allen is quickly dispatched by a knife in the back thrown from a parlor trapdoor. His corpse does make an appearance though, at a scheduled séance meant to determine his fate. With Colby truly gone, the remaining Colby/Lowell heirs can gain some measure of satisfaction - or can they?

The film does a nice job of presenting a number of possible suspects to the Colby murder. Attorney Warren Phelps, the administrator of the Colby fortune stands to lose a substantial portion of his income from fees paid for his services. Henrietta Lowell would lose all of her psychic research funding, and her two daughters would be cut off as well. Accordingly, Professor Bowen and wife Carlotta would no longer enjoy their séance income if Allen Colby showed up to claim his inheritance. And for good measure, the film offers caretaker Ulrich as a suspect; his daughter was in love with Colby years ago, but died some time after Colby disappeared seven years earlier.

Charlie Chan approaches the case methodically, and begins to unravel the case a step at a time. When he demonstrates to Mrs. Lowell how the séances were rigged by the Bowen's, she becomes a loyal ally to uncover the mystery, to the point of faking her own death when the killer lashes out. But with all the meticulous work done in laying out the suspects, the identity of the real murderer still comes as a surprise at the end. In typical Chan fashion, the killer had a stake in Colby's disappearance, but there were no real clues to implicate him throughout the film.

With no Chan family members on board for this film, the comic relief is handled by Lowell butler Baxter, nervously but effectively portrayed by Herbert Mundin. As if to lend further credibility to mysterious psychic forces at work in the Colby House, a black cat named Lucifer snarls his way into a couple of well placed scenes. Sufficiently dark and moody, "Charlie Chan's Secret" is a well told mystery that nicely complements other films in the Chan series.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
San Francisco or Visaria? ace-150
Discuss Charlie Chan's Secret (1936) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: