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Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)

Approved | | Comedy, Crime, Horror | 13 January 1939 (USA)
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.


(original screenplay), (based on: the character "Charlie Chan" created by)

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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.

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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.

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An escaped convicted murderer hides out at a New York wax museum where he hopes to get plastic surgery, which will help him revenge himself on Charlie Chan.

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Charlie tries to discover the identity of a strangler who strikes multiple times on a cruise ship bound from Honolulu to California.

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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.

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While in Paris for a reunion on the eve of World War II, Charlie finds that the murder of an hated businessman leads him to a conspiracy to smuggle arms to Germany.

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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.

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

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On the trail of a singer who killed the man she loved in Honolulu, Charlie finds her stabbed to death when he ultimately catches up to her in Rio.

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A treasure map in four pieces, the ghost of a hanged pirate, a talking parrot, and a ship full of red herrings complicate Charlie's search for a murderer on board a docked ship.

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Stars: Sidney Toler, Sheila Ryan, Robert Weldon


Complete credited cast:
James Chan (as Sen Yung)
Eddie Collins ...
Al Hogan
Randolph (as John King)
Mrs. Carol Wayne
Dr. Cardigan
Captain Johnson
Johnny McCoy
Joe Arnold
Layne Tom Jr. ...
Tommy Chan
Philip Ahn ...
Wing Foo
Inspector Rawlins


With Charlie Chan distracted by the imminent birth of his first grandchild, young Tommy Chan persuades his older brother Jimmy (eager to be a detective) to take Pop's place when a call comes in directing Charlie to investigate a murder aboard a freighter. Charlie eventually learns of this and boards the ship to straighten out its slew of suspects, a cargo hold full of wild animals, and two well-meaning but ineffectual sons. Written by statmanjeff

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 January 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan em Honolulu  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Among other actors considered and tested for the new Charlie Chan were Cy Kendall, Walter Connolly, J. Edward Bromberg, Noah Beery Jr., Michael Visaroff, and Leo Carillo. Kendall and Connelly had played Chan on radio. See more »


In the chase scene involving Eddie Collins, the monkey, and the lion, there is a cutaway from one of the ship's officers jumping on a stool to the animals. When the cutback is made to the humans, they are in the same place physically, not having moved from their original positions in spite of being involved in a chase. See more »


Capt. Johnson: [startled upon coming into the ship cabin] Pardon me, gentlemen, I thought this cabin was occupied only by the corpse.
Charlie Chan: Sorry to disappoint.
See more »


Follows Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936) See more »

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User Reviews

Back home with new protagonists
8 March 2014 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

Due to the regrettable death of Warner Oland, 20th Century-Fox had to look for a 'new' Charlie Chan to continue its immensely popular series; they found him in Sidney Toler, who was indeed an ideal choice, not only because of his physical appearance (although he had primarily Scottish roots, he had quite an oriental look, and he always claimed that there had been Asians among his ancestors), but also of his acting style that was quite similar to Oland's: he was simply PERFECT at portraying the gentle, polite Chinese with a lot of wisdom, cleverness, and also humor.

Now, since the protagonist had changed, the producers seemed to think it best to change his assistant as well: instead of 'number one son' Lee, it's now 'number two son' Jimmy (Sen Yung, who would make a wonderful team with Toler for many more 'Charlie Chan' adventures) - but, in order not to upset the audience too much, they let Toler's first appearance begin right at his home in Honolulu, among his whole huge family... to which another member is just about to be added; not a child, but a grandchild for Charlie this time! But amid this happy family scene, a police call comes in, calling Charlie to a freighter off the harbor where a murder has been committed - only it's not Charlie who takes the call, but one of his smaller boys, who tells everything to Jimmy, who's most ambitious to become a detective as well, and goes there to impersonate his father, hoping to get his first 'big' case that way... Instead, he and his little brother who followed him secretly are in a pretty bad jam soon; and Charlie, who's been informed of somebody 'impersonating' him, comes to their rescue just in time!

Anyway, Jimmy has done quite a good research job until now - only it's up to his father now to put the pieces of the difficult puzzle together: a man traveling with a bag filled with money which he'd handed over to a pretty young lady who had orders to forward it to an unknown destination was shot; there are five more passengers aboard the freighter: the VERY strange psychiatrist Dr. Cardigan (George Zucco, one of the greatest specialists at this kind of roles), young Judy Hayes who was entrusted the money, mysterious Mrs. Wayne, and a police officer who seems on strangely friendly terms with the murderer he's in charge of and has to turn over to the States' authorities. But that's not all: the cargo room is full with... beasts: lions, elephants, monkeys - and their boozy warden, who has to deliver the whole 'Noah's Ark' load to the zoo!

So there's LOTS of adventure and suspense guaranteed in Sidney Toler's debut as 'Charlie Chan': murders, criminal psychology, hot money, convicts - and on the other side great fun with Jimmy Chan's first attempt to be a detective, the stuttering animal warden who takes 'his' lion for walks and sleeps beside him, but is afraid of ghosts and shadows, the creepy psychiatrist examining everyone with a loony look in his eyes... In short: there ARE some changes in style, but it still remains the same good old 'Charlie Chan' series we all adore!

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