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
Hollywood, California, Monday, October 17, 1938: Darryl F. Zanuck has selected Sidney Toler to play the role of Charlie Chan, succeeding the late Warner Oland. His first picture will be "Charlie Chan in Honolulu" which will start production October 24, with John Stone as the associate producer. Toler was discovered by Sol M. Wurtzel when he looked at rushes of Up the River (1938), current 20th Century-Fox picture in which Toler is a featured player. See more »
Charlie refers to the body of water that the ship is in as "the bay." A resident of Honolulu would have called it Pearl Harbor. See more »
Sidney Toler takes over the role for the first time...
Upon Warner Roland's death, it was SIDNEY TOLER's turn to play the Chinese detective with the huge family. This time his son is played by Victor Sen Yung, who would go on to play the role of Jimmy Chan in many future Chan films.
This time the plot involves $300,000 of stolen money and a slew of passengers aboard a freighter, several of which are suspicious enough to be questioned by Chan about their associations. RICHARD LANE, MARC LAWRENCE, PHYLLIS BROOKS, EDDIE COLLINS and ROBERT BARRAT are the chief suspects but it's GEORGE ZUCCO, a mad doctor with thick glasses carrying a live brain in a suitcase, who makes the most vivid impression and, at one point, actually seems to be the killer when a couple of murders occur.
Not the best of the series, but it does make a good start for Sidney Toler who would go on to keep playing Chan until the mid-'40s. The comic relief from Eddie Collins is sometimes painful and Chan's quotations are a bit much, as usual. He gathers the passengers together for the final scene and stages a bit of detective work that gives the story a nice finish.
Summing up: As usual, the viewer is given almost no way to solve the crime.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?