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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.


Harry Lachman


Robert Ellis (original screen play), Helen Logan (original screen play) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Warner Oland ... Charlie Chan
Keye Luke ... Lee Chan
John McGuire ... Hal Blake
Shirley Deane ... Louise Norman
Francis Ford ... John Gaines
J. Carrol Naish ... Tom Holt
Paul Stanton ... Joe Kinney
Boothe Howard Boothe Howard ... Dan Farrell
Drue Leyton ... Nellie Farrell
Wade Boteler ... Police Lt. Macy
Shia Jung Shia Jung ... Su Toy
George Brasno George Brasno ... Tim
Olive Brasno Olive Brasno ... Tiny
Maxine Reiner ... Marie Norman
Franklyn Farnum ... Mike - Ticket Taker


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 | Plot Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

27 March 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan no Circo See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film was first telecast in Salt Lake City Wednesday 8 July 1953 on KSL (Channel 5), in Detroit Monday 26 October 1953 on WXYZ (Channel 7), in Portland OR Saturday 14 November 1953 on KOIN (Channel 6), in Phoenix Wednesday 2 December 1953 on KOOL (Channel 10), in Indianapolis Friday 14 January 1954 on WFBM (Channel 6), in both New York City and Cincinnati Wednesday 27 January 1954 on WCBS (Channel 2) and on WLW-T (Channel 5) in Baltimore Thursday 18 February 1954 on WBAL (Channel 11), in Philadelphia Thursday 8 April 1954 on WPTZ (Channel 3), in Atlanta Tuesday 27 April 1954 on WLW-A (Channel 11), in Los Angeles Saturday 21 August 1954 on KNBH (Channel 4), and in San Francisco Friday 1 July 1955 on KRON (Channel 4). See more »


The ape is shown peeling the banana from the top. Primates, except for humans, peel them from the bottom, thus doing away with those pesky stringy bits. See more »


Lee Chan: How do you do it, Pop?
Lee Chan: Evidence like nose on anteater.
See more »


Followed by Charlie Chan in Panama (1940) See more »

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User Reviews

"Mind Like Parachute, Only Function When Open"
12 January 2005 | by Mike-764See 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.

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