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Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)

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.


Charles Belden (original screenplay), Earl Derr Biggers (based on: the character "Charlie Chan" created by)

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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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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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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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Charlie Chan investigates apparent poisonings at a mystery mansion in the Mojave Desert.

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

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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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The unsolved murder of a Hollywood actor several years earlier and an enigmatic psychic are the keys to help Charlie solve the Honolulu stabbing death of a beautiful actress.

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When Charlie's old friend from Scotland Yard is murdered when they attend a police convention in New York, Chan picks up the case he was working on.

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The heir to a huge fortune is presumed drowned, then shows up, is then murdered.

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Complete credited cast:
Sidney Toler ... Charlie Chan
Phyllis Brooks ... Judy Hayes
Victor Sen Yung ... James Chan (as Sen Yung)
Eddie Collins Eddie Collins ... Al Hogan
John 'Dusty' King ... Randolph (as John King)
Claire Dodd ... Mrs. Carol Wayne
George Zucco ... Dr. Cardigan
Robert Barrat ... Captain Johnson
Marc Lawrence ... Johnny McCoy
Richard Lane ... Joe Arnold
Layne Tom Jr. Layne Tom Jr. ... Tommy Chan
Philip Ahn ... Wing Foo
Paul Harvey ... 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

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Release Date:

13 January 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan em Honolulu See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The twentieth of forty-seven Charlie Chan movies. 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 »


Al Hogan: Just as I thought - familiarity breeds attempt.
See more »


Followed by Castle in the Desert (1942) See more »

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User Reviews

Back home with new protagonists
8 March 2014 | by binapiraeusSee 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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