26 user 11 critic

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.


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

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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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »






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?


This film was first telecast in Lebanon PA Thursday 10 December 1953 on WLBR (Channel 15), in Detroit Monday 11 January 1954 on WXYZ (Channel 7), in Philadelphia Thursday 21 January 1954 on WPTZ (Channel 3), in Cincinnati Monday 8 February 1954 on WLW-T (Channel 5), in New York City Friday 19 February 1954 on WCBS (Channel 2), in Los Angeles Sunday 30 May 1954 on KNBH (Channel 4), and in San Francisco Friday 5 August 1955 on KRON (Channel 4). 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 »


Featured in Lost L.A.: Dream Factory (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

Chan clan reshuffled
21 May 2002 | by Jim TrittenSee all my reviews

Sidney Toler makes his debut as Lieutenant Charlie Chan in this who-done-it mystery where the writer actually plants sufficient clues that the alert viewer might be able to ascertain the guilty party before all is revealed at the end. Bravo - the Warner Oland Chan movies rarely offer such a treat. Toler plays a more animated Chan than did Oland - most fans have their preference. This Chan moves fast and points out more clues along the way.

The Toler series opens with a Chan family gathering and an impending birth of his first grandchild. Chan admits to having a total of 13 children of which 10 are sons. Son Lee's absence is explained as being in art school in New York and Victor Sen Yung (billed as Sen Yung) is introduced as Chan's #2 son James (as shown in closing credits). Jimmy both aids his Pop and hinders the investigation but wants to become a detective.

In Charlie Chan at the Circus, Chan's #2 son is Charlie Jr., played by Layne Tom, Jr. In this new film, Layne Tom plays #5 son Tommy but the IMDb listing and all reviews show him as Willie. The closing credits clearly show Layne Tom playing the role of Tommy Chan and I never heard anyone refer to him by name - except perhaps the ship's Captain who says he is tired of this `tommyrot.' In this film, the Chan family is awaiting birth of first grandchild - this theme forming the basis of some good comedy throughout.

The bulk of the story takes place aboard the freighter Susan B. Jennings that is taking a mixed cargo from China to the US. The cargo includes animals for a San Francisco zoo - to include Oscar the lion and Eddie Collins as a great comedic keeper. George Zucco is superb as the eccentric psychiatrist Dr. Cardigan who is keeping alive the brain of Chinese murderer Chan Ho Ping. The rest of the supporting cast does a credible job and the viewer is offered a menu of suspicious characters and planted clues. `Opinion like tea leaf in hot water - both need time for brewing.' Just stick to the main clues as they are revealed and you might just get to the end along with Lieutenant Chan.

There are fewer racial slurs in this offering although the elder Chan makes reference to the `wrong flavor' when viewing a newly born black child. Probably too much time is spent with Oscar and Al but he is funny.

Chan gathers everyone together at the end in the Captain's Cabin where he tricks the guilty party into taking a final incriminating step. The last scene is interrupted by a phone call from the hospital and the lights being turned off, but in the end, justice prevails. As in earlier Chan movies, the detective knows some facts that the viewer cannot know, but in this film those facts are not vital to figuring out the solution.

By the way, the grandchild is a boy. Recommended.

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