29 user 14 critic

City in Darkness (1939)

Approved | | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 1 December 1939 (USA)
While in Paris for a reunion on the eve of World War II, Charlie finds that the murder of a hated businessman leads him to a conspiracy to smuggle arms to Germany.


Herbert I. Leeds


Robert Ellis (screen play), Helen Logan (screen play) | 3 more credits »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Sidney Toler ... Charlie Chan
Lynn Bari ... Marie Dubon
Richard Clarke ... Tony Madero (as Richard Clark)
Harold Huber ... Marcel
Pedro de Cordoba ... Antoine (as Pedro De Cordoba)
Dorothy Tree ... Charlotte Ronnell
C. Henry Gordon ... Prefect of Police J. Romaine
Douglass Dumbrille ... Petroff (as Douglas Dumbrille)
Noel Madison ... Belescu
Leo G. Carroll ... Louis Santelle (as Leo Carroll)
Lon Chaney Jr. ... Pierre
Louis Mercier Louis Mercier ... Max
George Davis ... Alex
Barbara Leonard ... Lola
Adrienne D'Ambricourt ... Landlady


Chan goes to Paris for a reunion with friends from World War I. There he investigates the murder of a munitions manufacturer who was supplying arms to the enemy. At the end Charlie preaches to us about the dangers of peace conferences. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


PARIS! BLACKOUT!...but there's no blackout for crime...and the great detective is commandeered!


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Chan's prescient aphorism at the film's conclusion, expressing pessimism about the upcoming Munich Conference was filmed months prior to the start of World War II. See more »


When Harold Huber is thrown from the raised doorway of the hotel steps by the bouncer, the mattress on the cobblestones can be seen in the shot. See more »


Charlie Chan: Confucius say; "A wise man questions *himself*, a fool *others*".
See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #27.32 (2010) See more »

User Reviews

A moment in history preserved in amber
21 December 2016 | by robertguttmanSee all my reviews

Although not the best of the Charlie Chan series, this is a cut above the later Sidney Toler Chan films. However, what really makes it worth seeing is that the story takes place during the 1938 Munich Crisis (September 1938), yet was produced before WW-II began (September 1939). The setting is Paris, which is blacked out due to the threat of war, and while the French armed forces are busy mobilizing. The city-wide blackout explains the title, as "The City of Light" had been transformed into a "City in Darkness".

There are plenty of lame gags involving the distribution of gas masks, and people panicking due to false air raid alarms. Within a few months of this film's production none of those things would be laughing matters anymore. In fact, although produced prior to the outbreak of WW-II, the movie was not actually released until December 1939, by which time the war had actually begun.

In a sense, therefore, "City in Darkness" represents a significant moment in history that, one might say, has been preserved in a drop of amber. It was the moment when one world crisis was averted, leading to the preservation of world peace for a last few happy months before the final unleashing of Armageddon. For that alone, if for no other reason, "City in Darkness" is still worth a look.

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Release Date:

1 December 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan e la città al buio See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA High Fidelity Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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