Charlie Chan in Reno (1939) Poster

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Better than average Chan entry
reve-225 June 2001
This very good Charlie Chan mystery was made at 20th Century Fox. At this time the series still had the backing of a major studio and so the production values, acting, script, camera work, etc. were of good quality. Later, when Fox dropped the series and it found a home at Monogram, the Chan films got pretty bad with the look of cheapness in abundance. But, this film had some very good actors, such as Ricardo Cortez, Robert Lowery, and the always funny Slim Summerville supporting Sidney Toler as Chan. There seemed to be just the right amount of comic relief to keep the story moving at a good pace. Later Chan entries would go overboard with comedy with Mantan Moreland and company trying to avert the viewers from realizing what lame plots and bad acting they were watching. Of course, as in all Chan mysteries, there is no shortage of suspects in the case of a murder that is committed on a thoroughly unlikeable woman who seemed to go out of her way to alienate everyone. With several characters having a motive to kill the woman, Chan must sort out the clues and unmask the killer while continually being harassed by an inept (but very funny) sheriff, portrayed by Summerville. Victor Sen-Yung, as number two son, helps out when it counts while enduring the usual number of affectionate insults from his detective father. All in all, this movie is great fun.
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Confusing, But Humorous
ccthemovieman-131 October 2006
Although this story got a bit confusing early on and was impossible to figure out with so many suspects, it still was very enjoyable to watch because of the humor.

Between Charlie's proverbs and just some humorous remarks - many by Charlie's Number Two Son "Jimmy" (Sen Yung) and "Sheriff Tombstone Fletcher" (Slim Summerville) - it's a very entertaining Chan episode. Summerville played a pretty funny lawman.

The movie also had a couple of very pretty women, most notably Phyllis Brooks.

Overall, here's another Chan mystery just crying out for DVD packaging. Hopefully, we'll get it soon.
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Great assembly of B movie actors in top-notch mystery
csteidler8 July 2012
Sweet but sorrowful Pauline Moore arrives in Reno for her divorce. At the hotel she quickly meets Ricardo Cortez, suave doctor, and Phyllis Brooks, a kind of "social director" at the hotel, who urges her into the lounge for a drink. Also on the scene are Robert Lowery, earnest young socialite, and Kay Linaker, a more serious-minded guest—and the vulgar and tipsy Louise Henry, the would-be future husband of Moore's current spouse, who manages to insult all of the other characters within the space of about two minutes. Not surprisingly….

The nasty woman is shortly thereafter found murdered in her room. Pauline Moore is—unfortunately for her—found standing over the still-warm body; on the plus side for Moore, however, is her old friendship with the great Charlie Chan—who on hearing of her arrest immediately drops everything in Honolulu (he has been working in the police lab on an Easter egg) and flies over to Nevada to assist. He is accompanied by Kane Richmond, Moore's estranged—yet basically solid—husband.

It's a nice ensemble cast, a good mix of suspects. Keeping an eye on them all is Sheriff Slim Summerville, who goes by the name of "Tombstone," is suspicious of everyone, and is pretty much clueless. He is good comic relief, as is—

Sen Yung, back as Jimmy Chan, now a student at USC who borrows a car and sets out for Reno when he gets word that there's a case on. Along the highway, he gets highjacked and loses his car and his clothes….And one of the funniest scenes in the Chan series has got to be the moment when Jimmy, picked up by the cops, walks out under the lights in a police lineup wrapped in a blanket—and his recently-arrived pop is in the audience with the Reno chief.

Once released, Jimmy has a cute romance with hotel maid Iris Wong. "Does honorable father think you're too young to smoke?" she asks as he (amateurishly) lights up a cigarette. "Oh no, I'm no kid," Jimmy insists. "I help him solve his cases." Of course, he has a few ideas on this case as well….

Sidney Toler is fine at the center of it all, bantering with suspects, flattering the sheriff, tut-tutting Jimmy. Eventually, he gathers all of the suspects together for a climactic scene that is quite suspenseful and nicely satisfying.

Very enjoyable. It may be a formulaic series entry—but at this point they sure had the formula down right.
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A solid effort
bensonmum214 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Mary Whitman seems to be a logical suspect in the murder of Jeanne Bentley. After all, she was found standing over the body. And Jeanne was the "other woman" and the reason Mary was getting a divorce. On the surface, there seems to be little doubt of Mary's guilt. But Charlie Chan sees it all quite differently. He sees a hotel full of suspects who wanted Jeanne out of the way. Can he find the real killer before Mary is convicted of a crime she didn't commit?

Sidney Toler's second outing as Charlie Chan is a solid effort and an improvement over his first. I'm not exactly sure how to put this, but Charlie Chan in Reno is just more interesting. The plot, suspects, and setting all appealed to me. The pacing is nice with very few dull moments. I particularly enjoyed Chan's visit to the ghost town. The supporting cast is strong with Phyllis Brooks and Ricardo Cortez being the standouts. And Iris Wong as the dead woman's maid and Jimmy Chan's love interest is a delight. But one thing I really enjoyed about Charlie Chan in Reno is the way the finale is handled. I've often complained about the "cheat" endings of Chan films (and I should probably stop and just accept it as a given), but the ending here is played much straighter than some of the other entries in the series. If you're sharp enough, you actually have a chance to spot the killer before Chan's big reveal. Unfortunately, I am not that sharp.
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nice cast with Toler as Charlie
blanche-227 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Charlie Chan in Reno" from 1939 is about divorce and murder. Mary Whitman (Pauline Moore), a friend of Charlie's, has traveled to Reno to get a divorce. However, while there, the woman her husband left her for (Louise Henry), also at the hotel, is murdered. Mary is accused and arrested, and Charlie arrives with #2 son (Victor Sen-Yung) to get Mary out of hot water.

There are plenty of suspects - in fact, there are too many, which makes the movie a little confusing. However, the good cast, which includes Phyllis Brooks, Ricardo Cortez, and Slim Summerville help the plot along, along with Charlie's witticisms and Jimmy Chan's antics.

Directed by Norman Foster, this is a good entry into the series during its 20th Century Fox days.
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Slow-moving but honest who-done-it
Jim Tritten24 May 2002
Unlike most of the Warner Oland Chan films, those featuring Sidney Toler as Lieutenant Charlie Chan, Honolulu Police Department, often include sufficient clues that the viewer can play detective along with the hero. Charlie Chan in Reno is one of those films. Released prior to a first-class film with a similar main storyline (`The Women' in 1939) this Chan film also has a group of females waiting their time in Reno before a divorce decree can be granted. Chan has an eye for these ladies: `Charming company turn lowly sandwich into rich banquet.' Norman Foster takes over from a series of Mr. Moto films to direct the first of three good Chan films.

Good supporting comedic cast with Victor Sen Yung as No. 2 son Jimmy - a USC undergraduate, former Keystone Kop Slim Summerville as Sheriff `Tombstone' Fletcher, and Eddie Collins as the ever-talkative cab driver (until it is suggested that he might appear in court). Ricardo Cortez is smooth as the suspicious doctor with a motive for murder. Some racial slurring as a hood from the lineup pulls up on the corners of his eyes and tells the detective that he also is one of Chan's sons.

Most of the story takes place at the Hotel Sierra or Police Headquarters. Jealousy, possible robbery, and other motives and a number of obvious suspects complicate the solution. `When searching for needle in haystack, haystack only sensible location.' A keen eye for details will lead the viewer to see what Chan sees and to anticipate his every move. Good luck, the Sheriff could not figure it out and storms out of headquarters heading for Tonopah in disgust at the end.

Could have moved faster. Recommended.
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Complex Story
Lechuguilla13 November 2011
An enjoyable whodunit, this film stars Sidney Toler as the formidable but good-natured sleuth on the trail of the killer of an annoying Reno socialite. Usually, I can guess correctly who the killer is, but this time I was wrong.

The story is much more complex than it first appears. And it's not entirely believable. But the puzzle is what's important. The plot includes a nighttime visit to a ghost town, and some genuine humor in the form of a loquacious taxi driver.

B&W lighting contributes to suspense, especially at the ghost town. Casting and acting are fine, though I could have done without irritating number two son, Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung). The actors all seem to be having a good time with their roles.

Despite a weak story premise, the film gets an overall positive review from me, owing to effective B&W lighting, humor, and a surprise ending. "Thank you so much".
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Hits The Jackpot!
Lin215 July 2010
An entertaining film as Charlie heads over to Reno to help a friend. Mrs. Bentley would have been interesting to hang around with for a while. The film drags in a couple of spots but only briefly. I personally didn't find the Tombstone' character to be all that funny. Other than Charlie's sons,the attempts at humor in the Chan films tend to fall flat. Eddie Collins is annoying as the cab driver and it's nice to see Charlie put him in his place. Phyllis Brooks gives a good performance as Ms. Wells. I love the way Pauline Moore speaks and acts in this film. Iris Wong is great as usual.The interplay between Charlie and his #2 son is priceless!
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Reno, the 'capital of divorce'...
binapiraeus10 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Mary Whitman from Honolulu arrives in Reno for the usual purpose: to get a divorce... She's being taken care of very nicely of hotel owner Mrs. Russell and her social hostess Vivian Wells - but then exactly what everybody tried to avoid happens: haughty young blonde Jeanne Bentley comes over to her table and teases her with the greatest pleasure about the fact that SHE's going to marry Mary's husband. Mrs. Russell orders Jeanne to leave the hotel in the morning - but during the night, she's found stabbed in her room; and Mary bending over her body...

Mary's husband Curtis, an old friend of Charlie Chan's (and still not very happy about the divorce), begs him to come over to Reno and help to prove Mary's innocence; because she's quite obviously NOT the only one who hated Jeanne. There's Wally Burke, whom she had rejected and on top of it all humiliated in public, there's mysterious Dr. Ainsley, who seems to share a dark secret from the past not only with Jeanne, but also with Mrs. Russell - and finally, in a ghost town near the city, Charlie digs up Jeanne's ex-husband George! So we've got once again a quite complicated plot with abundant suspects, revelations from the past, and lots of research and deduction work to do for Charlie... But for those with sharp eyes and mind, it IS solvable even before the master sleuth announces the murderer's name!

A classic example for a really intricate, but absolutely logical murder mystery, excellently played, suspenseful, but also brightened up with some VERY nice humor, provided chiefly by Jimmy Chan and Jeanne's Chinese maid Choy Wong, who team up to solve the crime their way (and thus making it even more complicated, of course...), the slow-witted Wild West Sheriff (Slim Summerville), and the eloquent cab driver (Eddie Collins, just as comical as in the previous "Charlie Chan in Honolulu" as the animal warden) - this movie certainly has got something for everybody!!
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The Biggest Little City In The World
bkoganbing10 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Before Las Vegas exploded in growth after Ben Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel and it became the gambling capital of the USA, Reno, Nevada was the state's largest city and it's business was divorce and quickie marriages. As sheriff Slim Summerville remarked when the original suspect for the murder is being arrested, one thing she won't have any trouble in finding is a lawyer. They practically grow like cabbages out in the desert.

Pauline Moore is in Reno getting a divorce from Kane Richmond and is accused of murdering Louise Henry, the woman set to marry Richmond. She has a scene in the beginning of the film where she makes herself such an obnoxious Miss Thing that half the would be brides and divorcées want to kill her. But it's Moore found over the body and Moore the one looking like she has the motive and opportunity.

Of all things Charlie Chan is called by Richmond still concerned for his wife. It turns out that of course Henry had a ton of enemies and acquaintances and a shady past with connections to others in the cast. It's up to Sidney Toler in his second Chan feature to ferret all those out.

I have to say some of them come out of left field, still the film is a decent Charlie Chan feature. Although the homicide captain Charles D. Brown is grateful for the help, country sheriff Slim Summerville spends most of the time bewildered by how rapidly the Oriental mind works. He's the comic relief in a good mystery that provides us with only one murder and a foiled attempt at another.
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5/10 of divorce and murder.
Michael O'Keefe22 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Run-of-the-mill murder mystery. Mary Whitman(Pauline Moore)arrives in Reno, Nevada for a six-week divorce. She finds herself arrested accused of murdering another divorce-seeker staying at her hotel. Circumstancial evidence seems to be damning, but family friend Charlie Chan(Sidney Toler) the Honolulu detective is summoned to seek the truth. Charlie's number-two-son Jimmy(Sen Yung)is on hand with intent to help his dad and is about as useful as the dim-witted local sheriff(Slim Summerville). The Police Chief(Charles D. Brown)is more than happy to have Chan on the case, because the crime quickly becomes complex. Cab driver Eddie Collins provides some humor. Other players: Ricardo Cortez, Phyllis Brooks, Kay Linaker and Kane Richmond.
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Toler is fine, though the mystery itself is only so-so.
MartinHafer11 July 2008
The films Charlie Chan films that Sidney Toler made for Fox were very good--much better than the later cheaper series from Monogram Pictures. In fact, these Fox films were good enough that the public warmly embraced the actor who took over the role following Warner Oland's death. Now this doesn't mean that Toler was exactly like Oland--there were definite differences in the characterizations. First, there were less of the wise Chinese sayings and more cranky comments (usually directed at #2 Son, Jimmy). Second, Toler seemed less passive and more like a real detective. Still, I missed Oland but must admit that Toler was the right man to fill in for him.

As for this film in particular, Toler and Jimmy are just fine and I have no complaints about their acting or characters. However, when it comes to the murder plot, this one was much more convoluted and tough to believe than most. When they find the actual murderer at the end, you are left feeling like they just picked that person at random--especially since the motivation this person had seemed tenuous at best. Still, not a bad film at all--enjoyable throughout.
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Toler makes a nice recovery.
admjtk170116 April 2000
After a poor start with "Charlie Chan in Honolulu", Sidney Toler made a good come back with this, his second Chan film. This one is set in the divorce mecca. It has a particularly effective, atmospheric sequence in a ghost town. Ricardo Cortez is good in a supporting role. And Sen Yung is fun as Jimmy. Toler was just warming up for his masterpiece, the next film in the series, "Charlie Chan at Treasure Island."
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Toler's second appearance as C.C. is one of his best!
JohnHowardReid20 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Charlie Chan in Reno marked Sidney Toler's second appearance in the title role. Fresh from the "Mr Moto" series, Norman Foster directed.

Despite the overly complicated plot (adapted from a Philip Wylie novel) and the vast array of support acting talent led by Slim Summerville (at his most amusing), Ricardo Cortez (as a far too-obvious suspect), Phyllis Brooks (although star-billed, her role is actually minor), Louise Henry (her final movie role), Pauline Moore, and the wonderful Kay Linaker, Toler more than holds his own.

This is, in fact, one of Toler's most ingratiating performances. He smiles a lot - and he has plenty of aphorisms to smile with, including: "Man not yet born who can tell what woman will or will not do!"

Even Sen Yung is tolerable. Virgil Miller's camerawork shines at its noirish best all through the picture, but particularly in a ghost town sequence.
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Man Not Born That Knows what a Woman Will or Will Not Do
bnwfilmbuff25 May 2017
Pauline Moore comes to Reno staying in a hotel specializing in divorces owned by Kay Linaker in which Phyllis Brooks is the social director. Pauline is divorcing husband Kane Richmond, who is engaged to be married to Louise Henry. While at the hotel lounge, Henry is escorted by Ricardo Cortez to Moore's table to rub her nose in the fact that she is marrying her husband. Robert Lowery, also present during the confrontation, is stunned that Henry is engaged since he thought that Henry was his girl. Brooks is jealous that Cortez is escorting Henry since she has a thing for him! Later that evening Moore is found in Henry's room standing over Henry's dead body. Charlie is enlisted by Richmond to fly with him to Reno to clear his wife of the murder. It's hard to believe but the plot gets even more complex and convoluted the more the movie goes on! Sen Yung falls for Iris Wong, in the role of Henry's maid, and the two of them hinder more than help the investigation. Aside from the aforementioned actors and actresses who were marvelous, Slim Summerville is wonderful as the local sheriff who is always several steps behind Chan in the investigation. Charles D. Brown as the Chief of Police and Sidney Toler keep a lid on the insanity and were very good also. The ending will remind you of a Thin Man finale. Very enjoyable entry in the series.
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gridoon201825 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Diffuse script, slack pacing and mostly pedestrian direction make "Charlie Chan In Reno" one of the least memorable entries in the series. The supporting cast is not that memorable, either; the liveliest performer also happens to be the murder victim and is out of the picture within the first 8 minutes! Slim Summerville, as a clueless sheriff, is more of a nuisance (there is also a - white - taxi driver who plays a very similar role to "Birmingham", Chan's - black - chauffeur in the later Monogram entries). The film does do a good job of keeping you guessing who-done-it; it's certainly not short on suspects. But there is not much about it that will stay in your memory afterwards. My favorite Chan line: "When searching for needle in haystack, haystack only sensible location!" ** out of 4.
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Another Trip to a Gambline Hub
Hitchcoc7 January 2016
When an old friend's estranged wife is accused of murdering an evil woman, Charlie finds himself in Reno on the case. Of course, Jimmy can't keep his nose out of things and borrows his friend's car to go to Reno. On the way his car is stolen, as are his clothes. Everything now takes place in a posh hotel with Slim Summerville as an uninspired Western sheriff who has no respect for our Mr. Chan. Ms. Whitman, the accused, was found standing over the corpse and has been charged with the murder. Still, there are many other suspects, people who had reason to kill her. On is her husband, who works at a mine. Another, a slick doctor, who seems to slim his way out of any charge brought against him. One always has to weight the value of Charlie's son because he is impulsive and often on the make. Here he enlists the help of a lady's maid to investigate. The problem with him is that while he often finds interesting things, he is also a loose cannon, jumping to false conclusions. Charlie seems awfully tolerant of him. There are times here when I find too much tongue in cheek stuff. Still, it's vintage Charlie Chan and I was glad to see that none of his other kids got involved here.
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"This is 1939. We're modern."
utgard142 March 2014
Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) rushes to Reno when a friend (Pauline Moore) is accused of murdering her soon-to-be ex-husband's new fiancée. "Number Two Son" Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung) also shows up to investigate with comical results. Not the best Charlie Chan movie, even for the Toler series. Still enjoyable though. Supporting cast includes Ricardo Cortez, Robert Lowery, Morgan Conway, and Phyllis Brooks (who has noticeably poor posture). Slim Summerville plays a hick sheriff that's supposed to be funny but comes across as annoying. The killer in this one seemed fairly obvious to me. The mystery's weak but Toler and Sen Yung are good.
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Clever Chan mystery with unusual setting
mlraymond31 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This holds up well as a good Charlie Chan mystery, with a lot of suspects and fairly involved plot. Toler is very good in one of his early outings as Chan, and the Reno, Nevada background is a different type of location than the usual exotic, foreign setting. The supporting players are good ,and the whole thing is tightly written and directed.

My only complaint is with Eddie Collins as the talkative cab driver, who is meant to be annoying, but succeeds a little too well. His character belongs to a type of Thirties humor that doesn't hold up well with the passage of time. Such irritating characters turn up frequently in a lot of Depression era films, and have to be accepted as part of the period, along with wise guy reporters, hardboiled cops, tough dames and grouchy editors . My tolerance for this type of individual in real life no doubt has something to do with it.

This is a minor complaint about a pretty good film. Enjoy it as a good Charlie Chan mystery, where even the annoying characters are a part of the fun.
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Great Mystery
ebootsysgirl29 August 2005
This was a great movie with mystery and little comedy sprinkled in!!! Slim Summerville was great as Tombxtone and if you are a real movie buff you will know that the end theme was the same music that was used for the Crackly Grain Flakes song from Rebecca of Sunnybrook farms in which Mr Summerville and Phyllis Brooks both starred with Shirley Temple. Whan Charlie saw Jimmy in the police line up, his facial expressions were like he was seeing a mirage but it was a great second and third take that only Sidney Toler could deliver. I would definitely add this to any Charlie Chan collection or just if you like old movies period!!!
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Charlie Chan in Reno (1939) ***
JoeKarlosi21 February 2009
The second of the Sidney Toler Charlie Chan movies made by 20th Century Fox. A young woman seeking a divorce in Nevada is suspected of murder when she is seen hovering over the dead body of "the other woman" in the triangle. Charlie and his son Jimmy work together to iron out the mess and figure who is responsible. What I liked about this entry was the way Sidney Toler and Sen Yung (as Son #2) play off each other, and there's also some good comical touches in this one, including Slim Summerville as a clueless sheriff trying to make sense of the goings-on.

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re:Charlie Chan in Reno
glefeber14 March 2006
I have never seen anyone comment on "Chan" actors in other Chan films. In "reno" there are more Chan actors from other Chan films in the same movie. I believe there are 9 Chan actors in this one film. Excluding the sheriff and some supporting roles, just about everyone in the cast has been in another Chan film. I have been keeping track of several of the Chan actors and some of them are still with us. For those of you who are unaware, Marc Lawrence died this past November after a very long career. My supreme dream is to meet one or more of the actors who are still with us. For those of us who are true Chan fans they are a true link to the movies that we love and enjoy. I have 15 Charlie Chan movies on VHS and I watch all of them. I have my favorites but I mix them up so its like having a Chan marathon whenever I want. Does anyone else have Chan marathons. later G
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"If you did do it, I'm all for you. That woman had at least one murder coming to her."
classicsoncall26 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Charlie Chan in Reno" offers a cleverly woven mystery in which the murder suspects are all revealed to have had some involvement with each other in the past. It helps when watching to keep a scorecard to keep track of events and relationships so the final revelation makes sense. Not only do we have a murder victim, but an attempted murder as well.

When Mary Whitman (Pauline Moore) is found over the dead body of Jeanne Bentley (Louise Henry), she of course is the obvious suspect, and with a firm motive; Bentley was going to marry Whitman's about to be ex-husband. But Bentley had a unique way of alienating most everyone with her ingratiating manner, not the least of which was another suitor, Wally Burke (Robert Lowery). Burke comes across as suitably suspicious, as does Dr. Ainsley (Ricardo Cortez), who is surprised to be discovered in the murder room of the Hotel Sierra, claiming to be looking for the money won by Bentley at the casino, offering robbery as the motive for the crime.

Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler in his second performance as the Oriental Detective) is aided in the case by Number #2 Son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung, credited as Sen Yung). Jimmy is on spring break from the University of Southern California, and gets himself mugged by a pair of con men who steal his borrowed car; he's identified by "Pop" in a police line up. There's also Police Chief King (played straight by Charles D. Brown) and an inept Reno Sheriff Tombstone Fletcher (Slim Summerville). Fletcher is quick to dismiss Chan's serious questioning and investigative work, preferring to pin the crime on the innocent Mary Whitman.

Once Charlie gets down to business, a whole host of new clues and information come to light. The investigation eventually leads to an abandoned ghost town outside of Reno, and yet another suspect, this time Jeanne Bentley's ex husband George.

For trivia fans, there are two actors in "Reno" that also appeared in Toler's first Chan adventure in "Honolulu". Phyllis Brooks as Vivian Wells is ultimately revealed to be the murderer; while Eddie Collins does a comic turn as the talkative cab driver. Collins was the lion keeper aboard a freighter in the "Honolulu" film.

Before the mystery is over, Chan unravels an entire network of entanglements that connect the murder victim with each of the suspects, and the suspects with one another. It's rather cleverly done, and promotes this film to one of the better Charlie Chan titles, particularly those of Sidney Toler.
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