AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Think Fast, Mr. Moto
Director: Norman Foster (Dir)
Release Date:   27 Aug 1937
Production Date:   early Feb--early Mar 1937
Duration (in mins):   66 or 70
Duration (in feet):   5,961
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Cast:   Peter Lorre (Mr. [Kentaro] Moto)  
    Virginia Field (Gloria Danton [also known as Tanya])  
    Thomas Beck (Bob Hitchings)  
    Sig Rumann (Nicolas Marloff)  
    Murray Kinnell (Joseph Wilkie)  
    John Rogers (Carson)  
    Lotus Long (Lela Liu)  
    George Cooper (Muggs Blake)  
    J. Carrol Naish (Adram)  
    Fredrick Vogeding (Curio dealer)  
    George Hassell (Mr. Hitchings)  
    Sam Tong (Chee)  
    Tom Ung (Scar-faced man)  
    Ray Hendricks (Soloist)  
    Howard Wilson (Jack, second boy)  
    Charles Irwin (Steward)  
    Virginia Sale (Stewardess)  
    Tom Herbert (Tourist)  
    Isabel La Mal (Tourist)  
    Frank Mayo (Ship's officer)  
    Lee Phelps (Detective)  
    Bert Roach (Ship's bartener)  
    Dick Alexander (Doorman)  
    Sam Labrador (Menial)  
    Paul Fung (Chauffeur)  
    Soo Yong (Telephone operator)  
    William Law (Chief of police)  
    Charles Tannen    

Summary: In San Francisco's Chinatown on Chinese New Year's Day, a rug merchant spies a man with an English flag tattoo emerging from a curio shop. The rug merchant enters the shop and offers to sell the store owner $20,000 worth of diamonds. While the store owner examines the diamonds, the rug merchant finds a dead body inside a wicker basket. The police arrive and attempt to arrest the rug merchant for selling rugs without a license, but he manages to escape. The rug merchant removes his disguise, and it is revealed that he is actually Mr. Kentaro Moto. Moto makes a reservation on the Marco Polo ocean liner, which leaves for the Orient that night. Aboard the ship, Moto meets Bob Hitchings, son of the liner's owner. Bob is given an important letter to deliver to Joseph Wilkie, the manager of the liner's Shanghai office. Moto then notes that their steward Carson has an English flag tattoo. Bob and Moto become fast friends, as they learn that they were members of the same fraternity at Stanford University. The ship arrives in Honolulu, where Gloria Danton comes aboard and immediately attracts Bob's attention. The two fall in love, but Gloria warns Bob that he knows little about her. Moto finds Carson searching Bob's cabin and tells him that he recognizes the steward from the curio shop. The two men fight, and Moto throws Carson overboard. Arriving in Shanghai, Bob is distressed to learn that Gloria has left without him. When he gives Wilkie the important letter, the envelope is discovered to be empty. The two men call the elder Hitchings, who informs them that smugglers have been using their ships to bring contraband jewels and narcotics into the United States, and that the shipping line has already been fined $200,000 for this activity. Bob agrees to help Wilkie find the smugglers, but only after the two men search for Gloria. Meanwhile, Moto goes to the East India Bazaar where he meets Adram, who works for smuggler Nicolas Marloff. Adram immediately suspects Moto. That night, Bob receives a note telling him that Gloria works as an entertainer at the International Club. Wilkie warns Bob that the club is in a dangerous part of Shanghai, but the young Hitchings insists on going there. Moto and his female assistant, Lela Liu, also head for the club, but they are abducted along the way. Adram attempts to kill Moto, but instead is shot himself. At the club, Bob confronts Gloria backstage, and she confesses to really being Tanya, a White Russian emigrant employed by Marloff to discover Hitchings' plans. Marloff overhears her confession and takes them both as prisoners. Back at their table, Moto, Lela and Wilkie are greeted by Marloff, who offers to take Moto to his private gambling den. Moto tells Lela in Japanese to call the police for help, but she is shot by an unknown assailant just as she reaches the chief of police. Inside the gambling room, Moto tells Marloff that he is a smuggler, too, and suggests they join forces. Shown Marloff's prisoners, Moto suggests that Bob be ransomed and Gloria killed as a traitor. Wilkie enters the room and demands that Bob be released. The wounded Adram then arrives and identifies Moto as a police informant. As Moto tries to shoot Adram, Wilkie interferes, and Moto is shot instead. Just as Marloff is about to finish Moto off, the police arrive, and Moto shoots Adram dead. As Wilkie reaches for Marloff's gun, it discharges and kills Marloff. Moto then arrests Wilkie as the leader of the smugglers, as he killed Marloff to keep from being identified. When Moto is informed that Lela has been wounded, he finds the "smoking gun" on Wilkie. With the case solved, Moto tells all that he is actually the owner of the Dai Nippon Trading Company, the Hitchings' best customer, and a "sometime amateur detective." Bob and Moto then share a fraternal handshake as Gloria looks on. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Norman Foster (Dir)
  George Wright (Dial dir)
  Saul Wurtzel (Asst dir)
  Sol Michaels (Asst dir)
  Tom Dudley (Asst dir)
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel (Exec prod)
Writer: Howard Ellis Smith (Scr)
  Norman Foster (Scr)
  Willis Cooper (Revisions and addl orig dial)
  Charles Kenyon (Contr wrt)
Photography: Harry Jackson (Photog)
  Johnny Schmitz (Cam op)
  Eddie Collins (Asst cam)
  Tom Dowling (Asst cam)
  Sol Halprin (Process)
  Joe Farley (Process)
Art Direction: Lewis Creber (Art dir)
Film Editor: Alex Troffey (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Walter [M.] Scott (Set dresser)
Costumes: Herschel (Cost)
  Sam Benson (Ward man)
  Adele Farnum (Ward woman)
Music: Samuel Kaylin (Mus dir)
Sound: George Leverett (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
  Hal Lombard (Cableman)
  Jim Burnette (Boom man)
Make Up: Babe Carey (Hair)
  Ray Romero (Makeup)
Production Misc: Edward Ebele (Prod mgr)
  Al Thayer (Grip)
  J. Van Antwerp (Asst grip)
  Duke Abrahams (Props)
  Ferdinand Meine (Best boy)
  Lou Johnson (Gaffer)
  Jack Vernon (Script clerk)
  Sam Wurtzel (Unit mgr)
  Aaron Wolf (Asst prop man)
  Ray Nolan (Still photog)
Stand In: John Kascier (Stunts, stand-in and double for Peter Lorre)
  Beulah Hutton (Stand-in)
  Charlie Carroll (Stand-in)
Country: United States
Series: Mr. Moto

Songs: "The Shy Violet," words and music by Sidney Clare and Harry Akst.
Composer: Harry Akst
  Sidney Clare
Source Text: Based on the short story "That Girl and Mr. Moto" by John P. Marquand in The Saturday Evening Post (12 Sep--17 Oct 1936).
Authors: John P. Marquand

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 27/8/1937 dd/mm/yyyy LP7440

PCA NO: 3199
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
 
Subjects (Major): Amateur detectives
  Impersonation and imposture
  Japanese Americans
  Murder
  Romance
  Shipping tycoons
  Smuggling
 
Subjects (Minor): Abduction
  Chinese New Year
  Confession
  Curio dealers
  Drunkenness
  Fathers and sons
  Fights
  Fraternities
  Gambling houses
  Gunshot wounds
  Honolulu (HI)
  Importers and exporters
  Jewelry
  Letters
  Nightclubs
  Ocean liners
  Police
  Romance
  Rugs
  Russians
  San Francisco (CA)--Chinatown
  Shanghai (China)
  Ships
  Singers
  Stewards
  Tattoos

Note: According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, author J. P. Marquand was paid $7,000 for the film rights to his story "That Girl and Mr. Moto" on 1 Jun 1936, previous to its publication in The Saturday Evening Post . The legal records also note that writer Sonya Levien was charged to the project for a short time, but she did no actual writing for it. This film was the first in a series of eight Mr. Moto vechiles by Twentieth Century-Fox, all starring Peter Lorre in the lead role. The series ended in 1939 with Mr. Moto's Last Warning (see entry above). Twentieth Century-Fox attempted to revive the series in 1965 with the British-made The Return of Mr. Moto starring Henry Silva and Terence Longdon and directed by Ernest Morris (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 , F6.4080). For additional information on the series, consult the Series Index. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   17 Apr 1937.   
Daily Variety   2 Apr 37   p. 3.
Film Daily   6 Apr 37   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Feb 1937.   
Hollywood Reporter   2 Apr 37   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   5 Apr 37   p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald   20 Mar 37   p. 35.
Motion Picture Herald   17 Apr 37   p. 42, 44
New York Times   16 Aug 37   p. 15.
Variety   6 Apr 37   p. 27.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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