AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise
Alternate Title: Chan's Cruise
Director: Eugene Forde (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Jun 1940
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 2 May 1940
Production Date:   began late Jan 1940
Duration (in mins):   70 or 75
Duration (in feet):   6,315
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Cast:   Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan)  
    Marjorie Weaver (Paula Drake)  
    Lionel Atwill (Dr. Suderman)  
    Sen Yung (Jimmy Chan)  
    Robert Lowery (Dick Kenyon)  
    Don Beddoe (James Ross)  
    Leo G. Carroll (Professor Gordon)  
    Cora Witherspoon (Susie Watson)  
    Kay Linaker (Mrs. Pendleton)  
    Harlan Briggs (Coroner)  
    Charles Middleton (Mr. [Jeremiah] Walters)  
    Claire Du Brey (Mrs. Walters)  
    Leonard Mudie (Gerald Pendleton)  
    James Burke (Wilkie)  
    Richard Keene (Buttons)  
    Layne Tom Jr. (Willie Chan)  
    Montague Shaw (Inspector Duff)  

Summary: Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard visits Charlie Chan in Honolulu to enlist his aid in trapping a strangler who is lurking among ten members of a world cruise being conducted by Dr. Suderman. Before the inspector can divulge his plan, however, he falls victim to the strangler, and Chan begins his own investigation into the murders. His first stop is a visit to the members of Suderman's party, but when he arrives at the hotel, he finds that another murder has just been committed. The victim, Kenyon, is discovered with a bag containing thirty pieces of silver, and Chan deduces that the man was killed in the room of fellow passenger Gerald Pendleton and his body dragged into Kenyon's room. Chan meets the remaining members of the party when Susie Watson screams upon sighting a man on her balcony, and the group assembles in her room to discover that there is a killer in their midst. In addition to Suderman, the party consists of Kenyon's nephew Dick, Susie's secretary Paula Drake, playboy James Ross, Professor Gordon, an archaeologist, the jumpy Gerald Pendleton and the puritanical Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Walters. In a panic, they resume their voyage to San Francisco, and amid a sea of false clues, they share a rather uneventful cruise until Pendleton is murdered on the night that the ship is to dock. Chan finds the traces of a warning that Pendleton had wired to his wife, and deducing that the murderer was absent from the farewell party held at the time of Pendleton's demise, Chan begins to develop negatives from the pictures taken during the party, but the killer steals the evidence. As he flees, the murderer is shot and unmasked as Ross. However, Chan remains skeptical, and at the coroner's inquest, he produces Mrs. Pendleton, who explains that the killer is her demented, vengeful ex-husband and that Ross was only his accomplice. Chan then tricks Gordon into trying to kill his ex-wife, thus exposing him as the true murderer. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Eugene Forde (Dir)
  Saul Wurtzel (Asst dir)
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel (Exec prod)
  John Stone (Assoc prod)
Writer: Robertson White (Scr)
  Lester Ziffren (Scr)
Photography: Virgil Miller (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Chester Gore (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harry Reynolds (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
Costumes: Helen A. Myron (Cost)
Music: Samuel Kaylin (Mus dir)
Sound: Joseph E. Aiken (Sd)
  William H. Anderson (Sd)
Country: United States
Series: Charlie Chan

Source Text: Based on the novel Charlie Chan Carries On by Earl Derr Biggers (Indianapolis, 1930).
Authors: Earl Derr Biggers

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 21/6/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP9750

PCA NO: 6084
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
Subjects (Major): Chinese Americans
  Impersonation and imposture
Subjects (Minor): Coroners
  Fathers and sons
  Honolulu (HI)
  Police inspectors
  San Francisco (CA)

Note: The working titles of this film were Charlie Chan's Cruise , Charlie Chan's Oriental Cruise , Chan's Cruise and Chan's Murder Cruise . According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Robert Ellis and Helen Logan wrote the first treatment for this film, which was followed by a treatment and screenplay written by John Larkin. Their contribution to the final film has not been determined, however. In 1931, Fox filmed another version of Earl Derr Biggers' novel titled Charlie Chan Carries On (see above). For additional information on the series, consult the Series Index and see entry above for Charlie Chan Carries On

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   4 May 40   p. 3.
Film Daily   7 May 40   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 40   pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter   4 May 40   p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily   7 May 40   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   9 Mar 40   p. 63.
Motion Picture Herald   11 May 40   p. 53.
New York Times   3 May 40   p. 17.
Variety   8 May 40   p. 12.

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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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