AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Charlie Chan at the Race Track
Alternate Title: At the Race Track with Charlie Chan
Director: H. Bruce Humberstone (Dir)
Release Date:   7 Aug 1936
Production Date:   18 May--mid-Jun 1936
Duration (in mins):   70
Duration (in feet):   6,300
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Warner Oland (Charlie Chan)  
    Keye Luke (Lee Chan)  
    Helen Wood (Alice Fenton)  
    Thomas Beck (Bruce Rogers)  
    Alan Dinehart (George Chester)  
    Gavin Muir (Bagley)  
    Gloria Roy (Catherine Chester)  
    Jonathan Hale (Warren Fenton)  
    G. P. Huntley Jr. (Denny Barton)  
    George Irving (Major [Gordon] Kent)  
    Frank Coghlan Jr. (Eddie Brill)  
    Frankie Darro ("Tip" Collins)  
    John Rogers (Mooney)  
    John H. Allen ("Streamline" Jones)  
    Harry Jans (Al Meers)  
    Robert Warwick (Chan's chief)  
    Sam Flint (Ship's captain)  
    Selmer Jackson (Lansing)  
    Ivan "Dusty" Miller (Wade)  
    Ed Hart (Detective)  
    George Magrill (Detective)  
    David Worth (Detective)  
    James Flavin (Detective)  
    Al Kikume (Hawaiian detective)  
    Boothe Howard (Ship's doctor)  
    Sidney Bracy (Waiter)  
    Jack Mulhall (Second purser)  
    William Wayne (Seaman)  
    Les Sketchley (Seaman)  
    Billie Oakley (Seaman)  
    Eddie Fetherston (Reporter)  
    Charles Williams (Reporter)  
    Max Wagner (Joe)  
    Harlan Tucker (Gangster)  
    Sammy Finn (Gangster)  
    Wilbur Mack (Gangster)  
    Paul Fix (Gangster)  
    Norman Willis (Gangster)  
    Jerry Jerome (Gangster)  
    Holmes Herbert (Judge)  
    Colin Kenny (Judge)  
    Robert E. Homans (Judge)  
    Lew Hicks (Policeman)  
    Bob Ellsworth (Policeman)  
    Lucille Miller (Secretary)  
    James Eagles (Chick Patten)  
    Bobby Tanzel (Gilroy)  
    Bruce Mitchell (Gateman)  
    Clyde McAtee (Pinkerton man)  
    Jack Green (Pinkerton man)  
    Pat O'Malley (Track official)  
    David Thursby (Steward)  
    Ray Hanson (Third officer)  
    Sam Hayes (Announcer)  

Summary: After jockey "Tip" Collins, riding Avalanche, the horse in the lead in the Melbourne Sweepstakes, fouls another rider, Avalanche is disqualified. Major Gordon Kent, who gave Avalanche as a wedding present to the internationally known American sportsman George Chester when Chester married his daughter Catherine, believes that a big gambling ring is behind the foul. The major has a wire sent to his old friend, the renowned detective Charlie Chan, instructing him to meet their boat in Honolulu on their way to compete in America. However, on the voyage, the major dies seemingly from being kicked by Avalanche in his stall. Chan determines from the position and the shape of the bloodstains that the horse could not have kicked the major. After Chan reveals to his chief and the ship's captain a piece of the ship's winch, the twin of which is missing, which could make a shape identical to that of a horseshoe, the chief suggests that Chan travel with the boat to investigate what they now suspect is a murder. When Chester receives a typed note warning him not to enter Avalanche in the Santa Juanita Handicap, Chan's son Lee, who, against his father's wishes, got on the boat as a cabin boy, determines that the note came from the typewriter of the major's competitor, Warren Fenton. A number of other passengers next receive notes: Fenton, who offered Chester $20,000 for the horse; Bruce Rogers, the major's assistant, who is in love with Fenton's daughter Alice; Denny Barton, who also loves Alice, but whom she has rebuked; and Chester again. After a fire breaks out in the forward hold where Avalanche is kept, Chan is hit in the leg by a bullet fired accidentally by Chester. In Los Angeles harbor, Chan notices that a monkey, who earlier caused Avalanche to bolt, now causes Fenton's horse Gladstone to go wild, while Avalanche does not mind the monkey. Chan suspects that the fire was used as a cover so that the horses could be switched and Fenton's horse could then win the upcoming race with good odds. The switch, involving the application of black dye to Gladstone, was engineered by Avalanche's trainer Bagley working with a gang of gamblers. On the day of the race, Lee creates a diversion so that Chan can enter the stables and switch the horses. Bagley, after noticing the switch, is arrested as he calls a gambler. As the race begins, Al Meers, a track employee in league with the gamblers, switches a device at the three-quarter pole, which is used to time the race, with one fitted with a dart. As Avalanche, in the lead, passes the pole, the dart hits the horse. Avalanche wins anyway, but then falls. As a crowd surrounds Avalanche, someone removes the dart. Chan then gathers Denny, Bagley, Meers, Chester and Fenton in the racing association office. When the dart is found in Fenton's pocket, Fenton accuses Denny of putting it there, but Chester accuses Fenton of wanting to buy Avalanche all along and of murdering Major Kent with the winch shoe because the major would have noticed that the horses had been switched. Chan then points out that no one other than himself, his chief, the captain of the ship and the murderer knew about the winch shoe. He says that he suspected Chester all along because Chester, who admits that he suffered gambling losses, did not use his glasses to read the first threatening note he received, which Chester himself sent to throw off suspicion, but that he did use his glasses to read the second note, which Chan, with Lee's help, sent. Chan then reveals blood stains from the dart in the lining of Chester's pocket. Fenton confesses that he knew of the plot to switch horses and tells the commissioner that he will remove his horses from the track. Bruce wins enough money from the race to furnish a flat for himself and Alice. When the ever-enthusiastic Lee pops in with what he thinks is a hot clue, Chan requests that he save it for their next case. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: H. Bruce Humberstone (Dir)
  Aaron Rosenberg (Asst dir)
Producer: John Stone (Assoc prod)
Writer: Robert Ellis (Scr)
  Helen Logan (Scr)
  Edward T. Lowe (Scr)
  Lou Breslow (Story)
  Saul Elkins (Story)
  Joseph Hoffman (Contr wrt)
Photography: Harry Jackson (Photog)
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer (Art dir)
Film Editor: Nick De Maggio (Film ed)
Costumes: Herschel (Cost)
Music: Samuel Kaylin (Mus dir)
Sound: Alfred Bruzlin (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Production Misc: Monroe Liebgold (Tech dir)
Country: United States
Series: Charlie Chan

Source Text: Based on the character "Charlie Chan" created by Earl Derr Biggers.
Authors: Earl Derr Biggers

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 7/8/1936 dd/mm/yyyy LP6667

PCA NO: 2353
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
  Horse race
 
Subjects (Major): Chinese
  Deception
  Detectives
  Fixed horse races
  Gamblers
  Horses
  Murder
 
Subjects (Minor): African Americans
  Darts (Game)
  Fires
  Gunshot wounds
  Honolulu (HI)
  Horse owners
  Jockeys
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Melbourne (Australia)
  Ocean liners
  Stableboys
  Threats

Note: The Roxy Theatre in New York billed this film as At the Race Track with Charlie Chan . Var reviewed the film as Chan at Race Track . According to MPH and Liberty , some scenes in the film were shot at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, CA, and the film contained footage of "some of the most spectacular events of the recent racing season." MPH also notes that the film "has a semi-topical significance in as much as a great Antipodean horse, Pharlap, brought to this country a few years ago [from Australia], died under circumstances that have never been fully explained." Liberty notes that technical director Monroe Liebgold had been a jockey for the well-known horse breeder H. P. Whitney. HR production charts lists Neil Fitzgerald and John Mooney as additional actors; their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. For additional information on the series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry below for Charlie Chan Carries On

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   18 Jul 1936.   
Daily Variety   8 Jul 36   p. 2.
Film Daily   14 Jul 36   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   18 May 36   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 36   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jul 36   p. 4.
Liberty   26 Aug 1936.   
Motion Picture Daily   9 Jul 36   p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald   27 Jun 36   p. 52.
Motion Picture Herald   18 Jul 36   p. 54.
New York Times   15 Aug 36   p. 6.
Variety   19 Aug 36   p. 16.

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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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