Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)

*. Charlie Chan was an ethnic Chinese detective based out of Honolulu but in the series of films based on his character he turned into quite a globetrotter. Hawaii was exotic enough for one movie (The Black Camel, extravagantly shot on location), but after that he took flight for such foreign destinations as London, Paris, Egypt, and the Berlin Olympics, while visiting domestic spots of nearly equal drama like the Opera, the Circus, and the Race Track. Given that the stories were all pretty similar, it’s no big stretch to say that the location was everything that set these films apart.
*. Which is a roundabout way of introducing Charlie Chan on Broadway. A title that, alas, means nothing at all. Charlie does go to New York City, and the opening credits are presented over some stock shots of Times Square, but that’s it.
*. “Broadway” is usually taken as shorthand for New York City’s theatre district, so with a title like this you’d expect it has something to do with that world. It doesn’t. I’m not sure Broadway — referring to either theatre or just the street — is even mentioned. I guess they just went with the title for what Miles Kreuger, an authority on American musicals interviewed for the featurette included with the DVD, refers to as Broadway’s “cachet of glamour.” Struggling to find some connection between the title and what’s actually going on in the movie, Kreuger says the only reason it’s called Charlie Chan on Broadway is because of the newspaper gossip columnists being such an important part of the plot. Which isn’t very much to hang your hat on.
*. Overall this is one of the weirder of the Warner Oland Chan films. The female lead the movie begins by introducing actually pulls a Janet Leigh and turns into the murder victim halfway through. Then the romance angle is frustrated when the heroine’s love interest turns out to be a heel. Though I don’t know what she would have been expecting from a guy with a name like Speed Patten.
*. The other thing that makes it weird is that the murder takes place at a dance joint called The Hottentot Club on “candid camera” night. On candid camera night the guests go around taking pictures, mainly of the dancing girls, hoping to win a prize. This made no sense to me and I wondered if this really was a thing in the 1930s. It seemed really pervy, what with horny-looking guys running around snapping pics of girls.
*. Photos are brought into the plot in a few different ways though, so they do make something out of it. But to be honest, I felt like they were reaching here.
*. One of the more compact stories in the series, which makes it easier to follow. And it mostly plays fair. Harold Huber is also pretty memorable as a New York police detective. Not a bad entry at all, but not one of the best.

21 thoughts on “Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)

  1. film-authority.com

    Charlie Chan On the Toilet (1936)
    Charlie Chan’s Volcano Adventure (1937)
    Charlie Chan’s Septic Tank Mishap (1937)
    Charlie Chan’s Pervy Screenshotting Admission (1938)
    Charlie Chan’s Slice of American Pie Road Trip (With John Cassettes)
    Will you be covering these films?

    Reply
    1. Alex Good

      I think those are all from the Monogram years so won’t be covering them until the box set comes down in price. But I’m interested in reading your thoughts.

      Reply
      1. film-authority.com

        Shame. So the library had Tenet, eh? Aren’t you up to date! And Promising Young Woman too! You’ll hardly need Charlie Chan to keep your mind whirring. So muhcx to look forward to with writer and critic Alex Good! Can’t wait to read it all!

      2. Alex Good Post author

        PYW notes going up this weekend. Have to correct some of the hype around that title. I see it as a critical duty. Tenet I had to split up into two days viewing. And it’s not looking good after Day 1.

      3. Alex Good Post author

        The bright and shiny things are for the attention-deficit generation of “critics” who are just looking to blurb the next crappy instalment in whatever franchise is playing. It’s tough in such a cultural environment to maintain critical standards, but if I don’t do it who will?

      4. film-authority.com

        Ideally it would be someone who knew what a paragraph was…I guess the POV of wandering hermits drowning in their own bin-juice has yet to coalesce around any one critical voice, so this might be a big chance for you to gain a fourth reader. Meanwhile, some of us are dealing with the deep end of popular culture, but it’s good to know that you’re going to stop people peeing in the kiddies pool…

      5. Alex Good Post author

        I guess there are some Scottish critics who are doing responsible work. Robbie Collin. That Critical Drinker guy on YouTube. Couple of names that come to mind.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        I only do a sort of ass dance where I turn around and shake my bum at the computer when the silly Scot writes something. No need to record that for posterity.

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