“One never knows what lies behind the curtain.”
Eve Mannering (Lois Moran) is in love with Eric Durand (Phillip Strange). Her uncle Sir George Mannering is against the marriage. He believes that Durand is a philanderer. He hired Hillary Galt (Edgar Norton) to investigate Durand. Galt calls Mannering and tells him that he dug up information on Durand and will be forwarding that information the next day. After he hangs up Durand comes to see him. Durand demands that Galt give him the documentation that he put together. He says he will be at his hotel and expects the information to be delivered to him.
Later that night Galt is killed and the information is missing. The night porter at Galt’s building, Alf Pornick (John Rogers), knows who killed him. A friend of the family Col. John Beetham (Warner Baxter) is at the Mannering estate. He is going to India and wants Mannering and his daughter to go with him. Beetham is in love with Eve. While he is there Mannering finds out that Galt is dead. He also finds out that Eve and Durand were secretly married the night before. Mannering, in effect, disowns his niece. Eric and Eve leave. They are also heading for India.
Eve is finding out that married life is not what she expected. Her husband drinks too much and does not spend time with her. Then she receives a letter from Pornick telling her about the blackmail since he hasn’t gotten a payment in quite some time. Then she finds an earring belonging to the servant Nuna (Mercedes De Valasco) in her bed. She confronts Eric and finds out the truth. He has been sleeping with Nuna and he killed Galt. Her only thought now is to get away.
“Behind That Curtain” was released in 1929 and was directed by Irving Cummings. It is a pre-code movie. It is based on the Charlie Chan novel of the same name written by Earl Derr Biggers. It is also the oldest surviving Charlie Chan movie and the first sound Charlie Chan film.
This film may be a little disappointing to Charlie Chan fans since the famous detective doesn’t show up until the end of the film. Chan's name is first mentioned 20 minutes into the film. After that he only appears in a couple short scenes after 70 minutes into the film and then never again.
The film may even be a letdown to mystery lovers. The movie plays more like a romance than a Charlie Chan mystery. First off there is very little in the way of mystery. You pretty much know from the start who-done-it. Most of the film is the relationship between Eve, her husband and the man she comes to realize that she really loves John.
Boris Karloff has a small part in the movie. It is his first sound picture. He’s only got about four lines in the whole film.
Disappointing it may be, but, there is historical value to the film for several reasons already noted. Boris’s first speaking part, oldest existing Charlie Chan movie and first sound Charlie Chan movie. One other item of note is that it is the last time Charlie Chan was played by an Asian, although Park was Korean and not Chinese. In the film, Chan is played by E.L. Park (I believe the E stands for Edward) and it is the only film he did. Very little is known about him. No one is even sure he was actually a professional actor.
The two movies that are lost are both silent. “The House Without A Key” 1926 was a serial produced by Pathe and starred George Kuwa. “The Chinese Parrot” 1927 starred Sojin and was produced by Universal.
The film was chosen by William Fox to be shown at the grand premier of the palatial Fox Theater in June 1929.