Josephine Temple (Charlotte Henry) has traveled to the US. With her she has a stamp called “The Chinese Mandarin”. The stamp is reportedly worth at least $50,000 and is her parent’s nest egg. She has lined up a buyer for the stamp named Dr. Alexander Kirk (George Irving). His wife Martha (Rita La Roy), his ward Irene (Kay Hughes) and Irene’s fiancé Donald Trent (George Walcott) are against the purchase.
Meeting Josephine is a bunch of reporters and photographers. The stamp is front page news. Also meeting the boat is Ellery Queen (Eddie Quillan), an amateur detective and author. Queen’s father is the chief of police, Inspector Queen (Wade Boteler). Ellery sees the pretty Josephine and becomes infatuated with her. He manages to finagle a date with her for later.
While dressing for her meeting with Dr. Kirk a thief sneaks into her hotel room and steals the stamp. Josephine races to Dr. Kirk’s rooms. The next time she is seen is back in her room with the stamp and the stamp thief, Craig (Walter Merrill), is dead.
Josephine is, of course, the primary suspect, so Ellery sets out to find the real culprit. Murder begets murder and precious stamps beget counterfeit stamps.
“The Mandarin Mystery” was released in 1936 and was directed by Ralph Staub. It is based on “The Chinese Orange Mystery” by Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee). The original version of the movie is about 66 minutes long but the only one I’ve been able to find is the edited one which is about 53 minutes long. It is a poverty row movie. For a short low budget quickie it took some five people to write it. Not always a good sign.
Eddie Quillan is not exactly my idea of what Ellery Queen should look like, but the movie is fast paced and full of humor. The movie was OK. A decent mystery done in an average thirties manner. It may be a little disappointing for hard core Ellery Queen fans.
Comic relief is plentiful in both the antics of the carefree Ellery Queen character as well as the gay Hotel Manager Mellish (Franklin Pangborn).
Ellery Queen is sort of the Russian nesting doll of authors. Ellery Queen is a character in books and stories written by Ellery Queen. Ellery Queen the author is the writing pseudonym of Frederick Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee. Frederick Dannay’s real name is Daniel Nathan and Manfred Bennington Lee’s real name is Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky. Together they published over thirty novels and many short stories.
In addition to the Ellery Queen character stories Dannay and Lee also commissioned other authors to write crime stories under the Ellery Queen name but not using Ellery Queen as a character in those stories.