Paul Gray (Douglas Walton) is on death row for murder. In three days, he is set to be hanged. Believing in his innocence, Paul’s sister Pamela (Drue Leyton) is appealing to the Home Secretary, Sir Lionel Bashford (David Torrence), to get a stay for her brother. With her fiancé, and Paul’s lawyer Neil Howard (Ray Milland), she leaves the office dejected having gone down every avenue possible. Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) happens to be in London finishing up a case for the Home Secretary and delivering a criminal to the British government. The Secretary’s assistant, Mr. Kemp (Perry Ivins), hears about how Chan is able to solve crimes that no one else can. Feeling for Pamela and wishing he could help he tells her about Chan.
Pamela and Neil visit Chan at his hotel room. Chan is packing to go back to Honolulu. Pamela appeals to him to help her. She is frazzled so Chan and Neil go into the next room to discuss the case. He tells Chan that the murder happened in the stables of the manor home of Geoffrey Richmond (Alan Mowbray). The murdered man was named Captain Hamilton and was a guest at the mansion. Paul worked for Richmond. When Neil admits to Chan that he believes Paul is guilty Pamela overhears. She breaks off her engagement and runs out. Neil runs after her.
After some contemplation Chan decides to try to help Pamela. Having rushed from Chan’s room Pamela goes to Geoffrey Richmond’s estate to tell them about Neil. Chan shows up and begins reconstructing the murder and interviewing those that were at the estate at the time. Chan’s investigation leads to another murder, an attempted murder, stolen secret military plans, and espionage.
“Charlie Chan in London” was released in 1934 and was directed by Eugene Forde. It is the sixth of sixteen Charlie Chan movies done starring Warner Oland as Chan and the second of Oland’s first five Charlie Chan films that still exists. The character Charlie Chan was created by Earl Derr Biggers.
This was actually a really good story. The plot started out as a normal “wronged man” story but ended up morphing into government plans, spies and undercover agents. Since Charlie Chan had to solve the murder in three days the pace was quick. You also get to see a very young Ray Milland.
The 2001 film “Gosford Park” is set in 1932. Written by Robert Altman, the movie is about a fictional person who produces Charlie Chan movies for Fox Film Company. He is in England doing research for the next Charlie Chan film “Charlie Chan in London”. The movie then unfolds in a similar fashion to the plot of “Charlie Chan in London”.
To many, Charlie Chan is a racist symbol, and he is, but he is also a highly intelligent man that has earned respect from those around him. He is shrewd and meticulous. He is able to match wits with anyone and his reputation is known around the world. It is sad that these films are no longer aired on television. The fact that he has never been played by a Chinese is truly unfortunate and shows the films to be a sign of the times and a look at history that needs to be remembered as what it was. I don’t think any Belgians ever played Hercule Poirot.