Charlie Chan in Egypt
Cast & Crew
Charlie Chan goes to Egypt on behalf of the French Archaeological Society to investigate Professor Arnold's excavation of Ameti's tomb, because the artifacts discovered in the tomb have been found in other museums. Once there, however, Chan finds out from the professor's daughter Carol, his son Barry, his brother-in-law, Professor Thurston, and Tom Evans, who is Arnold's young assistant and Carol's boyfriend, that Arnold has been missing for a month. When Carol is overcome by worry over her father, Tom sends for Dr. Anton Racine, who arrives shortly after Carol hallucinates that she is being menaced by Sekhmet, the goddess of vengeance whose statue was guarding Ameti's tomb. Meanwhile, in the basement laboratory, Chan, Thurston and Tom examine Ameti's mummy using an X ray. When Chan notices a bullet in the mummy's chest, they unwrap it and discover not Ameti but Professor Arnold. Thurston then tells Chan that he sold the artifacts to pay off money he had borrowed from Racine. Barry overhears them discussing his father's death and collapses in hysterics, certain that the tomb's curse will kill the entire family. Chan decides to investigate the tomb that night, so with Tom and his helper Snowshoes, he sets off, but once inside the tomb, they are frightened off by a vision of Sekhmet. The next day, Chan goes to Luxor to question Daoud Atrash, the chemist who fills Racine's prescriptions for Carol. That night, when Chan returns to the Arnold house, an autopsy of the professor is underway, and after the others leave, Chan extracts the bullet from near Arnold's heart. Chan then rejoins the others upstairs and questions Racine about Mapouchari, a drug which causes hallucinations and death, and which Chan suspects is placed on Carol's cigarettes to trigger her attacks. They are just about to talk to Barry about the secret treasure his father was trying to find when Barry dies while playing his violin. Later, Chan, Tom and Snowshoes return to the tomb, where they find a secret water passageway. Tom swims to the next room, which is a storage room for Ameti's treasures, but he is shot by someone he recognizes. As he falls, he hits a lever that opens a door between the rooms, and Chan and Snowshoes take him back to the house. After the bullet is removed, Chan takes it for evidence, then goes to search Barry's room. Chan deduces that Barry was killed by a tiny vial of the deadly drug. He demonstrates to Thurston and Racine how the violin's vibrations shattered the glass, releasing the drug in gaseous form. He then tells them it was the hidden treasure room which was the motive for the two murders and the attempt on Tom's life. Upstairs, Racine examines Tom, after which Thurston sends Carol to rest. Alone with Tom, Thurston prepares to stab him in his wounds with Racine's lancet, but Chan arrives just in time. Chan explains that the bullets recovered from Arnold and Tom came from Thurston's gun, and the police then take Thurston away. Tom regains consciousness and is enfolded in Carol's loving embrace.
Nigel De Brulier
Charlie Chan in Egypt
A hit with mystery readers, the homily-spouting Charlie Chan ("Mind like parachute. Function only when open.") soon attracted the attention of Hollywood. In his lifetime, Derr Biggers would permit adaptations only of his published novels. The House without a Key was made in 1926 as a serial by Pathé Exchange, with the Japanese George Kuwa playing Chan as a secondary character. Kuwa later turned up, although not as Chan, in Paul Leni's adaptation of Derr Biggers' The Chinese Parrot (1927), having ceded the role to countryman Sôjin (Billy the Butler in Roland West's The Bat, 1926). The last true Asian to stand in for Chan was Korean E. L. Park in the Fox Film Corporation's early talkie Behind That Curtain (1929), which also featured Boris Karloff as a menacing Sudanese manservant. Fox was the first studio to see a franchise in the exploits of Charlie Chan but the executives running the troubled studio had to wait until after Derr Biggers' death in April 1934 to free the character of his bookish origins. Striking a deal with Derr Biggers' widow, Eleanor, Fox pressed on with a proposed series of films in which Chan would solve murders in some of the world's most glamorous and exotic cities, in original mysteries dreamed up by Hollywood writers.
Swedish actor Warner Oland made his debut as Charlie Chan in Charlie Chan Carries On in 1931. (When Oland shot Fox's follow-up, The Black Camel, on location in Hawaii that same year, he posed for a photo op with Chang Apana.) Oland reprised the character five times before Fox obtained permission to run with the series and headlined the first original mystery, Charlie Chan in London (1934), adapted from a story by crime novelist Philip MacDonald . By Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935), the franchise had settled into a comfortable rhythm. Produced cheaply, and making cost-effective use of stock footage, matte work, and contract players, the Charlie Chan films could not help but turn a profit and initially they even found favor with the critics. Scripted by the team of Robert Ellis and Helen Logan (making their series debut, at the start of a long and profitable association with the Fox Chan films), Charlie Chan in Egypt finds the methodical detective pressed into service by the French Archeological Society and tracking down errant artifacts purloined from the tomb of a seemingly vengeful high priest and solving a more pressing mystery when the opening of a mummy case reveals the corpse of a murdered archeologist.
As had Universal's The Mummy (1932), starring Boris Karloff as the linen-wrapped and commitment-minded Im-Ho-Tep, Charlie Chan in Egypt capitalized on the 1922 opening of the tomb of Egyptian boy prince Tutankhamen and the perceived curse that befell many of those present at the excavation. Directed by Louis King and shot by Daniel B. Clark with an affinity for suggestive black shadows slashed by jagged shards of harsh white light, this early entry in the long-running film series boasts an uncharacteristic supernatural edge not fully dispelled by Charlie Chan's climactic summation of the facts of the case. Black comedian Stepin Fetchit brings a controversial but artfully calculated degree of comic relief to the otherwise poker-faced plot (though never a factor in the Chan series, Chang Apana came to police work from his humble beginnings as a Honolulu houseboy) but the film's real find, from an archeological standpoint, is the casting of fourth-billed Rita Cansino as an Egyptian servant. A discovery of Fox production boss Winfield Sheehan, the former child dancer (product of a Mexican-American marriage) made her Hollywood film debut in Under the Pampas Moon (1935) with Warner Baxter and would appear in ten films at Fox using her birth name before assuming her mother's maiden name and reinventing herself (by dint of dieting, electrolysis, and auburn hair dye) at Columbia as Rita Hayworth.
Warner Oland remains the actor most widely associated with playing Charlie Chan, despite the fact that his death at age 59 in 1938 (from bronchial pneumonia, aggravated by heavy smoking and alcoholism) necessitated the trucking in of another actor to replace him. As had Oland, Sidney Toler came to the part from a background rich in heavies yet transitioned easily into the profile of the deliberately deductive Chan. Toler continued with the series through its passage from Fox (which merged with 20th Century Pictures in 1935 to form 20th Century Fox) to the down-market Monogram Pictures in 1944. Toler bettered Oland's track record of 16 films with 22 of his own before his tragic death (from cancer - albeit at the reasonably ripe old age of 73), at which time Roland Winters finished out the series for its last six chapters. Oland's unfinished Charlie Chan Ringside was repurposed as Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938), one of eight mysteries starring Peter Lorre as an indefatigable but impeccably mannered Japanese secret agent (Moto's penchant for ju-jitsu made him closer kin to Chang Apana than Charlie Chan had ever been) while Boris Karloff (Oland's costar for Charlie Chan at the Opera in 1936) paid his alimony with a six-film detective series of his own, donning prosthetic appliances to narrow his eyes to play Mr. Wong, Detective (1938) for Monogram.
Producer: Edward T. Lowe
Director: Louis King
Writers: Robert Ellis, Helen Logan, based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers
Cinematographer: Daniel B. Clark
Editor: Alfred DeGaetano
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer, William S. Darling, Walter Koessler
Cast: Warner Oland (Charlie Chan), Pat Paterson (Carol Arnold), Thomas Beck (Tom Evans), Rita Hayworth, as Rita Cansino (Nayda), Stepin Fetchit (Snowshoes), Jameson Thomas (Dr. Racine), Frank Conroy (Professor Thurston), Nigel De Brulier (Edfu Ahmad), Arthur Stone (Dragoman), Paul Porcasi (Inspector Soueida), Frank Reicher (Dr. Jaipur), James Eagles (Barry Arnold), George Irving (Professor Arnold), Anita Brown (Snowshoes' Girlfriend), John Davidson (Chemist).
by Richard Harland Smith
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011)
Charlie Chan at the Movies: History, Filmography, and Criticism by Ken Hanke (McFarland and Company, 2004)
Rita Hayworth interview by Jess Kobal, August 1973
Charlie Chan in Egypt
Hasty conclusion like hole in water, easy to make.- Charlie Chan
Director Louis King's name appears as Luis King in the onscreen credits of the print viewed, from which the end credits were missing. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Charles Locher was originally signed for the juvenile lead. For more information on the series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry above for Charlie Chan Carries On.