Cast & Crew
J. Edward Bromberg
On an ocean liner approaching New York, a man unsuccessfully tries to steal a small package hidden in a woman's stateroom. The woman then hides the package in the room next to hers, which belongs to the celebrated Honolulu detective Charlie Chan and his son Lee. In New York, newspaper reporter Speed Patten slips into a cab with the woman, whom he knows as Billie Bronson, and she promises to meet him at her hotel at midnight if he will keep quiet. As Speed reports the potential story to his editor Murdock, Murdock gets a call from Billie, who demands twice the amount he was willing to pay one year ago, and he sets up a meeting with her that night. Billie then bribes a bellhop for a key to Chan's room. As she tries to enter, Billie is spotted by Lee, and he follows her to the Hottentot Club, owned by racketeer Johnny Burke. There, mobster Buzz Moran warns Billie to get out of town before morning, after which she goes to Burke's office. Meanwhile, Speed, who has come to the club with photographer Joan Wendall, follows Burke to meet Billie. Billie accuses Burke, her former lover, of giving her the "runaround" because of his involvement with Marie Collins, a dancer in the club, and pulls a gun on Burke as Marie opens the door. Later that day, Inspector Nelson gets word that Billie has been killed and that Lee is being held as a suspect. Nelson orders Lee's release and questions Speed, Burke, Marie and Joan. At the crime scene, Chan notices that a napkin placed over a tray is not in a photograph which Joan took at the time of the murder. Just then, Louie, Burke's man, turns out the lights, and during a scuffle, Burke escapes. When the lights go on, Chan reveals that the key to his hotel room, which is present in the photograph, is now missing along with the napkin. Chan, Lee and Nelson return to Chan's room, where they find that the man on the boat who tried to rob Billie has just been killed. Marie then enters and recognizes him as her husband, Tom Mitchell. On the floor, Chan finds a crumpled page of a diary, which, he realizes, Mitchell was after. Chan finds Murdock in Billie's room, and Murdock explains that he was waiting to buy Billie's diary, which has information on racketeers and politicians in the city. The next day, after reading Speed's newspaper account of the murder, Moran confronts Burke. After Burke knocks down Moran, Moran shoots at him and misses. With his lawyer, Burke goes to police headquarters, where a parafin test to determine whether there are traces of gun powder on his hands proves to be negative. Chan reminds Nelson that the napkin may have been used to cover the gun and warns Burke that he is still investigating him. When Burke finds Lee in his room trying to reconstruct the murder, he gives a black eye to Lee, who hits him back before being thrown out. Burke tries to leave town, but he is apprehended at the airport, along with Marie, and taken back to his office, where Murdock and Moran are also brought. Chan, Lee, Speed, Joan and Nelson also arrive at Burke's office, where Chan reveals that Mitchell was trying to get Billie's diary to ruin Burke, who stole his wife. Murdock then shows a page from the diary, which says that Speed used his newspaper job as a cover for blackmailing. Speed calls the page phony, and Chan accuses him of murder. Chan explains that he first suspected Speed when his newspaper account mentioned that Billie was shot in the back, a fact known only to the police and the murderer. Chan also reveals that he and Nelson planted the phony diary page to draw Speed out. Speed pulls a gun and confesses that he killed Billie because she was going to the district attorney with the diary, which implicated him. He then found Mitchell with the diary and killed him. He is about to shoot Chan when Lee jumps him. In the struggle, Speed is disarmed, while Lee gets a second black eye.
J. Edward Bromberg
George P. Costello
Al De Gaetano
Harry M. Leonard
Marc Lawrence (1910-2005)
Born Max Goldsmith on February 17, 1910, in the Bronx, Lawrence had his heart set on a career in drama right out of high school. He enrolled at City College of New York to study theatre, and in 1930, he worked under famed stage actress Eva Le Gallienne. Anxious for a career in movies, Lawrence moved to Hollywood in 1932 and found work immediately as a contract player with Warner Bros. (an ideal studio for the actor since they specialized in crime dramas). He was cast as a heavy in his first film, If I Had a Million (1932). Although his first few parts were uncredited, Lawrence's roles grew more prominent: a sinister henchman in the Paul Muni vehicle in Dr. Socrates (1935); a conniving convict aiding Pat O'Brien in San Quentin (1937); a menacing thug stalking Dorothy Lamour in Johnny Apollo (1940); the shrewdly observant chauffeur in Alan Ladd's breakthrough hit This Gun For Hire (1942); and one of his most memorable roles as Ziggy, a fedora wearing mobster in the Bogart-Bacall noir classic Key Largo (1948).
Lawrence, when given the opportunity, could play against type: as the prosecuting attorney challenging Tyrone Power in Brigham Young (1940); a noble aristocrat in the Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon period opus Blossoms in the Dust; and most impressively, as a deaf mute simpleton in the rustic drama The Shepherd of the Hills (both 1941). Better still was Lawrence's skill at comedy, where his deadpan toughness worked terrifically as a straight man against the likes of Joe E. Brown in Beware Spooks (1939); Abbott and Costello in Hit the Ice (1943); Penny Singleton in Life with Blondie (1945); and Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy (1951).
After that, Lawrence's career took a turn downward spin when he was labeled a communist sympathizer during the Hollywood witch hunts of the early '50s. He was exiled in Europe for a spell (1951-59), and when he came back, the film industry turned a blind eye to him, but television overcompensated for that. Here he played effective villains (what else?) in a series of crime caper programs: Peter Gunn, Johnny Staccato, The Untouchables, Richard Diamond, Private Detective; and eventually made a welcome return to the big screen as a returning exiled gangster in William Asher's underrated mob thriller Johnny Cool (1963).
It wasn't long before Lawrence found himself back in the fray playing in some big box-office hits over the next two decades: Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Marathon Man (1976), Foul Play (1978); and The Big Easy (1987). Sure he was cast as a gangster, but nobody could play a rough and tumble mob boss with more style or conviction.
Interestingly, one of his finest performances in recent years was in television, as a severely ill old man unwilling to accept his fate in a fourth season episode of ER (1997-98). His last screen role was just two years ago, as a nimble minded VP in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).
In 1991, Lawrence published a memoir about his venerable career, Long Time No See: Confessions of a Hollywood Gangster that received much critical acclaim. He has also developed a cult following due to his appearances in such offbeat items as From Dusk to Dawn and Pigs aka Daddy's Deadly Darling, the 1972 horror film he directed and starred in with his daughter Toni. He is survived by his wife, Alicia; two children from a previous marriage, Toni and Michael; and a stepdaughter Marina.
by Michael T. Toole
Marc Lawrence (1910-2005)
In the onscreen credits, actor Toshia Mori's first name is misspelled "Tashia." Thomas Beck is listed as a cast member in early Hollywood Reporter production charts, but his participation in the final film is doubtful. For more information on the series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry above for Charlie Chan Carries On.