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VINCENT PRICE
VINCENT PRICE: Connoisseur
WHAT'S MY LINE?
THE WHISTLER
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)

BEHIND THAT CURTAIN (1929)

 

         This is technically a Charlie Chan movie, made from Earl Derr Biggers’ novel of the same name.

          Blink, though, and you'll miss Chan!

            Fox Films made Behind That Curtain (1929) over as a romantic vehicle for Warner Baxter as Colonel Beetham, Regulating Chan’s character to hardly more than a bit part with the best of it off screen.

You have to wonder why the Asian actor, E.L. Park, was chosen to play the Chinese detective from Honolulu.

Was the part so small because his acting was so stilted or because nobody else would take such a small part?!  Whatever the reason . . . Park's first "appearance" is a scene just under 75 minutes when he is heard and then seen.  His big moment at the end is - SURPRISE! - off stage.

Behind That Curtain (1929) is still worth watching for several reasons.

Warner Baxter was a fine actor with a long career and this movie shows him early in that career as Colonel John Beetham.

Baxter, as Beetham, is clearly among those actors who were in that transition from silents to talkies since his performance varies from the stilted, mannered acting of the twenties to the more natural style of the sound era.

Boris Karloff ironically plays a small part as Baxter's manservant.

Ironically because he had already played in some 60 movies when he appeared in Behind . . . but he was showing the incredible talent that gave his Frankenstein monster such a stand-out performance—without Karloff having to say a word.

        Mercedes De Valasco plays the maid, Nuna, fairly well as a girl who’s no better than she has to be except for when she’s fanning her boss a third of the way through the movie.

The song she sings is in a foreign language, which most of us could deal with, but she sings it over and over and over and over and . . . .

The scene right after that isn’t much better with Philip Strange as Eric Durand. 

His acting as the cheating husband finally confronted by his wife is every bit as artificial as Karloff’s is natural.

The film proper, like some of the actors, can be difficult to watch.

Hollywood had achieved a high standard (for the time) of quality in film-making in the twenties but sound sent everybody back to almost a new beginning in developing film that could accommodate the new technology as well as acting.

Fox Films does provide great visuals in Behind That Curtain.

The sets vary from English manor houses in Devonshire to desert scenes complete with tents and camels in the Mid-East.

We even get Scotland Yard Inspector Bruce (Gilbert Emery) traveling by plane to Beetham’s encampment in Persia (now Iran) before we’re treated to great shots of San Francisco, California.

The Black Camel (1931) is generally considered to be the only entry in the Charlie Chan Series to be filmed on location, in Honolulu.  However there are scenes in . . . Curtain that look like the real deal and the Internet Movie Database show that there was filming in the San Francisco Bay and that city's Chinatown.

            . . . Curtain also covers the transportation situation from cars to camels to ferries in the San Francisco Bay!

Behind That Curtain, for good, bad or indifference, just wets the appetite that Charlie Chan lovers have for their favorite Chinese Detective Supreme who knew how to "walk softly and go far."

 

BEHIND THAT CURTAIN (1929)

 

Based on the novel published in 1928 by Earl Derr Biggers.

“Behind That Curtain

Movietone

Part 1”

Adapted from the novel by Earl Derr Biggers.

Travel time:  3 days, (travel time to India), 1 day, (travel through India to Iran), 2-3 days in the Iranian Desert (?), 1 day (journey of 4 months will be over the next day), 2 days later in Tehran, 1 day (1 year later in San Francisco)

How far into the movie does Charlie Chan appear?

About 71 minutes.

 

How many times does he appear?

Going through Eve’s suitcases in her room, in his office with Inspector Duff, and at the door in the Cosmopolitan Club. 

 

Is that all?

Charlie shoots Eric Durand off-camera at the end. 

 

What is Hillary Galt’s telephone number in London?

Gerard 3232.

 

Sir George Mannering lives where?

At Mannering Tower in Devonshire, England. 

 

Who was Hillary Galt?

A private detective who has done work for Sir George and received information about Beetham. 

 

Who was Alf Pornick?

The night watchman of the building where Hillary Galt had his office.  He saw the killer and blackmailed him.

 

How was Eve Mannering going to “make” Beetham take her with him on his trek through the Persian Desert?

 

What’s the meaning of the letter that Alf Pornick sends to Eve Durand?

Blackmail.

 

Who were the couple that Chan spoke to on the balcony across the street?

 

What building does Durand find Eve working as an elevator girl?

 

Beetham gives a lecture on his Iranian trip at the Cosmopolitan Club in San Francisco.  What is the club’s telephone number?

Dayton 1101.

 

Doesn’t anyone notice that Durand is just standing there, holding the curtain aside in the middle of the wall, while Beetham is giving his lecture?

 

This movie covers a year, one month and six (?) days?

 

Is this the longest Chan movie, as to length of time actually covered?

Probably. 

 

BLOOPER:  Sir George never hangs up the telephone at the beginning of the movie.

 

BLOOPER:  When Eve Durand confronts her husband, he grabs her left arm.  She has bruises on her right arm when she sees Beetham shortly thereafter.

 

BLOOPER:  How did Eve manage to maintain her short hair cut on a four-month trek through India and Persia after apparently leaving everything behind her?!

 

POSSIBLE BLOOPER?:  WHAT DOES IT SAY UNDERNEATH “THE END”?

 

BONUS QUESTION:  What other movies used the stock shots of camel riders in the desert?

Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937) and Phantom of Chinatown, with Keye Luke as James Lee Wong, (1940).

 

MURDER RATE:  Hillary Galt and Alf Pornick by Eric Durand.

 

BEHIND THAT CURTAIN (1929) EXTRAS

 

There is also the Internet Movie Database information at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019684/fullcredits#cast

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019684/locations

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019684/quotes

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019684/trivia

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