SEPTEMBER, 2007 THE OLD MOVIE MAVEN VOlUME 2, Issue 9
Chan’s Secret (1936) Audio Commentary
and The Black Camel (1931)
Maven has found a major blooper in the third set of the classic Chinese Detective series, Charlie Chan!
And it wasn’t made by the studio!
Ken Hanke (author of Charlie Chan at the Movies, McFarland, 1989) and John
Cork (film historian who put together the featurettes on the third boxed set of Charlie Chan movies) did a great job on the
audio commentary of Charlie Chan’s Secret (1936) . . . except for one tiny,
Charlie Chan is meeting with Mrs. Lowell (Henrietta Crosman) and her family:
her daughter, Janice Gage (Astrid Allwyn); her son-in-law, Fred Gage (Edward Trevor) and her lawyer, Warren T. Phelps
The only thing is that
they confuse Edward Trevors’s character of Fred with Charles Quigley’s Dick Williams.
They do get it right that Williams is a newspaper reporter and in love with Mrs. Lowell’s
other daughter, Alice (Rosina Lawrence).
What makes it more amusing is that they do describe Trevor right, as not being “leading man” quality with
a rather screwy light voice, but give him Quigley’s name of Dick Williams and
his much longer career (including the deliciously named The Crimson Ghost, 1946).
Maven just has to wonder just how long has it been since they looked at
the opening credits, www.imdb.com, www.charliechan.info or Maven’s own records of her favorite
Charlie Chan movie?! . . . .
But there are lots of regular old bloopers in Charlie Chan’s Secret!
From how do the folks back home know that the murdered-victim-to-be, Allan Colby, was on his way home to how the bad
guy gets everything done when it would take at least two to three people and sometimes in two or more places at the same time!
There is the scene at the start of the movie where Charlie has hired a boat
crew to dive for survivors of a ship that may have gone down with Allan Colby.
One of the divers comes up and the briefcase that he brings up switches from
wet to dry and back and some of the papers inside look like they were never wet to begin with!
Their commentary is very informative about the only Chan movie that Fox made on location—The Black Camel , also in this collection—about the director (Hamilton McFadden) and his techniques,
the actors (Bela Lugosi), the plot, the makeup, and even the dress designer Dolly Tree!
There are other bloopers,
too, like how does Charlie not notice Tarneverro (Bela Lugosi) and Julie O’Niel (Sally Eilers) hiding pieces of a picture
strewn all over the floor?
The picture is of an actor, Denny Mayo. Other pictures of him are seen
cut out of a newspaper in the local library.
It’s a plot device to hide his picture that doesn’t make sense once you find out who done it.
And there is a scene of Warner Oland’s Chan with J.M. Kerrigan and Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson to Basil Rathbone’s
Sherlock Holmes) as the MacMasters. He mentions talking to them earlier in the
day but there is no scene.
Probably it was deleted but the studio either forgot about the reference or considered it too expensive to correct.
There are other bloopers but The Black Camel definitely worth watching,
as a mystery and an early talky and to watch Bela Lugosi still at his best, right after Dracula,
as the psychic, Tarneverro.
He has an excellent scene with Dorothy Revier as Shelah Fane over a crystal ball that is beautifully scripted, lighted,
and acted . . . well-worth watching.
Charlie Chan’s Secret and The
Black Camel have plot holes and bloopers but they have always been among
Maven’s favorite movies of all time.
They are even more worth watching now that Fox has restored them to like-new along with the other movies in this collection: . . . on Broadway, . . . Monte Carlo, Behind That Curtain (the 1929
Derr Biggers book made into a Warner Baxter romantic movie).
Definitely a good buy!