Charlie Chan at the Opera (1937)

66 or 68 mins | Drama | 8 January 1937

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HISTORY

The film's title card reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Warner Oland vs. Boris Karloff in Charlie Chan at the Opera ." Although contemporary reviews call Margaret Irving's character "Lucretia Barrelli," she is called "Anita Barelli" in the film. A MPD news item noted that the picture was banned in Germany for having "too many murders." A HR news item stated that public response to the film's preview was so positive that Twentieth Century-Fox planned to up the production and advertising budgets for the Charlie Chan series, and that future films would see "Warner Oland co-starred with a top name opposite." The first actor the studio was said to be approaching to star with Oland was Peter Lorre. According to another HR news item, this film marked the first time that a DeBrie camera, which was lighter and more quiet than other models, was used in the United States. According to modern sources, H. Bruce Humberstone borrowed some of the sets from Café Metropole (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0551) for this film. Oscar Levant, in his autobiographical writings, states that he was assigned to write an operatic sequence that could take advantage of a Mephistophelian costume that had been created for Lawrence Tibbett in a previous Twentieth Century-Fox film (presumably Under Your Spell , see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4856). Levant also relates that the words for the opera were written originally in English by William Kernell and then translated into Italian by "studio linguists." For additional information on the series, please consult the Series Index ... More Less

The film's title card reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Warner Oland vs. Boris Karloff in Charlie Chan at the Opera ." Although contemporary reviews call Margaret Irving's character "Lucretia Barrelli," she is called "Anita Barelli" in the film. A MPD news item noted that the picture was banned in Germany for having "too many murders." A HR news item stated that public response to the film's preview was so positive that Twentieth Century-Fox planned to up the production and advertising budgets for the Charlie Chan series, and that future films would see "Warner Oland co-starred with a top name opposite." The first actor the studio was said to be approaching to star with Oland was Peter Lorre. According to another HR news item, this film marked the first time that a DeBrie camera, which was lighter and more quiet than other models, was used in the United States. According to modern sources, H. Bruce Humberstone borrowed some of the sets from Café Metropole (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0551) for this film. Oscar Levant, in his autobiographical writings, states that he was assigned to write an operatic sequence that could take advantage of a Mephistophelian costume that had been created for Lawrence Tibbett in a previous Twentieth Century-Fox film (presumably Under Your Spell , see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4856). Levant also relates that the words for the opera were written originally in English by William Kernell and then translated into Italian by "studio linguists." For additional information on the series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry below for Charlie Chan Carries On . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Dec 1936.
---
Daily Variety
12 Nov 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Nov 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 36
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 36
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
13 Nov 36
p. 10.
Motion Picture Daily
27 May 37
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
17 Oct 36
p. 37.
Motion Picture Herald
28 Nov 36
p. 68.
New York Times
5 Dec 36
p. 16.
Variety
16 Dec 36
p. 21.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the character "Charlie Chan" created by Earl Derr Biggers.
SONGS
"March Funebre," "Ah, Romantic Love Dream," "King and Country Call," "Carnival Marche" and "Then Farewell" from the opera Carnival , music by Oscar Levant, libretto by William Kernell.
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
8 January 1937
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 4 December 1936
Production Date:
mid September--mid October 1936
Copyright Claimants:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Dates:
5 December 1936 8 January 1937
Copyright Numbers:
LP7256 LP7043
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
66 or 68
Length(in feet):
6,175
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2796
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the Rockland State Sanitorium, Gravelle, an opera singing amnesiac, regains his memory when he sees a newspaper article about prima donna Lilli Rochelle, then kills a guard to escape. Inspector Regan calls Charlie Chan in on the case, and as they are in his office discussing it, Lilli comes in, accompanied by her lover and fellow singer, Enrico Barelli, to complain about a threat stating she will die that night. Chan agrees to go to the opera that night, along with Sergeant Kelly, to investigate. Later at the theater, Phil Childers and his girl friend Kitty try to see Lilli but are turned away by Kelly just as Regan and Chan arrive and hear Lilli's husband Whitely and Enrico fighting over Lilli. Meanwhile, in the dressing room of Enrico's wife Anita, Gravelle appears, and although Anita is terrified because he was presumed dead in a theater fire years ago, she agrees to keep his presence a secret while he carries out his plan of singing Enrico's role on stage. Gravelle then menaces Enrico, who, along with Lilli, locked Gravelle in the burning theater, and soon it is Gravelle rather than Enrico who joins Lilli on stage for their duet. Lilli recognizes Gravelle's voice and faints after she leaves the stage. After Whitely carries Lilli off, the others rush to Enrico's room, only to find that he has been stabbed. While the others search for Gravelle, Phil enters Lilli's room and discovers that she is also dead. Whitely comes in and has Phil arrested, but when Chan questions Phil and Kitty, they tell him that Kitty is Lilli's daughter from her previous ... +


At the Rockland State Sanitorium, Gravelle, an opera singing amnesiac, regains his memory when he sees a newspaper article about prima donna Lilli Rochelle, then kills a guard to escape. Inspector Regan calls Charlie Chan in on the case, and as they are in his office discussing it, Lilli comes in, accompanied by her lover and fellow singer, Enrico Barelli, to complain about a threat stating she will die that night. Chan agrees to go to the opera that night, along with Sergeant Kelly, to investigate. Later at the theater, Phil Childers and his girl friend Kitty try to see Lilli but are turned away by Kelly just as Regan and Chan arrive and hear Lilli's husband Whitely and Enrico fighting over Lilli. Meanwhile, in the dressing room of Enrico's wife Anita, Gravelle appears, and although Anita is terrified because he was presumed dead in a theater fire years ago, she agrees to keep his presence a secret while he carries out his plan of singing Enrico's role on stage. Gravelle then menaces Enrico, who, along with Lilli, locked Gravelle in the burning theater, and soon it is Gravelle rather than Enrico who joins Lilli on stage for their duet. Lilli recognizes Gravelle's voice and faints after she leaves the stage. After Whitely carries Lilli off, the others rush to Enrico's room, only to find that he has been stabbed. While the others search for Gravelle, Phil enters Lilli's room and discovers that she is also dead. Whitely comes in and has Phil arrested, but when Chan questions Phil and Kitty, they tell him that Kitty is Lilli's daughter from her previous marriage to Gravelle and that Lilli refused to acknowledge Kitty in order to keep her past a secret. The young lovers were there to ask Lilli for her permission to marry, as Kitty is underage. Gravelle, who did not recognize Kitty, is stunned as he overhears. Later, Phil goes to see Regan, leaving Kitty alone, and Gravelle comes in. He gently questions her and plays the piano for her, but she does not remember him and faints from fright. Chan enters, and after Gravelle tells him about Lilli and Enrico's attempt to kill him, Chan flatters him into singing again. Chan arranges to have Anita sing Lilli's role, and during the duet, which involves Gravelle's character stabbing Anita's character, Anita becomes so scared that a police officer shoots Gravelle. Chan then demonstrates that Gravelle's knife is a prop and could not have been used in the murders. He explains that Anita was the only one who had access to Enrico and Lilli when they were alone and unconscious, and that she was also the only one who knew Gravelle was there and could therefore frame him. Anita confesses that jealousy drove her to kill her husband and his lover, and after she is taken away, Chan convinces Kitty to comfort injured Gravelle, thereby saving his life. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.