Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)

70 mins | Drama | 16 June 1939

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HISTORY

The working title of this picture was Death Makes a Decree . It was based on the original screen story "Death Makes a Decree" by Philip Wylie and the character Charlie Chan created by Earl Derr Biggers and Robert E. Kent. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Paul Perez wrote a version of the screenplay in Dec 1938, but his name does not appear in the final credits. In the Call Bureau Cast Service lists, Sheriff Fletcher's name was originally Foster, Mrs. Russell was named Alice Williamson and Choy Wong was named Sung Li. According to reviews in HR and MPH , at the time that this picture was produced, this was the most expensive production in the Chan series. For additional information on the series, consult the Series Index and see above entry for Charlie Chan Carries On ... More Less

The working title of this picture was Death Makes a Decree . It was based on the original screen story "Death Makes a Decree" by Philip Wylie and the character Charlie Chan created by Earl Derr Biggers and Robert E. Kent. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Paul Perez wrote a version of the screenplay in Dec 1938, but his name does not appear in the final credits. In the Call Bureau Cast Service lists, Sheriff Fletcher's name was originally Foster, Mrs. Russell was named Alice Williamson and Choy Wong was named Sung Li. According to reviews in HR and MPH , at the time that this picture was produced, this was the most expensive production in the Chan series. For additional information on the series, consult the Series Index and see above entry for Charlie Chan Carries On . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 May 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
5 Jun 39
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 39
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 39
p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
2 Jun 39
p. 11.
Motion Picture Herald
29 Apr 39
p. 40.
Motion Picture Herald
3 Jun 39
p. 38.
New York Times
31 May 39
p. 27.
Variety
7 Jun 39
p. 12.
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
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the character "Charlie Chan" created by Earl Derr Biggers.
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Death Makes a Decree
Release Date:
16 June 1939
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 31 May 1939
Production Date:
23 January--24 February 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
16 June 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9000
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA High Fidelity Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
70
Length(in feet):
6,379
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5160
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Sparks fly at the Hotel Eldorado in Reno when Mary Whitman arrives to file for divorce from her husband Curtis and meets Curtis' intended, Jeanne Bently. When Jeanne taunts the defenseless Mary and insults Wally Burke, her former suitor, Mrs. Russell, the owner of the hotel, orders her to leave. Before she can finish packing her bags, however, Jeanne is murdered and Mary, arrested for the crime. Mary's arrest prompts her husband Curtis, a resident of Honolulu, to ask his old friend, Charlie Chan, for help. Charlie accompanies Curtis to Reno, where he meets Sheriff Fletcher, the bumbling law man investigating the case. After winning Mary's release on the grounds of lack of evidence, Charlie visits the murder room, where he finds Dr. Ainsley. Ainsley claims that he is looking for the money that Jeanne won on the night of her murder, suggesting that Burke killed her for her winnings. A search of the room by Charlie and his son Jimmy reveals Jeanne's scrapbook with the pages from the years 1935 and 1936 cut out, and Charlie to surmises that a pair of scissors was the murder weapon. Next, Charlie finds dirt particles on the dead woman's boots, which leads him to an abandoned mine shaft in a nearby ghost town. There, he finds an engineering kit and bank book belonging to George Bently, the dead woman's husband. Bently escapes, but is captured and accused of murder by Sheriff Fletcher, although Charlie is unconvinced of his guilt. Becoming intrigued by an acid burn on Mary's sleeve that matches a burn found in the rug in Jeanne's room, Charlie traces the ... +


Sparks fly at the Hotel Eldorado in Reno when Mary Whitman arrives to file for divorce from her husband Curtis and meets Curtis' intended, Jeanne Bently. When Jeanne taunts the defenseless Mary and insults Wally Burke, her former suitor, Mrs. Russell, the owner of the hotel, orders her to leave. Before she can finish packing her bags, however, Jeanne is murdered and Mary, arrested for the crime. Mary's arrest prompts her husband Curtis, a resident of Honolulu, to ask his old friend, Charlie Chan, for help. Charlie accompanies Curtis to Reno, where he meets Sheriff Fletcher, the bumbling law man investigating the case. After winning Mary's release on the grounds of lack of evidence, Charlie visits the murder room, where he finds Dr. Ainsley. Ainsley claims that he is looking for the money that Jeanne won on the night of her murder, suggesting that Burke killed her for her winnings. A search of the room by Charlie and his son Jimmy reveals Jeanne's scrapbook with the pages from the years 1935 and 1936 cut out, and Charlie to surmises that a pair of scissors was the murder weapon. Next, Charlie finds dirt particles on the dead woman's boots, which leads him to an abandoned mine shaft in a nearby ghost town. There, he finds an engineering kit and bank book belonging to George Bently, the dead woman's husband. Bently escapes, but is captured and accused of murder by Sheriff Fletcher, although Charlie is unconvinced of his guilt. Becoming intrigued by an acid burn on Mary's sleeve that matches a burn found in the rug in Jeanne's room, Charlie traces the acid to Ainsley. The case against the doctor intensifies when Police Chief King discovers that Jeanne had written checks to Ainsley and reveals that the missing pages in the scrapbook related to Jeanne's previous marriage to Mrs. Russell's late husband, whose death had been attended by Dr. Ainsley. Before the detectives can question Mrs. Russell, however, they find her strangled and Ainsley about to administer a hypodermic needle to her. Charlie pulls the needle from his hand and discovers poison in the syringe. Charlie then assembles all the murder suspects and announces that Jeanne had been paying Ainsley to keep silent about the fact that she murdered Russell. Charlie continues that he found the missing money in Ainsley's room, but before he finishes his explanation, Vivian Wells, the hotel's social director who is in love with Ainsley, protests his innocence. Charlie then traps Vivian into exposing a burn on her arm, proving that she murdered Jeanne during a struggle for the acid bottle. +

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.