Tuesday, May 7, 2019

THE HOLLYWOOD GANGSTERS BLOGTHON: Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)


Annette Bochenek of Hometowns to Hollywood is hosting The Hollywood Gangsters Blogathon from May 6th to the 8th. Click HERE for all the tough guys and molls.

Inspector Chan (Warner Oland) and his son, Lee (Keye Luke) of Hawaii plan to be nothing but tourists when their ocean liner docks in New York City. However, they will soon be deeply involved with gangsters, graft, and murder. The attractive woman in the next stateroom, Billie Bronson (Louise Henry) is about to embroil the Chans in their next case.

A year ago nightclub entertainer Billie was a desired Grand Jury witness, along with her diary detailing activities of her gangster boyfriend and the local mob. The "boss" Buzz Moran (Leon Ames) sent her on a European vacation until things cooled down. After a year, Billie got tired of waiting, tired of being stiffed on her part of the take, and tired of her boyfriend, the nightclub owner and racketeer Johnny Burke (Douglas Fowley) stepping out with another gal.

Keye Luke, Warner Oland, Louise Henry

When Buzz got word that Billie was coming back to "blow the lid" off the town, he sent underling Tom Mitchell (Marc Lawrence) to get the diary and to get rid of Billie. Shipboard neighbours the Chans became involved with one of Mitchell's attempts to get the diary. Billie then cleverly concealed her diary in the Inspector's luggage planning to retrieve it later at the hotel.

The dock at New York is a busy place. Inspector Nelson (Harold Huber) has been sent to officially welcome Inspector Chan to the city and reporter Speed Patten (Donald Woods) is always looking for a scoop. Did he notice photographer Joan Wendall (Joan Marsh) snapping proof that Billie Bronson is back in town?

The slang and fresh patter set the tone for the remainder of the movie.

Inspector Nelson: "I'm Inspector Nelson, Mr. Chan. Greetings from New York's finest. The bigwigs expect you to tear a duck apart with 'em tonight."

Charlie Chan: "So sorry. Come again, please?"

Speed Patten: "You'll have to excuse the inspector's English, Mr. Chan. He's a Brooklyn immigrant."

Joan Woodbury, Harold Huber, Warner Oland, Douglas Fowley

Newspaper editor Murdock (J. Edward Bromberg) is anxious to wrap up a deal he thought he had made a year earlier for the rights to Billie's diary. Billie has raised her price and is equally anxious. All she has to do is get that diary out of Chan's hotel suite.

Billie's suspicious behavior has piqued Lee's curiosity and he follows her to her old haunt, The Hottentot Club. The club is featuring their popular candid camera night and one of the favourite photography subjects is Johnny's new squeeze, dancer Marie Collins (Joan Woodbury).

Leon Ames

Speed and Joan are taking in the sights at the club as well which include Marie, Johnny, Billie, and Buzz Moran. Before the night is through Billie Bronson is shot in Johnny's office, and Lee becomes a suspect. Buzz surreptitiously leaves the club as the police arrive, and a lights-out melee allows Johnny the opportunity to take it on the lam.

A missing hotel key leads the Chans back to their lodgings where they find the body of Tom Mitchell and a page from Billie's diary. In Billie's room, on the floor above, they find Murdock with an ever-changing story of his meeting with the doomed diarist.

Moran and Burke have a violent confrontation. True to their nature, these gangsters aren't above using guns. Moran is convinced Burke brought Billie back in a takeover bid. Burke proves he couldn't have murdered Billie and that puts Moran back in the hot seat.

Douglas Fowley, J. Edward Bromberg, Keye Luke, Donald Woods
Joan Marsh, Warner Oland, Leon Ames, Harold Huber, Joan Woodbury

These crooks are used to running things their own way. Their graft includes the police and local politicians. Their intimidation of the visiting Inspector is very real with very real consequences. Chan will not be deterred in his search for the truth, and the film wraps up tidily with the guilty party trapped by his own hubris.

Charlie Chan: "Police of New York and Honolulu have one thing in common. Both live on very small island, but while we have small volcano, you have biggest shakeup."

The movie world of Charlie Chan finds him often dealing with cunning murderers and spies, but Charlie Chan on Broadway is the only time in his 20th Century Fox period where he dealt with bona fide gangsters.

Douglas Fowley as Johnny Burke plays the rat-a-tat tough guy whose nightclub tuxedo isn't fooling anyone; he's nothing but a hood. Leon Ames plays Buzz Moran as a cool, quirky character. He mildly sticks to milk at the club, but he is not averse to gunplay. Marc Lawrence was perfect casting for Mitchell. He was born to play those guys the big fellows send out on a job. 


Bonus:

A 2011 contest by Best for Film awarded second place to my humble haiku.

The gathered suspects
Tremble 'neath Inspector's glare
You are murderer















32 comments:

  1. LEON AMES! I remember I wrote about him on a page about a western movie. He did a few episodes of MY THREE SONS as a doctor. Did you ever see that show which starred FRED MACMURRAY and was produced by DON FEDDERSON? I only saw the color ones which were made for CBS. I saw them in reruns beginning in the late 70s on a local station. There were 7 years of color eps. WILLIAM DEMAREST played UNCLE CHARLEY. Mr. Ames was on it as the doctor of Katie, the wife of Robbie Douglas. Katie was expecting and she had triplets. I really liked the show and the cast. DON GRADY played Robbie, sometimes called Rob. TINA COLE played Katie. Out of 12 seasons she was on it the last 5 years. BEVERLY GARLAND was on it the last 3 seasons as the second wife of Steve(played by FRED M.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leon Ames had an incredible career. I do recall that he was Katie's doctor.

      I am a great fan of My Three Sons. I grew up with the colour episodes, but later in syndication I had the chance to watch the earlier seasons and I fell in love with them.

      Delete
  2. Charlie Chan is the ultimate comfort food. So very reassuring. You just know if he's on the case, everything will be alright. Love the haiku.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I fell in love with the series when I was a "tweener" watching the Late Show. All these years later, it is indeed a comfort to me on rainy days, and fun when that's what I'm looking for in a movie.

      Thanks. You made my haiku blush.

      Delete
  3. Leon Ames played the principal on a color episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Teacher Helen Crump was in charge of putting on a play. The principal thought the dancing was a disgrace. It has a good ending. Also he played the dad to DORIS DAY & BILLY GRAY in ON MOONLIGHT BAY and the sequel BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON. (DAY & GRAY in BAY!) It had ROSEMARY DECAMP as the wife/mother and the delightful MARY WICKES as the housekeeper.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think those two movies with the Winfield family, based on stories by Booth Tarkington, are excellent. Doris Day once said that she felt that they were a genuine family. So sweet.

      Delete
  4. When I saw LEON AMES in a movie he was usually playing a loving father. He and MARY ASTOR played the parents in LITTLE WOMEN and their daughters were played by JANET LEIGH, JUNE ALLYSON, ELIZABETH TAYLOR, and MARGARET OBRIEN. Then I saw an earlier one he did and there he was with Mary again in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS where their daughters were played by LUCILLE BREMER, JUDY GARLAND and also MARGARET OBRIEN. So Leon & Mary got to play the parents of Margaret twice. That's neat. Also I mentioned just yesterday about DORIS DAY. PLUS he was in PEYTON PLACE as the dad of RODNEY HARRINGTON(BARRY COE) and Miss Astor was in RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE as the mom of TED CARTER(BRETT HALSEY). Their characters were both wealthy-LESLIE HARRINGTON and ROBERTA CARTER.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leon Ames could be the perfect movie dad. He also was very convincing as shady characters as in The Velvet Touch, Song of the Thin Man, the Marshal of Mesa City, and the ever-popular Charlie Chan on Broadway.

      The lawyer he played in The Postman Always Rings Twice is an interesting character. He used his nice guy persona to trap the defendant. And that brings us back to Lana Turner and Peyton Place.

      Delete
  5. Last week, my sister and I were trying to decide which Chan film to watch for our Friday night mystery flick and I suggested the one with the "man who died at his desk when that little glass ball broke" and we couldn't remember which title that was. Lo! Here it be! And just in time for this Friday.

    Leon Ames played such a good father in "Meet Me in St. Louis", but discovering his early work, I find that he made more films playing shady characters than honest folk!

    Great review as usual, CW. And your haiku is impressive in its simplicity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your compliment.

      By the way, you are oh-so-close on "the man who died at his desk when that little glass ball broke". It's another Chan/NYC story, Murder Over New York. I see a double bill in your future!

      Delete
    2. Is it now! My goodness, it seems to be a common fate for New York men to die in their offices.

      Delete
  6. Speaking of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW earlier BARBARA PERRY(June 22, 1921-May 5, 2019)did four eps of that series. In one episode she played LAVENIA, one of several women that Barney had come over to Andys house without Andy knowing about his plan to get Andy a new wife. She also guest-starred on MY THREE SONS as the foster mother that Ernie had before his adoption by Steve. Barbara also did an ep of FAMILY AFFAIR and some eps of PERRY MASON. Im sure you will remember her from THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW as the first actress to play PICKLES-the wife of BUDDY SORRELL(MOREY AMSTERDAM). She guest-starred twice and then JOAN SHAWLEE did three eps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbara was a bright cheery presence on TV. She was born the year before DORIS DAY & BETTY WHITE. Barbara acted from 1933 to 2017, just two years ago! She was married to ART BABBITT, a DISNEY animator. They married in 1967 and were wed for 25 years until his passing in 1992. He had two children and she had one. (Art had been married to MARGE CHAMPION at one time. His children were from a different marriage.) Art was credited with creating the lovable Disney character GOOFY. Not only do I like reading and posting about stars I also like to read and post about people that are not household names but a lot of them have very familiar faces.

      Delete
    2. I appreciate the information on Barbara Perry, a very familiar face, and Art Babbitt, a very familiar name. I always appreciated animators but even moreso since it is my daughter's profession.

      Delete
  7. Thank you. Speaking of animation I really like LADY AND THE TRAMP. VERNA FELTON did the voice of AUNT SARAH and maybe others in that movie. I remember you stated that your son is DISNEY-crazy. Did your daughter grow up watching Disney movies?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. Our kids were only 15 months apart. I'm sure early viewing of Disney classics inspired our daughter's choice in career. Our son is autistic/developmentally delayed and we know that Disney helps us to communicate with him when he was younger. His independent language skills are improving as he matures, but it is certainly easier if you know what movies he likes.

      Delete
  8. Looking at the credits of Barbara Perry on imdb some of her characters had some unusual names-LOLLYPOP, BUFFIE. BABS, & BINKY. She guest-starred on THE LUCY SHOW and BEWITCHED. Growing up I was a big fan of BEWITCHED and its star ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY. (Im still a fan.) I like DICK YORK & DICK SARGENT. York was the funniest Darrin but Sargent was funny too, just in a different way. Liz played reporter EDNA BUCHANAN in her last two TV-Movies. THE CORPSE HAD A FAMILIAR FACE with DENNIS FARINA and DEADLINE FOR MURDER with DEAN STOCKWELL. When the first one came out there was a piece in TV GUIDE where there were some comments from the real EDNA BUCHANAN and there was a picture of Edna with Liz. Liz was a great actress in dramatic and comedic roles. She was with actor ROBERT FOXWORTH for 19 years and then they were married for 2 years until her passing in 1995. Foxworth was on FALCON CREST as CHASE GIOBERTI, the nephew of ANGELA CHANNING.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I admire Elizabeth Montgomery. She could play a variety of characters, and all of them well. Bewitched is a fun memory from my childhood. When I come across it these days, it still makes me laugh. I will have to see if I can find those Edna Buchanan movies somewhere.

      Delete
  9. Leon Ames was on an episode of BEWITCHED as boss HOWARD MCMANN. MARION LORNE and KASEY ROGERS were both in the movie STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. On Bewitched Marion played AUNT CLARA and KASEY played LOUISE TATE, the wife of LARRY TATE(DAVID WHITE). Kasey was on the color episodes-6 seasons. (IRENE VERNON played Louise on the first two seasons, they were in black & white). In STRANGERS Marion played the mother of BRUNO(ROBERT WALKER) and Kasey played his wife. Kasey was going by the name of LAURA ELLIOTT at that time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remembered later that I should have said that KASEY ROGERS played the wife of GUY(FARLEY GRANGER). BRUNO was not married.

      Delete
  10. I want to add that Kasey Rogers was on the prime-time soap PEYTON PLACE from 1964-66, the same two years that Irene Vernon was playing Louise on Bewitched. Ive seen a few clips from PEYTON PLACE. I have read quite a bit about the show. I meant to say that Kasey played the mother of Betty Anderson played by BARBARA PARKINS. (TERRY MOORE played Betty in the movie.) Some of the women from the show who are still with us is BARBARA PARKINS( who I know from VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and an episode of MURDER, SHE WROTE), MIA FARROW, BARBARA RUSH (FLAMINGO ROAD), MARIETTE HARTLEY and GENA ROWLANDS. I am a big fan of RUSH, HARTLEY and ROWLANDS. LEE GRANT is another one that I admire her talent. Grant was in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A friend loaned me the first season of Peyton Place on DVD. I was impressed. I enjoyed the story arch of the Anderson characters that included Kasey Rogers, Henry Beckman and Barbara Parkins. I don't know if the rest of the series is on DVD or not.

      Delete
  11. I remember HENRY BECKMAN from HERE COME THE BRIDES as CAPTAIN CLANCEY. Henry was from CANADA. He did an ep of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW where AUNT BEE was on the jury. He played the prosecuting attorney. The man that the police thought took a TV and other things was played by a young JACK NICHOLSON, who was also in another ep of ANDY. I looked up the imdb list of credits for Mr. Beckman-very impressive! Also he did 2 eps of BEWITCHED(a connection to LEON AMES & KASEY ROGERS). In the second one he played a client whose wife is played by the elegant blonde JOAN THOMPKINS. Joan was on several eps of MY THREE SONS as the mother of Katie. Joan was married to character actor KARL SWENSON best known for LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE as MR. HANSEN. Karl guest starred on GUNSMOKE & BONANZA. PLUS he did an ep of ANDY as MR. MCBEEVEE who Andy doesn't know is real. WHEW! That's a lot of trivia!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You certainly did get a lot in there. Canadians take pride in the careers of our fellow Canucks who did well in Hollywood. As someone born in Nova Scotia, there's an extra bit of pride in Henry Beckman.

      I adore watching Karl Swenson, and Joan Tompkins was perfectly cast as Katie's mom. My dad actually told me they were a couple. How did he know all that stuff without the internet? (Ha!)

      Delete
  12. In 1983, Leon Ames was in a movie called TESTAMENT.
    This was about how a midwestern town reacted to a nuclear attack.
    Leon Ames, 81 at the time, was a townsman who had the town's one working short-wave radio; thus, his home became the center for the town's activities in regard to survival.
    Ames got some of his best reviews for his performance here - deservedly so.

    Leon Ames's final performance, not long after this, was as Kathleen Turner's grandfather in PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED (he got good notices here too).
    He passed on ten years afterward, in 1993, aged 91.

    Oh, by the way:
    In CHARLIE CHAN ON BROADWAY, keep an eye out in the newsroom - one of the reporters working the phones is a young bit player then known as Creighton Chaney (a few years away from becoming Lon Jr.).
    Fun stuff!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember Testament and Peggy Sue Got Married. It was heart-warming to see Leon Ames' career continuing into his "Golden Years."

      Poor old Creighton! He certainly had to slog along in his early career. He had a line in this 1936 Chan picture, but later in 1939s City in Darkness he played a thug working with Leo G. Carroll and had no dialogue. And that was the same year as Of Mice and Men! From a walk-on to one of the best performances of his career. Whiplash!

      Delete
  13. LEON AMES was in some DISNEY movies, THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR and its sequel SON OF FLUBBER plus THE MISADVENTURES OF MERLIN JONES and its sequel THE MONKEYS UNCLE. One of the men I really like in Disney movies is DEAN JONES. He did 10 movies for the Disney company from 1965 until sometime in the 70s. I believe the first four were when WALT DISNEY was still living. Some of the movies he did were THE MILLION DOLLAR DUCK; MONKEYS, GO HOME; SNOWBALL EXPRESS and THAT DARN CAT. He worked with SANDY DUNCAN, YVETTE MIMIEUX, NANCY OLSON & HAYLEY MILLS.(All of these women are still with us.) I also like the one about dogs with him and SUZANNE PLESHETTE. PARLEY BAER was in it too. Do you know Dean from very many Disney movies? What about PARLEY-do you know his work? He was in THOSE CALLAWAYS that I mentioned one time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I became a Dean Jones fan when I was a kid watching those movies and I still am. I enjoy is work on the original Broadway Cast Album of Company.

      Parley Baer is a favourite character actor of mine, and Those Calloways a favourite movie. I like Parley a lot as Doc Adams on Gunsmoke, the radio series.

      Delete
    2. Whoops! How'd we miss this?

      On Gunsmoke/radio, Parley Baer played Chester Proudfoot.
      Doc Adams was Howard McNear.
      (Sorry about the nitpick …)

      Delete
    3. I know that you know. We all slip once in a while.

      Delete
  14. Parley Baer did the voice of ERNIE the KEEBLER ELF on commercials for many years. I read that he was on THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET NELSON. I think he played a friend of Ozzie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. Parley played Ozzie's friend Herb. He made a good authority figure like a mayor or police officer often.

      Delete

THE JANET LEIGH BLOGATHON: Columbo, Forgotten Lady (1975)

Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting a blogathon tribute to lovely Janet Leigh. Click HERE to enjoy the contributions....