The Black Camel (1931)

  • The Black Camel (1931)Producer: William Fox
  • Director: Hamilton MacFadden
  • Writers: Earl Derr Biggers, Barry Conners, Philip Klein, Dudley Nichols, Hugh Stange
  • Actors: Warner Oland, Sally Eilers, Bela Lugosi
  • Studio: Fox Film Corporation

Headline making movie star Shelah Fanye (Dorothy Revier) is in Honolulu starring in a movie. Her friend Julie (Sally Eilers) arranges for her to meet with the famous fortune teller Tarneverro (Bela Lugosi). He wears a turban and uses a glowing crystal ball for a seance. While Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) is investigating a three year old case, the star is stabbed to death.

It’s fun to see Bela (the same year as Dracula) acting almost as a crime solving partner to Chan. Of course, he’s also a suspect, along with the victim’s French ambassador former husband, her jilted suitor and a bohemian artist. This was the only Chan film shot on location. An actual tourist hotel and beaches were used and there are too-brief looks at Hawaiian surfers and singers. Chan has dinner with his large family and Kashimo (Otto Yamaoka), his idiotic comic relief assistant, is called a Jap and a monkey. I wonder if the planners of Pearl Harbor saw this!

The cast of the 67 min. rarity includes Dwight (Renfield) Frye as the butler, Violet Dunn as the maid, Robert Young forgettable as a romantic interest, Mary Gordon (later known as Sherlock Holmes’ housekeeper), and the director as a director. The plot is loosely based on the unsolved ‘22 murder of actor William Desmond Taylor. The Fox Chan series started with Behind That Curtain in 1929 (PV #26) with E. L. Park, and Charlie Chan Carries On (1931) with Oland, also directed by MacFadden.

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