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CHARLIE CHAN AT THE RACE TRACK(director: H. Bruce Humberstone; screenwriters: Robert Ellis/Helen Logan/Edward T. Lowe/from a story by Lou Breslow and Ellis; cinematographer: Harry Jackson; editor: Nick De Maggio; cast: Warner Oland (Charlie Chan), Keye Luke (Lee Chan), Helen Wood (Alice Fenton), Thomas Beck (Bruce Rogers), Alan Dinehart (George Chester), Gavin Muir (Bagley), Jonathan Hale (Fenton), Gloria Roy (Catherine Chester), G.P. Huntley (Barton), Harry Jans (Al), George Irving (Maj. Kent), Frank Coghlan, Jr. (Eddie Brill), John Henry Allen (“Streamline” Jones), Frankie Darro (“Tip” Collins); Runtime: 70; 20th Century Fox; 1936)
“It makes for a satisfactory mystery film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It was laughable to think that a gambling ring can fix a race at a major racetrack, such as Santa Anita, by making a white diamond mark on one horse and then switching it with another horse marked with a dark shoeshine diamond mark. But if the plot was silly, the fun in this Charlie Chan story was in watching Number One Son (Keye Luke) run around like a chicken without a head and try to help his kidnapped father.

Charlie (Oland) investigates a horse racing scheme when his old friend Major Kent (Irving) wires him how his champion horse lost in Australia because a jockey, Tip Collins, threw the race. Charlie finds himself investigating a murder, as the major is killed by his horse kicking him. It is made to look like an accident, but it soon becomes clear he was murdered by the gambling ring to get him out of the way.

The supporting cast become suspects: George Chester (Dinehart) has the most to gain by the major’s death. He is married to the major’s daughter (Gloria Roy), and now becomes the principal owner of Avalanche; Bagley (Muir) is the wormy trainer who accidentally shot Chan; Fenton (Hale) is a rival owner anxious to buy Avalanche; Barton (Huntley) is a professional gambler who bet heavily against Avalanche and won; and, Bruce (Beck) needs money badly because he wants to marry Alice Fenton, daughter of the horse owner.

Charlie is kept busy on the boat ride to L. A. investigating all the threatening letters sent to prevent Avalanche from running in the Santa Anita Derby. At the racecourse Charlie must outwit the gamblers and horse switchers, as he closes in on who the mastermind of the operation is.

It makes for a satisfactory mystery film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”