Mary Whitman has gone to Reno to obtain a divorce. While there she is arrested on suspicion of murdering a fellow guest at her hotel (which specializes in divorcers). There are many others at the hotel who wanted the victim out of the way. Charlie comes from his home in Honolulu to solve the murder.
Sidney Toler ... Charlie Chan
Ricardo Cortez ... Dr. Ainsley
Phyllis Brooks ... Vivian Wells
Slim Summerville ... Sheriff Tombstone Fletcher
Kane Richmond ... Curtis Whitman
Victor Sen Yung ... Jimmy Chan (as Sen Yung)
Pauline Moore ... Mary Whitman
Eddie Collins ... Cab Driver
Kay Linaker ... Mrs. Wayne Russell
Louise Henry ... Jeanne Bentley
Robert Lowery ... Wally Burke
Charles D. Brown ... Police Chief King
Iris Wong ... Choy Wong
Morgan Conway ... George Bentley
Hamilton MacFadden ... Night Clerk
Unlike most of the Warner Oland Chan films, those featuring Sidney Toler as Lieutenant Charlie Chan, Honolulu Police Department, often include sufficient clues that the viewer can play detective along with the hero. Charlie Chan in Reno is one of those films. Released prior to a first-class film with a similar main storyline (`The Women\' in 1939) this Chan film also has a group of females waiting their time in Reno before a divorce decree can be granted. Chan has an eye for these ladies: `Charming company turn lowly sandwich into rich banquet.\' Norman Foster takes over from a series of Mr. Moto films to direct the first of three good Chan films.
Good supporting comedic cast with Victor Sen Yung as No. 2 son Jimmy - a USC undergraduate, former Keystone Kop Slim Summerville as Sheriff `Tombstone\' Fletcher, and Eddie Collins as the ever-talkative cab driver (until it is suggested that he might appear in court). Ricardo Cortez is smooth as the suspicious doctor with a motive for murder. Some racial slurring as a hood from the lineup pulls up on the corners of his eyes and tells the detective that he also is one of Chan\'s sons.
Most of the story takes place at the Hotel Sierra or Police Headquarters. Jealousy, possible robbery, and other motives and a number of obvious suspects complicate the solution. `When searching for needle in haystack, haystack only sensible location.\' A keen eye for details will lead the viewer to see what Chan sees and to anticipate his every move. Good luck, the Sheriff could not figure it out and storms out of headquarters heading for Tonopah in disgust at the end.
This holds up well as a good Charlie Chan mystery, with a lot of suspects and fairly involved plot. Toler is very good in one of his early outings as Chan, and the Reno, Nevada background is a different type of location than the usual exotic, foreign setting. The supporting players are good ,and the whole thing is tightly written and directed.
My only complaint is with Eddie Collins as the talkative cab driver, who is meant to be annoying, but succeeds a little too well. His character belongs to a type of Thirties humor that doesn\'t hold up well with the passage of time. Such irritating characters turn up frequently in a lot of Depression era films, and have to be accepted as part of the period, along with wise guy reporters, hardboiled cops, tough dames and grouchy editors . My tolerance for this type of individual in real life no doubt has something to do with it.
This is a minor complaint about a pretty good film. Enjoy it as a good Charlie Chan mystery, where even the annoying characters are a part of the fun.
\"Charlie Chan in Reno\" offers a cleverly woven mystery in which the murder suspects are all revealed to have had some involvement with each other in the past. It helps when watching to keep a scorecard to keep track of events and relationships so the final revelation makes sense. Not only do we have a murder victim, but an attempted murder as well.
When Mary Whitman (Pauline Moore) is found over the dead body of Jeanne Bentley (Louise Henry), she of course is the obvious suspect, and with a firm motive; Bentley was going to marry Whitman\'s about to be ex-husband. But Bentley had a unique way of alienating most everyone with her ingratiating manner, not the least of which was another suitor, Wally Burke (Robert Lowery). Burke comes across as suitably suspicious, as does Dr. Ainsley (Ricardo Cortez), who is surprised to be discovered in the murder room of the Hotel Sierra, claiming to be looking for the money won by Bentley at the casino, offering robbery as the motive for the crime.
Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler in his second performance as the Oriental Detective) is aided in the case by Number #2 Son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung, credited as Sen Yung). Jimmy is on spring break from the University of Southern California, and gets himself mugged by a pair of con men who steal his borrowed car; he\'s identified by \"Pop\" in a police line up. There\'s also Police Chief King (played straight by Charles D. Brown) and an inept Reno Sheriff Tombstone Fletcher (Slim Summerville). Fletcher is quick to dismiss Chan\'s serious questioning and investigative work, preferring to pin the crime on the innocent Mary Whitman.
Once Charlie gets down to business, a whole host of new clues and information come to light. The investigation eventually leads to an abandoned ghost town outside of Reno, and yet another suspect, this time Jeanne Bentley\'s ex husband George.
For trivia fans, there are two actors in \"Reno\" that also appeared in Toler\'s first Chan adventure in \"Honolulu\". Phyllis Brooks as Vivian Wells is ultimately revealed to be the murderer; while Eddie Collins does a comic turn as the talkative cab driver. Collins was the lion keeper aboard a freighter in the \"Honolulu\" film.
Before the mystery is over, Chan unravels an entire network of entanglements that connect the murder victim with each of the suspects, and the suspects with one another. It\'s rather cleverly done, and promotes this film to one of the better Charlie Chan titles, particularly those of Sidney Toler.
* Besides Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan, this film\'s cast contained three other actors who also played famous crimefighters: Ricardo Cortez (Sam Spade in the 1931 \"Maltese Falcon\"), Morgan Conway (Dick Tracy in two RKO films in the mid-1940\'s) and Robert Lowery (Batman in the Columbia serial \"The Adventures of Batman and Robin\" in 1948).