Trust me, there is a finite number of these Charlie Chan movies, and it would appear Amazon has them. Here is one more. It’s Charlie Chan in The Chinese Ring, from 1947, before most of us were born. This is after the death of British actor Sidney Toler, the second European actor to play the role of this Chinese detective. You have to wonder, this is the United States West Coast, and they can’t find an oriental actor to play a Chinese character. Roland Winters portrays the inscrutable Inspector Chan in this one. Yep, born in Boston. Better get rid of your accent.
Stereotypes abound. Here is Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland), a true American’s person of color domestic servant. He answers the door at Mr. Chan’s comfortable San Francisco abode to take a request from an actual Chinese national. We later learn she is Princess Mei Ling (Barbara Jean Wong), come recently to California to do business. She needs to see Mr. Chan. She hands Birmingham a ring, hence the title of this movie.
But immediately after Birmingham takes the ring in to Mr. Chan, somebody slides open a window and shoots the princess dead with a poison dart from an air rifle. That’s her resting peacefully on Mr. Chan’s expensive rug.
Chan examines the subject of the movie.
Of course, the police get involved. That would include not only Police Sergeant Bill Davidson (Warren Douglas) but also Sergeant Davidson’s ditsy girlfriend (and newspaper reporter) Peggy Cartwright (Louise Currie). That’s Charlie Chan on the right side of the screen and looking on, although if I did not tell you he was supposed to be Charlie Chan, you would never have guessed, because he looks for all the world to have been born in Boston of European parents.
Before she died the princess seized a pen and paper from a desk and scribbled a goodbye note to Mr. Chan. It said only “Capt K.” That brings Chan and Davidson to the ship the princess took to San Francisco, commanded by one Captain Kong (Philip Ahn). Definitely a person of interest.
Back at the hotel room of the dead princess, the fuzz question the maid, Lillie Mae Wong (Chabing). They get very little from the maid and later on nothing at all, because somebody shoots her with a poison dart.
A Chinese boy has seen the man who did the murder, but he is mute, and soon disappears.
The princess brought something like $1 million to purchase fighter planes for a warring Chinese faction. This movie came out soon after the Japanese invaders were expelled at the end of the war, and communist and nationalist factions were fighting for control of China. But the princess only paid $250,000 to an airplane company. Where is the rest of the money. Chan questions the banker involved, a Mr. Armstrong (Byron Foulger).
Davidson, Birmingham, and Chan puzzle the mystery.
Chan pays a visit to Armstrong at his home, only to be confronted by Kong and a Captain James Kelso (Thayer Roberts). Aha! Another Capt. K. They want everybody to come down to the ship and straighten out the matter of the remaining $750,000 in Chinese funds, apparently still up for grabs. Note Armstrong’s butler witnessing all this.
But Birmingham has been waiting for Chan in the car, and he observes as the miscreants drive away, and Chan does not emerge from the house. Birmingham follows the car to the ship docked in the harbor, and he phones Chan’s son Tommy (Victor Sen Yung). They board the ship and rescue Chan and Armstrong from the back of the passenger compartment.
Finally the police arrive, and all suspects are together in Captain Kong’s cabin on the ship. Chan reveals who is the murderer.
And that is the end of the movie.
And yes, we have to wonder why it is whenever a critical witness (Chinese princess) is left alone for a moment, there is always a window that can be slid open so somebody can shoot her before she gets a chance to say anything. I mean, this person (I will not identify) had to have been tailing the princess, air rifle in his possession, saw her enter Chan’s house, figured out which room, got around to the right window, found it unlocked, slid it open without making noise, and shot the princess while nobody inside the house happened to barge in just then to upset this elaborate scheme. Yeah, I don’t believe it either.
Also, Kong and Kelso kidnap Armstrong and Chan, the intent being to take them back to the ship, and pump them for information about the money before killing all witnesses. And before they do that they truss up Armstrong’s butler (Lee Tung Foo) and leave him in the closet with tape over his mouth. According to the scheme as I understand it, that should have been one dead butler when they all left the house.
A lot of these plots do not make sense.