China Passage

China Passage is a 1937 American mystery film directed by Edward Killy from a screenplay by Edmund L. Hartmann and J. Robert Bren, based on a story by Taylor Caven. RKO Radio Pictures produced the film, which stars Constance Worth, Vinton Haworth, Leslie Fenton and Gordon Jones. After a delay during production due to Haworth getting injured in a car accident in January 1937, the film was released on March 12, 1937.

China Passage
Theatrical poster of film
Directed byEdward Killy
Produced bySamuel J. Briskin
Cliff Reid (associate)
Screenplay byEdmund L. Hartmann
J. Robert Bren
Story byTaylor Caven
StarringConstance Worth
Vinton Haworth
Leslie Fenton
Gordon Jones
CinematographyNicholas Musuraca
Edited byDesmond Marquette
Release date
  • March 12, 1937 (1937-03-12) (US)[1]
Running time
65 minutes
CountryUnited States


Tom Baldwin and Joe Dugan are two American adventurers who are hired to escort the wife of a Chinese general to Shanghai. She is carrying a priceless diamond. Upon their arrival at the destination, there is a firefight, during which the diamond is stolen. The two Americans round up a group of suspects, but have no luck uncovering the stolen jewel. Among the suspects are Jane Dunn and Katherine Collins, an author named Anthony Durand, and Harvey Dinwiddle. They release the suspects, and then make plans to travel to San Francisco. When they board the ship, they are surprised to find that all of the suspects are also aboard the same ship.

As they resume their search for the diamond, Baldwin and Dugan discover that Jane is a US customs agent, who is also searching for the jewel. As the search goes on, Baldwin and Jane fall in love. After their room is tossed, Dugan is killed. Katherine is an insurance investigator, who has uncovered some information, but she is killed before she can pass that information on to Jane and Baldwin. Baldwin is framed for Katherine's murder, but Jane solves the diamond's theft and the murders, revealing that Durand and his henchman, Dinwiddle, are the perpetrators.

Baldwin and Jane are married by the ship's captain.

Cast list

(cast list as per AFI database)[1]


RKO obtained the rights to Taylor Craven's original story, Miss Customs Agent in July 1936,[2][3] which was also the working title of the film. Edward Killy was assigned to direct the film in mid-October,[4] and filming was slated to begin on the production in mid-November.[5][6] In the first week in December it was announced that 7 performers had been assigned to the project: Vinton Hayworth, Constance Worth (in her US screen debut), Frank Thomas, Walter Coy, Diana Gibson, Gordon Jones, and George Irving.[7][8] Dick Elliot joined the cast in mid-December,[9] and production began shortly before Christmas.[10][11] In late December Joyce Compton joined the cast,[12] and shortly after the film's title was changed to China Passage.[13] Production was delayed for 2 weeks at the beginning of 1937 when Vincent Haworth was injured in a car accident on New Year's Day. He was released to return to work on January 12.[14] The film was finished with production by the end of January 1937,[15] and had begun the editing process in the first week of February.[16] The film opened on March 12, 1937.[1] Right after it premiered, the National Legion of Decency gave the film an A-1 rating, classifying it as unobjectionable for general audiences.[17]

Critical response

The Film Daily only gave the film a fair review, calling the story "stilted, unoriginal and implausible". While not commenting on the acting, the trade paper only gave the technical aspects of the film a fair rating.[18] Harrison's Reports also gave it a less than positive review, calling the plot "far-fetched and meaningless", and the comedy portions "tired". They were kinder to Constance Worth, stating that her acting was "pleasant", as were the romantic interludes between her and Vinton Hayworth.[19] Motion Picture Daily was a bit kinder to the film, saying it was "unpretentious" and "moderately entertaining". They found Worth "capable" and "attractive", and felt that Hayworth was simply passable, but they enjoyed the sinister performance of Leslie Fenton.[20] Motion Picture Magazine gave the film 2 and a half stars (out of 4), and complimented the plot and locales, while stating that the acting was adequate.[21]


  1. "China Passage: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  2. "Purely Personal". Motion Picture Daily. July 25, 1936. p. 2. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  3. Wilk, Ralph (July 23, 1936). "Little from Lots". The Film Daily. p. 7. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  4. Wilk, Ralph (October 22, 1936). "A "Little" from "Lots"". The Film Daily. p. 14. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  5. "Briskin Will Soon Have 10 on Stages". Motion Picture Daily. October 26, 1936. p. 3. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  6. "10 Features Before RKO Cameras Before Mid-November". The Film Daily. October 28, 1936. p. 6. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  7. "Out Hollywood Way". Motion Picture Daily. December 8, 1936. p. 12. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  8. Wilk, Ralph (December 18, 1936). "A "Little" from Hollywood "Lots"". The Film Daily. p. 5. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  9. "Out Hollywood Way". Motion Picture Daily. December 18, 1936. p. 11. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  10. "Production Hits Lively Clip With 47 Films in Work". The Film Daily. December 21, 1936. p. 1. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  11. "The Hollywood Scene: Production Impetus". Motion Picture Herald. December 19, 1936. p. 27. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  12. Wilk, Ralph (December 23, 1936). "A "Little" from Hollywood "Lots"". The Film Daily. p. 5. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  13. "Out Hollywood Way: Title Changes". Motion Picture Daily. December 28, 1936. p. 5. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  14. "Haworth Back at Work". Motion Picture Daily. January 13, 1937. p. 10. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  15. "47 Pictures Before Hollyw'd's Cameras". The Film Daily. January 26, 1937. p. 8. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  16. "6 RKO Pix in Work, 7 More in Process of Being Edited". The Film Daily. January 26, 1937. p. 8. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  17. "Legion Approves 11 of 13 New Pictures". Motion Picture Daily. March 15, 1937. p. 7. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  18. "Reviews of the New Films: "China Passage"". The Film Daily. April 16, 1937. p. 10. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  19. ""China Passage" with Constance Worth and Vinton Hayworth". Harrison's Reports. March 20, 1937. p. 46. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  20. "Motion Picture Daily's Hollywood Preview: "China Passage"". Motion Picture Daily. February 26, 1937. p. 4. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  21. "Tip-Offs on the Talkies: "China Passage"". Motion Picture Magazine. May 1937. p. 64. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
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