Mr. Moto's Gamble

Mr. Moto's Gamble is the third film in the Mr. Moto series starring Peter Lorre as the title character. It is best remembered for originating as a movie in the Charlie Chan series and being changed to a Mr Moto entry at the last minute.

Mr. Moto's Gamble
Directed byJames Tinling
Produced byJohn Stone
Sol M. Wurtzel (uncredited)
Written byCharles Belden
Jerry Cady
Based oncharacters created by John P. Marquand
StarringPeter Lorre
Keye Luke
Lynn Bari
CinematographyLucien Andriot
Edited byNick DeMaggio
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 7, 1938 (1938-04-07)
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States


In San Francisco, policeman Lieutenant Riggs (Harold Huber) takes Mr. Moto, a detective and Lee Chan (Keye Luke), a student, to a prizefight between Bill Steele (Dick Baldwin) and Frank Stanton (Russ Clark), where the winner will take on the champion, Biff Moran (Ward Bond). However, the fight is fixed and gangster Nick Crowder (Douglas Fowley) bets big money that Stanton won't make it to the fifth round. He goes down in the fourth and dies shortly afterward.

Bookie Clipper McCoy (Bernard Nedell) loses a fortune. Moto proves that it was murder and it is revealed that $100,000 was won in bets around the country against Stanton. Moto works with Lt. Riggs to solve the murder as the championship fight looms.

Comedy is provided by Horace Wellington (Maxie Rosenbloom), a kleptomaniac, and Lee Chan. Moto promised to reveal the murderer's identity on the night of the big fight, but the murderer has plans, too, with a concealed gun, to kill Moto.



In June 1937 Fox said the first three movies in the Mr Moto series would be Think Fast, Mr Moto, Thank You Mr Moto and Mr Moto's Gamble. At the same time, the studio announced three Charlie Chan movies starring Warner Oland, Charlie Chan on Broadway, Charlie Chan at College and Charlie Chan in Radio City.[1]

In July Fox said Rochelle Hudson would be in Mr Moto's Gamble. THis became Look Out Mr Moto which became Mr. Moto Takes a Chance.[2]

Charlie Chan at Ringside

Fox were going do make a Charlie Chan film called Charlie Chan at Ringside starring Warner Oland as Chan and Keye Luke as Number One Son. Jayne Reagan was cast on the strength of her performance in Thank You, Mr Moto. The cast would also include Lynn Bari and be directed by Norman Tinling.[3]

Filming started in January 1938. Oland left the film due to illness that month and the production was suspended. (In March 1938, Fox announced Oland would return to the role and appear in Charlie Chan on the Clipper Ship.[4] However he never recovered from his illness and was unable to resume working. He died in August 1938. Sidney Toler took over the role of Charlie Chan.[5])

Fox had spent an estimated $100,000 on the film already when shooting had to be called off. Wanting to salvage something of the situation and reluctant to cast a different actor as Charlie Chan, Sol Wurtzel, head of Fox's B movie unit, had the script rewritten as a Mr. Moto movie. [6] Filming started again 22 January.[7]

Two Charlie Chan regulars appeared in the film - Keye Luke, who plays Charlie Chan's son Lee, and Harold Huber, who plays Lt Riggs.[8] Lee Chan is Moto's student in his criminology class at San Francisco University. Moto mentions that he has heard from Charlie Chan in Honolulu. Moto says he and the head of the homicide squad are mere amateurs compared to Charlie Chan.[9]

Filming recommenced in January 1938.[10] Lon Chaney Jr. had a small role.[11] Filming finished late March 1938, the fourth movie shot in the Moto series.[12]


The film was released relatively quickly in April 1938.[13]

The New York Times liked the fight sequences but called it "an otherwise unexciting film".[14]

The next film shot in the series would be Mysterious Mr. Moto.

Home media

This film, along with Mr. Moto in Danger Island, Mr. Moto's Last Warning, Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation and (as a DVD extra) The Return of Mr. Moto, was released on DVD in 2007 by 20th Century Fox as part of The Mr. Moto Collection, Volume Two.

See also


  1. FOX LISTS FILMS FOR NEXT SEASON: 66 Features Are Included in Company's Most Ambitious Production Schedule 204 SHORTS TO BE MADE Zanuck Will Supervise 52 Long Pictures at 20th Century Studios in Beverly Hills New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 02 June 1937: 20.
  2. CHAPLIN SETS OCTOBER DEAD LINE FOR START OF GODDARD PRODUCTION: T. C.-Fox Lists Screen Plays for Annabella Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times July 9, 1937, p. A17.
  3. PARAMOUNT PLANS ICE SKATING TEAM WITH JACK DUNN AND BETTY GRABLE: Rosemary Lane Wins Lead With Rudy Vallee Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 29 Dec 1937: 13.
  4. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Metro to Film 'Northwest Passage' in Color-Dick Powell Cast for Remake of 'The Hottentot' Heavier Role for Dick Powell Of Local Origin New York Times March 7, 1938, p. 13.
  5. When East Met North Dewey, DonaldView Profile. Scandinavian Review 97.3 (Autumn 2010), pp. 70-79.
  6. Town Called Hollywood Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 25 Jan 1938: 11.
  7. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: New York Times 21 Jan 1938: 15.
  8. The De Marcos, Dancers, Want To Be Actors: Ballroom Specialists Decline Film Offer That Re- fuse Them Lines to Speak. By Frederick C. Othman.. The Washington Post February 9, 1938, p. X16.
  9. SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES WILL BE SCOURED FOR SCREEN SUBJECTS: Jack Oakie to Appear With Astaire, Rogers Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times January 28, 1938, p. 10.
  10. NEWS OF THE SCREEN New York Times January 21, 1938, p. 15.
  11. Millier, Arthur. "BRUSH STROKES", Los Angeles Times March 6, 1938, p. C4.
  12. Six to Start New Spring Film Drive The Washington Post 6 Apr 1938: X10.
  13. NEWS OF THE SCREEN New York Times 7 Apr 1938: 19.
  14. "'The Adventures of Marco Polo' on Music Hall Screen--'Judge Hardy's Children' and 'Mr. Moto's Gamble' At the Capitol Owen to Attend Meeting" by FRANK S. NUGENT. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, NY], April 8, 1938, p. 17.
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