The Black Camel (film)

The Black Camel is a 1931 American pre-Code mystery film directed by Hamilton MacFadden based on the novel of the same name by Earl Derr Biggers.[1] It is the second film to star Warner Oland as detective Charlie Chan, and the sole surviving title of the first five Chan films starring Oland. The Black Camel marked the film debut of Robert Young.

The Black Camel
Directed byHamilton MacFadden
Produced byHamilton MacFadden
Written byHugh Stanislaus Stange (adaptation)
Screenplay byBarry Conners
Philip Klein
Dudley Nichols (uncredited)
Based onThe Black Camel
by Earl Derr Biggers
StarringWarner Oland
Sally Eilers
Bela Lugosi
Dorothy Revier
CinematographyJoseph August
Daniel B. Clark
Edited byAlfred DeGaetano
Fox Film Corporation
Hamilton MacFadden
Distributed byFox Film Corporation
Release date
  • June 21, 1931 (1931-06-21)
Running time
67 or 71 minutes
CountryUnited States


Movie star Shelah Fayne is making a picture on location in Honolulu, Hawaii. She summons mystic adviser Tarneverro from Hollywood to help her decide whether to marry wealthy Alan Jaynes, a man she has only known for a week. Her friend Julie O'Neil worries, however, that the famous psychic has too much influence over her. Meanwhile, Julie has fallen in love herself with local publicity director Jimmy Bradshaw.

Honolulu Police Inspector Chan pretends to be a humble merchant, but Tarneverro sees through his impersonation. Chan mentions to him the yet unsolved murder of film star Denny Mayo, committed years before.

Then Jimmy finds Shelah's body; she has been murdered. Julie makes him remove Shelah's ring before calling for the police.

Chan investigates. He invites Tarneverro to assist him. Tarneverro reveals that Shelah told him she was in love with Denny and was responsible for his death, but kept quiet to protect her career.

The suspects are many, but after various startling revelations, Chan eventually identifies the killer and the connection to Mayo's death.

Cast (in credits order)


The film further reunited Lugosi with Dwight Frye (playing Jessop, the butler), who had appeared with him in Dracula in the same year. C. Henry Gordon, who had been in Warner Oland's first (lost) Chan film and would show up in three more Chan films with both Oland and the later Chan Sidney Toler, appears uncredited as Huntley Van Horn.

Much of the picture was shot on location in Honolulu, with several scenes filmed at the renowned Royal Hawaiian Hotel.


Charlie Chan was nominated as a hero for the American Film Institute's 2003 AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains list.[2]



  • Hanke, Ken, Charlie Chan at the Movies: History, Filmography, and Criticism, McFarland & Company Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, 1989, ISBN 0-89950-427-2.
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