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The character Charlie Chan was called into being by author Earl Derr Biggers (1884 - 1933). His first appearance in the film business was in 1929 but only as a fringe character. But soon Twentieth Century Fox moved the detectiv into the centre of the action and the actor Warner Oland became the first player of the Chinese detective. The first movie was shot under the title "Charlie Chan Carries On" in 1931. 

The stories had been created by a simple but very successful formula. Charlie Chan, employee of the Honolulu Police Department and marvellous detective was highly esteemed worldwide. The murder cases in which he was involved normally happened at exceptional or exotic scenes - usually not in Honolulu itself. He was supported by his sons. They weren't called by their real names but as son no. 1 or son no. 2, always in chronological order. The greatest goal of his sons was to follow Charlie Chans footsteps which turned out to be too big. His sons were normally more a handicap for Charlie Chan than a help and they supplied the comical aspects in the black and white movies. The cases were solved brilliantly "in spite of" the help of his sons. The famous one of the sons - son no. 1 - was played by actor Keye Luke (1904 - 1991) from 1935. 
One of the most prominent traits of Charlie Chan was to cite wise quotations of the great Konfuzius.
Today you can view the performance of the Chinese detective as cliché but in those days it was the first time that an Asian character was portrayed from a positive side and not as usual as a "yellow threat".

Specially the first Charlie Chan movies possessed the qualities of a classical film. As well as with the atmosphere a whole string of famous actors and actresses like Boris Karloff, Leo G. Carroll, Lionel Atwill, Cesar Romero and Pauline Moore were engaged .

When Warner Oland died in 1938 the serial continued with actor Sidney Toler (1874 - 1947). The change of the leading actor made no difference for the success of the serial and at the same time son no. 1 was replaced by son no. 2 (acted by Victor Sen Yung (1915 - 1980). 

After World War II the adventures of Charlie Chan were shot regularly again. Sidney Toler acquired the right to the Charlie-Chan movies and brought them in to Monogram. Now the pictures were produced by Monogram and introduced a new aspect into the serial, those of a nervous and naive black (played by Mantan Moreland (1902 - 1973) and Willie Best (1913 - 1962), which, strictly speaking nowadays, has the effect of being nearly unbearably stereotype. These movies showed a tremendous loss of quality, which was resulted from the strongly reduced budget. The former pictures had been realized for round $ 200'000 with a shooting time of eight weeks. Now the budget had shrunk to $ 75'000 and the shooting time lasted only three weeks . 
When Sidney Toler died, the serial continued with actor Roland Winters (1904 - 1989), but the magic had gone.

In later years there was some more filming e.g. as a cartoon of the Hanna-Barbera Studios and as a movie with Peter Ustinov as Charlie Chan called "Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen" (1981). 

All movies with Charlie Chan
1929   Behind That Curtain (Charlie Chan was only a fringe figur, played by E.L. Parks)
1931   Charlie Chan Carries On  /  The Black Camel
1932   Charlie Chan's Chance
1933   Charlie Chan's Greatest Case 
1934   Charlie Chan In London  /  Charlie Chan's Courage
1935   Charlie Chan In Paris  /  Charlie Chan In Egypt  /  Charlie Chan In Shanghai
1936   Charlie Chan's Secret  /  Charlie Chan At The Circus  /  Charlie Chan At The Race Track
1937   Charlie Chan At The Opera  /  Charlie Chan On Broadway  /  Charlie Chan At Monte Carlo  /  Charlie Chan At The Olympics
1938   Charlie Chan In Honolulu
1939   Charlie Chan In Reno  /  Charlie Chan At Treasure Island  /  Charlie Chan In City In Darkness
1940   Charlie Chan At The Wax Museum  /  Charlie Chan In Panama  /  Murder Over New York  /  Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise
1941   Dead Men Tell  /  Charlie Chan In Rio
1942   Castle In The Desert
1944   Charlie Chan In The Secret Service  /  The Chinese Cat  /  Black Magic
1945   The Shanghai Cobra  /  The Red Dragon  /  The Scarlet Clue  /  The Jade Mask
1946   Shadows Over Chinatown  /  Dangerous Money
1947   The Trap  /  The Chinese Ring
1948   Docks Of New Orleans  /  The Shanghai Chest  /  The Golden Eye  /  The Feathered Serpent
1949   The Sky Dragon

(born on the 3rd October 1880 in Umea, Sweden, died on the 6th August 1938 in Stockholm, Sweden)

Warner Oland was born in Umea/Sweden as Johan Verner Ölund. In 1892 he emigrated with his parents to America. 
His first experiences as an actor he gathered at the theater and also in the cinema he early gained a foothold. Already in 1915 he played for the first time in a movie called "The Romance of Elaine". 60 further silent movies and 36 sound films followed.

Among other things Warner Oland played in the movie "The Jazz Singer" (1927) in the role of the father of Al Jolson. This movie is called as the first sound film in the history of the film. 

His great breakthrough he had only in the charismatic role of Charlie Chan. He learned the Chinese speech and even visited China in order to become acquainted with this culture. In this successful time Warne Oland played in other well-known pictures too like "Shanghai Express" (1932) with Marlene Dietrich or "The Painted 
Veil" (1934) with Greta Garbo. 

Privat Warner Oland was a very impressive personality. He was able to speak severes speeches, he was a scholar of philosophy, of classic music and of art. He translated the works of Strindberg and he got married with the artist Edith Shearn. 

Unfortunately problems with the alcohol destroyed his marriage, finally his life.
One day in 1937 he left the filmworld and America during the shooting for "Charlie Chan at the Ringside" and never came back. He sailed to Sweden where he tried to find back to himself. One year later the likeable actor died because of a pneumonia.

(born on the 18th June 1904 in New York,
died on the 12th January 1991 in Whittier, CA)

Keye Luke played in the first generation of the Charlie-Chan movies as son of Charlie Chan by the name of Lee Chan but better known as son no. 1. 

Keye Luke was born in 1904 in New York (some sources say Canton, China).
He was a talented artist and earned his money as a commercial artist and creator of movie posters. In 1934 he made his debut in movie with "The Painted Veil", in which Warner Oland also played a role. In the following year he played for the first time in a Charlie-Chan movie. Right to the end of the death of Warner Oland he had regularly been employed as son no. 1, after this he only emerged sporadically in the Chan movies, e.g. in the last two pictures starring Roland Winters. 

You also could see Keye Luke in one of the Mr. Moto movies. However these scenes came from the never finished movie "Charlie Chan at the Ringside", After Warner Oland got out.

In his long career Keye Luke acted in more than 100 movies and couldn't complain of lacking work just brief to his death.
Together with the movies he appeared in many famous TV serials like "Star Trek", "Gunsmoke",  "Perry Mason", "The Big Valley", "Cannon", "Charlie's Angels", "Remington Steele", "Magnum", "Miami Vice" and "The Golden Girls".

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