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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.
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 .
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).
(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.
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
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
(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).
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.