Charlie Chan


Charlie Chan was the Chinese detective created by Earl Derr Biggers. There were 44 "Charlie Chan" movies made from 1931 to 1949 (actually, there were three others from 1925 to 1929, each with a differenct actor who played Chan). Over the length of this series, six different actors, none of whom were really Chinese, starred as Charlie Chan.

The last three were: Warner Oland (1931 - 1938), Sidney Toler (1938 - 1947), Roland Winters (1947 - 1949)

Virtually all follow a formula type plot, with usually one or several of Charlie's children thinking that they will be an asset in helping their "pop" solve the case. In fact, Charlie had 14 children. If you want to contact other Charlie Chan fans, try Kurt Schmidt's Charlie Chan Message Board and his "ChanNet". Also strongly recommended visiting is the excellent Charlie Chan Family Home site.

I personally like the Warner Oland films the best and my favorite movies are the "Egypt" and "Treasure Island" episodes. When Monogram took over the series from 20th Century Fox starting with the "Secret Service" movie, the Charlie Chan series went downhill in terms of quality.

The following is a list of the 47 movies:

The House Without a Key (1925)
The Chinese Parrot (1927)
Behind That Curtain (1929)
Charlie Chan Carries On (1931)
The Black Camel (1931)
Charlie Chan's Chance (1932)
Charlie Chan's Greatest Case (1933)
Charlie Chan's Courage (1934)
Charlie Chan in London (1934)
Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)
Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)
Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)
Charlie Chan's Secret (1936)
Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)
Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936)
Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936)
Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937)
Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)
Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo (1937)
Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)
Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)
Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)
City in Darkness (1939)
Charlie Chan in Panama (1940)
Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)
Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (1940)
Murder Over New York (1940)
Dead Men Tell (1941)
Charlie Chan in Rio (1941)
Castle in the Desert (1942)
Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944)
The Chinese Cat (1944)
Black Magic, aka Meeting at Midnight (1944)
The Jade Mask (1945)
The Scarlet Clue (1945)
The Shanghai Cobra (1945)
The Red Dragon (1945)
Dark Alibi (1946)
Shadows Over Chinatown (1946)
Dangerous Money (1946)
The Trap (1947)
The Chinese Ring (1947)
Docks of New Orleans (1948)
The Shanghai Chest (1948)
The Golden Eye (1948)
The Feathered Serpent (1948)
The Sky Dragon (1949)


Read About Charlie Chan's Number 1 Fan – Me!
This is an article about me that appeared in the July 17, 2006 issue of The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware), and repeated in the August 19, 2006 issue of The Indy Star (Indianapolis, Indiana), and the September 6, 2006 issue of the Asbury Park Press (Asbury Park, NJ).

Because of my 15 seconds of fame, making an appearance on the documentaries of Volume 1 (In Search of Charlie Chan) and Volume 2 of the Mr. Moto Collection (Mr. Moto Meets Mr. Chan – the Making of Mr. Moto’s Gamble), I now have my own listing in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).


The Who's Who of Charlie Chan's Family
an article by Howard M. Berlin which appeared in the September 2003 issue of Classic Images.


Memphis 2004 Remembers Charlie Chan
an article by Howard M. Berlin which appeared in the September 2004 issue of Classic Images.


Two authoritative Charlie Chan books for your library

{short description of image} The Charlie Chan Film Encyclopedia
by Howard M. Berlin

This is an extensive encyclopedia from A (A-469W) to Z (Zucco, George) of the people, places, things, trivia, and movies of the world's most popular Oriental detective. There are over 1,900 entries and is published by McFarland & Company, Inc. The ISBN is 0-7864-0709-3 (Hardback version) and lists for $55.

The publisher has released a softback version in 2005. The ISBN is 0-7864-2452-4 and lists for $39.95.

Check out following reviews of this one-of-a-kind book:

Booknews
"A thoroughly detailed reference to information relating to Charlie Chan films in an A-to-Z compendium of over 1,900 entries of facts, characters, actor and crew biographies, filmographies, and plot summaries." -

David M. Lisa, Library Journal
"Massive, fact-filled, and entertaining, this is one of the most important Chan movie reference volumes to date...A worthwhile purchase for most popular film collections."

Anthony Slide, Classic Images
"It is, without doubt, the best...Most impressive and most entertaining..."

Laura Wagner, Classic Images
"This Chan book is indispensible. This encyclopedia is a Chan fan's dream."

Copley News Service
"A remarkable amalgam of fact and trivia."

Film & History
"An elaborate research book...[a] lively, informative book...a must."

Cult Movies
"Nearly anything a fan might want to know is analyzed here.

ARBA
"Handy companion...a major contribution."

Orders and information about the book can be found at the following:

Now on-line: the Introduction to The Charlie Chan Film Encyclopedia.


{short description of image} Charlie Chan's Words of Wisdom by Howard M. Berlin

This is a collection of 600 proverbs spoken in over 40 films by the cinema's inscrutable Oriental detective. It is published by Wildside Press and also included are the wise sayings from the Mr. Moto films. The ISBN is 1587154692.

Laura Wagner, Classic Images
"...a good companion to any Charlie Chan study."

Orders and information can be currently found at the following links for this book:

Now also available as an eBook in the following formats: Adobe Acrobat (249 KB), Palm Doc (52 KB), Rocket/REB1100 (49 KB), Microsoft Reader (158 KB) - PocketPC 1.0+ Compatible, Franklin eBookMan (125 KB), hiebook (215 KB), iSilo (43 KB), Mobipocket (55 KB). Available from Fictionwise eBooks.

Now on-line: the Introduction to Charlie Chan's Words of Wisdom.




Official DVD Releases

{short description of image} The Charlie Chan Collection, Volume 1

Release Date: June 20, 2006

At long last, 20th Century Fox has seen the light and rewarded Charlie Chan fans with releasing its restored classic Charlie Chan films staring Warner Oland on DVD along with original behind the scenes documentaries. Released on June 20, 2006, the contents of the first volume are:
  • Charlie Chan in London (1934)
  • Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)
  • Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)
  • Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)
The documentary featurettes were written and produced by John Cork, who also produced most of the documentaries found on the James Bond DVDs. Several authors, authorities, relatives, notables from Hawaii, and even Layne Tom, Jr. (aka #3, 5, 7 son) lend their expertise to the documentaries.
  • The Legacy of Charlie Chan (15 minutes)
  • In Search of Charlie Chan (20 minutes) — I appear in this one!
  • The Real Charlie Chan (20 minutes)
  • Eran Trece, the Spanish language version of the lost 1931 Charlie Chan Carries On (79 minutes)
  • The trailer for Charlie Chan in London (6 minutes)
   
{short description of image} The Charlie Chan Collection, Volume 2

Release Date: Dember 5, 2006

This volume, released on December 5, 2006, skips over Charlie Chan's Secret as all four films in the box set feature Keye Luke as #1 son Lee Chan along with Warner Oland as Charlie Chan. The details that have been released so far:
  • Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936)
    • Documentary: Charlie Chan's Lucky Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
  • Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937)
    • Documentary: Layne Tom, Jr: The Adventures of Charlie Chan, Jr.
  • Charlie Chan at the Circus(1936)
    • Documentary: Number One Son: The Life of Keye Luke
  • Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936)
    • Documentary: Charlie Chan At The Movies
   
{short description of image} The Charlie Chan Collection, Volume 3

Release Date: August 14, 2007

This volume concludes with the films of Warner Oland in his role as Charlie Chan. One nice suprise it that includes Black Camel (1931), featuring Bela Lugosi, plus the not-so Charlie Chan Behind That Curtain (1929) as added features. The lineup of the five films are:
  • Charlie Chan's Secret (1936)
  • Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)
  • Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo (1937)
  • Black Camel (1931)
  • Behind That Curtain (1929)
The bonus features include: "Chan Is Missing: The Last Days Of Warner Oland," as well as a restoration comparison, original theatrical trailers, still gallery and “Warner Oland is Charlie Chan” poster gallery plus the earliest surviving onscreen appearance of the Charlie Chan character. "The World Of Charlie Chan and Chanograms: The Aphorisms Of Charlie Chan," as well as a restoration comparison, original theatrical trailer and still gallery. A commentary by film critic Ken Hanke, featurettes "Charlie Chan And The Rise of The Modern Detective: and "Dr. Henry Lee: The Modern Day Charlie Chan," as well as a restoration comparison, the original theatrical trailer and still gallery. The Black Camel includes commentary by film critic Ken Hanke, as well as a restoration comparison, the original theatrical trailers and still gallery. Charlie Chan’s Chance: An Introduction and Charlie Chan’s Chance: A Recreation.
   
{short description of image} The Charlie Chan Collection, Volume 4

Release Date: February 12, 2008

The fourth volume, now with Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan. Toler starred in 11 Charlie Chan at Fox before he starred in another 11 films at Monogram. Toler's first four films:
  • Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)
    • Documentaries: Reinventing Chan
    • Sidney Toler: The Man Who Became Chan
    • Charlie Chan's Courage: A Re-creation of a Lost Chan Film"
  • Charlie Chan in Reno (1939)
    • Documentaries: Welcome to Reno: America's Divorce Resort
    • Reno Memories
    • Chan's Killer Actress: Kay Linaker
  • Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)
    • Documentaries: Commentary by Film CriticKen Hanke & Film Historian John Cork
    • The Real Treasure Island
    • Charlie Chan & the Zodiac
  • City in Darkness (1939)
    • Documentaries: The Making of Charlie Chan in City in Darkness
    • Writing Chan: Robert Ellis & Helen Logan
   
{short description of image} The Charlie Chan Collection, Volume 5

Release Date: September 16, 2008

This box set concludes with the final seven films of the Charlie Chan series produced at 20th Century Fox before the series continued at Monogram.
  • Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (1940)
  • Murder Over New York (1940)
  • Dead Men Tell (1941)
  • Charlie Chan in Rio (1941)
  • Charlie Chan in Panama (1940)
  • Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)
  • Castle in the Desert (1942)
The bonus featurettes are:
  • Charlie Chan: The Fox Years
  • Original Theatrical Trailers
  • Still Galleries
   
chanthology {short description of image} The Charlie Chan Chanthology

Release Date: July 6, 2004

The first six films from the Monogram era staring Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan. The cast includes comedian Mantan Moreland as Chan's chauffeur Birmingham Brown, Benson Fong as Number #3 son Tommy, and two of Charlie Chan's daughters. Released in July 2004, the six discs are:
  • Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944)
  • The Chinese Cat (1944)
  • Black Magic, aka Meeting at Midnight (1944)
  • The Jade Mask (1945)
  • The Scarlet Cluee (1945)
  • The Shanghai Cobra (1945)
Unlike the later 20th Century Fox DVDs, the Chanthology does not have any "extras" in the way of documentaries, trailers, etc.
   
{short description of image} TCM Spotlight: Charlie Chan Collection

This box set continues with four films from Monogram following the release of Volume 5 and six years after the first six Chan films of the Charlie Chanthology DVD set. Like the Chanthology, there are no "extras" in the way of documentaries, trailers, etc. Astute Chan fans will notice that this set skips over two films in chronological order from the Chanthology DVD: The Red Dragon (1945) and Shadows Over Chinatown (1946). There are now seven Monogram Chan films still waiting to be released on DVD.

Release Date: June 8, 2010
  • Dark Alibi (1946)
  • Dangerous Money (1946)
  • The Trap (1947)
  • The Chinese Ring (1947)
   

FYI: Visit my Mr. Moto page for information about my new Mr. Moto book: "The Complete Mr. Moto Film Phile: A Casebook."

If you have any comments, questions, or complaints, e-mail me at:


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© 1998-2010, Howard M. Berlin. Updated: November 28, 2010.