Tuesday, March 20, 2012


It's Two for Tuesday during our look at the Great Literary TV Detectives with Wold Newton overtones. So we have two VERY different portrayals of that "amiable Asian" created by Earl Der Biggers.


'The Amazing Chan And The Chan Clan'

Keye Luke

The Tooniverse

From Wikipedia:
In the 1970s, Hanna-Barbera produced an animated series called 'The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan'. Keye Luke, who had played Chan's son in many Chan films of the 1930s and '40s, lent his voice to Charlie, who had a much-expanded vocabulary this time around. The series focused, however, on Chan's children, played mostly by Asian-American child actors. Jodie Foster alternated with Leslie Kumamota in voicing Chan's daughter Anne.


"The Return Of Charlie Chan"

Ross Martin

The Land Of Remakes
The Movie of the Week TV dimension

From Wikipedia:
"The Return of Charlie Chan", a television film starring Ross Martin as Chan, was made in 1971 but was not aired until 1979.

(The Charlie Chan for Earth Prime-Time was played by J. Carroll Naish, who was featured once before in Inner Toob......)

From Wikipedia:
Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese-American detective created by Earl Derr Biggers. Loosely based on Honolulu detective Chang Apana, Biggers conceived of the benevolent and heroic Chan as an alternative to Yellow Peril stereotypes, such as villains like Fu Manchu. Chan is a detective for the Honolulu police, though many stories feature Chan traveling the world as he investigates mysteries and solves crimes.

The character of Charlie Chan was created by Earl Derr Biggers. In 1919, while on vacation in Hawaii, Biggers planned a detective novel to be called "The House Without a Key". He did not begin to write the novel until four years later, however, when he was inspired to add a Chinese American police officer to the plot after reading in a newspaper of Chang Apana and Lee Fook, two Chinese-American detectives on the Honolulu police force. Biggers, who disliked the Yellow Peril stereotypes he found when he came to California, explicitly conceived of the character as an alternative to them: "Sinister and wicked Chinese are old stuff, but an amiable Chinese on the side of law and order has never been used."

Chan first appeared in Biggers' novels, but went on to be featured in a number of media. Over four dozen films featuring Charlie Chan have been made, beginning in 1926. The character was at first portrayed by Asian actors, and the films met with little success. In 1931, the Fox Film Corporation cast Swedish actor Warner Oland as Chan in "Charlie Chan Carries On"; the film was a success, and Fox went on to produce 15 more Chan films with Oland in the title role. 

After Oland's death, American actor Sidney Toler was cast as Chan; Toler made 22 Chan films, first for Fox and then for Monogram Studios. After Toler's death, six more films were made, starring Roland Winters.

In addition, a number of Spanish- and Chinese-language Chan films were made during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. American-made Chan films were shown in China to much success, where the character was popular and respected. More recent film adaptations in the 1990s have been unsuccessful. The character has also been featured in several radio programs, two television shows, and a number of comics.

Interpretations of Chan by critics are split, especially as relates to his ethnicity. Positive assessors of Chan argue that he is portrayed as intelligent, benevolent and honorable — in contrast to the adverse depictions of evil or conniving Chinese then current on page and screen. Others state that Chan, despite his good qualities, reinforces certain Asian stereotypes, such as an alleged incapacity to speak fluent English and the possession of an overly tradition-bound and subservient nature.

As for the Wold Newton influence which could be shared with the televersion of Charlie Chan, Toobworld Central turns once again to Dennis Powers:

There is one detective that I believe deserves to be in the Wold Newton Universe, if only for his brilliant detective reasoning, yet like many others in the Wold Newton family he was also greatly traveled. I speak, of course, of Charlie Chan, who I propose is the son of Fu Manchu.

According to Farmer, Fu Manchu was likely the son of William Clayton and Ling Ju Hai, a green eyed Chinese beauty born in Vietnam circa 1840. Although raised by his grandfather and his mother, Fu Manchu was two things frowned upon in Asian societies: illegitimate and part Caucasian. We have then the roots of his animosity towards western society.

Now how does Charlie Chan fit in all this? When Charlie Chan first appeared in print in 1925, he was Sergeant Chan. We can surmise that he was about thirty-eight years old, which would have made his birth date around 1887, just about the time I surmised that Fu Manchu was still using his birth name of Ling Fu Shan. We cannot guess at Charlie Chan's name, although it is probable that it was something like Ling _____ Shan. Charlie Chan never gives much about his background. We only learn that he emigrated to the United States as a young man. 

We can only speculate that his character was formed at an early age and that he was rather disgusted at his father's machinations. He would have been young when his father assumed the identity of Fu Manchu, but we can imagine Fu Manchu bragging to his son about how clever he was to raise himself up and change identities. Charlie would have been around fifteen in 1902 when Fu Manchu's plans in China ended in disaster.

We can surmise that he took the opportunity to escape from his father's clutches once and for all by eluding his Si Fan guardians, making his way to Hawaii and assuming a new identity. Naturally he never revealed any of this information for fear of retaliation against his family by his father. Yet he used his brilliant detective mind to make himself available to the police bureaus around the world and thwart the schemes of his father whenever possible.

As this theory of relateeveety connects 'The New Adventures Of Charlie Chan' to 'The Adventures Of Fu Manchu', I'm keen to embrace it!

(My thanks once again to Dennis Powers!)


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