Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Real Charlie Chan

I listened to a fascinating feature on "Fresh Air" yesterday. It was a review by Maureen Corrigan of a book by Yunte Huang called, simply, "Charlie Chan".

For you young whipper snappers, Charlie Chan was a fictional Chinese-American detective first appearing in a series of novels by Earl Derr Biggers beginning in 1923.

He was portrayed in a series of American movies by, wait for it..., Caucasian actors.

First by Warner Oland (who was actually Swedish)...

...and later by Sidney Tolar.

These movies were very popular 75-80 years ago in both America and China because they portrayed a positive, intelligent, professional Chinese person in America as opposed to an evil, "Yellow Peril" Chinese stereotype like Dr. Fu Manchu (ironically, also portrayed in the movies by the Swede Warner Oland!)

Today, our modern Politically Correct culture looks back on these movies and Charlie Chan's subservient attitude, broken English and pseudo-Confucian wisdom with the same disdain as we reserve for "Amos 'n' Andy".

Huang's book gives Charlie Chan a second look.

What I learned from the show that I didn't know before, was that the character of Charlie Chan was based on a REAL PERSON.

Meet Chang Apana.

This was the most stylin', bad assed motherfucker you'd never want to meet. He was a Chinese-Hawaiian detective with the Honolulu Police Department from 1916 to 1932. He wore Panama Hats and smoked Cuban cigars. He didn't carry a gun. He carried a fucking bullwhip.

He still holds the record for number of people arrested at one time by one officer for his arrest of 70 gamblers, who he lined up and marched back to the police station one night.

Somebody needs to make a movie about this guy. Doesn't even have to be in 3D or anything.

But we all know there is only one man who can portray this early 20th century, Chinese-Hawaiian, cigar chomping, ass-kicking fashion horse.

That's right. Samuel L. Jackson!

1 comment:

Nuke718 said...

Dude, thanks for posting. I didn't know about the real guy. I mean I saw all the movies (every Sunday after Church was Charlie Chan or Sherlock Holmes).

The real guy tho, I can just see cigar chomping bullwhip cop in my head. Screw Serpico, Chang Apana may have been the baddeest ass cop I ever heard of.