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Charlie Chan

Charlie Chan

Inspector Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police Department was the first Asian character to serve as a detective hero in American literature. He became immensely popular and appeared in novels, films, radio serials, and a comic strip.

Charlie Chan was the brainchild of Earl Derr Biggers (1884–1933), who introduced the Chinese-born investigator as a secondary character in House without a Key, a 1925 novel serialized in the Saturday Evening Post (see entry under 1900s—Print Culture in volume 1). The response was so positive that the Post asked Biggers for another novel, with Chan as the main character. The result was The Chinese Parrot (1926), followed by Behind the Curtain (1928), The Black Camel (1929), Charlie Chan Carries On (1930), and Keeper of the Keys (1932).

A series of movies also featured Chan, beginning with Charlie Chan Carries On (1931), in which he was played by Warner Oland (1880–1938). Later, Sidney Toler (1874–1947) took on the role. Charlie Chan has never been portrayed by an Asian actor.

—Justin Gustainis

For More Information

Berlin, Howard M. The Charlie Chan Film Encyclopedia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999.

Hanke, Ken. Charlie Chan at the Movies: History, Filmography, and Criticism. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1989.

Mitchell, Charles P. A Guide to Charlie Chan Films. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.

Schmidt, Kurt. (accessed January 23, 2002).

Welcome to Charlie Chan's World. (accessed January 23, 2002).

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