Charlie Chan – Antique Burglar

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When Warner Oland died the newspapers announced “Charlie Chan Dead”. That is a very great difference indeed, if you think about it. We got to like and wait for the Oriental wisecracks of the sleuth, which we fancied were the fathom-less, inscrutable wisdom or the East. con-densed for film purposes. Charlie Chan inspired confidence. When he took a case and refused to believe that the police had arrested the right person, we knew that the suspected man or woman was innocent and that the real culprit would he brought to hook. He always had a trick up his sleeve, and went one better than thecrooks. When we saw Charlie Chan drop to the floor, shot or stabbed. our anxiety was only momentary: we knew he was fooling them again, playing dead or it was not Charlie at all but a specially made dummy. By such means the crooks would be put off the guard and Chan would soon be catching them out. If this sounds like laughing at Charlie Chan it isn’t meant to. Many screen actors achieve stardom and gain a huge fan following. Few inspire the affection and worship that was given to Charlie Chan. with so few assets to work with. He wasn’t handsome, nor an athlete. He did no jaw-Socking. no acrobatics: a fat Chinaman is not the boy’s idea of a hero by a long shot. Yet he was adored by millions of American and British boys, and ‘ had a large adult following too, among those whose hearts are always young and who, for all the sophistication and smart alecing of the last few years, like their films to end right. Fiction has always had its detectives who have secured a reading public running into millions. They have never made good on the screen. Sherlock Holmes has made fitful screen appearances but failed to create a demand for more. Sexton Blake, whose following must he greater and more long-lived than anybody since Robin Hood, also does poorly in pictures. Even the modern. city-slicker. Perry Mason. who was given a long screen run, established nothing in the way of a regular public.

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