Incomparable Charlie Chan

(4 stars; 6 reviews)

The detective Charlie Chan has been viewed in many different ways over the decades. Earl Derr Biggers, who created the character in novels, which were adapted to the movies, developed a heroic figure that was new to many readers and viewers. Many Asian characters had been depicted in movies as nefarious adversaries, but detective Chan was positive force in more positive public perceptions. The times of the popular movies and radio broadcasts were indeed confusing: the US was fighting against Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack, had interred many Asian Americans in camps because of fear of treason or sabotage, yet watched Charlie Chan movies as entertainment with great affection for the character. Keye Luke, Asian actor, was generally happy to have his role in the movies because, for once, the lead character was a hero. Over the years, however, there has been great concern over the stereotypes that the character may have reinforced. Much of the concern involves the lack of an Asian actor in the lead role. Two silent films, one in 1926 and another in 1927, had different Japanese actors play the lead. In 1929, a Korean actor did so in a sound movie. These were small films compared to the succession of white actors who played the role in the highly successful movie series while wearing heavy makeup (despite it being black and white films). Warner Oland, Sidney Toler, and Roland Winters all played the role from 1931 to 1949. On radio, another white actor, Ed Begley, Sr., played the role, followed by Santos Ortega. Both actors were highly regarded radio veterans. The program was serialized as an episode every day from Monday to Friday for one complete story. Very few of the episodes have survived. The program was on the NBC Blue, Mutual, and ABC [the former NBC Red] between 1932 and 1948.   * * * These recordings are part of the Joe Hehn Memorial Collection. Mr. Hehn (1931-2020) was a pioneering collector of radio recordings when the hobby emerged in the 1960s. Digitizing his collection of reel tapes and discs is the effort of a wide range of North American volunteers, and includes assistance of some international collectors. The groups supporting this effort with their funds, time, technology and skills are the Old Time Radio Researchers and a small group of transcription disc preservationists who refer to themselves as the "The Knights of the Turning Table."

This recording is part of the Old Time Radio collection.


thank you

(5 stars)

thank you for saving these recordings - wonderful resource. wish more people appreciated how good they are


(5 stars)

ABC, of course, was the former NBC Blue, not Red.