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CHARLIE CHAN: Maven and Rush Glick's Interview in . . . "Monster Bash"!

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This is an interview that Maven and friend
Rush Glick (www.charliechan.info) did
a while back with John Bishop.  It
appeared in Monster Mash
Magazine # 7(R) on page
40. Enjoy!

Charlie Chan
charliechanpassport.jpg
A Passport to Mystery

ENCOUNTER WITH CHAN
* * *
Monster Bash's John Bishop interviews Web Chan experts Virginia Johnson and Rush Glick
* * *

Charlie Chan on Broadway
cconbroadway.jpg
Courtesy of www.charliechan.info

I can't remember my first enounter with the Great Detective, but as a boy in the early 70's I was fascinated by the various adventures of Charlie Chan shown regularly on TV stations in the Philadelphia area.  I loved The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan cartoon starring former "number one son" Keye Luke.  The Return of Charlie Chan TV movie starring Ross Martin, and the glorious Charlie Chan films of the 30's and 40's staring Warner Oland, Sidney Toler, and Roland Winters.  Inspector Chan was one of my childhood heroes and his exciting exploits transported my youthful imagination to more exciting locales than any other movie detective.  There were mysteries in Honolulu, San Francisco, New York, Reno, Rio, Monte Carlo, Paris, London, Shanghai, New Orleans, a creepy castle in the Mohave Desert, an ancient pyramid in Egypt, a hidden Aztec Temple in Mexico, and more!  Along the way, the great Detective encountered an array of diabolical death traps and earned himself a reputation for being quite indestructible.  He still is.  In the 21st Century, Charlie Chan lives on in the hearts of his devoted fans, in various packages from MGM/Fox.  I recently had the great pleasure of asking Virginia Johnson of the Charlie Chan Annex and Rush Glick of the Chan Family Mesage Board a few questions about their appreciation for the amazing Charlie Chan:
 
MB:  When did you first fall in love with the Charlie Chan movies and why do you still love them?
 
VIRGINIA:  As to when I first fell in love with the Chan movies . . . it wasn't love at first sight, which is ironic because I grew up watching the original Univeral horror movies like most of us baby boomers!  You had to love [old movies] when you really LOOK at the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man.  But Charlie Chan looks so much more like somebody you could bring home to meet Mother!  I saw my first Charlie Chan at about 15 or 16 with my sister at our grandparents' house--MURDER OVER NEW YORK (1940).  I didn't see another one until my early 20's when, I forget which station, ran all the available Chan movies in order.  This was before most of us had VCR's at home in the mid-1970's.  That time Charlie took!  I fell in love with Charlie Chan because of my grandfather, ironically.  Warner Oland not only looked like my mother's father but they both had the old-fasioned courtly-ness, the graciousness that you don't really see anymore.  Frankly, that's why I never enjoyed Sidney Toler or Roland Winters as much.  They were polite gentlemen but they didn't have that same sense of dignity that Warner brought to Chan.  You also saw it in his relationship with his family, teasing his family while clearly reveling in his family life!  Besides . . . the mystery stories are darned good.  They have to be to hold up over so many viewings and, frankly, bloopers!  Many of us can sit and pick the plots apart, complain about props that move more than some of the actors (think Edwin Luke in The Jade Mask!) and still love every minute of the film!  And the continuity.  Or rather lack thereof!  It's a long-standing (viewing?!) joke about Jimmy/Tommy Chan in the later Monograms.  The studio switched actors and their names around to where I gave up years ago being able to remember who played who in those later films and part of why I list each week's cast of characters on my blog.  How else can you tell who is who?!
 
RUSH:  Although I had grown up knowing of the Great Detective, beyond the occassional brush with a film or two, I cannot truthfully say that I have any childhood memories of watching his movies on TV, and certainly not in theaters.  Monster pictures had me in their grasp in my youth, and I recall, vividly, watching several of them on television every weekend whe I lived in Los Angeles.  If there was something of a "Charlie Chan Theater" on an L.A. station, I was and still am unaware of it.  I believe that the course of our lives takes numerous interesting twists and turns as we ride on life's great river.  How close I must have come to seeing Charlie Chan later on cable networks during the early '80s and into the '90s, but I was simply busy with life.  Then, I recall one morning in 1999, as I was slowly getting ready to leave for work, I had the TV going in the background and switched to AMC (American Movie Classics).  There was Charlie Chan right in the tail end of a Chan festival!  At that moment, in a way not unlike that of the gentleman who was on his way to Damascus long ago, a connection was made.  It was if I had finally taken the time to share a cup of tea with an old but casual acquaintance, and I can only describe what I felt as an inner smile that lasted all that day.  Fairly soon, AMC aired another, longer Charlie Chan festival, and I made a point to record all of the movies that I could.  Fortunately, I was working fairly close to home and, under the tolerant gaze of a very understanding boss, I was able to slip out at odd times to tend to my VCR when necessary!  Since that time, I have had a burning passion for all things Charlie Chan, not the least of which are the movies for which I never tire of watching and re-watching . . . and viewing again.
Bela Lugosi As Tarnevarro
blackcamel1931belalugsoiastarnaverro.jpg
The Black Camel (1931)

MB:  What are your favorite Chan films?
 
VIRGINIA:  My favorite Chans?  Number One (where is Keye Luke when I ned him?!) is CHARLIE CHAN'S SECRET (1936).  That's where I got my "nom de Chan" that many of us have.  I just don't use "Mrs. Lowell" as much as many of us do!  My next favorite Chan is CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT (1935).  I've loved Egyptian antiquity as long as I can remember plus EGYPT is as spooky in its way as SECRET.  CHARLIE CHAN IN PARIS (1935) is the same way.  I enjoy THE BLACK CAMEL (1931) because it's a great story and shows Oland growing into this role as Chan.  I think that since it IS an early Chan that it doesn't have the fairy tale atmosphere that Oland's later ones have.  You can still see Oland's Chan getting the erudition and courtliness of his later portrayals that Sidney Toler and Roland Winters never have.   I enjoy several of the Fox/Sidney Toler films like CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND (1939/another "spooker"), IN RENO and IN RIO.  CHARLIE CHAN IN RIO (1941) is in a class by itself since it has a sweeter flair than the other Chans.
 
RUSH:  Virginia and I have a saying that we share:  "The only bad Charlie Chan movie is NO Charlie chan movie!"  Although I love them all, I do, as do all Chan Fans, have my favorites in the series.  The one I hold most dear is THE BLACK CAMEL.  This was the second movie in the series proper.  It is also the only film that was shot on location in and around Honolulu.  In THE BLACK CAMEL, we see Warner Oland still developing the Chan character, and I find any rough edges that are preset to be very charming.  This picture also offers Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye fresh from their DRACULA (1931) experience, as well as Chan's frenetic assstant Kashimo, a character who appeared in two of the original Earl Derr Biggers Charlie Chan books.  There is also a wonderful moment in this film with Charlie Chan's "multitudinous family" as the beleagered detective concludes his breafast and departs to find "peace and quiet" in the murder case at hand.  CHARLIE CHAN AT THE CIRCUS (1936) is another of the films where we get a heartwarming glimpse of the Chan family, and, in this case, it is a look at the entire clan including the honorable Mrs. Chan and their twelve children at the time.  Warner Oland and Keye Luke, who played Number One Son -- Lee, had a certain magic together on the screen that spilled over into their personal lives, and to the end, Mr luke referred to Oland as "Pop."  I get great enjoyment watching any of the Oland/Luke pictures, but a few I find most pleasing are CHARLIE CHAN AT THE CIRCUS, CHARLIE CHAN AT THE RACE TRACK (1936), CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI (1935), CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS (1937/a great film, and something of a Chan epic!), and CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA (1936/a film that also features Boris Karloff).  When Oland passed away and Sidney Toler carried on the Chan role, he had a tough act to follow.  One reason that I enjoy CHARLIE CHAN IN HONOLULU (1938) is that we get the opportunity to see how well he performed in his first outing, along with Victor Sen Yung who played Number Two Son, Jimmy.  In this movie, we open with the Chan family at the dinner table in a scene reminiscent of that in THE BLACK CAMEL, though much noisier!  CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND (1939), starring Sidney Toler, is another favorite of mine.  This picture  is the perennial winner of popularity polls take by Chan fans, and rightly so!  This one has everything, and offers something for everyone:  great mystery amidst eerie circumstances and surroundings, it is set in part at the 1939 "West Coast World's Fair" in San Francisco, but, most of all, for me, the interaction between father and second son, Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung), are priceless, I feel.  I also feel that I must also mention the Monogram Charlie Chan movies.  When the Charlie Chan series was dropped by 20th Century-Fox and was picked up by Monogram Pictures in 1943, the latter studio, a financially constrained "poorer sister," made some interesting changes that I feel, at times, added some interesting dashes of charm to the series.  From the start, with CHARLIE CHAN IN THE SECRET SERVICE (1944), and with the appearences of Tommy (Benson Fong) and his sister Iris (Marianne Quon), we begin to see some of the other Chan kids assist their famous Pop on murder cases.  In Black Magic (1944/also known as MEETING AT MIDNIGHT) we meet Frances Chan, and in THE JADE MASK (1945) we see Edward (Eddie) Chan (played by Keye Luke's brother, Edwin Luke).  Tommy continues in the series, but late Jimmy returns and, at the very end of trhe series, Keye Luke returns as Lee.  Mantan Moreland, in my humble opinion, does much to enhance the Monogram protion of the Chan series.  With all of the above said, though, my favorite Monogram Chan film is the SHANGHAI COBRA (1945), which, I feel, might even stand up to a few of the "lesser" Fox entries.  It is said that this movie had an infuence on the advent of the fim noir detective films, and just the opening scene seems to justify this idea.  As you can see by my long-winded response, it is tough for me to pick my favorites from the series!  I feel that each film has something to offer, and, while some may outshine others as to quality or depth of mystery, the other films of the series, including the Monograms, can, if allowed, offer much in the form of entertainment.

www.charliechan.info
www.charliechan.info.jpg
Rush Glick's Website

MB:  Do you have anythoughts on the Chanthology DVD set?
 
RUSH:  Yes, I do.  First, i find it very sad that a relatively small number of misguded and sadly ill-formed anti-Chan activists have caused a film giant such as 20th Century-Fox to cower to the point where they seem to tremble at the mere thought of releasing any of their vast Charlie Chan holdings to the public.  Fortunately, MGM Home Entertainment felt otherwise and gave Charlie Chan fans a wonderfully packaged six-movie boxed set of Monogram Chans last summer.  I was, and remain, very enthusiastic about The Charlie Chan Chanthology DVD set, and, if anyone still has not purchased "same," I wholeheartedly recommend doing so, as these are the cleanest, clearest versions of the initial six films in the Monogram Chan series that one can find.  The "activists" as well as the powers that be at Fox should perhaps note that a Chinese version of the set was also released overseas, and I hav eye to hear of any ruffled feathers from any of the good folks in Hong Kong or elswhere over the venerable detecitve.
 
VIRGINIA:  The Chanthology DVD set can only be good, regardless of what one things of the films individually.  Anything that keeps Charlie Chan before the public's eye entices them into wanting more of our favorite detective and keeps people talking abut him is only to the good.  Not to mention being motivation for cable to realize that the Chans are worth airing on television!

www.charliechan.net
www.charliechan.net.gif
Kurt Schmidt's Website

MB:  Your Charlie Chan Internet sites are fantastic!  Can you tell me a little more about the Charlie Chan fan community on the Internet?
 
[PLEASE NOTE:  This interview was done when I was still writing my blog at CHARLIE CHAN ANNEX which has since become part of my website here at www.theoldmoviemaven.com! -- Virginia]
 
RUSH:  Thank you so much for your kind compliment.  Our sites, as is true of all Charlie Chan sites that dot the great sea of the Internet, are dedicated to one thing, and that is the promotion and enjoyment of America's greatest detective, not to mention cultural icon, Charlie Chan.  The Charlie Chan Family Home is designed to give both long-time fans and newcomers a glimpse at the life and time of the Great Detective, as well as offer as much factual information as possible in that regard.  Virginia Johnson does a great job with The Charlie Chan Annex, which features information regarding our upcoming Weekly Chats, as does Chris Mentzer with his Charlie Chan in Cyberspace.  The best Web site by far, however, is Kurt Schmidt's CharlieChan.net, which features the Charlie Chan Message Board, the meeting place of vast numbers of Charlie Chan fans.  It has been my experience that Charlie Chan fans, including those who frequent the Internet, are, on the whole, the kindest group of individuals that one could hope to meet.  I encourage those who are interested in Charlie Chan, if even subtly so, to explore the Internet and see what ou can find ut about the detective.  A ward or two of warning, though - you may find yourself hooked!
 
VIRGINIA:  I began my blog, Charlie Chan Annex, to use material that I had been collecting:  I had been taking notes on the Chan films over time like bloppers and trivia.  I decided that other people might enjoy reading that as background material for each movie that we watch each Monday night (Tuesdays through June) in Rush Glick's Chat Room from 8:00 to 10:00 PM (EDT) at www.charliechan.info.  I also use a lot of Rush's material from his website to put all available information for one movie in one convenient spot for others to enjoy.  It's also a good way of, frankly, advertising what all Rush has at his site!  It's such a wealth of information!  There are so many Chan movie lovers out there who cover quite a wide territory--all different types across all geographical, social, economic and age lines.  The most striking difference is all the personality types!  The Chan community is like any other group in that it's always shifting and fluctuating--and as caring as you can find.  We have our opinions but keep one thing in mind:
 
We can't live without our Chan Fixes!
 
THE END

Charlie Chan
charliechanspassport-inside.jpg
Man of the World