We generally devote our much heralded Monday Quiz to real subjects and not fictional characters. Today we make, in our view, a much justified exception.
If Charlie Chan is not one of classic movies’ most beloved detectives, then he’s certainly not far from top of the list. Our cherubic, inscrutable character — who cheerfully mangles the language as he spouts pointed aphorisms — began his adventures on the big screen in 1926. Some 50 films and at least a dozen tv editions later, Charlie Chan lives on.
He is, writes Yunte Huang, author of Charlie Chan (W.W. Norton &Co., 2010), America’s first beloved Chinaman. As a ubiquitous cultural icon, whose influence on the twentieth century remains virtually unexamined, Charlie Chan does not yield easily to ideological reduction. ‘Truth,’ to quote our honorable detective, ‘like football — receive many kicks before reaching goal.’
Let’s see how much you know about the screen life and origins of this great character. As usual, answers tomorrow.
1) Question: The character of Charlie Chan first appeared in novel form at the hands of which one of the following authors? a) Raymond Chandler; b) William Faulkner; c) Earl Derr Biggers; or d) S.S. Van Dine.
2) Question: The character of Charlie Chan was based on the antics of a real police detective of Chinese extraction. a) True; or b) False.
3) Question: Which of the following actors did NOT play Chan on the big screen? a) Warner Oland; b) Sidney Toler; c) Roland Winters ; or d) J. Carrol Naish.
4) Question: Chan shared the screen with two prominent black actors who were later criticized for racial stereotyping. Can you identify them? a) Paul Robson; b) Stepin Fetchit; c) Mantan Moreland; or d) Herbert Jeffrey.
5) Question: What does Life With Luigi, the CBS radio program of the late Forties, have in common with Charlie Chan? a) Nothing; b) Both were played by J. Carrol Naish; c) Both were samples of ethnic programming in mid-20th century America; or d) Both were hugely popular.
6) Question: The character of Chan was largely inspired by the beauty of a key American location. Was it? a) Hoboken, New Jersey; b) The Hawaiian island of Oahu; c) Santa Monica, California; or d) Nice, France.
7) Question: One of the actors who played Chan on the big screen (see question three) made a notable appearance in the first “talkie” ever made in Hollywood. Can you name the actor, and the role he played in that picture?
8) Question: When Hollywood-produced Charlie Chan movies first played in China, audiences there felt patronized and insulted causing the hasty withdrawal of the movies. a) True; b) False.
9) Question: Which of the following was NOT uttered by Chan onscreen? a) ‘Action speak louder than French’; b) ‘Door of opportunity swings both ways’; c) ‘Falling hurts least those who fly low’; d) ‘Check, please.’
10) Question: Chan’s nasty screen opposite was the Dr. Fu Manchu character best played by which of the following? a) Boris Karloff b) Warner Oland; c) Bella Lagosi; or d) Sessue Hayakawa.