Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese-American detective created by Earl Derr Biggers, who acknowledged that he was inspired by the career of Honolulu policeman Chang Apana. Chan is the hero of a number of books and dozens of movies. A detective in the Honolulu Police Department, he and his wife have a very large family of children (the oldest of whom is colloquially known as "Number One Son") and live in a house on Punchbowl Hill.
Appearing in more than three dozen films from the silent era to the late 1940s, Chan outlasted many imitators and competitors rising to the ranks of the greatest movie investigators to stand alongside Sherlock Holmes, Nick Charles, and Sam Spade. However, Chan is also the subject of a great deal of controversy, with some calling him an offensive caricature or stereotype.
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1. Charlie Chan's Secret (1936) – Warner Oland as Charlie Chan
An ocean liner sinks off Honolulu and Allen Colby, heir to millions, is presumed dead...but local sleuth Charlie Chan is not so sure, and flies to San Francisco to investigate further. Somehow, the missing Colby is there ahead of him...but is knifed in the back before seeing anyone. Further events revolve around spiritualist Mrs. Lowell, her family of suspicious characters, and the spooky, untenanted Colby mansion, where the body turns up during a séance.
2. Dangerous Money (1945) - Sidney Toler
While on his way to Australia on an unrelated case, Charlie Chan investigates two murders involving "hot money" that occur aboard ship.
3. The Scarlet Clue (1945) - Sidney Toler
Government agent Charlie Chan is investigating a spy ring intent on stealing radar plans which leads him to a radio station in a building also containing a radar research facility.
4. Charlie Chan in Dark Alibi (1946) – Sidney Toler:
Three men are convicted of bank robbery, the main evidence against them being that their fingerprints were found at the scene. However, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) believes them to be innocent, and his investigation reveals that they are indeed innocent and that their fingerprints were forged and planted in the prison files to frame them. Charlie sets out to uncover the real bank robbers.
5. The Trap (1946) - Sydney Toler as Charlie Chan:
This was Sidney Toler's final film and his final one as Charlie Chan. Stricken with cancer during his last few films, he was so physically weak during filming that he could hardly walk or say his lines coherently.
A variety troupe arrives at a beach house in Malibu for a small vacation. Chorus member Adelaide is blackmailing various members of the group, and the troupe's star Marcia has Lois (a member of the group who Marcia knows is underage and can get her fired) steal letters from Adelaide's trunk, but Lois is strangled while going through the trunk. Charlie Chan (with #2 son Jimmy and Birmingham) are called to investigate by finding Marcia who everyone believes is the murderess, but the case is further periled when Marcia's body is found washed up on the shore. Chan finds out that many members of the troupe had reasons to get the incriminating evidence back and also murder Marcia. He decides to set a trap to catch the killer, but Jimmy inadvertently interferes to solve the case, putting himself, Charlie, and the rest of the troupe at the mercy of the killer.
1. Charlie Chan - The Black Camel (1931) - Warner Oland as Charlie Chan
When a beautiful starlet is murdered in in Hawaii, suspicion points to a psychic adviser with a spirited nature. .But when Charlie Chan uncovers a link to an unsolved murder of a screen heartthrob, the sleuth finds that in Hollywood, fame can be murder! The earliest surviving Chan film with Warner Oland, it also features supporting roles for Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye shortly after DRACULA opened.
3. Charlie Chan at The Olympics (1937) - Warner Oland & Keye Luke
Ace Chinese detective Charlie Chan and his son Lee who is an Olympic swimmer at the 1936 Summer Olympics face murder, intrigue and mystery
4. Charlie Chan Honolulu (1938) - Sidney Toler
While Charlie is distracted with the birth of his first grandchild, son Jimmy impersonates his father in order to investigate a murder aboard a freighter in the harbor.
6. Charlie Chan At The Wax Museum (1940) - Sidney Toler
An escaped convicted murderer hides out at a New York wax museum where he hopes to get plastic surgery, which will help him revenge himself on Charlie Chan
7. Charlie Chan in the Jade Mask (1945) - Sidney Toler
Aided by Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland) and Number Four Son, Charlie investigates the murder of a scientist who had invented a gas that makes wood as hard as steel.
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