Sleuthing Out "Charlie Chan"

Reexaming the silver screen detective Charlie Chan. A new book looks at the caricature and the real-life man he was based on.

At left, Charlie Chan played by Warner Oland (Fox Home Entertainment)

Hollywood’s Chinese caricature detective Charlie Chan was a big hit in the 1930s – with his “ah-so” aphorisms – and reviled a generation later as Exhibit A of anti-Asian racism on the big screen. A kind Stepin Fetchit in yellowface.

Now, a mainland China-born, Chinese scholar immigrant to the USA is looking back at Charlie Chan and saying hold on, this guy’s kind of cool. And giving us the whole history of the Charlie Chan story.

Some big Chinese Americans are not buying it. We’ll hear that, too. We’re looking again at the “honorable detective,” Charlie Chan.

-Tom Ashbrook


Yunte Huang, professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His new book is “Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History.” You can read an excerpt.

Frank Chin, Chinese-American author and playwright. He is considered one of the pioneers in Asian American theatre. His play “The Chickencoop Chinaman” was the first by an Asian-American to be produced on a major New York stage. He’s author of “Gunga Din Highway” and “Donald Duk.”


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Dec 1, 2015
Bethany Winder, a nurse who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., plants a sign in support of Planned Parenthood just south of its clinic as police investigators gather evidence near the scene of Friday's shooting at the clinic Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in northwest Colorado Springs. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Women’s health, American politics and gun violence after the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting.

Dec 1, 2015
In this 2010 file photo, Dr. Tom and Ann Earley work a Salvation Army kettle with their dog, Bocce, in an Atlanta, GA-area shopping center. (Flickr / Vicki DeLoach)

On #GivingTuesday, we’ll explore the trends in giving now from crowd sourcing to big charities and beyond.

Nov 30, 2015
Shoppers walks in front of a holiday display Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in San Francisco.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday and beyond, we’ll add up the dollars and trends and bargains of the 2015 holiday shopping season.

Nov 30, 2015
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, center left, Minister of the Environment of Peru and COP20 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, center right, and French Foreign Affairs Minister and COP 21 President Laurent Fabius, center, pose for photographers during a press visit to the COP21, Paris Climate Conference, site, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, France, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

World leaders converge in Paris for the big climate talks. We’ll look at what it will take to get a global climate agreement.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Where Did #GivingTuesday Come From, Anyway?
Tuesday, Dec 1, 2015

Today’s #GivingTuesday. But how — and where — did it start?

More »
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »