Hawaii Film Blog

Monday, September 12, 2005

Charlie Chan's "Number One" Granddaughter

This 1938 film is the 17th in Fox's Charlie Chan series and the first to star Sidney Toler, who succeeded Warner Oland. Both actors were white.

Back in July, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the infamous Charlie Chan film franchise was being resurrected by Fox as a feature starring Lucy Liu as the Chinese Hawaiian sleuth's granddaughter. Liu also plans to executive produce, and Dan McDermott, the EVP of prime time programming at Fox turned head of Dreamworks TV turned screenwriter, is slated to write the screenplay.

Charlie Chan was the affable Asian "Uncle Tom," who peppered his broken English with Confucianesque mis-sayings ("Ancient adage say, 'Music soothe savage breast.'"), and was always played by white men, is a character much maligned by the Asian American community, so news of the franchise's return comes as a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Liu's star power and a revisionist take on the story of Chan and clan may help right the racist wrongs committed by the original franchise. On the other, many Asian Americans want Charlie Chan dead for good rather than risk a Hollywood writer (esp. one who's a former TV exec) botching what's meant to be a politically correct revision.

I, for one, am excited to see what Lucy Liu and Fox have in store for the 21st century Charlie Chan. But Lucy, Fox, if you're reading, may I suggest you hire an Asian American co-screenwriter? And, of course, shoot the film in Hawaii? After all, Charlie Chan is based on Chang Apana, a real-life Chinese police detective with the Honolulu Police Department who carried a whip instead of a gun, wore a Panama hat, smoked cigars, and spoke fluent pidgin English, Hawaiian, and Cantonese. During his time on the force from 1898 to 1932, he busted numerous criminals in the opium and gambling underworld.

What's more, according to IMDB, Jennifer Klein, who has worked on a made-in-Hawaii flick (as an associate producer of "Pearl Harbor") is producing the new Chan movie. So Lucy doll, even though you went to my rival high school and grew up in my rival borough, I heart you, and I and the rest of Hawaii would welcome you and your Charlie Chan crew with open arms.

>> The Return of Charlie Chan [AsianWeek, 9/9/05]
>> Liu Joins the Chan Clan [Zap2it.com, 7/27/05]

Kudos to "Lost" on Asian American Representation
Cultural Insensitivity

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