Monday, February 5, 2007

Charlie Chan Fan

Lonnie Cruse

I’m currently reading CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON by Earl Derr Biggers. I adore reading very old, out of print mysteries. I found this particular set of books via an Internet search.

Anybody remember watching the old Charlie Chan movies with Werner Oland and Sidney Tolar? I was the lucky recipient of two (count ‘em) Charlie Chan DVD collections for Christmas. Ten Charlie Chan movies total. Life is good.

I adore those old black and white movies, set in the forties. Partly because I can see what the world looked like around the time I was born, what the fashion of the day was when my parents were still alive, what the vehicles looked like, and boy wouldn’t I just love to own one of those babies? And the hats both the men and women wore, that alone is worth the price of the movies. I mean, when is the last time you saw a guy in a Fedora?

But I enjoy the stories as well, hokie though they may be. Elevators with a trap door in the floor, fake séances with props used by con artists hidden in the basement, good stuff like that. What’s not to love? And the movies deal a lot with how the war affected everyday life, whether totally accurate or not, who knows?

I’m hoping to add to my Charlie Chan collection and find the rest of the series. Watching these old movies is like stepping into a time machine for an hour or so and visiting the past. And I might even learn something interesting about secret wind tunnels, spooky amusement park fun houses, rooms with hidden doors, and how cigarettes could become lethal weapons when mixed with certain heretofore unheard of poisonous gasses, necessary information like that.

What’s your favorite old book and/or movie? What do you love about it? Oh, um, fortune cookie, anyone?


Lorraine Bartlett said...

My favorite old book, and one I read at least once a year (and often more) is "The Egg and I" by Betty MacDonald. It was first published in 1945, years before I was born, but (except for the author's antiquated ( and politically incorrect) perception of native Americans), the writing is as fresh as if it had been written today. Today it would be considered a memoir.

The old Ma and Pa Kettle movies were based on this book, so if you remember those, you might like this.

I own at least 6 copies of the book (one in large print so I can read it when I'm old and gray). Mrs. MacDonald also write the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle childrens books.

Bill Crider said...

You probably know this already, but there's a lot of Charlie Chan activity at, including a message board.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I love Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle (though I found the movie disappointing) and wish I could find her other wonderful novels. There were only two or three of them. (She also wrote The 101 Dalmatians.) For dated but delicious mysteries, give me Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver. But for writing as fresh as today's and infinitely pleasurable rereading, my vote goes to the unsung Great American Novel, Little Women, with all of Louisa May Alcott's other books as runners up.

As for movies, I'm not a fan of noir or schmaltzy black & white. But I never get tired of The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain, or The African Queen. Oh, and The Lion in Winter, with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Afternoon all, thanks for checking in.

Bill, I did NOT know about the site you listed, but I'm going to check it out. Thanks,

Sandra Parshall said...

The Hitchcock movies don't go back all that far, but they're the ones I miss. Nobody makes films like that anymore.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Ahhh, Rear Window, Dial M For Murder, yup, they do not make 'em like that. And watching for Hitchcock's cameo's! What fun.

Anonymous said...

Lonnie, I have to disagree on this one. I can't stand the racist portrait of Oriental men in the Charlie Chan films.

Lonnie Cruse said...


I certainly understand. Most of the old movies are so different from today. Characters who smoke, who hold opinions we don't, who behave in far different ways. I guess that's part of the facination, to see how people lived then.