Archive for October 21, 2008

The Holy Mantan

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 21, 2008 by dcairns

Here we see a scene from the late Charlie Chan opus, MEETING AT MIDNIGHT. Comedy Negro Mantan Moreland (a sort of dark-hued Rodney Dangerfield in appearance) is rolling his eyes and acting spooked and generally doing all the things Comedy Negroes were paid to do, during the years Hollywood saw fit to represent African-Americans in this way. Moreland’s character is called Birmingham, which makes him seem a pretty straight rip-off of Eddie Anderson’s “Rochester” character.

“Are you not a nigger bloodhound?” asks Charlie Chan.

At which point I stop the film, rewind, and listen again.

“Are you not an eager bloodhound?” asks Chan. I think. It is genuinely hard to tell.

Anyhow, Moreland then goes on to say, “No, I’s too anaemic, why I’s practically pale,” so the film’s casual racism-meter rises to a standard 1940s setting anyway.

Hypnotising Charlie

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2008 by dcairns

From MEETING AT MIDNIGHT. I must say, I don’t think I like Sidney Toler’s Charlie Chan. He wears too much eye makeup. Viewed in this light, the casting of Swedish Warner Oland in the role actually makes a kind of demented sense: Oland’s Swedish eyelids actually have a kind of oriental shape, without the need of makeup artistry. Toler, of largely Scottish ancestry, doesn’t have the same nordic slant. He also overdoes the supposedly Chinese mannerisms, and has a truly unpleasant smile, in contrast to Oland’s attractively cherubic grin, which he produces at regular intervals with zero sincerity.

Yuck!

The highlight of the film, which revolves around faked seances and hypnotic fluid, is Frances Chan, playing Charlie’s daughter, Frances Chan. Frances had appeared in Mr. Oland’s opus CHARLIE CHAN’S GREATEST CASE in 1933, playing the youngest Chan daughter. Here she gets promoted to lead girl, with her slightly amateurish charm and eagerness highly reminiscent of Number One Son Keye Luke’s performance style, and her ’40s dresses looking fashionable all over again.

And that, alas, was more or less the end of her career.

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