Archive for Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case

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.


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.