The Scarlet Clue

The Dastardly Past:  The Scarlet Clue


On May 11, 1945 Monogram Pictures released The Scarlet Clue, a Charlie Chan mystery starring Sidney Toler.  Toler had played Chan in the series since 1939, taking over from another non-Asian actor, Warner Oland.  Benson Fong continued his ongoing role as Number Three Son, Tommy.

Apart from being great fun due to their hokeyness, the Charlie Chan movies raise serious questions.  At the top of the list, of course, is why Hollywood insisted on Anglos in make-up playing the lead role?  Perhaps studio moguls thought they were being sufficiently sensitive by casting Chinese actors as Chan’s sons, including Keye Luke, Victor Sen Yung, and the aforementioned Fong. It’s a mystery I intend to explore with Yunte Huang’s 2010 book, Charlie Chan: the Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History—which should arrive within the week.  So please stay tuned.  I’ll post on this topic again once I’ve read it.

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