LIKE WISE

Noble goal like chasing rainbow — beautiful while it lasts.

If the above quote sounds familiar, you have the memory of an elephant. It — the quote, not you or the elephant — appeared in my previous post as a Charlie Chanism which I made up after a trip to the latest local library book sale where my returns are becoming re-nowned and their books are becoming re-owned….and one of my new buys was titled CHARLIE CHAN — The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History, by Yunte Huang.

If you’re an old movie buff like me, you’ve probably seen a number of 1930s-40s Charlie Chan films (based on the 1920-3os novels by Earl Derr Biggers) in which Charlie chanted such gems of wisdom as these:

Hasty deduction, like ancient egg, look good from outside.
Mind, like parachute, only function when open.
Trouble, like first love, teach many lessons.
Facts like photographic film — must be exposed before developing.
Advice after mistake like medicine after funeral.

You will find these, and many more, Chanisms in Appendix I of the book. But that’s just a bonus — the real story of this book is “The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective”…. a story I can’t tell you because either I would have to kill you (leaving no clues), or it would spoil the story and leave you without a motive to buy the book. But I will tell you that the fictional Honolulu detective Charlie Chan was based on real-life Honolulu detective Chang Apana, who was a character in his own right and whose career included jobs ranging from gardener to gumshoe. So get the book, plant yourself in your favorite chair, and enjoy the read.

Speaking of flowery characters, Earl Derr Biggers was no shrinking violet. Before turning novelist, Biggers (a Harvard grad)) was an outspoken newspaper columnist and drama critic. In one of his columns, he wrote of “a citizen of Mingo, Okla., [who] whipped out his trusty six-shooter the other day and shot the mustache off another citizen. We sincerely hope that the gentleman who lost the mustache appreciated the fact that he had a mighty close shave.” Shades of such baldfaced punsters as Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and mistermuse! (The latter includes himself in such company on the grounds that the dead can’t object.)

But enough about me. Here’s Charlie!

 

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CHAN SONG D’AMOUR

It occurs to me that the subject of my last post, Charlie Chan, may be a mystery to those of you to whom such things are a mystery (things such as antique detective stories). Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese detective (created by Earl Derr Biggers in a 1925 novel), played in movies by various actors, most famously and memorably by Warner Oland (16 films) from 1931 to 1937 and Sidney Toler (22 films) from 1937 to 1947.

I loved those movies when I was young and still enjoy watching the better ones now and then. As for the title of this post, it’s a play on the closest song title I could come up with to express that affection:

That title (being French) leads seamlessly — or should I say shamelessly — to this clip from Charlie Chan In Paris (1935):

1935 was also the year the Marx Brothers made A Night At The Opera, which has nothing to do with Charlie Chan, but serves to lead us equally shamelessly to Charlie Chan At The Opera (1936), one of the best films in the series. This movie also starred Boris Karloff and featured a “mock opera” composed by Oscar Levant, the pianist, actor and wit who was a close friend of George Gershwin. Here is the entire film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeV5YBDs2tc

Of course, no Charlie Chan piece would be complete without citing some of his famous aphorisms:

Owner of face cannot always see nose.

Bad alibi like dead fish — cannot stand test of time.

Detective without curiousity is like glass eye at keyhole — no use.

Grain of sand in eye may hide mountain.

It takes very rainy day to drown duck.

Smart rat know when to leave sinking ship.

Bye now.