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[COMMUNITY] Will the Real Charlie Chan (Chang Apana) Stand Up

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  • madchinaman
    Chan not Chinese, but still a pioneer By Susan King, Times Staff Writer http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 20, 2006
      Chan not Chinese, but still a pioneer
      By Susan King, Times Staff Writer


      Photos by Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
      Famed isle detective Chang Apana made many arrests,
      and ethnicity was always noted.

      art by Alex Preiss


      There's no getting around the fact that the vintage Charlie Chan
      mystery movies of the 1930s and '40s are, to put it mildly,
      politically incorrect in this day and age because three of the
      actors who brought Earl Derr Biggers' sage Chinese detective to life
      on screen were played by Caucasians: Warner Oland, Sidney Toler and
      Roland Winters.

      But as the numerous documentaries point out on Fox's "The Charlie
      Chan Collection, Vol. 1" ($60) DVD set, these movies marked the
      first time there had been an Asian hero on screen. Generally, Asian
      characters had been villains or servants. Chan was brilliant, a
      fervent family man, moral and admired around the world. Biggers
      created Chan as a reaction against the racist Yellow Peril stories
      popular in the early 20th century.

      Documentaries in the four-disc set include "The Real Charlie Chan,"
      which explores the life of famed Honolulu detective Chang Apana,
      and "The Legacy of Charlie Chan."

      The set features four films starring the Swedish-born Oland, who
      played the detective from 1931 until his death in 1938. These films
      are far more entertaining — and less racist — than those made in the
      1940s with Toler and Winters.

      In 1935's "Charlie Chan in Shanghai," the detective tries to solve a
      murder and uncover an opium ring with the help of his oldest son,
      Lee (Keye Luke). The film also stars Charles Locher, who two years
      later would become a star under the name Jon Hall in John
      Ford's "The Hurricane."

      The "Shanghai" DVD includes "Eran Trece," the Spanish-language
      version of "Charlie Chan Carries On," in which Manuel Arbo plays
      Chan. The English language version, the first with Oland, no longer

      "Charlie Chan in Egypt," also from 1935, is the most politically
      incorrect of this set because of the cringe-inducing stereotypical
      portrayal of an African-American servant played by Stepin Fetchit —
      his character's name is Snowshoes. The film also features a teenage
      Rita Hayworth, billed as Rita Cansino.

      Also in the set are 1935's "Charlie Chan in Paris" and "Charlie Chan
      in London" from 1934 (the first movie not based on one of Biggers'
      six Chan novels).


      Chang Apana, HPD

      Bigger's real-life inspiration for Charlie Chan was Chang Apana, a
      Honolulu PD detective who spoke Chinese, English and Hawaiian and
      who was authorized to carry a bullwhip for a weapon.

      Apana was born on the Big Island in 1871, and worked as a paniolo (a
      cowboy) in Waimea as a young man. That's where he learned to use the
      whip. He then spent 34 years at HPD before he retired in 1932.

      Apana had a great record at HPD and was a natural detective. He
      moved easily among Waikiki's many ethnic communities and, though
      just over five feet tall, was a tough but fair officer.

      The Charlie Chan books and movies blended many elements. The
      mysteries were clever. The Oriental-styled settings were then new to
      most of America. Chan was a trustowrthy, sagacious and very likeable
      man, whose children sometimes interferred too much in his work.

      Chan was entertainment and widely popular, though few people ever
      knew that Charlie Chan was based on a real Waikiki detective. At the
      time, America only stretched from "sea to shining sea," and not many
      had heard of much about Hawaii, much less Waikiki.


      Chang Apana (1871-1933)

      A Honolulu Police Department log records the 1904 arrest of a man
      for gambling–evidence included $5.60 and "dices." But wait: 12 more
      names follow, arrested at the same time by the same officer. A slow
      day, perhaps, for Chang Apana, who "holds the record for most
      arrests–70 people–at one time," says officer Eddie Croom, the
      curator of HPD's museum.

      The Waipi'o-born Apana had an early stint as a paniolo, picking up
      the whip skills he'd later use to tame opium smugglers, gamblers and
      children out past curfew. A wiry, slight man a little over five feet
      tall, Apana took a lot of hits while doggedly pursuing his suspects:
      The deep scar above his eyebrow was from an ax handle, and he was
      also thrown out of a second-floor window, run over by a horse-and-
      buggy and stabbed.

      While his derring-do was enough to catch anybody's attention, a
      Chinese detective was in itself unusual in the era. Captivated,
      author Earl Derr Biggers based six novels' worth of the Charlie Chan
      character on Apana. "Apana's the epitome of law enforcement in
      Hawai'i: unique, dedicated," says Croom. "Law enforcement was his
      life for 34 years. He's the ultimate cop."



      Honolulu Hawaii is a very nice place to visit it has a large long
      history of polynesian culture history,but one of the most famous
      resident of Honolulu is a chinese resident named Chang Apana

      he was born on 12-26,1871 and died 12-08,1933 he was a excellent
      cowboy in the chinese community but he's not known for horse riding,
      officer Apana Join the Honolulu Police department

      in August 1898 ,he did such a good job his friend Earl Derr Biggers
      decided to write stories and novel about him,you see Detective Chang
      Apana was better known as...."Detective Charlie Chan" made famous
      from hollywood.


      Chang Apana, from whom the idea of the character Detective Charlie
      Chan was created, is the uncle of Charlotte Chang Kop. Chang Apana
      was born in Waipio on the Big Island. His family moved back to China
      (I assume to Oo Syak) when he was three, but he moved back to Hawaii
      when he was 10. Visit Honolulu Chinatown's Charlie Chan web site.
      Oo Syak Gee Lu Society was founded in December 1897 by Yick Leong
      Chang and Dim Sing Chang. Yick Leong Chang was a merchant and Dim
      Sing Chang was his assistant. According to records in the book, "The
      Sandalwood Mountains," Oo Syak has the distinction of being the
      oldest remaining "Chinese village club" in Hawaii. The society was
      formed mainly to help the people who came from Oo Syak to work in
      the Hawaiian Islands, promoting friendship and harmony among them.
      The village of Oo Syak is within the Gook Doo district of Chung Shan
      county, which is part of Kwangtung Province.

      In 1955, Oo Syak was incorporated under the laws of the Territory of
      Hawaii. In its charter, the objects and purposes of the corporation
      include "developing, promoting and maintaining harmony among members
      of the Oo Syak village of Canton, China who are now living in this
      Territory, and their descendants; and to do all things which may be
      deemed charitable, benevolent, educational and scientific to

      The society headquarters was at 312/318 Kamakela Lane near North
      Kukui Street. This property was donated by Yick Leong Chang when he
      decided to return to China for his retirement years. The property
      was listed at 5645 sq. ft. on the property tax bill. On it was a 2-
      story boarding & rooming house in which about 14 rooms were rented
      for $10 to $17 a month in 1955. The tenants included Chinese and non-
      Chinese boarders. Unfortunately in 1960 the city decided to condemn
      the property and surrounding properties for its redevelopment

      For a brief period in 1963-1964 when the Society was looking for
      roots, the society owned a property in Waimanalo. This was a large
      beach front property approximately half an acre adjacent to
      Waimanalo Beach Park. This property is on Laumilo street near the
      present Seven-11 store. Apparently many town members did not like
      the drive to Waimanalo. Oo Syak members seeing a decent investment
      in this property, formed a hui and bought the property from the Oo
      Syak Society.

      Member Mrs. Eunice Chang Lum Chun was one of the tenants of the old
      Kamakela headquarters/rooming house. She recalls much of the history
      of the Kamakela property. In her 80's, Mrs. Chun has helped Oo Syak
      to know its history. She has provided various stories and
      translations about Oo Syak Gee Lu Society. Some of these works are
      attached at the end. She has generously donated the beautiful silk
      Oo Syak banquet banner that is shown on our web page. Mrs. Chun has
      also generously willed to the Chinese Palolo Home her assets so that
      the home may continue to help the elderly. Mrs. Chun continues as
      the Principal of the Tai Koong Chinese language school.


      Don't go by the cinematic
      versions of Inspector Chan
      By RON MILLER of TheColumnists.com

      Ask most mystery fans to describe Charlie Chan and they'll probably
      say he's a tall, rather stout Chinese sleuth who wears a Homburg
      hat, speaks English haltingly, and quotes so many Chinese proverbs
      that you think he's an advance man for Confucius. Most fans probably
      also will tell you Charlie works for the federal government, aided
      by his reckless "No. 1 son" and a black valet named Birmingham
      Brown, who seems to be afraid of virtually everything.

      And if the mystery fan you're asking also happens to be Asian, you
      may hear an added line of description: "He's also an insult to our

      These familiar Charlie Chan cliches surely were responsible for
      making him one of the most popular fictional detectives of the 20th
      century. And they're probably also the reason for the decline in
      public interest in him over the past quarter century.

      There hasn't been a new Charlie Chan movie since "Charlie Chan and
      the Curse of the Dragon Queen" in 1981--a box office disaster that
      drew hordes of Asian pickets for the casting of Englishman Peter
      Ustinov as Charlie, if not for the film's general incompetence.

      All the Chan mystery novels are currently out of print and TV has
      shown little interest since J. Carrol Naish, the star of
      radio's "Life with Luigi," played Chan in a forgettable syndicated
      series of the 1950s and the enitre "Chan Clan" turned up in a kids'
      cartoon series. To even suggest a revival of interest in Charlie
      Chan now seems absolutely futile in this era of rampant political

      Which is kind of sad, in my opinion, since most of those
      objectionable characteristics were added to the Chan legacy by the
      movies--and do not appear in the six Charlie Chan novels published
      by his creator, Earl Derr Biggers, between 1925-30.

      Biggers was a Harvard-educated Ohio native, a former newspaperman
      whose greatest success before Chan was "Seven Keys to Baldpate," a
      1913 mystery novel that George M. Cohan turned into a rousing
      Broadway success. (It also has been filmed several times.) While
      vacationing in the Hawaiian islands in 1919, Biggers concocted
      Charlie Chan after reading an account in a Honolulu newspaper of the
      exploits of Chang Apana, a real-life Asian detective with the
      Honolulu P.D. He introduced Chan in "The House Without A Key" in
      1925 and he was an immediate success.

      In the mid-1920s, it probably seemed a fresh and original idea to
      create a fictional Chinese-American detective to serve as the hero
      in a series of traditional "cozy" mysteries in the tradition of
      Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, the Belgian-born
      sleuth from Agatha Christie, then a newcomer on the mystery scene.

      I'm guessing it also seemed like a very positive thing to create a
      Chinese detective hero at a time when Sax Rohmer's insidious Chinese
      master criminal, Dr. Fu Manchu, was painting a very nasty picture of
      Asians in book after book and America's pulp magazines so frequently
      featured lurid covers showing Asian villains torturing pretty white
      women, who usually were wearing very little clothing.

      The movies took immediate interest in Charlie Chan and he came to
      the screen in 1926 with a Pathe serial version of "The House Without
      A Key." That film no longer exists. Five of Biggers' six Chan novels
      were filmed as quickly as the books were published and the final
      book, "Keeper of the Keys," became a Broadway play in 1933--the year
      Biggers died of heart disease at age 48.

      It's a common mistake to believe Charlie Chan never was played on
      screen by Asian actors. That's not true: The first screen Chan was
      Japanese actor George Kuwa, followed by another Japanese, Sojin, who
      played Chan in a silent version of "The Chinese Parrot." E.L. Park
      played Chan in the first talking picture version of a Chan novel--
      Fox's "Behind That Curtain," a 1929 film that occasionally turns up
      on Fox's cable network in the wee hours of the morning.

      In "The House Without A Key," Chan is not the leading detective on
      the case, but is actually the bright assistant to Detective Captain
      Hallett, his superior on the Honolulu P.D. Though his English isn't
      exactly perfect, he certainly doesn't talk like a guy who just got
      off the boat. He expresses a few phrases of Oriental philosophy, but
      not as heavy-handedly as he did in the movies of the 1930s and 1940s.

      Here's how Biggers described him in his first appearance in that
      novel: "He was very fat indeed, yet he walked with the light dainty
      step of a woman. His cheeks were as chubby as a baby's, his skin
      ivory tinted, his black hair close-cropped, his amber eyes slanted."

      In effect, the Chan we first meet is not tall, though overweight.
      His style is very Sherlockian because he observes things closely and
      notices details others miss. He has none of the arrogance of either
      Holmes nor Poirot, however, and, in fact, is constantly reminding
      those around him how "humble" he is, in both talent and attitudes.

      In all six novels, Chan continues to work for the Honolulu P.D.,
      though he's occasionally "loaned out" to other departments. He rises
      to the rank of Inspector midway through the six-novel canon. In none
      of the original Biggers mysteries is he aided by any of his many
      children--I think the count finally reaches at least a dozen
      children--nor does he ever have anyone faintly resembling Birmingham
      Brown working for him.

      However, he works in close tandem with Inspector Duff of Scotland
      Yard in one novel and after Duff is murdered in "Charlie Chan
      Carries On," Chan takes over Duff's case (more than halfway through
      the novel) and solves it with the help of a most interesting
      assistant of his own--Officer Kashimo of the Honolulu P.D., an
      agressive young Japanese who idolizes Chan. The idea of a Chinese
      having a Japanese sidekick must have knocked readers of both races
      for a loop, considering the long-established friction between those
      two ethnic groups. Kashimo is portrayed as astute and resourceful,
      albeit a big impulsive. His over-enthusiasm for helping Chan even
      inspires him to stow away on a cruise ship to follow Chan, in
      defiance of his orders from their superiors in Honolulu. He may have
      been the inspiration for the many ambitious "No. 1 son" characters
      in the long series of movies about Chan.

      Biggers' Chan is very much a family man and constantly longs for his
      home on Punchbowl Hill in Honolulu, especially when he's away,
      helping solve a mainland case and his wife is about to deliver their
      latest child. There are references to his older children, who are
      attending university classes, but no suggestion any of them will
      ever head for careers as detectives.

      Though I'm not Asian, it seems to me there is little to complain
      about in terms of racist depictions in the Biggers novels. To be
      sure, some Caucasian characters display racism toward Chan, but,
      after all, this was common reality in the 1920s and it seems clear
      to me that Biggers was trying to underscore this racism while also
      showing us how well respected Chan is by most of the Caucasian

      Because Charlie is older and doesn't especially cut a very romantic
      figure, he doesn't figure in any romantic nonsense. No white femme
      fatales try to seduce him and, in fact, he seems oblivious to their
      charms. Biggers presents him as an asexual figure, leaving the
      romance to the young Caucasian men and women who often appear as
      Chan's clients or trusted allies in the books.

      In "Behind That Curtain," Chan works with a female assistant
      district attorney who has to deal with sexist attitudes from some of
      the men around her. She also suspects Chan doesn't approve of a
      woman doing that kind of work and she may be right, based on the
      clues Biggers gives us. However, when she openly says she doubts if
      Mr. Chan approves of her, Chan answers in typically inscrutable
      fashion: "Does the elephant disapprove of the butterfly? And who

      Reading between the lines, Chan seems to be poking fun at his own
      obesity (the "elephant" reference) while paying tribute to the
      woman's beauty (the "butterfly" reference), yet the gist of his
      comment is that he considers her irrelevant--not exactly high praise.

      In "The Chinese Parrot" (1926), we learn that Charlie used to work
      as "number one boy" for a wealthy Caucasian woman at her mansion on
      the beach before choosing to pursue a law enforcement career. Yet he
      bears no resentment to his former employer and, in fact, seems
      steadfastly loyal to her. In "Keeper of the Keys," Chan has to deal
      with a much older Chinese servant who kowtows to his white master in
      embarrassing fashion. Chan frequently reminds us how old-fashioned
      Ah-Sing, the servant, has remained while so many other Chinese who
      live in the states are now much more "American."

      On the whole, the Charlie Chan of the six Biggers novels is a man
      worthy of respect for his solid ethics, his clean and decent
      lifestyle and his brilliance as a detective. Because he's a fat guy
      who seldom gets "physical" with crooks, he may not be the ideal
      heroic figure some mystery fans have come to expect, but he's
      certainly a little more macho than Poirot, the fussy Belgian, or
      Nero Wolfe, the American couch potato sleuth.

      Chan began to evolve in a less favorable direction after the movies
      began to grind out films about him in the early 1930s, starting
      with "Charlie Chan Carries On," starring Swedish-born Warner Oland
      as Chan. That film and three more of the earliest Oland films are
      now considered lost, but "The Black Camel" (1931), based on one of
      Biggers' better Chan novels, still survives. In that film, set in
      Honolulu, Chan is trying to solve a murder on the set of a movie
      filming on location in Hawaii. Chan is astute and still resembles
      the Charlie of the novels.

      But Fox began to dream up its own stories after Biggers' death and
      in "Charlie Chan in Paris" (1935), the first "No. 1 son" character
      was added in the person of Chinese-American actor Keye Luke. The
      character became very popular and helped push the Chan films toward
      developing a strong humor element that almost never let up.

      Before he died, Keye Luke told me he was aware many Asians didn't
      like the idea of a Swede playing the Chinese detective, especially
      since all his children were played by authentic Asians. However,
      Luke didn't resent the casting nor did he feel the films were
      racist. He felt they may have been a bit naive, but were worthy
      films that presented a Chinese-American hero at a time when there
      were no others on screen--and gave lots of Asian-American actors
      like himself careers in Hollywood.

      (Luke had one special claim to fame in that regard: When Boris
      Karloff left his starring role in the Monogram "Mr.Wong" detective
      series, Luke stepped in and played the Chinese detective in "Phantom
      of Chinatown" (1941), the final film in the series.)

      Warner Oland died in 1937 and the part passed to another Caucasian,
      Sidney Toler, in 1938. When Fox dropped the series and it was picked
      up by lolw-budget Monogram, Toler continued to play Chan, but bug-
      eyed black comic Mantan Moreland ("Feet, don't fail me now!) was
      added as valet Birmingham Brown. The films that followed were not
      very racially sensitive and probably created most of the negative
      vibes about the Chan films that finally began to surface in the
      1950s. Another Caucasian, Roland Winters, took over the role in 1947
      and finished out the original series with "The Sky Dragon" in 1949.

      By that time, Charlie Chan had become nearly a stooge for broad
      comedy players, hardly ever spent any time in his home port of
      Honolulu and had succumbed to an avalanche of cliches, including
      the "roundup" of suspects for Chan's disclosure of the real killer
      in the final reel.

      I don't miss those threadbare Chan films, but I do think mystery
      fans are being deprived of the presence of one of the past century's
      greatest detective characters. A smart producer would find a
      charismatic Chinese actor to play a politically correct Charlie
      Chan, who might go back to the basics that originally appealed to
      Earl Derr Biggers when he read about Chang Apana.

      Can you imagine what it must have been like to rise to prominence as
      a Chinese police detective of great renown in 1920s Honolulu, that
      melting pot of the Pacific? What an exciting story that might be in
      the right hands! What an amazing turnaround that might be for the
      now sadly diminished reputation of the immortal Charlie Chan.



      Earl Derr Biggers was born in Warren, Ohio on August 24, 1884. Years
      later, while attending Harvard University, Biggers showed little
      passion for the classics, preferring instead writers such as Rudyard
      Kipling and Richard Harding Davis.

      Following his graduation from Harvard in 1907, he worked briefly for
      the 'Cleveland Plain Dealer' and at Bobbs-Merrill publishers. By
      1908, Biggers was hired at the 'Boston Traveler' to write a daily
      humor column. Soon, however, he became that paper's drama critic.
      It was at this time that he met Elanor Ladd, who would later become
      his wife and who would have a marked influence in his writing.

      Biggers' blunt drama reviews offended many, and when the 'Boston
      Traveler' was purchased by new owners his days at the publication
      were numbered, and by 1912, he was fired. This apparent setback
      afforded Biggers the opportunity to write his first novel, "Seven
      Keys to Baldpate" which was published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1913. The
      book was very well received, resulting in his gaining a national
      recognition as a writer.

      The inevitable financial rewards of his success allowed he and
      Elanor to marry. George M. Cohan bought the dramatic rights to the
      book and produced a Broadway play that enjoyed a lengthy run. The
      popularity of Biggers' first novel was to continue through five
      different film versions spanning thirty years. His next books, "Love
      Insurance" (1914) and "The Agony Column" (1916) continued his
      success as a novelist. "Love Insurance" led to another popular
      play, "See-Saw."

      It was during this time that Biggers became increasingly involved
      with stage productions. However, the workload demanded of a
      successful playwright began to drain the author physically. In need
      of an escape to a more temperate climate Biggers and Elanor visited
      Hawaii in 1919 for sun and relaxation. It was while on vacation in
      Honolulu that the seeds were planted in the mind of Earl Derr
      Biggers for a new kind of hero.

      A Honolulu newspaper article about Chinese detectives Chang Apana
      and Lee Fook would later inspire Biggers to pen the adventures of a
      character that was very unique to American mystery readers in the
      1920s: a Chinese detective. The idea of a Chinese character that
      would be portrayed in a very positive light was a major departure
      from the prevailing attitude of the time.

      Biggers later stated, "I had seen movies depicting and read stories
      about Chinatown and wicked Chinese villains, and it struck me that a
      Chinese hero, trustworthy, benevolent, and philosophical, would come
      nearer to presenting a correct portrayal of the race." On January
      24, 1925, 'The Saturday Evening Post' carried the first installment
      of "The House Without a Key," a story that was soon published by
      Bobbs-Merrill as a hard cover novel.

      In this book, detective Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police
      Department works to solve a murder committed at a beach house in
      Honolulu. In this novel, John Quincy Winterslip, a young Bostonian
      (recalling, no doubt, Biggers' earlier years in that city) provides
      the romantic interest for the daughter of a prime suspect, as well
      as investigative assistance to Mr. Chan.

      The enthusiastic public reception of Charlie Chan led Biggers to
      move with his wife to Pasadena, California to enjoy the warm
      climate and to write the next Charlie Chan story, "The Chinese
      Parrot." The eager reception of this novel by the public
      prompted 'The Saturday Evening Post' to pay Biggers $25,000 for a
      serialized version of his third Charlie Chan story, "Behind That

      The first two stories had been made into silent movies, and in 1929,
      Fox Film Corporation paid the writer a handsome sum for the rights
      to the third Chan novel. Biggers became fearful that the immense
      popularity of the Chinese detective would make it virtually
      impossible for him to write any other types of stories.

      In 1929, as Biggers was contemplating a non-Chan novel, the stock
      market crashed. The uncertainties of the economy dictated that he go
      with a proven product. The result was "The Black Camel," his fourth
      Charlie Chan story. After the publication of this book, Biggers
      returned to Honolulu where he met Chang Apana, presenting him with
      an autographed copy.

      In 1930, Bobs-Merrill released Biggers' fifth Chan novel, "Charlie
      Chan Carries On." As they had with "Behind That Curtain," Fox bought
      the rights to this story as well. Unlike the previous movie, this
      film would prominently feature the Chinese detective, casting Warner
      Oland in the role. The film, released in 1931, was an immediate
      success, prompting Fox to purchase the rights to "The Black Camel"
      which opened only four months later, continuing the on-screen
      success of Charlie Chan.

      "The Keeper of the Keys" (1932), the sixth Charlie Chan story, would
      be Biggers' final novel. Oddly, although this story was to make it
      to the stage, it would not be made into a movie. The play opened on
      October 18, 1933, closing early the next month. While the rather
      short run of this stage version of Biggers' book may have been a
      reason that Fox did not buy the rights, Biggers did see the studio
      make "Charlie Chan's Chance" (1932), which was loosely based
      on "Behind That Curtain."

      Earl Derr Biggers died of a heart attack on April 5, 1933. Warner
      Oland, who, interestingly, had never met Biggers, expressed his
      sincere regret at the passing of the writer who brought Charlie
      Chan to life. Biggers' six Charlie Chan novels have continued to
      hold their own amongst mystery lore for several generations, and the
      exploits Earl Derr Biggers' famous Chinese detective will doubtless
      continue to grip the imaginations of mystery movie enthusiasts for
      many years to come.


      Honolulu arrests were `cheap' back in 1904
      Sheriffs could jail you for being 'supposed insane' or for being
      a 'gross cheat'
      By Jaymes K. Song

      If you ever drank beer on Sunday, were "supposed insane" or were
      a "gross cheat," you would have been sent to jail in 1904.

      Those are among the thousands of arrests Honolulu "sheriffs" made
      that year, according to an arrest book recently discovered in the
      state Archives.

      Other offenses include "highway robbery, peddling fish, straggling,
      deserter, violating the Sabbath and disturbing the quiet of night."

      "Imagine what we could do today," said officer Eddie Croom, the
      Honolulu Police Department's museum curator. "It would be nice and
      peaceful, but the jails would be definitely crowded."

      The book, about 2 feet tall and wide, 300 pages thick, bound by a
      rotting wooden cover, was given to the HPD museum this month. It is
      the oldest arrest record the department owns. The next oldest book
      was dated 1927.

      Some recorded offenses also listed the bail. For $25 you could get
      bailed out for assault and battery; $10 for gambling; $6 for
      drunkenness, $5 for "supposed insane." For murder, you were
      just "sent to jail."

      A lot less information was recorded then. No age, address,
      identifying number or arrest location were needed. Neither were
      fingerprints or mug shots.

      Croom described the time as "very straightforward, with no rules and
      regulations and no reports to write."

      In some entries, there wasn't even a name.
      On July 23, 1904, a man was arrested for being "supposed insane."
      His name was listed as "an insane Japanese from South Hilo." His
      disposition: "sent to an asylum."

      "People didn't carry ID cards," Croom said. "They would say, 'My
      name is John,' and they would say, 'OK, John.' "

      "No drivers license, no ID card. The immigrants might have
      passports, but it was nothing like today."

      One thing that was always listed next to each arrest was
      nationality. Some of the ethnicities were Chinese, Hawaiian,
      Portuguese, German, English, Colored, Irish, Puerto Rican,
      and "American."

      "There were a cross-section of law breakers here," Croom
      said. "Interesting to see 'American' was a foreigner here."

      The book may not be the most eye-catching, but it is one of Croom's
      favorites for its history.

      The book also confirms the casework of HPD's most famous officer:
      Chang Apana.

      Officer Apana, whose life was the basis for the character "Charlie
      Chan," made hundreds of arrests, including 40 men in one day for

      More incredibly, Apana made the arrests without a gun. He is the
      only authorized officer in HPD history to carry a whip instead of a

      "He didn't like guns," Croom said. "He preferred the whip because he
      was a paniolo before becoming a police officer. That's what he was
      familiar with."

      According to Croom, Apana specialized in vice-type crimes such as

      The book also shows one suspect, Kuwataro Kuwahara, arrested on Aug.
      9, 1904, for assaulting Apana.

      That might confirm the stories about Apana getting into fights
      regardless of his small stature, Croom said. He was stabbed and
      faced guys who were bigger, but he always seemed to get them in the

      "There was quite a bit of info we had on Chang Apana," he
      added. "But we had no documented information he was involved in
      cases. The arrest log showed cases he worked on."


      Number-One Detective
      story by Deborah Gushman
      art by Alex Preiss

      Six months ago, everything I knew about Charlie Chan could have fit
      on a Post-It, with plenty of room left over. Chinese super-detective
      from Honolulu ... featured in numerous books and films ... given to
      spouting cryptic Confucian proverbs ... assisted by various sons,
      who were identified not by name but by number ... wore a black
      bowler hat (or was I confusing him with Oddjob in Goldfinger?). At
      any rate, that was the full extent of my knowledge of Chanology:
      random snippets gleaned by cultural osmosis.
      And then one day recently I happened to turn over the menu at the
      Halekulani Hotel's lovely, historic alfresco restaurant, House
      Without a Key, and was fascinated to read that the famous fictional
      detective had been inspired by the larger-than-life heroics of an
      actual Honolulu police officer. According to the mini-history on the
      back of the menu, Chan's creator, Earl Derr Biggers (a Harvard
      graduate and former Boston newspaperman), came up with the idea for
      the series while staying in a nearby Halekulani cottage in 1919. His
      first Charlie Chan mystery, The House Without a Key (1925), was the
      source of the restaurant's name, which conjures up visions of
      Waikiki back in the halcyon days of unlocked doors, luxury steamers
      and a skyline dominated by palm trees.

      "Many believe the character [of Charlie Chan] was based on Chang
      Apana, a real-life Chinese detective on the Honolulu police force in
      the '20s," the menu went on. Intrigued, I paid a visit the following
      day to the Honolulu Law Enforcement Museum at HPD headquarters on
      Beretania Street. Luckily for me, the museum's erudite founder and
      curator, retired officer Eddie Croom, was on hand, and he turned out
      to be the man who wrote the book, so to speak, on Chang Apana. (It's
      actually an article, full of information, which can be read on the
      Internet at honolulupd.org/ museum/apana.htm.)

      "There's absolutely no doubt that Chang Apana was the model for
      Charlie Chan," Croom told me. "Everything matches—birthdates and so
      on—and Biggers sent Apana a copy of every Charlie Chan novel that
      was published. He also tried to persuade Apana to make an appearance
      in some Charlie Chan movies, but Apana didn't want to leave the

      Although the parallels seemed obvious, it wasn't until the end of
      his life that Biggers finally acknowledged that Chang Apana had
      indeed been the model for Charlie Chan. Not the exact model, by any
      means; Apana was 5'3" and weighed 145 pounds, with a thin, austere-
      looking face, while his fictional counterpart was portly and chubby-

      One of the most dramatic exhibits in the Police Museum is the actual
      weapon that Chang Apana used in his exploits, including one
      Chinatown raid in which he single-handedly arrested seventy gamblers
      when his backup failed to appear in time. That weapon wasn't a gun
      or a billy-club, but a braided leather horsewhip—a legacy of Apana's
      days as a Big Island paniolo (cowboy). "Chang hated guns and refused
      to carry one," Croom explained. "So the Police Department wrote a
      new directive allowing him to carry any weapon he chose."

      According to Croom, Apana was smart (though probably not as cerebral
      as the philosophical Charlie Chan) but also very physical. To wit:
      In the course of duty Apana was stabbed six times, thrown out a
      second-story window, run over by a horse-and-buggy, attacked with
      sickles and hit with an ax handle. In every one of those cases, the
      wounded Apana still managed to make the arrests.

      Born in 1871, Chang Apana died in 1933, and was buried in the Manoa
      Chinese Cemetery. I went looking for the grave late one windy
      afternoon, with offerings of a mooncake and some day-old poi in
      hand, but it's a vast cemetery, and I wasn't able to find Officer
      Apana's resting place before darkness fell. One of these days, I
      plan to try again.

      In the meantime, I am systematically reading my way through the
      entire Charlie Chan collection, and have discovered that the novels,
      despite their decidedly dated political incorrectness, are
      ingeniously plotted, humorously written, and filled with nostalgic
      details that will delight anyone who loves the Islands. Charlie Chan
      lives, as the graffiti-writers say. And so does Chang Apana.


      `Charlie Chan' isle's
      toughest crime fighter
      By Jaymes K. Song

      Detective Chang Apana was the island's most-feared crime fighter for
      more than 30 years.

      From 1898 to 1932, he made hundreds of arrests on Oahu and busted
      several drug and gambling circles. His work and life was the basis
      for the character "Charlie Chan."

      Apana sometimes made 40 arrests in one day without a firearm,
      according to police records.

      The detective stood 5 feet and carried a whip instead of a gun. He
      didn't like firearms and was handy with the whip, a skill he learned
      from his days as a paniolo, said police museum curator Eddie Croom.

      The fast-walking, cigarette-smoking, Panama hat-wearing sleuth spoke
      fluent Cantonese, Hawaiian and pidgin English. But he could only
      read and write Hawaiian.

      According to news reports, he was born in Waipio to a Chinese
      immigrant family. They all moved back to China three years after he
      was born, but Apana returned to Oahu when he was 10. He was raised
      by his uncle and became skilled at tending horses.

      Apana joined the Honolulu Police Department in 1898 and quickly
      became its most prolific officer. His Chinese ancestry, undercover
      skills and determination to complete an unsolved case allowed him to
      crack into Oahu's most notorious opium-smuggling and gambling

      He died in 1933, one year after retiring from the force, and was
      buried at Manoa Chinese Cemetery. Apana had 10 children and married
      three times.

      Author Earl Derr Biggers met Apana while vacationing in Waikiki and
      created the character Charlie Chan in 1925. Biggers was so impressed
      by Apana that he wrote several novels, including "House Without a
      Key," which eventually led to Charlie Chan movies acted by Warner
      Oland and Sidney Polar.


      Chang Apana
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      Chang Apana (December 26, 1871-1933) was a Chinese-Hawaiian police
      officer in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the officially-
      acknowledged 'inspiration' for the fictional Asian detective
      character, 'Charlie Chan', first introduced in 1925 in the mystery
      novel, "House without a Key".

      Ah Ping Chang was born in Waipio, Oahu, Hawaii. Ah Ping Chang's
      family moved back to China when he was only three, but Chang
      returned at the age of ten to live with his uncle in Waipio. As an
      adult, Chang was literate in Hawaiian, and knew 'Pidgin' English and
      Chinese as well. In his youth, he worked as a 'cowboy', starting in
      1891. Three years later, Chang started working for the Hawaii Humane
      Society, founded by Helen K. Wilder, the owner of the horses that
      Chang handled professionally.

      In 1898, Chang joined the Honolulu Police Department. Instead of a
      gun, Apana carried a horsewhip, (like 'Indiana Jones'). In his early
      years as a detective, beginning in 1916, Chang worked against opium-
      smuggling and illegal gambling. Due in part to his 'fluency' in
      several languages, his 'wide network of informants' and because of
      his 'shrewd and meticulous' detective style, Chang was successful in
      solving many cases. Over the years, he received a number of scars to
      his face, fighting with criminals. He also became famous for his
      whip, Panama hat and cigars. He was married three times.

      Chang's Chinese 'Connection' with Charlie Chan
      The writer, Earl Derr Biggers, 1884-1933, was vacationing in Hawaii
      when he read about the exploits of 'Chang Apana' in the local
      newspapers (Apana is the Hawaiianized version of his Chinese name Ah
      Ping). 'Inspiration' came to the writer, and the impetus for the
      popular mystery detective, 'Charlie Chan', had been brought to life.
      In 1925, the first Charlie Chan novel was published. The character
      quickly became popular. After five more novels, Earl Der Biggers
      publicly acknowledged that Chang had been the 'inspiration' for his
      character, in a letter to the 'Honolulu Advertiser', dated June 28,

      Items in Common Between 'Chang Apana' and 'Charlie Chan'
      both Chang and Charlie Chan had a daughter named 'Rose'
      both were about the same age
      both Chang and Charlie Chan had lived in the 'Punchbowl' (Punchbowl
      Crater) area of Honolulu
      both were of Chinese descent

      Chang's Retirement and Death
      After 34 years of service, 'Apana' had to retire in May 1932 as a
      detective when he was injured in a car accident. He briefly worked
      as a watchman for the Hawaiian Trust building. He died the next year
      (the same year as the 'Charlie Chan' author) in December 8, after a
      long illness. 'Chang Apana' is buried at the Manoa Chinese cemetery
      in Honolulu.


      The 'Real Life' Charlie Chan

      The prototype of the fictional Charlie Chan was Chang Apana,
      Honolulu detective who died in December, 1933.

      Mr. Apana's own interesting real life career was added to by
      legend. Most published sources say he was born in China and came to
      Hawaii with an uncle at the age of 7. His uncle died soon after and
      Mr. Apana was taken into a Hawaiian home in Waipio, Oahu.

      When he was 27, he came to make his home with the Wilder family at
      Eskbank as their hostler, then went to Waimea, Hawaii, returning to
      Honolulu to become a humane officer, under jurisdiction of the
      Police Department. He worked his way up to the rank of Detective
      and was pensioned in May, 1932 after 35 years of service.

      A FADING clipping from a newspaper of 1932 says that Chang Apana
      never did go to the school - "with the result that he neither reads
      nor writes the English or Chinese language. But he is smart and
      that handicap did not keep him from being one of the best known men
      on the police force." (He did read the Hawaiian language and spoke
      both Chinese and Hawaiian fluently.)

      Old files do not fully confirm the widely accepted premise that
      he "inspired" Earl Derr Biggers in creating a fictitional Honolulu

      A letter from Helen K. Wilder, published in 1936, said that Apana
      told her that Biggers had "promised to give him a check for $500 for
      the use of his name in The House Without a Key, the best known (and
      earliest) Chan mystery story."

      A letter from Chester A. Doyle contends that Biggers once asked him
      about the book character and Doyle told him it was "the bunk,"
      saying that no Chinese, unless he was a well educated mandarin,
      would use the language attributed to Chan.

      He continues: "Biggers said, 'You are right. I made a great
      mistake.' And he was embarrassed and chagrined and from then on
      denied that Apana was Charlie Chan."

      A news article about Mr. Apana, published in 1932, asserted that the
      Honolulan "was offered four years ago $500 a week to act in motion
      pictures in Hollywood...at the recommendation of Earl Derr
      Biggers." He became ill when he "was about to accept the offer,

      THE EVIDENCE seems to support those who say that Mr. Apana was the
      prototype for Charlie Chan.

      Ripley Allen, editor of the Star-Bulletin, has direct testimony to
      this effect. Says he:

      "Earl Derr Biggers came out here about 25 years ago and was
      perfectly frank about the origin of Charlie chan. Mr. Biggers told
      me that he had been out here a good many years earlier and spent
      several weeks on vacation. He lived at Waikiki at what was then
      Gray's boarding house, or a cottage nearby - he could not be exactly
      sure which.

      "He had read and scooped up a lot of Hawaiian atmosphere and,
      already a fiction writer, must have stored in his lively fertile
      brain much material, perhaps quite unconsciously, that was to serve
      him later very well.

      "Three years or so after that, he was on the Mainland, picked up a
      copy of The Star-Bulletin and read a nes story describing some feat
      of detective work that Chang Apana had achieved.

      "Then and there, Biggers frankly told me, was born the idea
      of 'Charlie Chan.'

      "He said also that when he told of The House Without a Key, he had
      no particular house at Waikiki in mind. At that time - that long
      ago and relatively innocent time, most houses at Waikiki were
      unlocked all the time. In fact it was a job to find a door key.

      "So I think it quite fair to say that Chang Apana - a chap I knew
      well - was the prototype for Chan."

      As far as the movies are concerned, all Chan films from 1932 on to
      their demise in 1949 were original screen plays, written in
      Hollywood, simply using the basic character created by Earl Derr

      If you saw some of the latter [sic] low-budget films and thought
      they were mediocre (and several were), don't blame it on Earl Derr
      Biggers - or Charlie Chan - or Chang Apana!


      Black Camel Kneels At Home of Chang Apana

      Chang Apana, former Honolulu detective and prototype of the
      character "Charlie Chan" in the mystery novels of the late Earl Derr
      Biggers, died in the Queen's hospital at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

      Mr. Chang was seriously ill for about a month and was admitted to
      the hospital on December 2. His left leg was amputated Thursday and
      two members of the Honolulu police department, Capt. En You Kau of
      the patrol division and Detective Thomas Quinn, gave their blood for
      transfusions. Officer Roger Whitmarsh also offered his blood and
      was prepared to undergo a transfusion.

      Serving longer than anyone else on the local police force, Mr. Chang
      was one of the most picturesque and best known characters in the
      city. His achievements reached the attention of Earl Derr Biggers
      before the novelist visited the islands and some of them were worked
      into "The House Without a Key." Later, when Mr. Biggers came here
      for a visit, he and Mr. Chang became friends and the writer created
      the detective character "Charlie Chan" as a result.

      Mr. Chang joined the police department when the city and county was
      incorporated 35 years ago and was one of its most popular members
      until he was pensioned in May, 1932, after he had been seriously
      injured in an automobile accident. After that, he was employed as a
      watchman for the Hawaiian Trust building until his illness.

      "He was the greatest person I have ever known," was the tribute of
      Capt. En You Kau when he learned of his friend's death. They had
      worked together for about 29 years. Other veteran officers tell
      stories of his feats of daring, especially relating to the early
      days of Chinese immigration to the islands when there was much opium
      smuggling. They say he never lost his courage, although knifed and
      beaten many times.

      Born at Waipio, Oahu, Mr. Chang was 64 years of age. He is survived
      by his widow, Mrs. Annie Lee Kwai Apana; eight children, Annie,
      Rose, Margaret, Cecelia and Alexander, and, by a former marriage,
      Mrs. Helen Meheula, Victoria Apana and Samuel Apana; 10
      grandchildren, and a brother, Chang Kwock.

      Arrangements for the funeral, which will be at the Nuuanu mortuary,
      had not been completed this morning.
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