[[caption-width-right:247:Excuse, please... When death enters window, no time for life to go by door.]]

Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese-American detective created by Earl Derr Biggers. Biggers had been vacationing in UsefulNotes/{{Hawaii}} in 1919, when he read a newspaper account of a Chinese-American detective, Chang Apana, connected with the Honolulu Police Department. Fascinated by the idea of an Oriental hero as a contrast to the ubiquitous YellowPeril villains of the period, Biggers included an Oriental detective named Chan as a peripheral character in his novel ''House Without a Key'' (1925). In the 1926 novel ''The Chinese Parrot'', Chan took center stage, and his successful adventures spanned four more Biggers novels: ''Behind the Curtain'' (1928), ''The Black Camel'' (1929), ''Charlie Chan Carries On'' (1930) and ''Keeper of the Keys'' (1932).

The character's most familiar portrayals, however, were in a series of nearly 50 films. By the time of Biggers' death in 1933, all but the last of the novels had been adapted for film (the last was adapted for the New York stage). Contrary to popular belief, Chan ''was'' portrayed by Asian actors in his earliest appearances -- but not Chinese: The Japanese actors George Kuwa and Sôjin played the detective in his first two films, and E.L. Park, probably a Korean, in his third. None of these portrayals was deemed particularly successful, either by Biggers or by the public.

It was, oddly, a Swede, Warner Oland, who became in the opinion of Biggers and of most fans the ideal embodiment of the character. (Oland had already played Literature/FuManchu in the movies, and always claimed to be of Mongolian descent himself; he would continue to be in demand throughout the Thirties to play various Asian characters, such as Dr. Yogami in 1935's ''Film/WerewolfOfLondon''.) Oland played the detective in a series of 15 films for TwentiethCenturyFox, starting with ''Charlie Chan Carries On'' (1931), though many fans believe that his characterization really hit its stride in ''Charlie Chan in London'' (1934). Here Charlie assumed his archetypical form: the unassuming, heavily accented but brilliant detective, spouting pseudo-Oriental aphorisms (a {{Flanderization}} which Biggers himself cordially disliked), kindly and devoted to his fractious and multifarious family, and often having to endure the feckless co-detecting effort of his thoroughly Americanized Number One Son, Lee, or others of the clan. Chan became a globe-trotter: He rarely remained home in Honolulu, but appeared against a number of glamorous and exotic backgrounds: at the racetrack, at the opera, on Broadway, in London, in Paris, in the Pyramids of Egypt, at the 1936 Berlin UsefulNotes/OlympicGames. By the time of Oland's death in 1938, Charlie Chan was one of Fox's most popular and successful film series.

So popular was he, in fact, that the studio refused to let the character die with the actor, and so the Missouri-born Sidney Toler took up the role in 1938's ''Charlie Chan in Honolulu''. His Chan was slightly more acerbic than Oland's, and he was much given to ridiculing the efforts of his Number Two Son, Jimmy (or sometimes Tommy) Chan (Victor Sen Yung). After 11 films, [[TwentiethCenturyFox Fox]] decided to end production of the Chan series, whereupon Toler bought the rights to the character, and proceeded to make another 11 films, with [[Creator/AlliedArtists Monogram Pictures]], until his death in 1947.

Bostonian Roland Winters (born Winternitz) took up the part in 1947's ''The Chinese Ring''. By now it was apparent that Monogram was determined to [[CashCowFranchise milk the franchise]] [[FranchiseZombie for all it was worth]], with little regard to quality.

An attempt to transfer the character to television in the person of J. Carroll Naish was made in ''The New Adventures of Charlie Chan'' (1958) with moderate success.

In Creator/HannaBarbera's 1972 AnimatedAdaptation, ''WesternAnimation/TheAmazingChanAndTheChanClan'', Mr. Chan was portrayed for the first time by an actor actually of Chinese descent: Keye Luke, who had played Number One Son Lee Chan in the Oland series of films, and who was later well known as "Blind Master Po" from the popular ''KungFu'' series of the 1970s.

A pair of [[AffectionateParody Affectionate Parodies]] appeared as ''The Return of Charlie Chan'' (aka ''Happiness Is a Warm Clue'') (1973) and ''Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen'' (1981), in which Chan was played by Ross Martin and Peter Ustinov, respectively. (A [[CaptainErsatz Chan-based character]] was also played by Creator/PeterSellers in the 1979 omnibus mystery spoof, ''Film/MurderByDeath''.)

In the 1990s, a number of Charlie Chan films were produced in Hong Kong by Chinese production companies. An Italian Chan appeared in 1983. There was talk in the 2000s about a screen adaptation starring Creator/LucyLiu as the granddaughter of the famous detective, but it never came to pass.

!!Tropes Associated With This Character Include:

* AlliterativeName
* AnimatedAdaptation: Not only the 1972 Creator/HannaBarbera [[WesternAnimation/TheAmazingChanAndTheChanClan series]], but also the 1970 {{Creator/Filmation}} series (''See'' LawyerFriendlyCameo'', below.'')
* AsianSpeekeeEngrish: {{Averted}} for Charlie. Any Chinese in the books more elderly, however...
* BusmansHoliday: Frequently {{lampshaded}} for ''The Chinese Parrot'' and ''Behind That Curtain''. The latter being an ImmediateSequel for the former, Charlie's especially anxious to get home. At the end of ''Behind That Curtain'', somebody rushes in, saying there's just been a very unusual murder. When they try to find Charlie, they find [[ScrewThisImOuttaHere he's just gone out the fire escape]].
* CatchPhrase: Warner Oland's Chan often said, "Thank you so much." Sidney Toler favored, "Excuse, please," and "Contradiction, please."
* CharacterCelebrityEndorsement: In 1935, Warner Oland appeared as Charlie Chan in a short subject to urge the voters of Pennsylvania to vote to allow Sunday showing of motion pictures: "Humble self very much puzzled why one man may play golf game on Sunday and other man cannot see Charlie Chan bring criminal to justice on same day."
* ComicBookAdaptation: Several:
** First, as a NewspaperComic that ran from 1938-42 (it was cancelled because the white readers didn't want an Asian in the funnies... even though during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII the Chinese were on the Allied side).
** Then, with now-defunct ComicBook publisher ''Prize Comics'', drawn by none other than Creator/JackKirby and Joe Simon, otherwise known as the creators of ComicBook/CaptainAmerica. When Prize lost the license, the series transferred to ComicBook/CharltonComics, continuing the same numbering.
** The numbering and the title changed when Creator/DCComics got their hands on Chan and his Number One Son: ''The New Adventures of Charlie Chan'' lasted for six issues, the longest consecutive run for any publisher handling the license.
** Creator/DellComics managed two issues; Creator/GoldKeyComics did a 4-issue tie-in to ''WesternAnimation/TheAmazingChanAndTheChanClan''.
* CoolCar[=/=]TransformingMecha: The Creator/HannaBarbera cartoon featured "the Chan Van", a vehicle which could transform itself into various modes of transportation from van to station wagon to sports car, ''etc.'', at the push of a button. (It makes one mildly uncomfortable to recall that it shared this trait with WesternAnimation/HongKongPhooey's Phooeymobile, though the canine crime-fighter used a gong to trigger the change.)
** In the books, Charlie's car was always described as a "flivver", which was TheRoaringTwenties' way of saying "WhatAPieceOfJunk".
* {{Crossover}}: a partial example with Creator/PeterLorre's similar character, the Japanese secret agent Mr. Moto. ''Mr. Moto's Gamble'' was originally intended to be a Charlie Chan movie, after Werner Oland died partway through filming, the script was [[DolledUpInstallment hastily rewritten]] as a Moto vehicle. As a result, Chan's Number One Son appears in a supporting role as a student of Mr. Moto, desperately seeking education as a detective in order to please his father (who is never referred to by name).
* DivorceInReno: In ''Charlie Chan in Reno'', Charlie's son when he hears his dad is going to Reno--actually to consult the Reno Police on a case--is asked by fellow students if his parents are getting a divorce.
* DrinkOrder: Charlie likes his sarsaparilla (a nonalcoholic root beer-like drink).
* TheExoticDetective: Biggers was first attracted to the character by the exotic quality both of his Honolulu setting and of what was then considered the paradoxical contrast of a ''non''-"Sinister Chinaman".
* {{Flanderization}}: Probably the best-remembered characteristic of the detective is his use of pithy "Oriental" aphorisms -- a trait which comes directly from the Warner Oland [[FilmOfTheBook Filmic Adaptations]], and which were the only aspect of those adaptations that ''Biggers himself disliked''.
* GoodHairEvilHair: Averted. Charlie's Genghis Khan moustache and (optional) beard, usually reserved for villains, are here merely signs of ethnicity.
* GrandeDame: Henrietta Lowell in "Charlie Chan's Secret", and surprisingly, she's also a CoolOldLady.
* HurricaneOfAphorisms: Charlie always speaks like this.
* InvisibleWriting: One mystery ''Charlie Chan in Shanghai'' has some writing on a piece of linen. The glyphs appear to be Chinese, but Chan declares them as gibberish. He then points out that, despite plenty of writing paper available, the marks were made on cloth. Chan rinses the linen in a bowl of water, which washes away some of the ink, but leaves the true message in broken Roman letters intact.
* LawyerFriendlyCameo: Charlie Chan-type characters show up in a number of works, usually as [[AffectionateParody affectionate parodies]]. For instance:
** In two episodes of ''Series/GetSmart'', Joey Foreman played a Charlie Chan {{Expy}}, a Chinese-Hawaiian detective named Harry Hoo.
** In 1970 {{Creator/Filmation}}'s ''Will the Real Creator/JerryLewis Please Sit Down?'' featured a [[Creator/JerryLewis Jerry]]-ized version of Chan, Flewis Lewis (and his One-Ton Son), both ''ghastly'' [[EthnicScrappy Ethnic Scrappies]].
** In the 1979 film ''Film/MurderByDeath'', Peter Sellers plays a Chan-type sleuth named Sydney Wang.
* TheLestrade: Charlie usually has to deal with one of these, especially when he's [[JurisdictionFriction working on a case outside of Honolulu]]. However, as a fellow lawman, he understands what they're going through, and always defers to their judgment, such as in ''Keeper of the Keys''. On the other, he's not too unwilling to point out that the NobleBigotWithABadge isn't ''quite'' so noble after all...
* MagicianDetective: Charlie Chan has to combine his detective skills with a magician friend's talents in ''Charlie Chan at Treasure Island''.
* ManInWhite: Charlie often, though by no means always, dresses in a white linen suit with his iconic [[NiceHat Panama hat]].
* {{Nephewism}}: Averted. When sidekicks were added to the movies, they were his sons.
* {{Nepotism}}: Charlie's sons work with him.
* NiceHat: Chan invariably wears a Panama hat with a broad brim and rounded crown.
* NoSwastikas: An early example of this appeared in 1936's ''Franchise/CharlieChan at the Olympics'', which were, of course, held in [[UsefulNotes/NaziGermany Berlin]] that year; all the numerous swastikas that appear (including on the ''Hindenburg'') are carefully [[{{Pixellation}} blotted out]].
* ObfuscatingStupidity: Charlie Chan is a master of this trope, often playing up his "foreignness" so people underestimate him.
* PoliceAreUseless: Averted in ''House without a Key''. Charlie Chan himself is a member of Honolula police force, and his colleagues play a prominent role in solving the crime.
* ProverbialWisdom: Chan is a smart detective with a definite aura of "oriental wisdom" around him (including, most notably, speaking in Eastern proverbs and aphorisms).
* PublicDomain: All six books, the comics, the radio plays and most of the movies; check Wiki/TheOtherWiki for more details.
* RecursiveCanon: The climax of ''Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen'' takes place in an old movie theatre holding a Charlie Chan movie festival. When the ChaseScene between the heroes and the killer leads onto the stage, the audience assumes it's AllPartOfTheShow.
* RippedFromTheHeadlines: Chan was loosely based on real-life Honolulu police detective Chang Apana.
* TheShelfOfMovieLanguishment: The MadeForTVMovie ''Happiness Is A Warm Clue'' was shot in 1970, but had its premiere on British television in 1973... and didn't get shown on American TV until ''1979''.
* ShoutOut:
** In ''Charlie Chan in Shanghai'', Oland sings a song making reference to "the Emperor Literature/FuManchu", a part he had [[ActorAllusion played himself]] in previous films. In the same film he asks son Lee Chan (Keye Luke) whether he is selling "Oil for the Lamps of China" -- the title of a popular TwentiethCenturyFox film in which Luke had just appeared.
** A CaptainErsatz version of Chan twice appeared in the form of "Harry Hoo" (Joey Forman) on ''Series/GetSmart''.
* StartToCorpse: Generally pretty short.
* TheTeetotaler: Charlie Chan is a teetotaler, but in a bit of double irony he is no fan of a SpotOfTea; he prefers sarsaparilla (a nonalcoholic root beer-like drink).
* TitleDrop: Happened in most of the books:
-->A bird of that sort will repeat anything it hears. So Tony rattles along in two languages. A regular linguist. The ranchers round here call him '''the Chinese parrot'''.
-->Chan gravely regarded the man from Scotland Yard. "It is not to be amazed at," he said, "that you have felt such deep interest. Speaking humbly for myself, I desire with unlimited yearning to look '''behind that curtain''' of which you speak."
-->Charlie shrugged. "Time to be philosophical," he suggested. "You have perhaps heard old Eastern saying. 'Death is '''the black camel''' that kneels unbid at every gate.' Sooner or later--does it matter which?"
-->"He was your loyal servant. You knew that he would protect you as he had protected you from your childhood. He was your '''keeper of the keys'''."
* TheWatson: Several of these have popped up; his sons took up the role in TheMovies, and there was one in almost all of the books.
* {{Yellowface}}: Almost all the adaptions of the books to film, TV, ''etc''.
* YellowPeril: Designed specifically as an aversion.
* YouNoTakeCandle: Excuse, please...humble Chan rarely observe strict English syntax.
** He's more careful with English in the books. Biggers describes him as drawing his English from poetry.
** Interestingly, in both the books and the movies his ''children'' are far more adept with the English language... which Charlie sees [[TheGenerationGap a rejection of the]] GoodOldWays. This is touched on very strongly in chapter 13 of ''The Black Camel'' titled, appropriately enough, ''[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Breakfast With The Chans]]''.