The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
CHAN IS MISSING: The Fox Movie Channel
says that it "will discontinue the broadcast of the Charlie Chan mystery films. Originally restored to meet the requests of mystery fans and film preservation buffs, Fox Movie Channel scheduled these films in a showcase intended to illustrate the positive aspects of these movies such as the complex story lines/ characters and Charlie Chan's great intellect....However, Fox Movie Channel has been made aware that the Charlie Chan films may contain situations or depictions that are sensitive to some viewers. Fox Movie Channel realizes that these historic films were produced at a time where racial sensitivities were not as they are today."

By contrast, my favorite cable channel, Turner Classic Movies, broadcasts these films frequently and without excisions. One of them actually had Charlie Chan onscreen with Steppin Fetchit, which I suppose is the racist's equivalent to teaming up Superman with Batman, Dracula with Frankenstein, or Domingo with Pavarotti.

Was it offensive? Yes, but it's also part of our history, and I'm glad it's available to those of us who happen to be interested in the past. Besides, one or two of those movies are actually pretty good, if you can get past the racial stereotyping. I recommend Charlie Chan on Broadway, a surprisingly well-crafted piece of pulp. Don't worry: It isn't the one with Steppin Fetchit.


posted by Jesse 6:20 PM
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