Re: [Videolib] What are we discussing here? RE: Charlie Chan

Christopher Lewis (
Wed, 9 Jul 2003 09:41:19 -0400

Perhaps I was a bit naive to use the word "sensitive" but Jessica referred
to the original incarnation as "well-educated" and "well-spoken" so I made
an assumption. It's unimportant.

Does anyone know which movies were to be shown? An LA Times article
mentioned that Fox had restored "nearly two dozen early Chan films". Maybe
they will now turn up on video which if nothing else will allow me to
become more culturally literate.

Christopher Lewis
Media Librarian/Humanities Collection Manager
American University Library
AIM: congolene

Gary Handman
<ghandman@library.berkeley To:
.edu> cc:
Sent by: Subject: Re: [Videolib] What are we discussing here? RE: Charlie Chan

07/08/2003 05:11 PM
Please respond to videolib

Hey Chris...

Interesting points...I'm not going to second guess Eddie Wong and NAATA,
but my guess is that the issue of a film involving white (a Swede and a guy

from Warrensburg, Missouri! Yow!) actors in yellow-face is a central issue
for, I'd guess that "sensitive light" is purty relative when
we're talking Charlie C.

Nonetheless...I'll personally go to the mat before I see a huge slug of
pre-60's Hollywood pulled from sight because the images offend
SOMEONE! Again, my contention is that context and discussion are key to
dealing with images we'd rather hide than face full-on.

At 04:01 PM 7/8/2003 -0400, you wrote:
>I want to take a step back to Jessica's original posting on this topic. I
>admit that I have not seen a Charlie Chan movie in many years so I yield
>Jessica's knowledge on the topic. From what I understood the movies Fox
>painstakingly restored were from the first series of Charlie Chan films
>released during the 1930s starring Warner Oland. She suggested that she
>didn't consider these films defamatory unlike the series of Charlie Chan
>films that came along in the 1940s starring Sidney Toler. Since my cable
>company doesn't carry Fox Movie Channel, I can't verify what films were
>actually going to be shown.
>I was under the impression that Fox had restored the earlier series and
>film buffs where going to get a chance to see restored copies of several
>films that had been impossible to find either on videotape or on air. The
>distinction between the two series was largely absent in the debate. Since
>many of the earlier films are unavailable, I have to wonder whether NAATA
>knew the difference. Because Eddie Wong's letter to Gary lumps all Charlie
>Chan movies together, it's hard to tell. That is what I am most interested
>in having clarified.
>Without distinguishing the differences in the series, it probably sounds
>like those who signed the petition are defending the airing of any racist
>programming on mainstream TV if the proper historical context is
>established. What I thought I was defending was a lesser-known and
>little-seen Charlie Chan who was already portrayed in a sensitive light
>had been sacrificed to the PC gods for the sins of his ancestor.
>Christopher Lewis
>Media Librarian/Humanities Collection Manager
>American University Library
>AIM: congolene
>Videolib mailing list

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley

"What is cinema? Nothing. What does cinema want? Everything. What can
cinema do? Something."
--Jean-Luc Godard, Histoire(s) du cinema

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