Earl Derr Biggers (Earl Derr Biggers)

Earl Derr Biggers

Mystery Novelist. He created the fictional Chinese detective Charlie Chan. Born in Warren, Ohio, he graduated from Harvard in 1907. His first novel,  “Seven Keys to Baldpate” (1913),  was adapted into a hit Broadway play by George M. Cohan,  and later filmed several times.  With “The House Without a Key” (1925) Biggers introduced Charlie Chan,  who was hailed by critics as “the most appealing supersleuth since Sherlock Holmes”.  Readers agreed,  and five more Chan mysteries followed:  “The Chinese Parrot” (1926),  “Behind That Curtain” (1928),  “The Black Camel” (1929),  “Charlie Chan Carries On” (1930),  and “Keeper of the Keys” (1932).  In 1925 Biggers moved to Pasadena,  California,  with an eye toward selling the screen rights of his books to Hollywood.  He was contemplating a seventh Chan novel when he died of a heart attack at 48. Cremation was at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena,  after which the author’s ashes were scattered in the San Gabriel Mountains.  Charlie Chan is a shrewd Chinese detective on the Honolulu police force.  He solves crimes by assuming that,  if he can understand a man’s character,  he can predict his actions in any given circumstance.  He is also fond of spouting aphorisms like,  “Insignificant molehill sometimes more important than conspicuous mountain”.  Biggers based the character in part on Chang Apana,  a real Chinese policeman who lived in Hawaii.  The Chan books were popular but the cerebral crimefighter really took off as a B movie hero,  with original scripts written by others after Biggers’ death.  Over 40 Charlie Chan films were produced by the Fox and Monogram studios between 1929 and 1949,  with non-Asian actors Warner Oland,  Sidney Toler,  and Roland Winters playing the detective.  These casting decisions,  and Biggers’ naive (though respectful) ideas about the Chinese people in creating the sleuth,  have not gone down well in more “politically correct” times.  In 2003 Fox Movie Channel,  which owns the Chan films,  yielded to pressure from Chinese-American groups and ceased airing them,  much to the dismay of movie buffs.  At the same time the controversy has helped to keep Charlie Chan,  and Earl Derr Biggers’ name,  alive. Both were the subject of a 2010 book, “Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History”. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)


  • August, 24, 1884
  • USA


  • April, 04, 1933
  • USA


  • Cremated

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