Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937)

*. A movie that’s primarily of historical interest today. Charlie heads off to the 1936 Berlin Olympic — where his son Lee is swimming in the 100 m freestyle race — in order to retrieve a device that allows for the remote radio control of airplanes, effectively turning them into drones.
*. What makes this interesting for viewers today is the way the Nazi swastikas have been crudely painted over in all the shots where they appear. A nice indication of how attitudes toward Germany were hardening. Note that in the film itself the police inspector Strasser is a martinet, but honourable, and that the bad guys are from some unnamed Ruritania (the chief villain is named Zaraka, which is exotically indeterminate). It wouldn’t be until Charlie went up against them in City in Darkness that the Germans would become the enemy (and even then it was a precocious call).
*. But I found lots of other historical footnotes interesting as well. Take the men’s 4×100 m track race. The American team win with a time of 39.8, which was a new world and Olympic record. Did you know that in the 2016 games in Rio the same race was won by Jamaica in 37.27? I would have thought they would have lowered the time by more than that. Today’s runners seem a lot faster.
*. Some curious word use. The remote-control device is called a “robot.” This was a new word, invented by a Czech writer named Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which was published in 1920. By our standards it really doesn’t seem like much of a robot, since it’s just a small box that fits into the plane’s control panel. But I guess if you stretch the definition of “robot” enough it might work.
*. Another word is “filibuster.” One of the characters here is called “a notorious filibuster” because he “made a fortune selling arms to revolutionists in every part of the world.” This is a historical usage of “filibuster,” where it referred to “a person engaging in unauthorized warfare against a foreign country.” I don’t think it’s used that way today. Instead it’s meaning only has reference to a legislative tactic.
*. Explaining how he’s going to get to Berlin from Honolulu Charlie says how he’s going to “take Zeppelin Hindenburg from Lakehurst, New Jersey.” Well, I guess that was better than taking the Hindenburg to Lakehurst, which is where it turned into a fireball just two weeks before this movie was released. Ouch.
*. That’s Katherine DeMille, adopted daughter of Cecil B. playing Yvonne Roland. She was actually born in Vancouver and later married Anthony Quinn. Quite a looker, but I don’t think I’ve seen her in much else.
*. Ironic that the movie begins with Charlie getting a physical. This was nearing the end of the line for Warner Oland, who would die the next year, his body weakened by heavy smoking and alcoholism. He was only 58.
*. That’s all I’ve got. The actual movie here was a let-down for me coming after Charlie Chan at the Opera. This just seemed like standard spy nonsense, with another plot I had trouble following. Charlie Jr. was cute at the beginning, and DeMille looked sultry, but aside from that . . . historical interest.

45 thoughts on “Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937)

      1. tensecondsfromnow

        Only when we realise that you’ve published a new wittering jumble of ideas. So not writing in one solid block anymore, but a random series of cribbed notes; is it too much to ask for any kind of consistency? Writing in pararaphs may well be withing your grasp, despite what everyone says…

      2. Alex Good Post author

        People say I look a bit like Gerard Butler, in 300. I’ve even got a pair of those leather Speedos. I should bring them to the lighthouse and go swimming.

      3. Alex Good Post author

        Hm. Didn’t see Gerry there. Think you posted the wrong clip by mistake. Here’s a screen grab from my big scene as his body double:

      4. Alex Good Post author

        Nah, Gerry wanted me to stand in for him in that shot. I had no problem with it.

        You have a curious obsession with deformity. Afraid I can’t help you with that. Do you see a lot of those types in your neighbourhood? Is in-breeding that much of an issue?

      5. tensecondsfromnow

        No, it’s been a great help for me to understand more about the state of the unfortunate such as yourself. You may dream of being a strapping Scotsman, but have previously confided to be a freaky Hills Have Eyes character, so it’s quite tragic really.

      6. tensecondsfromnow

        I hear he modeled it on what was going on in your kitchen, Bunty. So what’s your next screenshot project? How Scots like myself, Gerry and Sean conquered the world? Or will you be looking at the flip-side and telling the story of boggle-eyed baldy Canadian loons like yourself?

      7. tensecondsfromnow

        Your supposed blog is nothing but ethnic slurs and pathetic attempts at humour. You live in the shadow of true manly Scots like myself; why don’t you scuttle off to your silverfish-infested bins and stay there, Baldy?

      8. tensecondsfromnow

        They say you look like a butler. A cobwebbed, outdated flunky. You don’t have the chiseled, granite look of a Scot. You have a head like a smashed lightbulb. Your writings are drivel. Your life is pointless. Sad!

      9. Alex Good Post author

        Is everyone in Scotland this angry? All the time? You make it seem like such an unhappy place. No wonder those lighthouse keepers couldn’t cope.

  1. Over-The-Shoulder

    Well, some interesting history anyway. Charlie must be so proud of his children though – a swimmer as well? Impressive.

    Ah, I’ve missed you and Dixie’s arguements. Great to be back!

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Charlie is very proud of all his kids. Though they can be exasperating.

      Arguments? It’s more like I’m running a daycare and Eddie is the kid in short pants and a propeller cap riding a tricycle around, screaming and smashing into tables while he eats all the crayons. Too much sugar, I’m sure, but I can’t manage his diet along with everything else.


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