Earl Derr Biggers

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Earl Derr Biggers
Earl Derr Biggers portrait.jpg
Born(1884-08-26)August 26, 1884
Warren, Ohio, U.S.
DiedApril 5, 1933(1933-04-05) (aged 48)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
Occupation Playwright, novelist
Alma mater Harvard University
Genre Fiction, theatre

Earl Derr Biggers (August 26, 1884 – April 5, 1933) was an American novelist and playwright. [1] His novels featuring the fictional Chinese American detective Charlie Chan were adapted into popular films made in the United States and China.



The son of Robert J. and Emma E. (Derr) Biggers, Earl Derr Biggers was born in Warren, Ohio, and graduated from Harvard University in 1907, where he was a member of The Lampoon. He worked briefly as a journalist for The Plain Dealer in 1907, [2] and then for the Boston Traveller until 1912, before turning to fiction. Many of his plays and novels were made into movies.

His first novel, Seven Keys to Baldpate, was popular in 1913, and George M. Cohan quickly adapted the novel as a hit Broadway stage play of the same name. Cohan starred in the 1917 film version, one of seven film versions of the play, and a 1935 revival. [3] The novel was also adapted into two films with different titles, House of the Long Shadows and Haunted Honeymoon , but they had essentially equivalent plots.

More than 10 years after Baldpate, Biggers had even greater success with his series of Charlie Chan detective novels. The popularity of Charlie Chan extended even to China, where audiences in Shanghai appreciated the Hollywood films. Chinese companies made films starring this fictional character. [4] Derr Biggers publicly acknowledged the real-life detective Chang Apana as the inspiration for the character of Charlie Chan in his letter to the Honolulu Advertiser of June 28, 1932. [5]

Biggers lived in San Marino, California, and died in a Pasadena, California hospital after suffering a heart attack in Palm Springs, California. He was 48.

The Charlie Chan series

Other works

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Charlie Chan Fictional detective

Charlie Chan is a fictional Honolulu police detective created by author Earl Derr Biggers for a series of mystery novels. Biggers loosely based Chan on Hawaiian detective Chang Apana. The benevolent and heroic Chan was conceived as an alternative to Yellow Peril stereotypes and villains like Fu Manchu. Many stories feature Chan traveling the world beyond Hawaii as he investigates mysteries and solves crimes.

<i>The House Without a Key</i> 1925 detective novel starring Charlie Chan

The House Without a Key is a 1925 novel by Earl Derr Biggers, the first of the Charlie Chan mysteries. Set in 1920s Hawaiʻi, the novel acquaints the reader with the look and feel of the islands from the standpoint of both white and non-white inhabitants, describing social class structures and customs of the era.

<i>The Chinese Parrot</i>

The Chinese Parrot (1926) is the second novel in the Charlie Chan series of mystery novels by Earl Derr Biggers. It is the first in which Chan travels from Hawaii to mainland California, and involves a crime whose exposure is hastened by the death of a parrot.

<i>Behind That Curtain</i>

Behind That Curtain (1928) is the third novel in the Charlie Chan series of mystery novels by Earl Derr Biggers.

<i>The Black Camel</i>

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<i>Charlie Chan Carries On</i>

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<i>Keeper of the Keys</i> Book by Earl Derr Biggers

Keeper of the Keys (1932) is the sixth and last mystery in the Charlie Chan series of Earl Derr Biggers; Biggers was planning on continuing the series, but died in 1933 before he could. The films continued the series for him.

Chang Apana

Chang Apana (December 26, 1871 – December 8, 1933; traditional Chinese: 鄭阿平; simplified Chinese: 郑阿平; pinyin: Zhèng Āpíng; Wade–Giles: Cheng4 A1p'ing2; Jyutping: Zeng6 Aa3ping4) was a Chinese-Hawaiian member of the Honolulu Police Department, first as an officer, then as a detective. He was acknowledged by Earl Derr Biggers as the inspiration for his fictional Chinese-American detective character, Charlie Chan.

Sidney Toler American actor, playwright, and theatre director

Sidney Toler was an American actor, playwright, and theatre director. The second European-American actor to play the role of Charlie Chan on screen, he is best remembered for his portrayal of the Chinese-American detective in 22 films made between 1938 and 1946. Before becoming Chan, Toler played supporting roles in 50 motion pictures, and was a highly regarded comic actor on the Broadway stage.

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<i>The Chinese Parrot</i> (film) 1927 film by Paul Leni

The Chinese Parrot (1927) is a silent film, the second in the Charlie Chan series. It was directed by Paul Leni and starred Japanese actor Sōjin Kamiyama as Chan. The film is an adaptation of the 1926 Earl Derr Biggers novel The Chinese Parrot. It is considered a lost film. Another version of the story was filmed in 1934, entitled The Courage of Charlie Chan.

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<i>Charlie Chans Greatest Case</i> 1933 film

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<i>Seven Keys to Baldpate</i> (1917 film) 1917 American film

Seven Keys to Baldpate is a 1917 American silent mystery/thriller film produced by George M. Cohan and distributed by Artcraft Pictures, an affiliate of Paramount. The film is based on Cohan's 1913 play of the 1913 novel by Earl Derr Biggers. Cohan himself stars in this silent version along with Anna Q. Nilsson and Hedda Hopper, billed under her real name Elda Furry. One version of the play preceded this movie in 1916 and numerous versions followed in the succeeding decades such as the early RKO talkie starring Richard Dix.

<i>Seven Keys to Baldpate</i> (1929 film) 1929 film

Seven Keys to Baldpate is a 1929 sound film produced and distributed through RKO Pictures. It was the first sound film based on the 1913 Earl Derr Biggers novel/ George M. Cohan play Seven Keys to Baldpate, following three different silent film versions. The film had its premiere on Christmas Day, 1929 in New York City, and its official release was the following month.

Seven Keys to Baldpate is a 1913 play by George M. Cohan based on a novel by Earl Derr Biggers. The dramatization was one of Cohan's most innovative plays. It baffled some audiences and critics but became a hit, running for nearly a year in New York, another year in Chicago and receiving later revivals; Cohan starred in the 1935 revival. Cohan adapted it as a film in 1917, and it was adapted for film six more times, and later for TV and radio. The play "mixes all the formulaic melodrama of the era with a satirical [farcical] send-up of just those melodramatic stereotypes."

<i>Seven Keys to Baldpate</i> (1925 film) 1925 film by Fred C. Newmeyer

Seven Keys to Baldpate is a lost 1925 American silent film based on the 1913 mystery novel by Earl Derr Biggers and 1913 play by George M. Cohan. Previously made in Australia in 1916 and by Paramount in 1917, this version was produced by, and starred, Douglas MacLean and was directed by Fred C. Newmeyer. Out of seven film adaptations of the story made between 1916 and 1983, this version is the only one that is now considered lost. The story was remade again later in 1929, 1935, 1946, and 1947. It was also remade in 1983 under the title House of the Long Shadows, featuring John Carradine, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee.

Seven Keys to Baldpate may refer to:

<i>Seven Keys to Baldpate</i> (novel)

Seven Keys to Baldpate is a 1913 novel by Earl Derr Biggers. A bestseller, it was adapted by George M. Cohan into a play, which in turn was adapted several times for film, radio and TV.


  1. "THE SCREEN". The New York Times . July 4, 1931.
  2. Goodman, Rebecca (2005). This Day in Ohio History. Emmis Books. p. 258. ISBN   9781578601912 . Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  3. Warburton, Eileen. "Keeper of the Keys to Old Broadway: Geroge (sic) M. Cohan's Seven Keys to Baldpate (1913)", 2nd Story Theatre, January 32, 2014, accessed October 14, 2014. See also "Play Reviews for Seven Keys to Baldpate", 2nd Story Theatre, accessed October 14, 2014
  4. "Charlie Chan in China" Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine The Chinese Mirror [n.d.].
  5. "The Real Charlie Chan", featurette on: Charlie Chan in Egypt (DVD), 20th Century Fox, 2006.