Victor Sen Yung

Last updated
Victor Sen Yung
Dangerous Money (1946) - Victor Sen Yung (cropped).jpg
Born(1915-10-18)October 18, 1915
DiedOctober 31, 1980(1980-10-31) (aged 65) [1]
Resting placeGreenlawn Memorial Park, Colma, California
Other namesSen Yung
Sen Young
Victor Sen Young
Victor Young
Years active1937–1980
Victor Sen Yung and Willie Best in Dangerous Money (1946) Dangerous Money (1946) - Yung & Best 1.jpg
Victor Sen Yung and Willie Best in Dangerous Money (1946)

Victor Sen Yung (traditional Chinese : ; simplified Chinese :扬森; pinyin :Yáng Sēn; Jyutping :Joeng4 Sam1; October 18, 1915 – c. October 31, 1980), [1] born Sen Yew Cheung, [2] was an American character actor, best known for playing Jimmy Chan in the Charlie Chan films and Hop Sing in the western series Bonanza . He was born in San Francisco, California to Gum Yung Sen and his first wife, both immigrants from China. [3]


When his mother died during the flu epidemic of 1919, his father placed Victor and his younger sister, Rosemary, in a children's shelter, and returned to his homeland to seek another wife. He returned in 1922 with his new wife, Lovi Shee, once again forming a household with his two children. [4]

During his acting career, Victor was given billing under a variety of names, including Sen Yung, Sen Young, Victor Sen Young, and Victor Young.


Sen Yung made his first significant acting debut in the 1938 film Charlie Chan in Honolulu, as the Chinese detective's "number two son," Jimmy Chan. In this movie, Sidney Toler replaced the recently deceased Warner Oland as Charlie Chan and Sen Yung replaced Oland's "number one son" Lee, who had been played by Keye Luke. Sen Yung played Jimmy Chan in 10 Charlie Chan films between 1938 and 1942. He played the crucial role of lawyer's clerk Ong Chi Seng alongside Bette Davis in The Letter (1940).

In common with other Chinese-American actors, Sen Yung was cast in Japanese parts during World War II, such as his role as the treacherous Japanese-American Joe Totsuiko in the 1942 Humphrey Bogart film Across the Pacific .

During World War II, he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. During his military service, he was replaced in the Charlie Chan series by Benson Fong, who played "number three son", Tommy Chan. Yung's military service included work in training films at the First Motion Picture Unit and a role in the Army Air Forces' play and film Winged Victory . [5]

After the war, Sen Yung resumed his Hollywood career. The Charlie Chan series was now in the hands of Monogram Pictures, with Sidney Toler continuing in the leading role. Toler's health was failing by 1946; Monogram was conserving Toler's waning energy and shooting around him wherever possible, even reusing two-year-old footage of Toler to finish Toler's last film. To relieve the burden on Toler, Monogram hired his original screen foil, Sen Yung (now billing himself as Victor Sen Young). He and Mantan Moreland shared much of the footage in Toler's final three films, Dangerous Money, Shadows over Chinatown, and The Trap. Following Toler's death in 1947, Victor Sen Young appeared in five of the remaining six Charlie Chan features. His character "Jimmy" was renamed "Tommy" (author Scott MacGillivray contends that "Jimmy" was so closely associated with Sidney Toler that audiences would miss seeing Toler opposite him, resulting in Monogram making the change).

Sen Yung continued to work in motion pictures and television, usually playing affable or earnest Asian characters.

Sen Yung was cast as the compassionate Chinese restaurant owner "Quong Kee" in Tombstone, Arizona, in the 1957 episode, "Quong Kee", of the syndicated television anthology series Death Valley Days , hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the story, an aging Quong Kee recalls how in 1881 he brought together the Bostonians Art Gresham (Walter Kelley) and his mother (played by Mary Newton) with the saloon musician Ann Bailey (Eugenia Paul), who after a topsy-turvy romance became Mrs. Art Gresham. [6]

Sen Yung is probably best remembered as "Hop Sing," the cook on the long-running television series Bonanza , appearing in 107 episodes between 1959 and 1973. [7] Bonanza series creator David Dortort told the Archive of American Television that the "Hop Sing" character generated massive fandom - "Victor was just absolutely delightful. He loved the part; he loved doing it. In fact, he began to develop fans, to the extent that I wrote him in as the feature part in a number of shows.” [7]

In Bachelor Father (American TV series) (1957-62), Sen Yung had a recurring role as the scheming "Uncle Charlie," a character that Asian rights activist Guy Aoki commends as "a slick, Americanized character. I thought it was great that way back in the ’50s, audiences saw a Chinese American who acted just like anyone else." [8]

In the early 1970s, Sen Yung had a recurring role in seven episodes of the tv series Kung Fu , which starred David Carradine as a Shaolin monk, also in the Old West.

Sen Yung was also an accomplished and talented chef. He frequently appeared on cooking programs, and authored The Great Wok Cookbook in 1974. [7]

Plane hijacking

In 1972, Yung was on Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 710, which was hijacked. The FBI stormed the plane, and in the ensuing gunfire Sen Yung was shot in the lower back. He and another wounded passenger survived, but a third passenger and the two hijackers were killed. [9]

In 1975, he appeared on Garry Moore's To Tell The Truth and related the events of the hijacking. With Yung dressed in a sport coat and flanked by two dissimilar imposters, none of the four panelists was able to choose him as the character actor.

Death and legacy

Sen Yung died in his North Hollywood home in 1980. The actor, who ran a small mail-order Chinese pottery business, was creating clayware and curing the items with an oven, and died of natural gas poisoning from a gas leak. His body was found November 9, but he had reportedly been dead at least ten days, from possibly around October 31. [10]

Some reports suggested that the actor was murdered, [11] but police ultimately ruled the death accidental. [12] The eulogy at Sen Yung's funeral was given by fellow Bonanza actor Pernell Roberts, who also paid the funeral expenses.

The Victor Sen Yung memorial scholarship is awarded each year by the Chinese Alumni Association of the University of California, Berkeley, where Sen Yung majored in animal husbandry.

Selected filmography


Related Research Articles

Keye Luke American actor

Keye Luke was a Chinese-born American film and television actor, technical advisor and artist and a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Benson Fong American actor (1916-1987)

Benson Fong was an American character actor.

Philip Ahn Korean-American actor (1905-1978)

Philip Ahn was an American actor and activist of Korean descent. With over 180 film and television credits between 1935 and 1978, he was one of the most recognizable and prolific Asian-American character actors of his time. He is widely-regarded as the first Korean American film actor in Hollywood.

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.

George Chandler

George Chandler was an American actor who starred in over 140 feature films, usually in smaller supporting roles, and he is perhaps best known for playing the character of Uncle Petrie Martin on the television series Lassie.

Richard Loo American actor

Richard Loo was a third generation Chinese-American film actor who was one of the most familiar Asian character actors in American films of the 1930s and 1940s. A prolific actor, he appeared in over 120 films between 1931 and 1982.

Sojin (actor) Japanese actor

Sōjin Kamiyama or just Sōjin was a Japanese film actor. He appeared in over 70 films between 1917 and 1954. He was the subject of a 1995 TV documentary by the Japanese film director Nobuhiro Suwa. He was born in Sendai, Japan and died in Tokyo, Japan. His wife was actress Uraji Yamakawa.

Eddie Lee was a character actor from the 1930s through the 1950s. Of Asian descent, he played mainly bit parts such as cooks and soldiers. While most of his over 80 roles were uncredited, he did have a few significant roles, such as in 1935's Sunset Range, Panic on the Air (1936), and 1943's The Man From Thunder River.

<i>Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum</i> 1940 American film

Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum is a 1940 mystery film starring Sidney Toler as detective Charlie Chan. Revisiting an old case results in fresh deaths.

<i>Charlie Chan in Honolulu</i> 1938 film by H. Bruce Humberstone

Charlie Chan in Honolulu is a 1939 American film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, starring Sidney Toler as the fictional Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan. The film is the first appearance of both Toler as Chan and Victor Sen Yung as "number two son" Jimmy.

<i>The Trap</i> (1946 film) 1946 film by Howard Bretherton

The Trap is a 1946 crime film directed by Howard Bretherton and starring Sidney Toler and Victor Sen Yung. The main premise is that two members of a show troupe are murdered, and detective Charlie Chan is called in to solve the case. The title credit mentions "Charlie Chan" as appearing in the film, as if he were an actor and not a fictional character portrayed by Toler.

Lee Tung Foo actor (1875-1966)

Lee Tung Foo was a Chinese American Vaudeville performer born in California who performed in English, German, and Latin. He became a film actor later in his life.

<i>The Feathered Serpent</i> (1948 film) 1948 film by William Beaudine

The Feathered Serpent is a 1948 mystery film, the fifth of six in which Roland Winters portrayed Charlie Chan. It is the only Chan film which featured both Keye Luke and Victor Sen Yung together. Luke had been popular in the Warner Oland Chan films while Yung appeared primarily in the Sidney Toler Chan movies. This was Yung's last Chan movie. Luke appeared in one more with Roland Winters, the last of the Chan films, Sky Dragon.

<i>Charlie Chans Murder Cruise</i> 1940 film by Eugene Forde

Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise is a 1940 murder mystery film starring Sidney Toler in his fifth of many performances as Charlie Chan. It is based on the Earl Derr Biggers 1930 novel Charlie Chan Carries On.

Charlie Chan in Reno is a 1939 American film directed by Norman Foster, starring Sidney Toler as the fictional Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan, based on an original story "Death Makes a Decree" by Philip Wylie.

Shadows Over Chinatown is a 1946 film directed by Terry O. Morse. It is the second to last film featuring Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan.

<i>Castle in the Desert</i> 1942 film by Harry Lachman

Castle in the Desert is a 1942 film featuring the Asian detective Charlie Chan. It was the eleventh film to feature Sidney Toler as the title character, and the last made by 20th Century Fox. The series continued with Toler, though under much reduced circumstances, at Monogram Pictures.

<i>The Chinese Cat</i> 1944 film by Phil Rosen

The Chinese Cat is a 1944 mystery film starring Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan.

Charles David Tannen was an American actor and screenwriter. A general purpose actor who worked primarily at 20th Century Fox, he had mostly bit and/or supporting parts in movies, appearing in more than two hundred films, including Jesse James (1939), The Return of Frank James (1940), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), The Fly (1958), and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961).

Spencer Chan American actor

Spencer Chan was a Chinese American character actor who had a long career in film and television.


  1. 1 2 Wisconsin State Journal, November 10, 1980, Section 1, Page 10
  2. Brumburgh, Gary. "Victor Sen Yung: Biography". IMDB (Internet Movie Database)., Inc. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  3. His father's name is given in the dedication to the Great Wok Cookbook.
  4. United States Census, 1930, Household of Gum Young Sen, San Francisco (Districts 251-409), San Francisco, California. NARA Publication: T626, roll 209; Enumeration District Number: 0393; Family Number: 584; Sheet Number and Letter: 30B; Line Number: 59
  5. San Antonio Light, September 29, 1944, p. 8-C
  6. "Quong Kee on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  7. 1 2 3 "The actor who played Bonanza's Hop Sing actually was an acclaimed chef". MeTV National Limited Partnership. March 13, 2019. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  8. Aoki, Guy (10 July 2014). "INTO THE NEXT STAGE: REDISCOVERING SAMMEE TONG IN 'BACHELOR FATHER'". Rafu Shimpo. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  9. Ada Evening News, July 6, 1972, p. 1
  10. "'Bonanza's' Hop Sing found dead". Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida. November 10, 1980. p. 11-A. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  11. Valley Independent, November 11, 1980, page 8
  12. Indiana (Pennsylvania) Gazette, November 10, 1980, page 4