Study: Chang Apana (CA007)

Hawaiian Historical Society, undated press release (Courtesy of Steven Fredrick Collection)


Chang Apana: The Real Life Charlie Chan presented by Nanette Napoleon and Officer Eddie Croom.

DATE: Thursday, April 26, 2007.

LOCATION: University of Hawai’i, Kamakaküokalani Center for Hawaiian
Studies, Auditorium, 2645 Dole Street, Honolulu.

TIME:  7:30 p.m.

Refreshments provided.


(The Society’s annual business meeting will precede the lecture)


This program will feature a 20-minute video documentary titled, “The
Real Charlie Chan.”  It is part of a 4-movie DVD set of newly mastered
Charlie Chan movies released by 20th Century Fox in the summer of 2006.

Kailua free-lance researcher, Nanette Napoleon, was hired by 20th
Century Fox to collect information about Apana from local archival resources and is one of those interviewed in the piece.

Officer Eddie Croom, curator of the Honolulu Police Department Museum, is also featured in the video.  After the showing of the featurette, both Napoleon and Croom will talk more about Chang Apana’s life and times.

In 1920, Earl Derr Biggers, a Boston mystery writer, was vacationing in Waikïkï at Gray’s By-the-Sea.  He contemplated setting the scene of a future novel in tropical Honolulu.  Four years later, while looking through Honolulu newspapers for story ideas, he found several articles about a Honolulu Police Department detective named Chang Apana.  Napoleon will also talk about Biggers, Charlie Chan novels and movies, and the wide variety of Charlie Chan spin-offs.

Chang Apana was frequently in the news because of his sensational
arrests and unorthodox style of crime fighting.  Rather than carry a gun, Apana only carried his signature bull whip, which he used
frequently and with great skill.

Immediately, Biggers hit on the idea of a good-guy Chinese policeman
for a mystery story set in Honolulu.  The novel was House Without a Key. It became an instant success and spawned five more books and 48 movies based on the activities of the main character, Detective Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police Department.

Meanwhile, Chang Apana’s real life police exploits earned him much
praise within the police department and community at large.  When he died in 1933, his funeral procession rivaled many of the grand ali’i processions of the era.

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