Mon . 18 Nov 2018

Warner Oland

warner oland, warner oland charlie chan
Warner Oland October 3, 1879 – August 6, 1938 was a Swedish-American actor most remembered for his screen role as the detective Charlie Chan He moved to the United States when he was 13 and pursued a film career that would include time on Broadway and dozens of film appearances He starred in a total of 16 Charlie Chan films


  • 1 Early years
  • 2 Film career
    • 21 Career beginnings
    • 22 Racebending physicality
    • 23 Becoming a star
    • 24 The Charlie Chan industry
  • 3 Personal life
  • 4 Death
  • 5 Partial filmography
  • 6 Footnotes
  • 7 Additional reading
  • 8 External links

Early years

He was born Johan Verner Ölund in the village of Nyby, Bjurholm Municipality, Västerbotten County, Sweden He claimed that his vaguely Asian appearance was due to possessing some Mongolian ancestry,:1 though his known ancestry contains no indication that this was so When he was thirteen, his family immigrated to the United States Educated in Boston, he spoke English and his native Swedish, and eventually translated some of the plays of August Strindberg As a young man he pursued a career in theater, at first working on set design while developing his skills as a dramatic actor In 1906, he was signed to tour the country with the troupe led by actress Alla Nazimova The following year he met and married the playwright and portrait painter Edith Gardener Shearn The woman made an ideal partner for Oland She mastered Swedish, helping him with the translation of Strindberg's works that they jointly published in book form in 1912

Film career

Career beginnings

After several years in theater, including appearances on Broadway as Warner Oland, in 1912 he made his silent film debut in Pilgrim's Progress, a film based on the John Bunyan novel It would be another three years before he returned to film work with a role in The Romance of Elaine, an adventure film starring the extremely popular Pearl White As a result of his training as a Shakespearean actor and his easy adoption of a sinister look, he was much in demand as a villain and in ethnic roles He made several more films with Pearl White including his first portrayal of an oriental character in her film, The Lightning Raider 1919 Over the next 15 years, he appeared in more than 30 films, including a major role in The Jazz Singer 1927, one of the first talkies produced

Racebending physicality

Oland as the popular Asian character Charlie Chan in 1936's Charlie Chan's Secret

Oland's normal appearance fit the Hollywood expectation of caricatured Asianness of the time, despite his having no Asian cultural background Oland portrayed a variety of Asian characters in several movies before being offered the leading role in the 1929 film, The Mysterious Dr Fu Manchu It was the first onscreen portrayal of the Fu Manchu character in film Oland continued to appear onscreen as an Asian, probably more often than any other white actor in the history of cinema This was not, strictly speaking, "yellowface", since Oland used no special makeup to change his ethnic appearance, according to frequent co-star Keye Luke In one of his silent films, Oland played an Asian unsuccessfully impersonating a white man

Oland was the first actor to play a werewolf in a major Hollywood film, biting the protagonist, played by Henry Hull, in Werewolf of London 1935 Once again, Oland's character was Asian

Becoming a star

A box office success, The Mysterious Dr Fu Manchu made Oland a star, and during the next two years he portrayed the evil Dr Fu Manchu in three more films Firmly locked into such roles, he was cast as Charlie Chan in the international detective mystery film Charlie Chan Carries On 1931 and then in director Josef von Sternberg's 1932 classic film Shanghai Express opposite Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong

The Charlie Chan industry

The enormous worldwide box office success of his Charlie Chan film led to more, with Oland starring in 16 Chan films in total The series, Jill Lepore later wrote, "kept Fox afloat" during the 1930s, while earning Oland $40,000 per movie Oland took his role seriously, studying the Chinese language and calligraphy

Personal life

Despite his wealth and success, Oland suffered from alcoholism that severely affected his health and his thirty-year marriage In January 1938, he started filming Charlie Chan at Ringside However, a week into shooting his erratic behavior culminated in his walking off the set, causing the film to be abandoned After a spell in the hospital, he signed a new three-picture deal with Fox to continue playing Chan At the same time, he was involved in a bitter divorce from his wife which prevented him, by court order, from traveling overseas and moving his assets abroad He was also soon involved in a public incident when, having ordered his chauffeur to drive him to Mexico, he was observed during a rest stop sitting on the running board of his car throwing his shoes at onlookers The divorce settlement, favoring his wife, was announced to the media on April 2, 1938, and the same day he left the USA by ship, turning up in southern Europe, then proceeding to his native Sweden where he stayed with an architect friend


In Sweden, Oland contracted bronchial pneumonia, worsened by the apparent onset of emphysema from years of heavy cigarette smoking and he died in a hospital in Stockholm Oland's last film was the unfinished Charlie Chan at the Ringside Fox reshot Oland's scenes with Peter Lorre and released the finished picture as Mr Moto's Gamble 1938 Following cremation in Sweden, his ashes were brought back to the United States by his ex-wife for interment in the Southborough Rural Cemetery in Southborough, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, where the Olands had previously resided in an historic farmhouse

Partial filmography

  • Pilgrim's Progress 1912 as John Bunyon
  • The Romance of Elaine 1915
  • Sin 1915 as Pietro
  • The Unfaithful Wife 1915
  • Destruction 1915 as Mr Deleveau
  • The Fool's Revenge 1916 as Undetermined Secondary Role uncredited
  • The Reapers 1916 as James Shaw
  • The Eternal Sapho 1916 as H Coudal
  • The Eternal Question 1916 as Pierre Felix
  • Beatrice Fairfax 1916 as Detective
  • The Rise of Susan 1916 as Sinclair La Salle
  • Beatrice Fairfax Episode 4: The Stone God 1916 as Detective in office
  • Patria 1917, serial as Baron Huroki
  • The Fatal Ring 1917, serial as Richard Carslake
  • The Cigarette Girl 1917 as Mr Wilson
  • Convict 993 1918 as Dan Mallory
  • The Naulahka 1918 as Maharajah
  • The Mysterious Client 1918 as Boris Norjunov
  • The Yellow Ticket 1918 as Baron Andrey
  • The Lightning Raider 1919, serial as Wu Fang
  • Mandarin's Gold 1919 as Li Hsun
  • The Twin Pawns 1919 as John Bent
  • The Avalanche 1919 as Nick Delano
  • The Witness for the Defense 1919 as Captain Ballantyne
  • The Third Eye 1920, serial as Curtis Steele / Malcolm Graw
  • The Phantom Foe 1920, serial as Uncle Leo Sealkirk
  • The Yellow Arm 1921 as Joel Bain
  • Hurricane Hutch 1921, serial as Clifton Marlow
  • East Is West 1922 as Charley Yong
  • The Pride of Palomar 1922 as Okada
  • His Children's Children 1923 as Dr Dahl
  • The Fighting American 1924 as Fu Shing
  • So This Is Marriage 1924 as Mario Dorando
  • One Night in Rome 1924 as King David
  • Curlytop 1924 as Shanghai Dan
  • Riders of the Purple Sage 1925 as Lew Walters aka Judge Dyer
  • Don Q, Son of Zorro 1925 as The Archduke
  • Flower of Night 1925 as Luke Rand
  • The Winding Stair 1925 as Petras
  • Infatuation 1925 as Osman Pasha
  • Don Juan 1926 as Cesare Borgia
  • The Mystery Club 1926 as Eli Sinsabaugh
  • The Marriage Clause 1926 as Max Ravenal
  • Twinkletoes 1926 as Roseleaf
  • Tell It to the Marines 1926 as Chinese Bandit Chief
  • Man of the Forest 1926 as Clint Beasley
  • When a Man Loves 1927 as André Lescaut
  • A Million Bid 1927 as Geoffrey Marsh
  • Old San Francisco 1927 as Chris Buckwell
  • What Happened to Father 1927 as W Bradberry, Father
  • The Jazz Singer 1927 as The Cantor
  • Sailor Izzy Murphy 1927 as The girl's father
  • Good Time Charley 1927 as Good Time Charley Keene
  • Stand and Deliver 1928 as Ghika - the Bandit Leader
  • Wheel of Chance 1928 as Mosher Turkeltaub
  • The Scarlet Lady 1928 as Zaneriff
  • Dream of Love 1928 as The Duke, Current Dicator
  • The Faker 1929 as Hadrian the faker
  • Chinatown Nights 1929 as Boston Charley
  • The Studio Murder Mystery 1932 as Rupert Borka
  • The Mysterious Dr Fu Manchu 1929 as Dr Fu Manchu
  • The Mighty 1929 as Sterky
  • Dangerous Paradise 1930 as Schomberg
  • The Vagabond King 1930 as Thibault
  • Paramount on Parade 1930 as Fu Manchu Murder Will Out
  • The Return of Dr Fu Manchu 1930 as Dr Fu Manchu
  • The Drums of Jeopardy 1931 as Dr Boris Karlov
  • Dishonored 1931 as Colonel von Hindau
  • Charlie Chan Carries On 1931 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • The Black Camel 1931 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • The Big Gamble 1931 as North
  • Daughter of the Dragon 1931 as Fu Manchu
  • Charlie Chan's Chance 1932 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Shanghai Express 1932 as Henry Chang
  • A Passport to Hell 1932 as Baron von Sydow, Police Commandant
  • The Son-Daughter 1932 as Fen Sha
  • Before Dawn 1933 as Dr Paul Cornelius
  • Charlie Chan's Greatest Case 1933 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • As Husbands Go 1934 as Hippolitus Lomi
  • Mandalay 1934 as Nick
  • Charlie Chan's Courage 1934 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back 1934 as Prince Achmed
  • Charlie Chan in London 1934 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • The Painted Veil 1934 as General Yu
  • Charlie Chan in Paris 1935 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Werewolf of London 1935 as Dr Yogami
  • Charlie Chan in Egypt 1935 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Shanghai 1935 as Ambassador Lun Sing
  • Charlie Chan in Shanghai 1935 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Charlie Chan's Secret 1936 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Charlie Chan at the Circus 1936 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Charlie Chan at the Race Track 1936 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Charlie Chan at the Opera 1936 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Charlie Chan at the Olympics 1937 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Charlie Chan on Broadway 1937 as Inspector Charlie Chan
  • Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo 1937 as Inspector Charlie Chan Last appearance


  1. ^ Hanke, Ken Charlie Chan at the Movies: History, Filmography, and Criticism McFarland & Company: Jefferson, North Carolina, 1989
  2. ^ LoBianco, Lorraine "Daughter of the Dragon" Turner Classic Movies
  3. ^ Swedish genealogist Sven-Erik Johansson has traced Ölund's ancestry back 5 generations Sikhallan Genealogy site
  4. ^ Lepore, Jill "CHAN, THE MAN" The New Yorker, 9 August 2010
  5. ^ Hans J Wollstein 1994 Strangers in Hollywood: the history of Scandinavian actors in American films from 1910 to World War II Scarecrow Press p 309 ISBN 978-0-8108-2938-1 Retrieved 30 July 2010 

Additional reading

  • George A Katchmer Eighty silent film stars, Biographies and filmographies of the obscure to the well known Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, 1991
  • Hans J Wollstein Strangers in Hollywood, The History of Scandinavian Actors in American Films from 1910 to World War II Metuchen, NJ, & London, 1994

External links

  • Biography portal
  • Photographs and literature
  • Warner Oland at the Internet Movie Database
  • Warner Oland at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Warner Oland at AllMovie
  • Works by Warner Oland at Project Gutenberg as translator
  • Works by or about Warner Oland at Internet Archive
  • Works by Warner Oland at LibriVox public domain audiobooks
  • Warner Oland at Find a Grave

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