Friday, August 31, 2012

Discovering Oahu, Hawaii with Charlie Chan - Part 2 - The Black Camel (1931) and Kailua Beach

The Black Camel (1931)

"In May 1931, a small, wrinkled old man visited the production set of a film on Oahu's Kailua Beach...the man... was none other than Chang Apana."Yunte Huang - Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History.

When I read the above quote, I was on my honeymoon in Oahu. Carlos and I had been scoping out local filming locations (for example we found the house from the TV show Magnum P.I.) but I hadn't been aware of Kailua Beach as a filming location for a Charlie Chan film. I looked into it, and although IMDB doesn't list it as a location, I discovered that The Black Camel was filmed here. And I just knew we had to stop by that beach and check it out!

Chang Apana and Warner Oland meeting on location for the filming of The Black Camel (1931)

According to Huang, Chang Apana particular liked this interchange that happened in the film:
Inspector, you should have a lie detector
Lie detector? Ah I see! You mean wife. I got one.

The Black Camel (1931) is a very important film in the history of Charlie Chan. It's the only film adapted from one of Earl Derr Biggers' six Charlie Chan novels that still exists. The other film adaptations are lost. Also, it was the only Charlie Chan movie filmed on location in Hawaii. Filming on location proved to be a great moment in history when Chang Apana, the Chinese Honolulu detective who inspired the character Charlie Chan, got to meet Warner Oland, the man who would essentially play him on film. Chang Apana was invited to watch the production of the film and he went as many times as he could. He thoroughly enjoyed watching the persona he inspired in action.

The Black Camel is the fourth out of the six Charlie Chan novels that Earl Derr Biggers would write. The film follows the story of Shelah Fane (Dorothy Reiver) a film actress who is in a bit of a bind. She wants to marry her beau Alan (William Post Jr.) but she's worried that her ties with the murder of film star Denny Mayo will ruin her career and her future life with Alan. She seeks help from Tanaverro (Bela Lugosi) a psychic but nothing seems to help. On the night of a party, she is found murdered on Waikiki Beach.  What follows is a complicated and convoluted series of events which leads Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) on a whirlwind of a case. The film can be a little confusing but it is so enjoyable. It's a wonderful little murder mystery that is bolstered by exotic filming locations. I had lots of fun trying to figure out who dunnit and was happy to see that my first of many guesses was right! In my opinion, it's the best Charlie Chan film I've seen yet.

While Carlos and I were in Oahu, we planned to stop by Kailua Beach before heading up to the North Shore. However, there were two problems with this trip. The first one was that I hadn't seen the movie before the honeymoon so I really didn't know what to look for. The second problem was that I had one too-strong Mai Tai at the local restaurant across from Kailua Beach and was a bit too tipsy to take this filming location shoot seriously. However, I did get some nice shots but I ended up missing two in particular: the canal and the parking lot.

This is one of the shots in the very beginning of the film. It has Shelah Fane (Dorothy Reiver) filming on location in a movie within a movie. She's on Kailua Beach and you can spot the Mokulua Islands ("Twin" Islands) in the background.

This shot looks to be near the spot where I took the picture above!

The parking lot! I remember this parking lot so vividly. It was packed with beach goers and we parked our rental car here. It looks so different today, paved and sectioned off. In the movie it's just a bare lot. Behind the parking lot today you'll find Buzz's Original Steakhouse which is where I had that infamous Mai Tai.

Kailua Beach canal (Source)

I really wish I had gotten a picture of this canal. I remember it but for some reason didn't think to take a picture. We drove over that bridge to get to the parking lot on the left. And as you can see below, the bridge and the canal were in The Black Camel.

What you'll notice when you watch the movie is that there are a lot of local spectators watching the filming of The Black Camel. This wasn't an inconvenience considering the fact that the scene involved filming a movie within the movie. It just worked! I did try to keep an eye out for Chang Apana in the crowd but couldn't spot him.

We didn't spend much time at the beach but had some fun playing in the sand and water.

But next time I got hunting for a filming location, I'll skip the Mai Tai.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this series!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Discovering Oahu, Hawaii with Charlie Chan - Part 1

In July, Carlos and I traveled from Boston to Hawaii for our honeymoon. And what a grand time we had! We did lots of fun things including parasailing, kayaking, hiking, swimming, golfing and more. We ate lots of great local food and also got to see the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor. We hadn't done much planning for our trip so a lot of what we did was on the fly. However, we did have one impromptu tour guide. His name was Charlie Chan.

Before we left Boston, I had started reading the book Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang (check out my review of the book here). The timing of this couldn't be more perfect. I brought the book with me on the two 6 hours plane rides to Honolulu and I spent a lot of time reading about early Hawaiian history, Chang Apana (the Honolulu Detective who would inspire the character Charlie Chan),  author Earl Derr Biggers and the Charlie Chan film legacy.

What was really great about reading the book on my trip to Oahu was that we could visit any of the locations mentioned in the book because we were right on the island!

One of the places we went to was the House Without a Key Lounge on Waikiki. It's part of the Halekulani Resort hotel in Honolulu. Now this lounge wasn't mentioned in the book. In fact a fellow blogger and Charlie Chan enthusiast pointed it out to me before the trip. "House Without a Key" is very important in the history of the Charlie Chan legacy. It's the name of the first of the 6 Charlie Chan novels that author Earl Derr Biggers would write. In fact, the novel House Without a Key doesn't even feature Charlie Chan prominently (something that disappointed me when I first read that novel). Fans were so enamored with the Chinese detective from Honolulu that they begged for more! And it led to Biggers writing five more stories featuring Charlie Chan. These include: The Chinese Parrot, Behind That Curtain, The Black Camel, Charlie Chan Carries On and The Keeper of Keys.

While Earl Derr Biggers was alive, he only allowed movie studios to adapt his novels into film. All 6 novels were adapted but they could not create new Charlie Chan stories to meet the growing demand. When Biggers passed away in 1933, his widow sold the rights to the Charlie Chan character to Fox and thus the waive of Charlie Chan films started. Out of all of the film adaptations of Biggers novels, only one of those films exists. And that's The Black Camel (1931). More on that film to come!

So what's so important about the House Without a Key lounge in regards to the Charlie Chan legacy? Read below:

Here in the shade of the Halekulani's giant kiawe tree is the House Without a Key.
Once owned by retired Sea Captain Brown, this tranquil spot is world-famous thanks to Charlie Chan, the inscrutable Honolulu detective who always got his man and frequently coined old Chinese proverbs.
Chan's creator, novelist Earl Derr Biggers, is said to have conceived the series while staying in a nearby Halekulani cottage in 1925. His first Charlie Chan mystery - called "The House Without a Key" - focused on the keen-eyed detective's solution of a cunning murder of a former sea captain. Site of the murder was a home on this precise spot in the late 1800s.
 As for Charlie Chan, there is evidence Biggers didn't just dream him up. Many believe the character was based on Chang Apana, a real-life Chinese detective on the Honolulu police force in the '20s. Some say the two met during Biggers' first Hawaii visit. Others say the author only read accounts of Apana's daring deeds.
 Today's House Without a Key was rebuilt in  1983  as part of the new Halekulani, in tribute to the famous Chinese detective, who is as much a part of the hotel's folklore as is the great kiawe tree which has sheltered visitors on Waikiki Beach for more than a century.

And there is the big kiawe tree. Behind it is the famous Waikiki beach. The lounge is partly indoors but mostly outside with a bar area under the kiawe tree and a dining area just behind that.

It was quite a magical experience having dinner and drinks at the House Without a Key lounge. It's quite pricey but worth the expense. The food and drink were amazing but nothing beats the ambiance and the history.

From our table at the lounge we could see Diamond Head in the background.

This is a screen shot of Diamond Head from the Charlie Chan film The Black Camel (1931). It's probably stock footage put in the film to give it more of a sense of place. Here are some surfers and there is Diamond Head in the background, you know you are in Hawaii. Did you know that The Black Camel (1931) is the only Charlie Chan movie filmed on location in Hawaii? Not even Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938) was filmed there. Stay tuned as I'll be including a post about a special filming location from The Black Camel.

Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone situated on the south east tip of Oahu. It's about a 45 minute walk to the top.

Once you get to the top of Diamond Head, you are greeted with spectacular views of Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Pearl Harbor and the south east coast of Oahu.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in my 3-part series when I explore more of Oahu with Charlie Chan.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Art Deco & Classic Hollywood Wedding - Part 2

I promised in my post about my Art Deco & Classic Hollywood themed wedding that I would post some professional pictures when I got them. Here are a few (or a lot!). Photographs are courtesy of Creative Images Boston.

My dress and accessories

Carlos getting ready

The Art Deco-Hawaii themed shoe box my friend Haze designed for me. Guests wrote on vintage styled postcards and dropped them in the shoe box in lieu of signing a guest book.

This was the Grace Kelly - Prince Rainier table

Ricardo Montalban and Georgiana Young 

Jack Lemmon and Felicia Farr

Carlos being goofy. His goofiness helped me calm down so much!

First look

My mom and aunt. They're twins!

We didn't get to take the Bentley home with us.

Geez, Raquelle is running a bit late isn't she?

I get my big laugh from my mom.

It was a great day. One I'll never forget.

Remember this photo? It was taken by Carlos' cousin on an iPhone. 

My friend Julianna illustrated it and the pieces as a wedding gift! Isn't it amazing?

Julianna does custom pet portraiture at her shop Friends with Pets on Etsy. Check it out!

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