Saturday, April 16, 2005

American Movie Classics Introduction

I know this is a re-run, if not a re-run of a re-run, but I'm posting it for those who haven't seen it or who might like to see it again:

Nick Clooney's Introduction to an airing of Charlie Chan at Treasure Island*:

This is fun.
This is a Charlie Chan film.
I love 'em. I love 'em.
I suppose one of the first things that I'd better clear up for those of you who are not from the Bay area of San Francisco . . . I'd better explain why this is called Charlie Chan at Treasure Island when it doesn't involve pirates, buried treasure, or remote desert islands anywhere.
Treasure Island is in San Francisco Bay.
It's where the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge goes right past there.
It's part of San Francisco's version of the 1939 World's Fair.
Now I know that the 1939 World's Fair took place in New York City but there was also what was known as the Century of Progress that same year out on the west coast and that was called the World's Fair as well.
And this will be explained when we get into the movie.
Our star is Sidney Toler and Mr. Toler was actually from Missouri and had been rather typecast as Irish Cops before switching nationalities to take over the role of Charlie Chan from Warner Oland who had died at the age of 57 just a short time before.
Second lead went to Cesar Romero who enjoyed learning all the tricks he did as Rhadini, the illusionist.
Also cast~~this is interesting~~is Sally Blane is in this movie.
She is Loretta Young's older sister and the wife of Treasure Island director, Norman Foster, and plays the widow of the murder victim, you see.
Charlie Chan's # 2 son~~he was Victor Sen Yung~~he had been employed as a house boy by concert pianist Carmen de Obario before he was cast in his first Chan picture.
He invited his former employer to all of his sneak previews of all his Chan pictures thereafter.
The pianist loved them.
One actress was certainly left breathless by her part in this picture.
Excuse me a second while I pull this up to illustrate what I'm talking about.
Kay Kinaker [sic] was wrapped up in something that was really new then, brand new.
It was plastic wrap.
She was wrapped up in that to achieve the ghostly ectoplasmic appearance that you'll see.
But, you know, we really didn't know much about it then~~not really enough~~and the cast and crew went off to lunch and no one remembered to help her out of the plastic wrap.
And you know what happened there.
She nearly suffocated.
They finally of course, and fortunately, took care of it.
This Charlie Chan mystery you're about to see is considered to be one of the best.
And see what you think.
Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island.
Okay, let me just throw something out here for your consideration:
Is this a case of life imitating art or what?
Cesar Romero's character was The Amazing Rhadini, you saw that.
A magician who helped expose the phony Dr. Zodiac.
Okay, fast forward to now: the 1980's another magician called the Amazing Randi stepped out of his magician's guise to uncover phony psychic phenomena.
Remember? James Randy, former magician who became a crusader against fraudulent spiritualists, who has written several books uncovering how some psychics, how some faith healers bilked naive believers out of millions of dollars.
I'm sure many of you will remember Randi's famous appearance on the "Tonight" show in which he revealed video tape evidence of a supposed faith healers hearing aid and which was really a small receiver through which his wife transmitted the information he was supposedly receiving from the great beyond?
Now is it coincidence that Randi's name was foreshadowed in a movie made 50 years before?
Or was some unexplained force at work?
Or do I have an earpiece here with my wife talking to me right now: Meat loaf dinner.

[Aired February 5, 2002]

*American Movie Classics


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