Sleuths United – Three for Three

Hey-ho, it’s Rey.  The last favorite-detective post is mine.  Like JJ, I had two, but flipped a coin.  The original Magnum—not the latest, sorry—was up there.  A hunky private eye, he had an easy-going, laid-back attitude that made him really likable (never mind the great legs).  But I had to go with . . . Charlie Chan.  (Yeah, Linda was stunned, too.)

When I was a B-actress, I hung around with a clique (a different one from Linda’s) that was seriously into classic flicks, particularly B&W mysteries.  Fair-weather friends Flynn and Lynne loved Charlie Chan and got me hooked.  Chubby Charlie was calm and clever, and very wise, and had so many super cool sayings.  Fun/funny sons (like Keye Luke and Sen Yung) helped out now and again.

Yeah, there was some majorly politically incorrect stuff in those films; they were products of the times.  A number of writers/critics have blasted the Charlie Chan character for a variety of reasons I’m not going to get into.  I totally get where they’re coming from, to be sure, but I’ll leave it to others to blog about.

Contentiousness aside—yes Linda, I know a big word or two (okay, I confess, I heard it on CNN the other day)—the films were entertaining for various reasons.  Besides Charlie C solving cases through keen observation and topnotch investigative talent, the settings and clothes were awesome.  Even though most were filmed on movie sets, you could imagine the high-vaulted ceilings and plush decor belonging to stylish hotels and chic homes.  And those slinky silks and padded shoulders, tailored suits, and veils and hats—gorgeous!

Linda would want me to provide background, so here you go.  Charlie Chan was created by Earl Derr Biggers, who loosely based the Honolulu detective on Chang Apana, a Chinese-Hawaiian member of HPD.  More than four dozen films were made, with the first being a silent in 1926.  There were nine actors who portrayed the likable detective with the kind heart, with the first Charlie Chans portrayed by Asian actors.  In 1931 a Swedish dude named Warner Oland was selected for the role.  Sidney Toler took over when Oland died in 1938.  And Roland Winters claimed the role when Toler passed in 1948.

Flynn and Lynne used to have loud, heated debates as to who was the best Chan of the three.  I thought both Oland and Toler were solid actors, and did the role proud.  Winters was so-so, and that’s strictly a personal preference thingy.

In my research travels, I found reference to Chan radio broadcasts, comics, and cartoons from the 70s (who knew!?).  There’s a really cool site called The Charlie Chan Family Home that even has Monday night chats.  I spent a good hour there the other day.

Chan had a few fantastic food-for-thought expressions and I thought I’d leave you with three plum ones with a similar theme:

♦   To speak without thinking is to shoot without aiming.  ♦   Easy to criticize, more difficult to be correct.  ♦   Best to slip with foot, than with tongue.

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Sleuths United – Two / Too

Linda’s choice of favorite detective—Sherlock Holmes—was surprising.  I’d never have guessed she actually liked mysteries.  Yes, we’re private investigators, but that’s our job, our profession.  Simply because we solve cases doesn’t mean we have to read about them or experience them vicariously.

It’s JJ and it’s my turn to post about my preferred detective.  There are two vying for the favorite spot and they date back to the 60s and 70s, courtesy of Aunt Sue Lou and her love of retro TV.  When my sister Reena Jean (God rest her soul) and I were young, we spent a lot of time with aunts and cousins (like Rey) at various campsites, cottages and winter chalets.  Aunt Sue Lou loved her detective shows, all the more if the guys were cute.  She saw nothing wrong with the kids watching clean-fun crime shows before bedtime.

Of the many series we were exposed to back then, Columbo (Peter Falk) and Mannix (Mike Connors) were my favorites.  Still are.  While they took place in different decades, they didn’t seem dated.  It was more a view into another era; neither came across as stilted or contrived, like some others.  These days, I don’t get to watch either very often, but from time to time, I manage to put on an episode or two.  WPWedUse1

Columbo was a classic show, a non-whodunit—everyone knew who did it from the get-go.  It was hard not to like the perceptive LAPD Homicide cop with the rumpled and crumpled [ugly] raincoat, cheap stogie, and just-got-out-of-bed look.  Appearance-wise, he was a bit of a mess (you had to wonder why Wifey didn’t put her foot down about that).  His detecting manner leaned toward clumsy—he was forever misplacing a pencil or notebook, determining where to place ashes, or forgetting a question—but he was far from inept.  And he always got his man or woman, often with shows of respect from both parties when all was said and done.

Joe Mannix, on the other hand, was a ruggedly handsome and well-put-together Los Angeles private eye who was honorable and conscientious, as well as suave and kind of sexy.  During the eight years the show graced the TV screen, he suffered a slew of punches, a stabbing and shooting or two, and 55+ knock-outs.  Pretty and amiable Peggy Fair, his secretary (played by Gail Fisher) was the perfect complement.  The various LAPD cop friends he had always seemed more like buddies than antagonists (as often portrayed in other shows) and that was an appealing component.

Both shows were innocuous and entertaining.  Still are.  It’s particularly fun to watch them now because you’ll discover big-named actors—some already popular then and some just starting out.

Linda ended with a favorite quote from Sherlock and that got me to thinking of ones for my two detectives.  Unfortunately, neither had any, save for Columbo’s frequent, famous “Ah, one more thing” line.

So, I’ll leave you with my two favorite episodes.

Columbo: “Murder by the Book” (with Jack Cassidy and Martin Milner). A mystery writing duo go splitsville when one murders the other.  Directed by Steven Spielberg, it was classic Columbo and is [still] thoroughly entertaining.

Mannix: “Out of the Night” (with Joyce Van Patten and James A Watson Jr).  I liked this one because it gave Peggy a chance to shine and play something other than a calm, dependable, and perky secretary.  To assist in breaking up a narcotics ring, she goes undercover as a prostitute, exhibiting spunk and pluck.

If you haven’t watched either—or it’s been some time since you have—take another gander.  Both shows are a pleasant diversion—but no less engaging—from the gritty and excessively violent ones we have today.

Who Doesn’t Like a Little Inspiration?

A wee while back I posted about Nancy Drew, the amateur sleuth who inspired me to write mysteries.

Feeling nostalgic, I ordered a few of the many I’d read as a kid (gotta love Amazon).  Written in the 50s and 60s by Carolyn Keene, a pseudonym of the various authors that wrote both Nancy Drew mysteries and The Dana Girls mysteries, they were “frolicsome” adventures for the young [aspiring] Sherlock within.

Having read three so far, the ones I recall having been my favorites back then, I thought I’d provide then-and-now reviews.

The Haunted Showboat

The first Nancy Drew read by yours truly had me so riveted, I spent the entire weekend in my bedroom with it.  It took me to New Orleans, which sounded so exotic to a kid living in cold, gray Toronto.  It provided action and excitement, a world where a “girl” could lead an exciting adventurous life, have (and easily make) friends.  She was pretty, smart, and oh so [enviably] likable; with two affable sidekicks, Bess and George, a darling dad and kind housekeeper, life seemed more than perfect.  While solving the mystery with them, I learned a few facts, too.  It was a 5/5.

I have to admit—YA writing style aside—it was still an enjoyable read, save for some politically incorrect words/terms/portrayals.  During the period, using them in books or on TV seemed the norm; today, whoa, not at all acceptable.  Ignorance of the times?  A topic for another post.  A 3/5 (for taking me back to the bayou).

The Clue in the Old Stagecoach

Nancy, Bess and George attend Camp Merriweather where the trio attempt to locate—yup—a clue in an old stagecoach.  In fact, finding it might just help save a town.  They detect while pursuing camp fun and encountering requisite villains—which is somewhat reminiscent of those 60s beach flicks with cute crooning Frankie and perfectly-coiffed Annette.  Must be nice to have moneyed parents that can send you to fun/faraway places.  <LOL>  The trio—with the assistance of their ever-faithful beaus—solve the case with stellar results, natch.  I’d probably have given it a 4/5 back then.

Stagecoach wasn’t quite what I remembered.  Flat and not overly eventful (with some annoying characters), a 1/5 would be about the best I could offer today.

The Moonstone Castle Mystery

This one accompanied me to Germany when my mother and I flew over to attend her mom’s funeral.  It had the same drawing power as Haunted Showboat and I was captivated as the three young women traveled to Deep River to locate a girl missing since childhood.  Yes, there was a moonstone (a gift sent to Nancy by someone unknown) and a mysterious, rundown castle reputed to be haunted.  A sundry of exciting events occurred, including the stealing of our titian-haired detective’s car, a chase or two, and some questionable characters.  Oh, of course, the aforementioned beaus made an appearance again—for that “romantic” component I suppose (but, quite frankly, unnecessary).  It was a 5/5 then and is a 4/5 now.

As an only child with few friends and parents who didn’t much know what to do with a child they’d not planned for (a fact and not stated with malice or regret) the stories provided pure escapism—distant and intriguing places, and opportunities to allow [a burgeoning] imagination to develop.

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What a pleasant diversion these last two weeks have been, an entertaining [if not enlightening] jaunt back in time.  There are a few additional Nancy Drew mysteries to read.  As time permits.  Perhaps there’ll be more reviews, too.  <LOL>

For those penning and/or reading mysteries, happy sleuthing.