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100+ Charlie Chan Sayings and Proverbs. A surprisingly good selection of truisms and insights
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | March 24, 2012 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 03/24/2012 11:49:57 AM PDT by NYer

My Father was a great fan of Charlie Chan movies, a series of detective movies from the 1930s featuring a fictional Chinese-American detective. My father had every one of them on video tape. Not only did he watch them often, he also collected Charlie Chan sayings. For in every movie there would be dozens of wise, witty, and insightful sayings. He jotted them down as he watched and once presented me with a collection of the sayings.

On Friday’s I like to blog on lighter fare and this Friday evening is no exception. I simply want to present the list my father gave me with later additions by me. This list is long, but many of the sayings are well worth the read. Not all of them are of equal value, but there are some real keepers in the list. Many indeed are in deep conformity with the biblical tradition.

If you want to print a convenient list, I have put this in PDF version of them here: Charlie Chan Sayings

But for light reading and edification enjoy this list of Charlie Chan sayings:

  1. Admitting failure like drinking bitter tea. (Charlie Chan in Egypt)
  2. After dinner is over, who cares about spoon? (Docks of New Orleans)
  3. Always happens – when conscience tries to speak, telephone out of order. (The Black Camel)
  4. Ancient ancestor once say, “Even wise man cannot fathom depth of woman’s smile.” (The Shanghai Cobra)
  5. Ancient ancestor once say, “Words cannot cook rice.” (Charlie Chan in Reno)
  6. Ancient proverb say. “Never bait trap with wolf to catch wolf.” (Shadows Over Chinatown)
  7. Ancient proverb say, “One small wind can raise much dust.” (Dark Alibi)
  8. Anxious man hurries too fast and stubs big toe. (Charlie Chan’s Courage)
  9. Bad alibi like dead fish – cannot stand test of time. (Charlie Chan in Panama)
  10. Best to slip with foot, than with tongue. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  11. Biggest mysteries are not always crimes. (1935 Pennsylvania Referendum Message)
  12. Blind man feels ahead with cane before proceeding. (Charlie Chan’s Courage)
  13. Boy Scout knife, like ladies’ hairpin, have many uses. (Charlie Chan’s Secret)
  14. Can fallen fruit return to branch? (Docks of New Orleans)
  15. Cat who tries to catch two mice at one time, goes without supper. (Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case)
  16. Charming company turn lowly sandwich into rich banquet. (Charlie Chan in Reno)
  17. Chinese funny people; when say “go,” mean “go.” (Docks of New Orleans)
  18. Confucius has said, “A wise man question himself, a fool, others.” (Charlie Chan in City in Darkness)
  19. Confucius say, “Sleep only escape from yesterday.” (Shadows Over Chinatown)
  20. Cornered rat usually full of fight. (Shadows Over Chinatown)
  21. Curiosity responsible for cat needing nine lives. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  22. Deception is bad game for amateurs. (Shadows Over Chinatown)
  23. Deer should not toy with tiger. (The Golden Eye)
  24. Detective without curiosity is like glass eye at keyhole – no use. (Charlie Chan in the Secret Service)
  25. Dreams, like good liars, distort facts. (Charlie Chan in Shanghai)
  26. Drop of plain water on thirsty tongue more precious than gold in purse. (Charlie Chan in Egypt)
  27. Easy to criticize, more difficult to be correct. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  28. Elaborate excuse seldom truth. (Castle in the Desert)
  29. Even draperies may have ears. (Charlie Chan at Treasure Island)
  30. Every fence have two sides. (Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case)
  31. Every front has back. (Charlie Chan in London)
  32. Every man must wear out at least one pair of fool shoes. (Charlie Chan Carries On)
  33. Every maybe has a wife called Maybe-Not. (Charlie Chan Carries On)
  34. Favorite pastime of man is fooling himself. (Charlie Chan at Treasure Island)
  35. Fear is cruel padlock. (Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum)
  36. Foolish rooster who stick head in lawn mower end in stew. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  37. Foolish to seek fortune when real treasure hiding under nose. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  38. Front seldom tell truth. To know occupants of house, always look in back yard. (Charlie Chan in London)
  39. Good detective always look for something unusual. (The Red Dragon)
  40. Good tools shorten labor. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  41. Grain of sand in eye may hide mountain. (Charlie Chan in Paris)
  42. “Great happiness follows great pain.” (Charlie Chan at Treasure Island)
  43. Guilty conscience always first to speak up. (The Feathered Serpent)
  44. Guilty conscience like dog in circus – many tricks. (Castle in the Desert)
  45. Guilty conscience only enemy to peaceful rest. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  46. Guilty mind sometimes pinch worse than ancient boot of torture. (Dangerous Money)
  47. Hastily accuse – leisurely repent. (Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case)
  48. Hasty conclusion easy to make, like hole in water. (Charlie Chan in Egypt)
  49. Hasty deduction, like old egg, look good from outside. (Charlie Chan’s Secret)
  50. Have two ears, but can only hear one thing at time. (The Shanghai Chest)
  51. He who squanders today talking about yesterday’s triumphs, have nothing to boast of tomorrow. (Docks of New Orleans)
  52. He who takes whatever gods send with smile, has learned life’s hardest lesson. (Docks of New Orleans)
  53. Honorable father once say, “Politeness golden key that open many doors.” (Charlie Chan at the Opera)
  54. Hours are happiest when hands are busiest. (Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise)
  55. Humbly suggest not to judge wine by barrel it is in. (Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case)
  56. Humility only defense against rightful blame. (Charlie Chan at the Opera)
  57. Ideas planted too soon, often like seeds on winter ground – quickly die. (The Sky Dragon)
  58. If request music, must be willing to pay for fiddler. (Charlie Chan at Treasure Island)
  59. If strength were all, tiger would not fear the scorpion. (Charlie Chan’s Secret)
  60. Illustrious ancestor once say, “Destination never reached by turning back on same.” (Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo)
  61. It is difficult to pick up needle with boxing glove. (Charlie Chan’s Chance)
  62. It takes very rainy day to drown duck. (Charlie Chan’s Chance)
  63. Kind thoughts add favorable weight, in balance of life and death. (Charlie Chan in Egypt)
  64. Law is honest man’s eyeglass to see better. (Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case)
  65. Long road, sometimes shortest way to end of journey. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  66. Man cannot drink from glass without touching. (Charlie Chan in Paris)
  67. Man has learned much, who has learned how to die. (Dead Men Tell)
  68. Man is not incurably drowned – if still knows he is all wet. (Charlie Chan’s Chance)
  69. Man who fears death die thousand times. (Castle in the Desert)
  70. Man who flirt with dynamite sometime fly with angels. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  71. Man who improve house before building foundation, apt to run into very much trouble. (The Feathered Serpent)
  72. Man who ride tiger, cannot dismount. (The Chinese Ring)
  73. Man who seek trouble never find it far off. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  74. Man never born who can tell what woman will, or will not, do. (Charlie Chan in Reno)
  75. Mind, like parachute, only function when open. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  76. More fear, more talk. (Charlie Chan in London)
  77. Most mysterious thing is what mankind does to itself for reasons difficult to understand. (1935 Pennsylvania Referendum Message)
  78. Much evil can enter through very small space. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  79. Must harvest rice before can boil it. (Docks of New Orleans)
  80. Necessity mother of invention, but sometimes stepmother of deception. (Charlie Chan’s Secret)
  81. No one knows less about servants than their master. (Charlie Chan in Shanghai)
  82. Optimist only sees doughnut, pessimist sees hole. (Charlie Chan in Paris)
  83. Owner of face cannot always see nose. (Charlie Chan in Shanghai)
  84. Patience, big sister to wisdom. (City in Darkness City in Darkness)
  85. Patience lead to knowledge. (Charlie Chan in Panama)
  86. Sharp wit sometimes much better than deadly weapon. (Castle in the Desert)
  87. Silence best answer when uncertain. (Charlie Chan in Shanghai)
  88. Silence big sister to wisdom. (Charlie Chan in Paris)
  89. Silent witness, sometime speak loudest. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  90. Smart fly keep out of gravy. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  91. Smart rats know when to leave ship. (Charlie Chan in Shanghai)
  92. Talk cannot cook rice. (Charlie Chan in Shanghai)
  93. The ignorant always loud in argument. (Docks of New Orleans)
  94. The impossible sometimes permits itself the luxury of occurring. (Charlie Chan’s Chance)
  95. Theory like mist on eyeglasses – obscures facts. (Charlie Chan in Egypt)
  96. Tongue often hang man quicker than rope. (Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo)
  97. To speak without thinking is to shoot without aiming. (Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise)
  98. Trouble, like first love, teach many lessons. (Dead Men Tell)
  99. Trouble with modern children, they do not smart in right place. (Charlie Chan in The Secret Service)
  100. Truth, like football – receive many kicks before reaching goal. (Charlie Chan at the Olympics)
  101. Truth sometimes like stab of cruel knife. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  102. Two ears for every tongue. (Charlie Chan in Shanghai)
  103. Under strong general there are no weak soldiers. (Charlie Chan’s Chance)
  104. Unhappy news sometimes correct self next day. (Charlie Chan at Treasure Island)
  105. Useless as life preserver for fish. (Charlie Chan’s Chance)
  106. Useless talk like boat without oar – get no place. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  107. Very difficult to believe ill of those we love. (Charlie Chan in Reno)
  108. Very wise know way out before going in. (Charlie Chan at the Circus)
  109. Waiting for tomorrow waste of today. (Charlie Chan in Egypt)
  110. When money talk, few are deaf. (Charlie Chan in Honolulu)
  111. When pilot unreliable, ship cannot keep true course. (Charlie Chan’s Secret)
  112. When player cannot see man who deal cards, much wiser to stay out of game. (Charlie Chan at the Race Track)
  113. Willingness to speak, not necessarily mean willingness to act. (The Golden Eye)
  114. Woman’s tongue like sword that never gets rusty. (Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case)
  115. Woman’s voice like monastery bell, when tolling, must attend. (Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case)

TOPICS: General Discusssion; Humor
KEYWORDS: charliechan; charliechansayings; msgrcharlespope
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Comment #21 Removed by Moderator

To: NYer

In one of the bonus sections of these DVDs, Warner Oland (I think) was quoted as saying he hated those “Chanisms” as too corny, but the public loved it and the studios wisely kept it up.

Another interesting bit was that when Oland (again I think) went to China, even the Chinese thought he was an Oriental.

I really liked the “Gee Whiz Pop” No. 1 Son, for he personified how the kids of non-Western cultures became Americanized.

Some years back, TNT was going to run a “Chan-a-Thon” and a professional victim group showed up complaining that the character was demeaning and showed the Chinese in a bad light. Naturally, the execs folded. I wrote them a scathing letter (pre-email days) saying how come no one complained about Colombo.

22 posted on 03/24/2012 12:43:00 PM PDT by Oatka (This is America. Assimilate or evaporate.)
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To: Dilbert San Diego

Were those guys Chinamen? Or, in a more politically correct manner, were those gentlemen Chinese?

Which reminds me why Chinese have slanted eyes: “Oh, no! Rice again?” (It’s an old joke).

23 posted on 03/24/2012 12:58:46 PM PDT by Overwatcher
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To: NYer

My favorite saying is - (after capturing young bear which had been stealing blocks of Teak wood from his storage shed -

“I have caught you bear with boys feet and teaks of Chan.”

24 posted on 03/24/2012 1:11:55 PM PDT by jongaltsr (It)
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To: NYer

Charlie Chan movies are the best ever made. Everybody seems to have their favorite Chan but mine is Sidney Toler and his loveable number 2 son, Jimmy, Victor Sen Yung.

25 posted on 03/24/2012 1:16:35 PM PDT by navymom1
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To: navymom1

Charlie Chan was based on a real Hawaiian detective in the late 1920s-30s. I would love to see a new Chan Film made—but made right—with a Chinese Actor and made in Hawaii—If I owed a studio I would make “The Case of the Vanishing Birth Certificate” PC will be long dead when this sort of film is made.

26 posted on 03/24/2012 2:37:47 PM PDT by Forward the Light Brigade (Into the Jaws of H*ll)
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To: NYer

Excellent. I used to go to Charlie Chan movies at the weekly Saturday Matinee double feature, when I was a kid.

For what seems to be a complete list of aphorisms, see here:

27 posted on 03/24/2012 2:49:34 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: NYer
I enjoyed the Chan movies back then. But there was another Chinese detective in a comic strip: Wun Cloo, the Defective Detective. That would really be un-PC today.
28 posted on 03/24/2012 3:45:21 PM PDT by JoeFromSidney
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To: NYer
Those are awesome; Anybody classic TV buffs remember "The Amazing Harry Hoo"?

"Solly About That !!! "
Harry Hoo
29 posted on 03/24/2012 4:56:04 PM PDT by Kid Shelleen (Beat your plowshares into swords. Let the weak say I am strong)
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To: Oatka; Dilbert San Diego
Some years back, TNT was going to run a “Chan-a-Thon” and a professional victim group showed up complaining that the character was demeaning and showed the Chinese in a bad light.

Not surprised. Dilbert San Diego also commented on how political correctness has denied generations of Americans the fruit from the earliest years of broadcasting.

I still, though vaguely, recall the Amos n Andy television program. Set in Harlem, the story centered on George Stevens (Moore) who was always conniving to make a fast buck. He was president of the Mystic Knights of the Sea, a fraternal order, where he held the position of "Kingfish." His lodge brothers were always getting snared in his schemes.

Soon the accusations of rascisim swirled around the show. Even though it went off the air in 1953 it was frequently seen in syndication. Civil rights groups complained that the characters stereotyped blacks and in 1966 it was pulled. However, it maintains a place in history as the first dramatic show with an all black cast. Ironically, the descendants of the cast members, are proud of their family member's participation on the program and fought back, unsuccessfully, to have the program restored.

In 2002, Speedy Gonzalez, the rapid rodent was been deemed an offensive ethnic stereotype of Mexicans, and taken off the air by Cartoon Network. A 1952 Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoon titled "Little Runaway" is now airing on the Cartoon Network minus a fraction of a scene which features a trash can cover hitting Tom's facing causing him to momentarily appear to be Chinese.

Censorship has gone much too far.

30 posted on 03/24/2012 5:01:23 PM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: Dilbert San Diego

Keye Luke from the 1972 cartoon series (who was also #1 or maybe #2 son in the 1930’s/1940’s. This one I do remember.

Ross Martin in Return of Charlie Chan (1973) - haven’t seen it.

J. Carrol Naish in the 1957-58 TV series (not familar with it).

31 posted on 03/24/2012 5:24:51 PM PDT by scrabblehack
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To: NYer


32 posted on 03/24/2012 5:41:19 PM PDT by Osage Orange (The MSM is the most dangerous entity in the United States of America.)
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To: NYer

I think speedy is back on the cartoon network. The new looney toons show, I think he owns a pizza shop, makes his own deliveries. I think I even remember a mexican accent, but I could be wrong about that. But you are right, I haven’t seen the originals for a long time.

The censorship of cartoons is so stupid it hurts.

They played Johnny Quest on boomerang, which is pretty shocking. Not sure if they leave the less politically correct ones out or not, or if it’s still on. My favs are the HB action cartoons of the 60’s, just great action crap with no insipid moral messages like the unspeakable garbage that happened in the 80’s.

Freegards, thanks for all the pings on FR

33 posted on 03/24/2012 6:06:15 PM PDT by Ransomed
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To: Dilbert San Diego

Didn’t Ross Martin (Wild Wild West) play him several times as well?

34 posted on 03/24/2012 6:37:11 PM PDT by verga (Party like it is 1773)
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To: verga

Ross Martin played him in a made for TV movie. I have never seen it. I think it was just one movie, not more than one. If I recall correctly, it was a pilot for a possible TV series.

Reminds me of the Wild Wild West. Artie was a master of disguise. Though I never saw that movie, I can imagine him as a convincing Charlie Chan.

35 posted on 03/24/2012 6:40:07 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
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To: Ransomed

I remember Johnny Quest, with his friend Hadji.

I think Hadji was supposed to be Muslim. I think the term “hadji” is Arabic, and means someone who has performed the hajj or trip to Mecca. But here we see “satanic” cartoon makers of the ‘60s made that boy’s name Hadji.

I bet Muslims would be upset with that cartoon.

36 posted on 03/24/2012 6:45:16 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
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To: Ransomed; Dilbert San Diego
They played Johnny Quest on boomerang, which is pretty shocking.

One of my favorite childhood cartoons was the original Jonny Quest. There was some documentary online about the making of it.

The documentary is on YouTube, link to the first part is below. It's well worth watching the whole thing if you are familiar with the series.

37 posted on 03/24/2012 6:55:26 PM PDT by thecodont
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To: Forward the Light Brigade

You are absolutely right. The writer was wanting to create the next great detective after Sherlock Holmes and created Chan.

I remember reading about the real life Chan and I recall the name but it’s slipped my mind (happens when you turn 51)presently. I want to say Pan Arpio, but that’s laughable!

I do have this bit of trivia. Sidney Toler who played my favorite Chan was known for his Iris cop roles prior to the Chan series. He was born in Warrensburg MO and is buried in my home state of Kansas, in Wichita.

38 posted on 03/24/2012 8:03:33 PM PDT by navymom1
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To: Dilbert San Diego

I always thought Hadji Quest was supposed to be Indian, I could be wrong. I think I remember him coming from Calcutta. He would pull these eastern fakir tricks like charming snakes and popping up in different barrels if the bad guys where after him.

The villains were the ones that would be really trouble nowadays—Zin was like straight out of Dr. Fu-Manchu. The evil yellow threat or whatever. There was also some where the were fighting actual savages of quite darker hue. I know, I know. That NEVER happened in real life. But it was awesome.


39 posted on 03/24/2012 8:17:11 PM PDT by Ransomed
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To: thecodont

I think my favs were the herculoids and dino boy with Ug the cave man. All that 60’s action stuff from HB was pure awesome sauce for boys. Just entertainment for kids, no socially correct moral message, just monsters, heroes and villains mixing it up.

In the late 70’s it started with the whole idea that you couldn’t have a responsible show for kids without teaching them them some insipid moral lesson at the same time. The ideas of course suffered greatly. Everything became selling toys, working as a group, don’t judge something by its looks, tell the truth, never kill anything ever, blah blah yuck. Give me giant heroic blob monsters fighting invading robots on a weird alien planet in deep space any day.

It’s starting to come around, but on cable with shows like adventure time.

I had forgotten it was actually Jonny and not Johnny. I’ll have to take a peek at that link, thanks. Some of the the characters for the HB action cartoons were designed by comic great Alex Toth.


40 posted on 03/24/2012 8:23:12 PM PDT by Ransomed
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