Warner Oland (born Johan Verner Ölund; 3 October 1879 – 6 August 1938) was a Swedish-American actor. His career included time on Broadway and numerous film appearances. He is most remembered for playing several Chinese and Chinese-American characters: Dr. Fu Manchu, Henry Chang in Shanghai Express, and, most notably, Honolulu Police detective Lieutenant Charlie Chan in 16 films.
Johan Verner Ölund
October 3, 1879
Nyby, Bjurholm Municipality, Sweden
|Died||August 6, 1938 (aged 58)|
|Resting place||Southborough Rural Cemetery, Southborough, Massachusetts, US|
|Known for||Charlie Chan|
Edith Gardener Shearn
Oland was born in the village of Nyby, Bjurholm Municipality, Västerbotten County, Sweden. He claimed that his vaguely Asian appearance was due to possessing some Mongolian ancestry, though his known ancestry contains no indication that this was so.
When he was 13, Oland's family emigrated to the United States, in November 1892, on board the S/S Thingvalla, which sailed from Christiania, Norway, to New York. After an initial stay in New York City, the family settled in New Britain, Connecticut. Educated in Boston, Oland spoke English and his native Swedish, and eventually translated some of the plays of August Strindberg.
As a young man, Oland 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 Russian-American actress Alla Nazimova (1879 – 1945). The following year, he met and married the playwright and portrait painter Edith Gardener Shearn (1872-1968). Shearn 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.
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. 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. 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.
Becoming a starEdit
Oland's normal appearance fit the Hollywood expectation of caricatured Asianness of the time, despite his having no proven Asian ethnic 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.
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 (although the second one was purely a cameo appearance). 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. Oland played a werewolf, biting the protagonist, played by Henry Hull, in Werewolf of London (1935).
The Charlie Chan industryEdit
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.
Last Year and DeathEdit
Despite his wealth and success, Oland suffered from alcoholism that severely affected his health and his 30-year marriage. In January 1938, he started filming Charlie Chan at the 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.
During this period he was involved in a bitter divorce from his wife. He was forbidden, by court order, from traveling overseas or moving his assets abroad. Around this time, he was 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. The same day he left the US 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, August 6, 1938, aged 58.
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 a historic farmhouse.
Warner is referenced anonymously in Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, when they met on a train, a famous actor who was, at first, critical of Yogananda's eastern garb and the conversation soon evolved into an amicable philosophical discussion.
- Pilgrim's Progress (1912) as John Bunyon (film debut)
- 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 (1929) 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
- "Warner Oland". Svensk Filmdatabas. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- Hanke, Ken. Charlie Chan at the Movies: History, Filmography, and Criticism. McFarland & Company: Jefferson, North Carolina, 1989.
- LoBianco, Lorraine. "Daughter of the Dragon" Turner Classic Movies.
- Swedish genealogist Sven-Erik Johansson has traced Ölund's ancestry back 5 generations. Sikhallan Genealogy site
- "Alla Nazimova". Women Film Pioneers. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "Warner Oland". Charlie Chan Family Home. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "Warner Oland". Classic Monsters. September 6, 2017. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- Lepore, Jill. "Chan, The Man" The New Yorker, August 9, 2010.
- "Warner Oland". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- Wollstein, Hans J. (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 July 30, 2010.
- "Warner Oland". Chicago Daily Tribune. August 7, 1938. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "Warner Oland". New York Times. August 7, 1938. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- Goldberg, Philip G. (2018). The Life of Yogananda. New Delhi: Hay House India. p. 103. ISBN 978-9-3868-3252-8.
- Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Warner Oland". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 196–199. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.
- Katchmer, George A. (1991). Eighty Silent Film Stars: Biographies and Filmographies of the Obscure to the Well Known (hardcover) (First ed.). Jefferson, NC, and London: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-89950-494-0.
- Huang, Yunte (2010) Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History (New York: W W Norton) ISBN 978-0-393-06962-4
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Warner Oland.|
- Photographs and literature
- Warner Oland at IMDb
- 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