Earl Derr Biggers

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Earl Derr Biggers
Born (1884-08-26)August 26, 1884
United States
Died April 5, 1933(1933-04-05) (aged 48)
United States
Occupation Playwright, novelist
Genre Fiction, theatre

Earl Derr Biggers (August 26, 1884 – April 5, 1933) was an American novelist and playwright.[1]

He is remembered primarily for his novels, especially those featuring the fictional Chinese American detective Charlie Chan, from which popular films were made in the United States and China.


The son of Robert J. and Emma E. (Derr) Biggers, Earl Derr Biggers was born in Warren, Ohio, and graduated from Harvard University in 1907. He worked as a journalist for The Plain Dealer before turning to fiction.[2] Many of his plays and novels were made into movies. He was posthumously inducted into the Warren City Schools Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.[3]

His novel Seven Keys to Baldpate led to seven films of the same title and at least two with different titles (House of the Long Shadows, Haunted Honeymoon) but essentially equivalent plots. George M. Cohan adapted the novel as an occasionally revived stage play of the same name. Cohan starred in the 1917 film version (one of his rare screen appearances) and the film version he later wrote (released in 1935) is perhaps the best known of the seven film versions.

The popularity of Charlie Chan extended even to China, where audiences in Shanghai appreciated the Hollywood films. Chinese companies made films starring this fictional character.[4] Derr Biggers publicly acknowledged the real-life detective Chang Apana as the inspiration for the character of Charlie Chan in his letter to the Honolulu Advertiser of June 28, 1932.[5]

Biggers lived in San Marino, California, and died in a Pasadena, California, hospital after suffering a heart attack in Palm Springs, California. He was 48.

The Charlie Chan series[edit]

Other works[edit]


  1. ^ "THE SCREEN". The New York Times. July 4, 1931. 
  2. ^ Goodman, Rebecca (2005). This Day in Ohio History. Emmis Books. p. 258. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  3. ^ "Alumni Hall of Fame". Warren Schools. Archived from the original on 2007-09-23. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  4. ^ "Charlie Chan in China" The Chinese Mirror [n.d.].
  5. ^ "The Real Charlie Chan", featurette on: Charlie Chan in Egypt (DVD), 20th Century Fox, 2006.

External links[edit]