Birth: October 3, 1880 (Nyby, Sweden)
Death: August 5, 1938 (Stockholm, Sweden)
Warner Oland, a native of Nyby, Sweden, was born Johan Verner lund
and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1892.
His first acting experience was in the theater, where he also was
proficient in set design. He was the first to play the Chinese
detective. He was Charlie Chan in sixteen of the films.
Oland became the standard Chan. He had frequently played Oriental
characters, and played Chan without make-up, adding only a goatee.
Oland brought brains, manners and charm to the role of Charlie Chan.
He learned Chinese for the role, and went to China to learn more
about the culture.
With his brother, Carl Oland
Jack & Edith Oland with their guide in China
Truly a remarkable man, Warner Oland (known as "Jack" to his friends)
spoke several languages, and was a scholar of philosophy, classical
music and art, and a translator of the works of Strindberg. In 1908.
he married a wealthy Bostonian, the artist Edith Gardener Shearn.
Although the Olands didn't have any children themselves, Warner
certainly seems to have enjoyed their company. Visitors' children
could expect to hunt sea shells with him on the beach and be treated
to little performances of the "Princess Ming Lo Fu" song that he
sang as Chan in "Charlie Chan in Shanghai."
As for family, the Olands counted as their "children" the herd
of German Schnauzers led by Shaggety Ann ("Shags") and her four
offspring: Countess Julie, Mr. Chan, Princess Ming Lo Fu and
Till Eulenspeigel! It seems he took #1 dog, Shags, on the set with
him for companionship.
The Oland's home was a historic farmhouse in the Southville section
of Southborough, Massachusetts. Upon Oland's death, he was buried in
the town cemetery. The marker for his grave was originally the
doorstep to the Oland's Smoke Tree Farm.
Oland left the set of Charlie Chan at Ringside (a film which
was never completed), sailing to Europe. He died of bronchial
pneumonia Stockholm, Sweden on August 6, 1938.
His fondness for children is shown in his provision in his will
for his nieces and nephews. Edith, the tough little old Bostonian
(born May 12, 1870) died in Hollywood, California on May 14, 1968,
just two days past her 98th birthday. She has never remarried after
the death of her husband three decades earlier.