Earl Derr Biggers

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

Earl Derr Biggers
Born(1884-08-26)August 26, 1884
Warren, Ohio, U.S.
DiedApril 5, 1933(1933-04-05) (aged 48)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
OccupationPlaywright, novelist
Alma materHarvard University
GenreFiction, theatre

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 was popular in 1913, and George M. Cohan quickly adapted the novel as a hit Broadway stage play of the same name. Cohan starred in the 1917 film version, one of seven film versions of the play, and a 1935 revival.[4] The novel was also adapted into two films with different titles, House of the Long Shadows and Haunted Honeymoon, but they had essentially equivalent plots.

More than 10 years after Baldpate, Biggers had even greater success with his series of Charlie Chan detective novels. 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.[5] 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.[6]

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

Other works

  • Seven Keys to Baldpate (1913)
  • Love Insurance (1914); film version: One Night in the Tropics (1940)
  • Inside the Lines (1915) (with Robert Welles Ritchie)
  • The Agony Column (1916) (also published as Second Floor Mystery)
  • Fifty Candles (1921)
  • Earl Derr Biggers Tells Ten Stories (short stories, 1933)


  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. Warburton, Eileen. "Keeper of the Keys to Old Broadway: Geroge (sic) M. Cohan's Seven Keys to Baldpate (1913)", 2nd Story Theatre, January 32, 2014, accessed October 14, 2014. See also "Play Reviews for Seven Keys to Baldpate", 2nd Story Theatre, accessed October 14, 2014
  5. "Charlie Chan in China" Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine The Chinese Mirror [n.d.].
  6. "The Real Charlie Chan", featurette on: Charlie Chan in Egypt (DVD), 20th Century Fox, 2006.
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