Luke Chan

Luke Chan was a Chinese-Canadian character actor and designer who worked in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. He was also a prominent figure in the development of Los Angeles's Chinatown neighborhood.[1][2]

Luke Chan
Luke Tin Chan

April 16, 1896
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
DiedSeptember 30, 1983
Los Angeles, California, USA
Alma materColumbia University
Spouse(s)Mary Vanvliet (m. 1936)


Chan was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, to parents of Chinese origin. His father, Chan Yu Tan, was a minister and his mother was a doctor.[3]

Chan graduated from Columbia University, and later married Mary Alice Van Vleet in 1936; she died several years later. He was known for his intellectual manner, and he struck up an enduring friendship with actress Elissa Landi.[4] Like a lot of Chinese actors during this period, he often played Japanese roles.[5]

Chan opened the Chinese Junk Cafe in Los Angeles's Chinatown in the late 1930s.[6] He and fellow actor Johnson Sing spent time designing a large replica of a Chinese pirate ship that adorned the restaurant at 733 N. Main St. (The building later burned down in a fire.)[7][8] Chan also served as president of the neighborhood's China City Merchants' Association and as Chinatown's unofficial mayor, and helped design the look of the area.[9][10]

Selected filmography


  1. California, Jenny Cho and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern (2013). Chinese in Hollywood. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738599731.
  2. "Chinese Actors in Great Demand in Movie Studios". The Pittsburgh Press. 30 Aug 1942. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  3. "Chinese Minister Dies at 85". The Province. 5 Oct 1948. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  4. "Luke Chan Discovers Hollywood No Place for Philosophers". Press and Sun-Bulletin. 29 Jul 1935. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  5. "Chinese Actors Are Busy". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. 27 Dec 1942. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  6. "Chinatown Rises Anew". The Los Angeles Times. 29 May 1938. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  7. "Pirate Junk in China City". The Los Angeles Times. 29 Mar 1939. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  8. Cho, Jenny; California, Chinese Historical Society of Southern (2011). Chinatown and China City in Los Angeles. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738581651.
  9. "Working Mayor". Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. 15 Nov 1942. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  10. Gravari-Barbas, Maria; Graburn, Nelson; Staszak, Jean-Francois (2019-08-28). Tourism Fictions, Simulacra and Virtualities. Routledge. ISBN 9781000681178.
  11. "'The Purple Heart' Proves Powerful and Dramatic War Film". The Gazette. 1 Apr 1944. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
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