The Movies of Fu Manchu:
Part One: Harry Agar Lyons and Warner Oland

First played by Harry Agar Lyons in the 1920's, the sinister Chinese doctor was subsequently portrayed in the movies by Warner Oland, Boris Karloff,  Henry Brandon, Manuel Requena, Christopher Lee and Peter Sellers. John Carradine and Glen Gordon portrayed Fu Manchu on television. Rohmer's sinister female, Sumuru, had her movies as well.

bullet6.GIF (79 bytes) Part One: Harry Agar Lyons and Warner Oland

Part Two: Boris Karloff

Part Three: Henry Brandon and Manuel Requena

Part Four: Christopher Lee and Peter Sellers

1914: Mr. Wu Chung Fu

Advertisement from Moving Picture World, 1914

While "The Mysterious Wu Chung Foo--A Feature That Will Appeal To All Movie Fans" never officially acknowledges its origins and Rohmer was given no credit (or payment) Fu Manchu and Rohmer's plot elements are clearly found in this four-part silent serial movie appearing July 1914 from the Feature Photoplay Company in New York City.

The plot, as summarized by the American Film Institute, leaves little doubt as to its pedigree:

"After a game of cards at the Astor Club, Lord Lister, a detective, notices an inscription on a dollar bill which reads, 'We are held prisoners by a Chinese gang at Cosia, near Sacramento. Send help!' Lister and his friend, Charles Brand, determined to unravel this mystery, travel to Cosia where they encounter the mysterious Chinese merchant Wu Chung Foo. Wu Chung tells Lister and Brand

about the unexplained disappearances of many men on his grounds. At Wu Chung's home, his adopted daughter Hattie's attraction to Brand angers the merchant into having him secretly taken to his underground prison where men are worked to death. Lister's suspicions about Brand's disappearance force Wu Chung to have the detective taken there as well. Hattie discovers the secret and gets help from some soldiers who capture Wu Chung and release Brand and the others."

AFI Catalog of Feature Films. 29 December 2005.


1921: The Yellow Claw

(Feature; BFI 6118 feet; 1837.02 m (6 reels, USA))

Featuring Fu Manchu’s prototype, "Mr. King," it was the first movie explicitly based on Sax Rohmer’s work.

Production company: Stoll
Director: René Plaisetty
Screenplay: Gerald Fort Buckle
Art direction: Walter W. Murton
Photography: John J. Cox


A. C. Fotheringham-Lyons Henry Leroux
Ivy King  Mrs. Leroux
Kitty Fiedler Lady of the Poppies
Norman Page Soames
Harvey Braban Gaston Max
Sydney Seaward Inspector Dunbar
Kiyoshi Takase Ho-Pin
Mary Massart Helen Cumberley
Cyril Percival John Howard Edel
Arthur M. Cullin Dr. Cumberley
Annie Esmond Denise Ryland
June Mrs. Vernon (The Lady of the Civet Furs)
Eric Albury Gianopolis
Geoffrey Benstead Sowerby
George Harrington
Iris Macki

1923: The Mystery of Fu Manchu

From the collection of John Soister          
                  Photo and "campaign piece" from the collection of John Soister.  Used with permission.

"In the Underground stations, all over London, larger 
than life sized posters depicted the leering visage and
clutching hands of the Devil Doctor."
                                   (Master of Villainy, p. 157)

A series of  twenty-five cards were printed and distributed in cigarette packs. They were variously tinted green, brown, or blue.


No. 2

No.3 featuring
Fred P. Paul as Nayland Smith

From the collection of Lawrence Knapp  From the collection of Lawrence Knapp
No. 4 featuring Harry Agar Lyons as Dr. Fu-Manchu

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

From the collection of Lawrence Knapp
No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

From the collection of Lawrence Knapp
No. 20

No. 21

No. 22

No. 23

No. 24

No. 25

Production Company: Stoll

A. E. Coleby

Scenario by: A. E. Coleby & Frank Wilson
Cameraman: D. P. Cooper (& Phil Ross)
Editor: H. Leslie Brittain
Art Director: Walter H. Murton
Release date: 10 September 1923

Episodes: Length:
1 The Scented Envelopes (2400 feet)
2 The West Case (1800 feet)
3 The Clue of the Pigtail (1700 feet)
4 The Call of Siva (1700 feet)
5 The Miracle (1712 feet)
6 The Fungi Cellars (1630 feet; BFI 1457 feet)
7 The Knocking on the Door (2228 feet)
8 The Cry of the Nighthawk (1773 feet; BFI 1623 feet)
9 Aaron's Rod (1862 feet)
10 The Fiery Hand (2174 feet; BFI 2008 feet)
11 The Man with the Limp (2000 feet)
12 The Queen of Hearts (1750 feet; BFI 1771 feet)
13 The Silver Buddha (1570 feet; BFI 1484 feet)
14 The Sacred Order (1700 feet; BFI 1629 feet)
15 The Shrine of Seven Lamps (1500 feet; BFI 1610 feet)
Harry Agar Lyons Dr. Fu-Manchu
Fred P. Paul Nayland Smith
H. Humberston Wright Dr. Petrie
Joan Clarkson Karamaneh
Frank Wilson Inspector Weymouth /
James Weymouth
Pat Royale Aziz [Episodes 6, 10]
Wingold Lawrence Frank Norris West [Episode 2]
Stacey Gaunt Lord Southery [Episode 5]
Charles Vane Sir Crichton Davey [Episode 1]
Percy Standing Abel Slattin [Episode 9]
Ernest Spalding Shen-Yan [Episode 3]
Napier Barry Henderson [Episodes 5]
Julie Suedo Zarmi [Episodes 11, 12]
Robert English Sir John Astley [Episode 1]
Booth Conway Mordain [Episode 1]
Austin Leigh valet [Episode 5]
H. Cundall Forsyth [Episode 8]
D. Bland Logan [Episode 12]
Fred Raynham Sir Frazer [Episode 12]
Madge Royce ? [Episode 12]
E. Lewis Walter Salaman [Episode 13]
Laurie Leslie dacoit [Episode 14]
H. Manning Mandarin [Episode 14]
Percy Clarbour Inspector Wills [Episode 14]

Film historian John Soister's latest book, UP FROM THE VAULTS: RARE THRILLERS FROM THE 20s & 30s (McFarland & Company), should be out in February or March of 2004. The book contains the most extensive discussion of the Stoll movies to date and is highly recommended. A brief excerpt follows:

     The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (erroneously referred to as “The Mysteries” by some of the contemporary British trade magazines) was a collection of 15 semi-autonomous two-reelers, adapted by director A.E. Coleby and Frank Wilson from Sax Rohmer’s ever growing literary output.  The studio admitted that the scenarios had been pretty much lifted from the author’s original short stories (published as far back as October 1912 in the Story Teller magazine, the New Magazine, Collier’s, et al), and Kinematograph Weekly (26 April 1923) advised interested exhibitors that the studio heads…

are spending many thousands of pounds upon what they consider to be the greatest publicity scheme yet devised.  Hundreds of the finest bill-posting sites in the United Kingdom have been secured to herald the series; Tube lifts and Tube stations will be utilised; advertisements will appear in newspapers all over the country, and Methuen and Co., Ltd., is publishing special editions of The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu, The Devil Doctor, and The Si-Fan Mysteries, from which the series has been adapted. (p. 121)

     In addition to Stoll’s attempts at having Harry Lyons’ gaunt visage staring down at tube patrons and pedestrians everywhere, other industry publications recommended that theater displays be jazzed up via purple lighting, Chinese lettering on upright narrow panels, and attendants attired in Chinese costumes.  The Methuen and Co. volumes were likewise touted as lobby decoration, as were the sundry pertinent copies of >Story Teller magazine, replete with lurid cover art.   (The exhibitors were also rather shamelessly exhorted to tie in with The Eye of Siva, a Fu Manchu play that was making some noise on the West End at that time.)  The scope (and cheek) of such an aggressive publicity campaign is best appreciated when one recalls that The Mystery of Fu Manchu was a series of short subjects, normally meant to augment - not overshadow - the current feature film. 

Copyright © 2003 John Soister -- Used with permission

For John Soister's detailed descriptions of each of the episodes--including each episode's cast and plot summary, click here.

1924: The Further Mysteries of Fu Manchu

This title was originally advertised as "The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (Second Series)."
(8 two-reel episodes)

Production company: Stoll
Director: Fred Paul
Adaptation: Fred Paul
Cameraman: Frank Canham
Art Director: Walter W. Murton
Release date: 7 August 1924
Episodes: Length:
1 A Midnight Summons (1791 feet)
2 The Coughing Horror (1800 feet; BFI 1871 feet)
3 Cragmire Tower (2040 feet; BFI 1714 feet)
4 The Green Mist (1734 feet)
5 The Café de l'Egypte (2270 feet)
6 The Golden Pomegranates (2100 feet; BFI 2094 feet)
7 Karamenah (2366 feet)
8 Greywater Park (2390 feet)
Harry Agar Lyons Dr. Fu-Manchu
Fred P. Paul Nayland Smith
H. Humberston Wright Dr. Petrie
Dorinea Shirley Karamaneh
Frank Wilson Inspector Weymouth
George Foley Hagar [Episode 3]
Fred Morgan Antonio Strozza [Episode 2]
Julie Suedo Zarmi [Episode 6]
Henry Wilson ? [Episode 2]
Harry Rignold the Coughing Horror [Episode 2]
Johnny Butt Farmer [Episode 2]
Rolf Leslie Van Room [Episode 3]
Fred Hearn waiter [Episode 6]

The above information for the three Stoll productions combines material from standard references (principally the British Film Institute Catalog) with additions and corrections (the result of more specialized research) from Victor Berch and John Soister. The lengths marked BFI are from the British Film Institute Catalog; the other measurements were supplied by John Soister from other sources.

1929: The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu

Directed by Rowland V. Lee
35mm, 80 min.

Paramount Pictures. 
Screenplay: Florence Ryerson, Lloyd Corrigan. 
Based on the story by Sax Rohmer. 
Cinematography: Harry Fischbeck. 
Editor: George Nichols, Jr. 

Cast: Warner Oland, O.P. Heggie, Jean Arthur, Neil Hamilton, Claude King, William Austin, Charles A. Stevenson, Evelyn Selbie, Noble Johnson, Tully Marshall.

O.P. Heggie. 

A silent and an "All Talking" sound version were released simultaneously.

  The opening music.

"The least known of all the sound Fu Manchu pictures are those that ushered the character created by author Sax Rohmer into the talkie era. With THE MYSTERIOUS DR. FU MANCHU, Paramount launched a three-picture series in which the title role was played by Warner Oland , soon to achieve greater fame as detective Charlie Chan. The film recounts the beginnings of the doctor's life of crime: the deaths of his wife and son during the Boxer Rebellion drives Dr. Fu Manchu to kill off, one by one, the British colonialists who put down the Rebellion, using what a contemporary reviewer called "diabolical cunning and fiendish methods." The aura of mystery and menace comes via director Rowland V. Lee, who would achieve similar effects in later thrillers such as SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939). "
UCLA Film and Television Archive




MysFuOl.jpg (8255 bytes)

A Paramount  Mystery Thriller

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A Paramount All Talking Mystery Thriller

Streetcar 53 on the waterfront line of coastal Mississippi, probably Gulfport, with an advertisement for "Dr. Fu Manchu" running at the Saenger Theatre in nearby Biloxi. The photo is from Southern Traction, a 1983 magazine  about streetcars in the south, and  is credited to a 1975 Mississippi Power Company publication. --Submitted by Bill Hooper

North Park in San Diego

Lowes in Cleveland

1930? Den mystiske Dr. Fu Manchu

Danish release. An eight page program was given to Danish movie patrons. It was about 7 x 9 inches. There were four additional photos within.

DanishMys.jpg (24353 bytes)

1930: The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu

A Paramount Picture
Starring Warner Oland,
O. P. Heggie,
Jean Arthur, and
Neil Hamilton.

When this movie opened at the Seattle Paramount Theater, a three piece mandolin orchestra played.


From Portti 1, 1998. Ed. Raimo Nikkonen
From the collection of Robert E. Briney

The poster art above was used in 1996 on a French Omnibus edition.  Compare







Lobby card for The Return of Fu Manchu


1930 Paramount on Parade

"Warner Oland's fourth appearance as Fu Manchu in 'Murder Will Out,' a comedy sketch which formed a segment in PARAMOUNT ON PARADE, one of those all-star revues the studios were so fond of. The film was shot in both black and white and Technicolor. Unfortunately, the color segments no longer survive. Fortunately, the B&W segments, including 'Murder Will Out,' do. In this, Clive Brook as Sherlock Holmes is teamed with William Powell as Philo Vance against Oland's Devil Doctor. I seem to remember a gunshot and a blackout and chase and the segment lasted but a scant few minutes." -- Leonard P. Gray, Email (July 19, 1998)

Paramount on Parade was discussed  in detail in a letter from Stephen Shutt published in The Rohmer Review No 13. He quotes the following passage from "Paramount: The Fantasy Years --- 1929-39" in the magazine "Gore Creatures #22."

"Oland did a comic cameo as Fu Manchu for Paramount's 1929 Technicolor-tinted extravaganza Paramount on Parade. Coupled in a satiric murder mystery sequence with Sherlock Holmes (Clive Brook) and Philo Vance (William Powell), confessed killer Fu Manchu is impelled to shoot the astute detectives in order to convince them that he is a real murderer!"

The following additional information is from a Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy site:

Released April 19, 1930. A revue in 20 parts. Black and white film with two-strip Technicolor sequences.

Eleven directors: Dorothy Arzner, Victor Heerman, Ernst Lubitsch, Edward Sutherland, Otto Brower, Lothar Mendes, Edmund Goulding, Rowland V. Lee, Victor Schertzinger, Frank Tuttle, Edwin H. Knopf. Supervised by: Elsie Janis. Dance ensembles: David Bennett. Photography: Harry Fischbeck and Victor Milner. Set design: John Wenger.

In the first few years of sound film, each major studio hastily constructed a revue to show off their major stars talking, and sometimes singing and dancing. The most stylish of these smorgasbords was Paramount on Parade. The vaudeville format permitted versions in many languages featuring sequences with the stars of the targeted country. The American cast included Maurice Chevalier, Richard Arlen, Jean Arthur, William Austin, George Bancroft, Clara Bow, Evelyn Brent, Mary Brian, Clive Brook, Virginia Bruce, Nancy Carroll, Ruth Chatterton, Gary Cooper, Cecil Cunningham, Leon Errol, Stuart Erwin, Kay Francis, Skeets Gallagher, Harry Green, Mitzi Green, James Hall, Phillips Holmes, Helen Kane, Dennis King, the Abe Lyman Band, Fredric March, Nino Martini, Mitzi Mayfair, David Newell, Jack Oakie, Warner Oland, Zelma O'Neal, Eugene Pallette, Joan Peers, William Powell, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Lillian Roth, Stanley Smith, and Fay Wray. The only major Paramount star not included was Jeanette. (Newcomer Claudette Colbert wouldn't achieve stardom until May, 1930 in The Big Pond with Chevalier.)

In Part Four of his discussion of "Holmes on Screen," Damian Magee notes of  "Murder Will Out," that "This was the first time that Holmes died on screen."

1931: Daughter of the Dragon

La Hija del Dragón

December, 1931, Brazilian movie magazine
9 x 12-1/2 inches, 36 pages

Anna May Wong as Daughter of the Dragon

Directed by Lloyd Corrigan, 70 min. Sound. Cast (in alphabetical order) Warner Oland as Dr. Fu Manchu; Anna May Wong as Princess Ling Moy; and Sessue Hayakawa as Ah Kee. Also: Frances Dade, Lawrence Grant, Holmes Herbert, and Nella Walker.


Vowing to avenge her dying father, Ling Moy becomes entangled with Ah Kee (Sessue Hayakawa), a Scotland Yard investigator. Notably, this is the only film featuring Anna May Wong and Sessue Hayakawa in starring roles together, and was the first sound film Hayakawa did in Hollywood.

A studio publicity shot with a caption on the back:

"Home Study -- Anna May Wong spends an evening at her Hollywood apartment 
studying her lines from the script of Paramount's Daughter of the Dragon."

Two Hearts in Wax Time 1935.

Short musical fantasy, 20 minutes

Also released as The Department Store
 USA:17 min
Mono, Western Electric Sound System

Jay Eaton


Mannequin Dresser (uncredited)

Sam McDaniel


Deck Attendant (uncredited)

Shirley Ross


Shirley, the Mannequin (uncredited)

Syd Saylor


Mannequin Dresser (uncredited)

Gus Shy


Inebriated Custodian (uncredited)

Jurmann Walter


Original Music/Soundtrack

Screen capture by Stuart Gardner

This is a short musical where an employee in a  department store  works with the mannequins, drinks too much, and sees the mannequins come to life in the store's display window. The display is "The Greatest Menace of Them All" and includes  Bluebeard , Frankenstein, Blackbeard and Fu Manchu. 

Jurmann Walter wrote the original music. He was also responsible for the music in the Marx Bothers' "A Day at the Races" and "A Night at the Opera." He also wrote but was not credited for the "Love Song of Tahiti" in the Clark Gable version of "Mutiny on the Bounty."

In the course of the film, Fu Manchu sings a couple of lines:

"I am the man called Fu Manchu
I am a greater menace than you
I kill just to have something to do"

The short is in color and is about 10 minutes long.

--First reported by Brian MacDonald

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Movies - Part Two

Copyright © 1997 - 2004 Lawrence Knapp. All rights reserved.