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Charlie Chan #4 Meets #2 Son at the Ponderosa

On Saturday, March 28th, I was channel surfing and landed on the INSP cable channel (channel 410 in Hawaii) playing an episode of BONANZA.

In this episode, a family of Spanish gypsies are causing trouble for Ben Cartwright at the Ponderosa. The gypsy father is trying to marry off his daughter (played by a young and beautiful Susan Strasberg) to one of the Cartwright sons. Ben will have nothing to do with it.

Upon close examination, I recognized the gypsy father to be played by character actor J. Carrol Naish. [For his role, Naish was in heavy makeup.] In the background of the scene between Ben Cartwright and the gypsy father, a familiar character walked in it. It was Victor Sen Yung as Hop Sing. Could this be happening? Charlie Chan actor #4 (or #7, if you count 'em all) meeting Number Two Son? Suspense was building.

In the closing scene of "A SEVERE CASE OF MATRIMONY" (1968 NBC-TV), there was no dialogue exchanged between Naish and Yung. Even though he interacted with the other actors, Victor Sen Yung did not speak a word of dialogue. He had no lines.

Mr. Naish was excellent in his character interpretation. But Mr. Yung was just a background player interacting with Ms. Strasberg.

I remember reading an article, on this website (see The Study), about Mr. Yung speaking bitterly about how he was treated by the producers of BONANZA. After being made up as Hop Sing, he would walk around in scenes not saying a word. Just smiling and nodding his head at the other actors. In numerous episodes, Hop Sing would serve food and drinks to the Cartwrights. He had no lines of dialogue. That means that the producers paid Yung the rate of a film extra. [BONANZA was shot on 35mm film.]

In April of 1986, I appeared in an episode of MOONLIGHTING with Whoopi Goldberg. [Also shot on 35mm film.] As a non-union extra, I was paid $35.00 for an eight-hour day of walking back and forth with Ms. Goldberg. Imagine what Victor Sen Yung was paid, for not speaking, in 1968.

Yung quote (in 1977): "I appear in about 20% of the BONANZA shows over a period of 14 years, and that was not enough to sustain myself in terms of a livelihood. To live, you do other things."

The next time "A SEVERE CASE OF MATRIMONY" comes around, be sure to check out "Charlie Chan #4 Meets #2 Son at the Ponderous." Its a fun episode. Long live TV reruns.

Re: Charlie Chan #4 Meets #2 Son at the Ponderosa

Hi Steve!

A very interesting post all the way around! I recall you saying that you had appeared in some TV productions, and it was great to read your thoughts regarding your experience! And, yes, for actors have no lines in productions, the pay is not much, and when you see that happen onscreen where it would have been natural for a character to at least say a word or two, we can be sure that the production company was seeking to save a few dollars! If you received $35 in the mid-80s, I would guess that Mr. Yung got $20 at most...sad.

Seeing our number Two Son with, as 'TV Guide' called him, Charlie Chan Number Four, is a historic treat! J. Carroll Naish made a long career of playing "ethnic" characters, and the one you described was pretty typical of the work he did. For obvious reasons, this is a lost art today!

Speaking of heavy make-up and Chan actors, I was watching the 1965 film "Around the World in 80 days" tonight, and saw heavily-made-up Chan actor Phillip Ahn (Charlie Chan's son-in-law in "Charlie Chan in Honolulu" and Captain Kong in "The Chinese Ring." It's possible that there could be an obscure Chan son or daughter in the mix of uncredited actors in this movie, as the list 1t IMDb is HUGE!

Nice catch on that "Bonanza" episode, Steve!