Keye Luke
Keye Luke
Keye Luke made three guest appearances on the CBS-TV series "M*A*S*H", in different roles, as well as one in Season 6 of its spinoff, "Trapper John, M.D."
Personal Information
Gender: Male
Born: (1904-06-18)June 18, 1904
Birthplace Guangzhou, Canton, China
Died: January 12, 1991(1991-01-12) (aged 86)
Deathplace Whittier, California, U.S.
Actor and Voice artist
Years active: 1934-1991, his death
Character information
Appeared on/in: M*A*S*H
Episodes appeared in: 3 episodes of M*A*S*H, in Seasons 6-9
episode of Trapper John, M.D. in Season 6
Character played: Various characters

Keye Luke (Chinese: 陸錫麟, Cantonese: Luk Shek Lun; June 18, 1904 – January 12, 1991) appeared in three episodes of the M*A*S*H TV series; first as Korean craftsman/merchant Mister Shin in the Season 6 episode "Patent 4077", then as gambling hustler Cho Kim in "A Night at Rosie's" in Season 7, then as Korean orphanage proprietor Father Choi Sung Ho in the episode "Death Takes a Holiday" in Season 9.

He would also appear in the Season 6 episode of Trapper John, M.D., appearing as Ronald Kwan Mein in the Season 6 episode Eternally Yours.

A Chinese-born American film, stage and TV character actor,[1][2] Keye was known for playing Lee Chan, the "Number One Son" in the Charlie Chan films, the original Kato in the 1939-1941 Green Hornet film serials, and Master Po in the television series Kung Fu. He was the first Chinese-American contract player signed with RKO, Universal, and MGM and was one of the most prominent Asian actors of American cinema in the mid-twentieth century.


Early life and careerEdit

Luke was born in Canton, China, to a father who owned an art shop, but grew up in Seattle. He was part of the Luke family, a relative of Wing Luke, for whom Seattle's Wing Luke Asian Museum was named. He had four siblings who all emigrated from China to California during the Depression. His younger brother Edwin Luke also became an actor in the Charlie Chan series.

Keye Luke became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1944—in a moment fictionally recreated in Lisa See's novel Shanghai Girls.

Before becoming an actor he was a local artist in Seattle and, later, Hollywood, working on several of the murals inside Grauman's Chinese Theatre. He did some of the original artwork for the 1933 King Kong pressbook. Luke also painted the casino's mural in The Shanghai Gesture. He published a limited edition set of pen and ink drawings of The Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam in the 1950s. Other art done by Luke included the dust jackets for books published in the 1950s and 1960s. It was through his studio art work that he was recruited for his first movie roles.

Acting career=Edit

Luke made his film debut in The Painted Veil (1934), and the following year gained his first big role, as Charlie Chan's eldest son in Charlie Chan in Paris. He worked so well with Warner Oland, the actor playing Chan, that "Number One Son" became a regular character in the series, alternately helping and distracting 'Pop' Chan in each of his murder cases.

Keye left the Charlie Chan series in 1938, shortly after Oland died. The unfinished Oland-Luke film Charlie Chan at the Ringside was completed as Mr. Moto's Gamble, with Luke now opposite Peter Lorre.

Unlike some performers who failed to establish themselves beyond a single role, Keye Luke continued to work prolifically in Hollywood, at several studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cast him in a recurring role in its Dr. Kildare film series, and Monogram Pictures featured him in its Frankie Darro comedies and starred him as Mr. Wong in Phantom of Chinatown.

Unlike Boris Karloff, who had preceded him in the Mr. Wong role, Luke played the detective without any exotic touches. Though his Mr. Wong was of Chinese descent and able to speak Chinese, he was otherwise an ordinary American gumshoe, with no trace of a foreign accent or "Oriental" philosophy.

RKO Radio Pictures used Luke in its popular adventures of The Falcon and Mexican Spitfire. Luke also worked at Universal Pictures, where he played two-fisted valet/chauffeur Kato in its Green Hornet serials. In 1946 Universal mounted a low-budget serial consisting largely of action footage from older films; Keye Luke was hired to match old footage of Sabu in the serial Lost City of the Jungle.

In 1948, Keye Luke returned to the Chan mysteries, which were now being produced by Monogram and starred Roland Winters as Chan. "Number One Son" appeared in the last two Chan features, The Feathered Serpent and The Sky Dragon. In both of these films, Luke was older than the actor playing his father.

Luke continued to play character parts in motion pictures as well as guest roles on many TV series on into the 1960's well into the late 1980's; Among his more notable film roles, he had a featured role in The Chairman (1969) starring Gregory Peck. He provided the voice of the evil Mr. Han in Enter the Dragon (1973) starring Bruce Lee. Luke played the mysterious old Chinatown shopowner Mr. Wing in the two Gremlins movies, he had a significant role in Woody Allen's 1990 movie Alice, and was the voice of Zoltar and Colonel Cronus in Battle of the Planets.

He played the role of in the film Mighty Quinn, which featured all-star cast, which included Denzel Washington, Robert Townsend, Mimi Rogers, M.Emmett Walsh, and Esther Rolle. He also appeared as Mr. Wing in the 1984 Joe Dante film, Gremlins, and its 1990 sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His final film role was as as Dr. Yang in the 1990 film Alice. Among his many TV roles included guest spots on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Andy Griffith Show, Star Trek, Here's Lucy, Adam-12. Marcus Welby, M.D., The Golden Girls, Falcon Quest, Night Court and MacGyver.

Death and legacyEdit

Luke died of a stroke on January 12, 1991, he was 86 years old and is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier,

California. Writer and filmmaker Timothy Tau wrote, directed and produced a short film about Keye Luke's earlier life and work, entitled Keye Luke, which premiered at the 2012 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival as a Visual Communications "Armed With A Camera" Fellowship film.[3][4]


  1. Flint, Peter B.. "Keye Luke, Actor, Is Dead at 86; 'No. 1 Son' and 'Kung Fu' Master", The New York Times, January 16, 1991. Retrieved on 2010-08-17. 
  2. Obituary Variety, January 21, 1991.
  3. Christopher Stipp Film, This Week In Trailers: Keye Luke, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, Here, I Wish, The Angels' Share, at Slash Film website [1]
  4. Todd Brown, Meet The Original Kato in Short Film Biopic Keye Luke, at Twitch [ luke.php]

External linksEdit