Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Sidney Toler
SIDNEY TOLER (1874 - 1947).

After the death of Warner Oland, Twentieth Century Fox tapped Sidney Toler, of Scottish ancestry,  to play the plum role of Charlie Chan. Toler had been a Broadway star before he entered films, wrote successful plays, and even sang opera as a baritone. Toler appeared in a great many movies besides the Chan films, playing Daniel Webster in The Gorgeous Hussy with Joan Crawford. He was a ship's captain in Our Relations with Laurel and Hardy, and played [Caucasian] detectives in Blonde Venus with Marlene Dietrich and A Night to Remember with Brian Aherne and Loretta Young; there were many others but he was most famous as Chan. Monogram studios took up the Chan films after Fox decided to end the series; Toler would occasionally play other Oriental roles. It has been written that Toler's ill health necessitated the comedy relief of Mantan Moreland and Benson Fong etc., during the later films because of the actor's flagging energy, but even the earlier Chan vehicles had lots of scenes with Chan's detective-happy sons. Toler's last Chan film was The Trap. Below is a round-up of seven more Charlie Chan-Sidney Toler movies. [For other Toler-Chans reviewed on this site type in his name or "Charlie Chan" in the search bar above.]


Bill O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
angelman66 said...

Bill, you bring so many memories with a kid, my sister and I would watch cartoons on Saturday mornings, but Sunday mornings were a special treat-- always 30s and 40s serial films...the Tarzans, the Shirley Temple movies, the Andy Hardys and of course all the Charlie Chans. Warner Oland and Sidney Toler were so similar in manner as Mr. Chan that I would barely notice that it was a different actor playing him!

I need to check out some of the films you've reviewed below...again. They were such fun!

William said...

They are a lot of fun, and I agree that at first I couldn't tell the difference between Oland and Toler, either. I think Toler is the more "grandfatherly" of the two. Roland Winters, the third Chan was only in his forties and much younger than the others. In one of the Winters' Chans a cop makes some remark about Chan being an "old fellow" when that actor was probably older than Winters! Take care, Bill

Bill O said...

Toler dispensed with Oland's "humble self" act and was a lot crankier, pretty much upfront that he thought everyone was an idiot. Winters was cast because the two previous kept dying. When Keye Luke came back in Winters' films as the original Number One Son, he was a few months older than Winters.

William said...

Looking recently at a Winters' Chan flick, I had the thought that Luke might be older than Winters. Strange that the son was older than his father! And you make a good point as to the Toler Chan characterization.

Thanks for the info and your comments!

Bill O said...

I think that Keye Luke was so attached to Warner Oland that he didn't want to do any more Chans without him, then came back to wrap up the series with Winters.It was a nice touch. Btw, Oland died starting a Chan, it was changed to a Mr. Moto, with Luke's #1 Son now "assisting" Moto, and no sign of "Pop".

William said...

You're right -- "Charlie Chan at Ringside" was turned into "Mr. Moto's Gamble" and used some of the already-shot footage. Reportedly, Oland simply walked off the set, disappeared, and it turned out he'd gone home to Sweden to die.