A bit player, Sidney Toler made brief appearances in "The Phantom President" (1932), "Here Comes the Groom" (1934), and Laurel and Hardy's "Our Relations" (1936). His big break came when he was cast as Charlie Chan to replace the late Warner Oland in "Charlie Chan in Honolulu" (1938). Toler would play the character in eleven films until 20th Century Fox decided to end the series after "Castle in the Desert" (1942).
Securing the rights to the character from the creater's widow Toler started shopping the property around to other studios. During that time he made his only serial; playing General Kai Ling in Universal's "Adventures of Smilin' Jack" (1943). He helped the title character discover a hidden road between China and India for the war effort.
The studio that finally took Toler up on his offer to make more Chan films was the Poverty Row studio Monogram, starting with "Charlie Chan in the Secret Service" (1944). Like with 20th Century Fox, Toler would again make eleven Chan films. He passed away soon after completing his last one, "The Trap" (1947).