Friday, June 12, 2009

Charlie Chan Action Figure Project. Parts 1 & 2

Part One - Why Charlie Chan?

Why Charlie Chan as an action figure? Why do anything really?

I was thinking that once things settle down in my life again (as in having a house to call my own once again - stuff like that), I would like to mess around with creating some photo stories using 1/6th action figures as the actors. If you look in my Hobbies Link section on this blog, you will see many websites that can also inspire you.

Last year, I saw at Best Buy in the DVD section several collector box sets of Charlie Chan movies (volumes 1-5). Now adapted to DVD format and I wanted to get them. I started off with Vol. 4 which is the start of the Sidney Toler era as the famous detective. I still need to look for a head scupture to model after number two son Jimmy Chan (who was played by actor Sen Yung). If you like to learn more about Charlie Chan, then please visit these sites listed below in the reference section.

I have never had the pleasure of reading any of the books authored by Earl Derr Biggers. Here is a bit of trivia for you, Earl Derr Biggers modeled his Charlie Chan detective after a real-life Honolulu police detective by the name of Chang Apana (Apana is the Hawaiianized version of his Chinese name Ah Ping). I did have one book that collected some fo the newspaper comic series. But, I really only know Charlie Chan from what I saw in the movies.

The First Chan was screen actor Chans-Warner Oland. When he passed away due to sickness, in 1938; in stepped Sidney Toler after a long search. When Toler's time as the detective came to an end, the third and last Chan was Rolan Winters. (NOTE: I am not referring to the two attempts in the 1970s with Ross Martin and Peter Ustinov playing the great detective). There were 44 films from 1931 to 1949. Then of course - there were the wise Chan-o-grams (or more specifically, the aphorisms) that he always gave out in the films.

Wait a minute, what is a Aphorism? Webster defines it as the following: 1) A short, concise statement of principle. 2) A maxium; a short, pointed sentence containing some important truth or precept. For example: (Three examples from the movie Charlie Chan in Honolulu: a. Bills sometimes more difficult to collect than murder clues. b. Making bedfellow of serpent no guarantee against snakebite. c. Opinion like tea leaf in hot water - both need time for brewing).

While as a kid, I remembered sitting in my grandmother's living room on a sunday afternoon watching movies on the black and white TV set. While I remember watching the Chan flicks, the Sherlock Holmes movies, Francis (the Talking Mule) Joins the Army, Ma and Pa Kettle movies were watched there at her place as well. For some reason, what I now know to be the first appearance of Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan stands out in my memory (Charlie Chan in Honolulu).

The plot begins on the freighter Susan B. Jennings just moored off the coast near Honolulu. With "Poppa and Mama" Chan wrapped up with the birth of their first grandchild, Number Two son Jimmy Chan (Sen Yung) takes off to start 'his' detective career. The characters are reacting to the thef of $300,000.00 and the murder of a man who was to take delivery of that money. Number Two son Jimmy is really just a bumbler and when the "real" detective Charlie Chan shows up on the freighter; solving the murder case really moves into high gear. The movie goes off in tangents with bumbling lion handlers, doctors who study living brains in storage cases, and fake police officers. But the murder is solved and Sidney Toler's first outing as Chan is in the bag. The next film, "Charlie Chan in Reno," finds Toler settling into the role much better.

Part Two - Beginning the Process.

What action figure in the past ten years comes closest to looking like ANY of the three actors who played detective Chan? Being a member of OSW (, I posted my question and and actually receive an answer from a fellow Lubbockite by the call sign of "spyder" (aka Shannon). He pointed out the head sculpt of a figure form ACE known as Seal Team 10 ( The head looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin to me, but with a trimming of the beard and a repaint, it would look very much like Sidney Toler!

So, the first step of identifying the head sculpt has been accomplished. And again thanks to Shannon and some trading that he did with some other collectors, he was able to get me on of those head sculpts! And today (June 12, 2009) I set about with a X-Acto knife to trim that goatee beard off of Steve Austin's head and create my Sidney Toler version of Charlie Chan!

Now I need to get a figure to stick that head on and I already have some leads as to where I can get a custom suit made for him. Right now, I am still planning on getting a white business suit to stick Chan into. Other wise, I might ahve to track down someone who has parted out a James Bond figure set and get one of those suits and have it modified to fit onto this new figure. I also have to make a "fat suit" to slip the figure onto to make it look more like Chan anyway.

I will make updates on this project when I can. I'm even thinking of the possible storylines that I can do such as Charlie Chan meets Indiana Jones!

Mystery Net ( ). Plot summary for Charlie Chan in Honolulu (
Wikipedia online. Charlie Chan ( ).
Charlie Chan Family website (

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