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Tailspin Tommy (serial)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tailspin Tommy
Directed byLew Landers (as Louis Friedlander)
Written byElla O'Neill (screenplay)
Vin Moore
Basil Dickey
Norman S. Hall
Robert Hershon
George H. Plympton
Based onTailspin Tommy
by Hal Forrest
Produced byMilton Gatzert
Henry MacRae (associate)
StarringMaurice Murphy
Noah Beery, Jr.
Patricia Farr
Walter Miller
Grant Withers
CinematographyRichard Fryer
William A. Sickner
Edited byAlbert Akst
Irving Applebaum
Saul A. Goodkind
Edward Todd
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 29, 1934 (1934-10-29)
Running time
12 chapters (248 minutes)
CountryUnited States

Tailspin Tommy is a 12-episode 1934 Universal film serial based on the Tailspin Tommy comic strip by Hal Forrest.[1] Directed by Lew Landers and produced by Milton Gatzert, the serial was the 97th serial of the 137 released by that studio (and the 24th with sound). The plot of Tailspin Tommy concerns a conflict over a government airmail contract.[N 1]

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Two cargo airlines clash over a government mail contract. "Tailspin" Tommy (Maurice Murphy), a young mechanic, gets a job with Three Points Airlines, which wins the contract. Their opponents resort to sabotage in order to have the contract for themselves. Wade "Tiger" Taggart (John Davidson) becomes their enemy, a man who will do anything to stop the airline from doing business.

After Tommy becomes a pilot, he prevents a runaway aircraft from crashing into a crowd of children, among other adventures that put him into the public eye. Eventually Taggert and his gang are brought to justice. Tommy goes on to win a movie contract, and win the heart of his sweetheart Betty Lou Barnes (Patricia Farr).


Chapter titles

  1. Death Flies the Mail
  2. The Mail Goes Through
  3. Sky bandits
  4. The Copper Room
  5. The Night Flight
  6. The Baited Trap
  7. Tommy to the Rescue
  8. The Thrill of Death
  9. The Earth God's Roar
  10. Death at the Controls
  11. Rushing Waters
  12. Littleville's Big Day



Tailspin Tommy was the first serial to be based on a comic strip. From 1936 to 1945, Universal almost made more serial adaptations of comic strips than both of their rivals, Columbia and Republic, combined.[4][5] Jimmy Allen was a rival radio serial character to the Tailspin Tommy newspaper strip. He featured in the film The Sky Parade. Grant Withers played the sidekick in this film as well as both Tailspin Tommy serials.[6]

The aircraft used in Tailspin Tommy included:



William C. Cline wrote In the Nick of Tome that Tailspin Tommy was a success, partly due to name recognition.[5] The serial was faithful to its roots and while "other serials were based on comic heroes that have long been forgotten, Hal Forrest's 'Tailspin Tommy' strip ran from 1928 to 1942. Dashing aviator Tommy, his sidekick Skeeter and his girlfriend Betty Lou Barnes ran Three Point Airlines, named after the perfect landing technique. Universal invested heavily in the franchise. Maurice Murphy played Tommy for 1934's Tailspin Tommy serial, and four 1939 feature films starred John Trent as the intrepid airman."[8]



  1. ^ Along with Mascot Pictures, the lowly "poverty row" studio, Universal Pictures became the only major studio committed to the serial format in the 1930s.[2]


  1. ^ Weiss and Goodgold 1973, p. 55.
  2. ^ Weiss and Goodgold 1973, p. I.
  3. ^ Cline 1984, p. 211.
  4. ^ Stedman 1971, p. 65.
  5. ^ a b Cline 1984, pp. 15, 18.
  6. ^ Harmon and Glut 1973, p. 143.
  7. ^ Santoir, Christian. "Review: 'Tailspin Tommy'.", October 17, 2010. Retrieved: July 9, 2019.
  8. ^ "Articles: 'Tailspin Tommy'." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: July 9, 2019.


  • Cline, William C. "2. In Search of Ammunition"; "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  • Harmon, Jim and Donald F. Glut. "7. The Aviators "Land That Plane at Once, You Crazy Fool"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. London: Routledge, 1973. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  • Stedman, Raymond William. "3. At This Theater Next Week". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press, 1971. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5.
  • Weiss, Ken and Ed Goodgold. To be Continued ...: A Complete Guide to Motion Picture Serials. New York: Bonanza Books, 1973. ISBN 0-517-166259.

External links

This page was last edited on 20 December 2023, at 23:38
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