Tailspin Tommy (serial)

Tailspin Tommy
Directed by Lew Landers
Produced by Milton Gatzert
Henry MacRae (associate)
Written by Ella O'Neill (screenplay)
Vin Moore
Basil Dickey
Norman S. Hall
Robert Hershon
George H. Plympton
Hal Forrest (comic strip)
Starring Maurice Murphy
Noah Beery, Jr.
Patricia Farr
Walter Miller
Grant Withers
Cinematography Richard Fryer
William A. Sickner
Edited by Albert Akst
Irving Applebaum
Saul A. Goodkind
Edward Todd
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • October 29, 1934 (1934-10-29)
Running time
12 chapters (248 min)
Country United States
Language English

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


Two cargo airlines clash over a government mail contract. "Tailspin" Tommy (Maurice Murphy), a young mechanic, gets a job with Three Points Airlines, who win the contract. Their opponents resort to sabotage in order to have the contact 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 crow 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.[3][4] Jimmy Allen was a rival radio serial character to the Tailspin Tommy newspaper strip. He featured in the film Sky Parade. Grant Withers played the sidekick in this film as well as both Tailspin Tommy serials.[5]


Critical reception

Tailspin Tommy was a success, partly due to name recognition.[4]



  1. Weiss and Goodgold 1973, p. 55.
  2. Cline 1984, p. 211.
  3. Stedman 1971, p. 65.
  4. 1 2 Cline 1984, pp. 15, 18.
  5. Harmon and Glut 1973, p. 143.


  • Cline, William C. "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  • Cline, William C. "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.
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