|Directed by||Lew Landers (as Louis Friedlander)|
|Written by||Ella O'Neill (screenplay)|
Norman S. Hall
George H. Plympton
Hal Forrest (comic strip)
|Produced by||Milton Gatzert|
Henry MacRae (associate)
Noah Beery, Jr.
William A. Sickner
|Edited by||Albert Akst|
Saul A. Goodkind
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|12 chapters (248 minutes)|
Tailspin Tommy is a 12-episode 1934 Universal film serial based on the Tailspin Tommy comic strip by Hal Forrest. 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]
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 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).
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. 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.
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. 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."