SHADOW OF THE EAGLE. Mascot, 12 episode serial, 1932. John Wayne, Dorothy Gulliver,Kenneth Harlan, Walter Miller, Edward Hearn, Richard Tucker, ‘Little Billy’ (Rhodes), Ivan Linow, James Bradbury Jr. Directors: Ford Beebe & B. Reeves Eason (the latter uncredited).

   Shadow of the Eagle was John Wayne’s first Serial and a highly enjoyable effort, in its own way, for those prepared to spend four-and-a-half hours of their Precious Youth with a low-budget, low-brow movie no one ever heard of.

   According to Tuska’s book on Mascot, the Duke was offered more money at this time to appear in Nothing Parts for major studios, but he wanted to play Hero Parts, and Nat Levine, King of Cheap Thrills in the early Thirties, told him it was a Lindbergh-type part.

   He signed on, and the next day was carted off in the wee small hours of the morning to arrive at some remote location in time to start shooting at Dawn. (Mascot paid their Actors bv the day and in order to economize they started filming with the first Light of day and often didn’t finish till Midnight.)


   It was a career gamble that paid off, but there must have been times when Wayne wondered about it, what with long days, grueling conditions and short pay.

   Whatever the case, Levine managed to churn out three highly entertaining serials over the next year with his new star before the Duke left for the Wide Open Spaces at Monogram.

   Shadow of the Eagle concerns itself with the efforts of the mysterious “Eagle” to blackmail the Directors of an Aircraft Factory and cast the blame on an innocent Circus Owner, who happens to be the Heroine’s father and Duke’s employer.

   John is allegedly a stunt-flier here, but the closest he probably ever got to a plane in this thing was watching the grainy old stock-footage of Mascot’s Bi-Plane and being chased across a field by it in a scene that looks to have inspired North by Northwest.


   Still, it’s an entertaining film, in its way, with Wayne or some other sympathetic character apparently getting killed off at the end of each chapter, only to be miraculously “saved” in the opening of the next installment — often by the most outrageous cheating or unlikely contrivance.

   There’s even some convincing Circus atmosphere, with various carnival denizens coming to the rescue at odd moments, including Ivan Linow as the Strong Man, James Bradbury Jr. as a rubber-limbed ventriloquist and Little Billy as — you guessed it.

   Watching this thing, I find myself consistently amazed by the sheer quantity (if not Quality) of Thrills that Levine managed to pack in his film for peanuts. The Mascot serials may be a long way from Artistry, but they have an un-self-conscious innocence and energy that I find totally captivating.