SKY PATROL. Monogram Pictures, 1939. John Trent (Tailspin Tommy Tomkins), Marjorie Reynolds (Betty Lou Barnes), Milburn Stone (Skeeter Milligan), Jackie Coogan, Jason Robards Sr., Bryant Washburn, Boyd Irwin, Dickie Jones. Based on the comic strip characters created by Hal Forrest. Director: Howard Bretherton.

   Following the two serials based on the character: Tailspin Tommy (1934) and Tailspin Tommy in the Great Air Mystery (1935), Monogram produced four hour-long Tommy movies with John Trent in the leading role, all coming out in 1939. Sky Patrol is the third of the four. (As many many critics have said, long before I came along, 1939 was a very good year for the motion picture industry.)


   I’m not sure how Tailspin got his name, but I am going to out on a limb and say it was for his knack of getting out of tailspins, rather than getting into them.

   Along for the ride in all four of these later films are John Trent as Tailspin Tommy, the ace pilot, Milburn Stone as Skeeter Milligan, his long time buddy, and Marjorie Reynolds as Betty Barnes, his girl friend.

   They make a pretty good team, and believe it or not, in spite of being a budget movie all the way, Sky Patrol is a pretty good film.


   In this one Tommy and Skeeter have been loaned out to an official government agency to train pilots to guard the US border against smugglers and treasonous agents.

   Against the young lad’s own wishes, the son of the commanding officer is one of the pilots they’re training, and it’s only through Tommy’s heroics that he passes the final acceptance tests.

   When he later gets captured by a gang of smugglers, it’s up to Tommy and Skeeter to save him and bring the wrongdoers to justice, which they do gladly, with dispatch and zeal.

   This movie is a great deal of fun to watch. In spite of a sparsity of overall production values, the story makes sense, and you also get the sense that the players were not on the set against their will. It is, I suppose, a movie made for twelve year olds, and in fact, it is also a movie in which a twelve year old aviation enthusiast (Dickie Jones) helps Tommy locate the hideout of the gang he’s after.   [FOOTNOTE]


   I also suppose that you have to be a twelve year old at heart to watch and enjoy this, but then again, you know me by now, don’t you?

FOOTNOTE:   At the end of the movie there is a plug for the next movie in the series, Scouts of The Air!, in which the audience was told that a soon-to-be organized cadre of 12 -year-old lads would have an even greater role to play. Unfortunately that particular film was never made.