Shadow of the Eagle – A 12 Episode Movie Serial Starring John Wayne

Shadow of the Eagle Part I – Episodes 1 to 3

I remember with great affection the serials I saw as a kid in the 1950s at the Saturday morning picture shows. It was with this in mind that I decided to take a look at the three serials John Wayne appeared in for Mascot Pictures in the early 1930s.

The idea was to write two articles for each serial featuring six episodes at a time. However, upon checking out the first one Wayne starred in, “Shadow of the Eagle”, released in February of 1932 I realised that some of the episodes are VERY LONG.

In the case of “Shadow” the first episode clocks in at approximately 27 minutes alone. On that basis this first article will only cover the first three episodes with more to follow in a couple of weeks.

Lobby card for Shadow of the Eagle starring John Wayne

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The full 12 part series of Shadow of the Eagle is available

Episode One – The Carnival Mystery

The local sheriff threatens to shut down a travelling carnival unless the owner, Col. ‘Skipper’ Gregory, played by Edward Hearn, settles a bunch of outstanding bills. After coming up short by about ninety dollars stunt pilot Craig McCoy, played by JW, saves the day by making up the difference.

Skipper’s daughter Jean, played by Dorothy Gulliver, performs with Craig as a wing walker and parachutist, Craig and her running off to try out a new stunt after having saved the carnival from ruin. Wheel-chair bound Skipper watches along with assorted carnival folk including a midget played by ‘Little Billie’ Rhodes and strongman Heine, played by Ivan Linow, as his daughter jumps from the plane.

In the meantime, Craig’s plane starts to emit smoke, Skipper realising that his friend is skywriting rather than spiraling to his death. Craig has been paid anonymously to write “May 23rd 1918 The Eagle” in the sky, a feat witnessed by a group of businessmen who are gathered on the ground discussing the building of a new aeroplane factory for the Evans Aero Co., a company owned by Major Evans, played by Richard Tucker.

Returning to the office the businessmen discover a message left by the Eagle declaring “You shot down the Eagle and stole his invention. His shadow has returned. Prepare to pay.” It transpires that some of the businessmen were part of a flying squadron during WWI and one of their fellow flyers, the Eagle, was ‘accidentally’ shot down by one of his own men after being mistaken for an enemy flyer.

Enter stage left the villainous Boyle, played by stuntman Yakima Canutt, making the first of many appearances in a John Wayne film. He and his companion receive a call from the Eagle telling them that one of the businessmen, Green, is on his way to the carnival. Green intercepts Craig and asks him who requested he skywrite the message about the Eagle.

By this time Jean is starting to suspect that her father knows more than he is letting on, especially when he recognises Green as a member of his old flying unit. It then transpires that Skipper is actually the Eagle, and he did have an invention, a radio-piloted aircraft, that he believes was stolen by Green and his fellow business colleagues.

Green makes off with some of Skipper’s plans, not realising that Billy has stolen a ride on the back of his car. Craig is also in pursuit on a motorbike and arrives to take the stolen plans from Boyle and his fellow henchman who have only just relieved them from Green.

Billy reports back to tell Skipper he overheard Green on the phone arranging a meeting for that evening at the factory but his boss has been kidnapped. Craig tracks Green down and forces himself on the meeting Green has arranged, demanding to know where Skipper is being held.

As each side throws accusations back and forth, resulting in the discovery that the plans Green stole comprised a couple of blank pages, they all witness another skywriting stunt in which the name of one of the businessmen, Clark, is written and then crossed out.

A mysterious stranger enters the room, the lights suddenly go out, a loud scream is heard followed by a gun shot, the action in the dark punctuated by someone intoning that “The Eagle has struck”. When the lights are turned back on Clark lays dead on the floor. Craig runs off in pursuit of the stranger whilst the businessmen leave the room to find out where the stranger has gone. When they return to the office they find Clark’s body has disappeared.

Craig turns up at the carnival, telling Jean that he’s convinced he saw her father running away after having murdered Clark. Skipper then tuns up, miraculously no longer in a wheelchair, but still pleading his innocence in the murder of Clark and telling Craig he only turned the lights off in the office to save him.

This statement is overheard by Major Evans and his business colleagues who are now convinced that both Skipper and Craig are in on the plot to kill them all. Billy and Heinie arrive in the nick of time to fight the businessmen off. Jean runs after her father who appears to then jump into Craig’s stunt plane but Jean is convinced the man is not her father but someone disguised to look like him. 

Whoever is flying the plane then does a “North by Northwest” by first flying low over the carnival and setting it on fire through means not necessarily obvious in the print I watched before turning their attention to trying to kill Craig and Jean…

Episode Two – Pinholes

… who the following week jump into a conveniently placed hole in the ground just as it looks as though they’re about to be decapitated by the Eagle. They then rush off to help put out the blazing carnival, after which Craig and Jean come to the conclusion that Skipper must have been kidnapped, probably by one of the businessmen intent on blaming the nefarious acts of the Eagle on him instead.

Craig thinks that maybe the Eagle can be traced via the unsigned note that he received requesting he perform his skywriting stunt.

Rushing off to the factory to follow up on his  theory, Craig and Little Billy trick the caretaker by having Billy disguise himself as an abandoned babe in arms. Once he’s inside the building Billy lets Craig in. Meanwhile back at the carnival Jean is awoken by the presence of a stranger outside her tent.

Producing a gun from beneath her pillow Jean lets fly with a bullet then runs outside only to find a note pinned to the canvas that reads “Dear Jean, am writing to you for one reason only. Wrap up the carnival and start West. Have laid my plans to join you quickly. Father.”

Jean is convinced it is her father’s handwriting but not too bothered that she nearly killed him. With the help of the highly intuitive Henry the ventriloquist, played by James Bradbury Jr., they work out that Skipper had been forced to write the note but has somehow managed to use a code that tells Jean where he’s being held captive.

Back at the factory Craig finds a desk calendar that he thinks will help him track down the Eagle. His thought process is interrupted when the businessmen return to the factory. Craig informs them that one of their group is the Eagle who is attempting to frame Skipper in order to cover up his own tracks. He then says he can prove it because the paper on which the unsigned note was written had been torn from a desk calendar he found in another office. 

One of the businessmen, Ward, played by Kenneth Harlan, resigns on the spot, not wanting anything to do with working for a corrupt company. Ward is persuaded to remain in employment after being threatened by Major Evans that “innocent men don’t run”.

Craig informs them all that he found the desk calendar in Clark’s office which confuses everyone on account of Clark is dead and therefore cannot be the Eagle. Craig asks if they’re sure Clark is actually dead seeing as his body has still not been found.

When someone points out a blood stain on the carpet where Clark fell Craig checks it out and discovers that the blood is actually iodine. One of the businessmen suggests they look to see if the iodine bottle is still in the washroom. Upon opening the washroom door who should reappear but Clark, bound and gagged and unconscious. 

In what appears to be the following day Jean and Heinie makes their way on Craig’s borrowed motorcycle to 241 Water Street, the address deciphered by Henry from the note supposedly penned by her father. Whilst Heinie takes lookout duties Jean overhears Boyle and his companion discussing with their boss Gardner, played by Roy D’Arcy, how they’re now going to find out from Skipper what the Eagle needs to know seeing as he’s about to talk.

A resourceful Jean opens the door to the room where she heard the thugs by the old trick of placing a newspaper under the door then pushing the key out of the lock on the other side of the door.  Just as she is about to witness Gardner attempting to force her father to talk via the application of a large whip the telephone rings, forcing her to hide. She then overhears Gardner stating that “McCoy’s at the factory and he’s getting too close to the truth”. 

Back at the factory a now revived Clark accuses Craig of not only having written the note himself but also tying Clark up and putting him in the washroom. Before matters can take a fateful turn for Craig the telephone rings, the thug Gardner who threatened Skipper with the whip putting on a disguised voice as the Eagle and demanding that Craig be allowed to leave the factory.

At that very moment Jean holds Gardner and the other crims at gunpoint, takes the phone and tells the businessmen that she has found the Eagle and has the drop on the bad guys. Not for long though, Gardner literally whipping the gun from her hand. The weapon goes off as it hits the floor and is heard outside by Heine the strong man who is keeping a look out for Jean. Jean shouts the address into the phone then runs from the room, holding the door closed behind her. Heine appears in the nick of time and takes on Gardner and his cronies.

In the meantime back at the factory Little Billy distracts the businessmen by sticking an umbrella under a coat suspended from a coat hanger and fooling them into thinking he’s the Eagle. Craig and Billy then get away in the confusion with Evans and the other businessmen following in hot pursuit.

Heine meanwhile is still attempting to hold the bad guys at bay, he and Jean climbing out of a window onto some decidedly shaky scaffolding. As Heine continues to hold the thugs back the businessmen pursuing Craig and Billy force Craig’s car to collide into the scaffolding at which point it collapses underneath Heine and Jean who presumably fall to their death…

Episode Three – The Eagle Strikes

… but once the usual recap is out of the way Jean can be seen hanging by her fingertips from the window ledge whilst Heinie is momentarily nowhere to be seen. Craig and Billy escape unscathed whilst the businessmen, rather callously ignoring the mayhem they’ve just caused, make their way into the building.

The thugs haul Jean back into the room only to be interrupted by the businessmen bursting into the apartment. In the meantime, Skipper appears to have skipped out of the room he was locked in. The businessmen demand to know why Skipper was kidnapped. The thugs reply that they’re actually private detectives who abducted Skipper specifically for the businessmen, Jean protesting that the kidnappers are obviously lying. 

Outside in the street Craig and Billy pull an unconscious Heinie from beneath the collapsed scaffolding, Billy complaining that he’s spent half his life “looking after this big palooka”. Back in the apartment one of the businessmen discover a message chalked on the floor proclaiming “Turn my daughter loose. The Eagle”. As far as Major Evans is concerned this now points to Jean and her father as the guilty parties. 

Before they can call the police though Craig bursts into the room and confronts Evans, telling him he’s “not dealing with a girl or a crippled old man now”. Suddenly a man in a uniform with a peaked cap appears literally out of nowhere and hands Evans a telegram which reads “I dare not tell my name but Miss Gregory knows where her father is hiding”. The Major declares this proves Jean is guilty of deception but Craig intervenes so that Jean can escape, Craig getting knocked out in the ensuing struggle with the thugs.

As Billy helps Heinie out from beneath the scaffolding Jean unbelievably climbs into a car she thinks is being driven by her father then shouts for help upon realising it’s someone disguised as Skipper. A suddenly conscious Craig abseils out of the apartment window and retrieves his bike, telling Billy and Heinie to stop the kidnappers pursuing him whilst he rides off to rescue Jean.

Craig jumps onto the running board of the car and discovers the mysterious driver is none other than Clark. He wrests control of the vehicle and drives the car back to the carnival where he interrogates Clark who tells them he knows that Jean’s father is being blamed for all of the nefarious deeds being carried out in the name of the Eagle.

Clark is just about to reveal who the Eagle is when he is shot in the back and killed. Craig runs after the killer who he identifies as Gardner but is arrested by the police before he can apprehend him. 

Just as Craig is about to be framed for Clark’s murder Pat Kelly, the carnival barker, played by Ernie Adams, helps out by taking the rap instead. As Jean explains to Craig, “We can prove him innocent whenever necessary. If you go to jail, who will fight father’s battle?”.

Craig then threatens Gardner to confess his role in the murder of Clark, both of them taking a ride on the big wheel to avoid scrutiny. Meanwhile, just as Evans and the other businessmen come to the conclusion that Clark was the Eagle all along the mysterious skywriter suddenly appears high above the carnival, inscribing “CLARK?” in the sky.  

Craig realises Gardner now appears to have the plans that everyone seems to be so interested in. As he tries to get them from Gardner they end up in a fight on the wheel. The plans fall to the ground where they are picked up by an unidentifiable figure. At this point a body then tumbles from the top of the wheel…

And, just like the serials of old, you’re going to have to come back, this time in two weeks, not one, in order to find out what happens to our intrepid hero.

In the meantime I’m going to try and figure out exactly what’s going on myself.

Shadow of the Eagle Part II – Episodes 4 to 6

“Shadow of the Eagle” runs for approximately three hours and forty-three minutes which vies with another John Wayne serial, “The Hurricane Express”, as the longest film he ever appeared in. And I’m going to be taking a look at that one next time around. This is madness. Anyway, on with the show.

Episode Four – The Man of a Million Voices

If you recall, at the end of episode three Craig (JW) and bad guy Gardner (Roy D’Arcy) started a punch up on the big wheel after which a body is seen falling from the top of the attraction. Unbelievably the body is Craig, who somehow manages to miraculously break his fall by grabbing a strut in the middle of the wheel.

While he’s distracted Gardner does a runner leaving Craig looking for the plans he thinks belong to Skipper that Gardner dropped from the wheel.

In his frustration Craig accuses Major Evans and his colleagues of having picked up the plans for themselves so they could make a mint out of Skipper’s invention for a radio controlled plane.

By the way before we go any further I’ve just realised that Little Billy is the name of the actor and not the character he plays. His character is just known as The Midget, but bearing in mind that term is now considered derogatory I’ll just continue to refer to him as Billy.

Away from the carnival Jean reluctantly continues to go along with her friend Pat Kelly at the police station that he still takes the rap for killing Clark in order to protect Craig from wrongly being accused of the crime himself. As Pat is led away to the nearest cell Jean is asked to identify the murder weapon recovered from the scene after Clark’s demise.

Jean recognises it as the gun she took from Gardner when she and Heinie were at his office. She tells Pat she intends to go back to the office – again – to look for evidence to put Gardner and his cronies in the caboose.

Craig, Billy, Heinie and Henry the vent chew over the fat trying to figure out their next move. Suddenly Craig has a bright idea. He suggests the best way to flush out who might be the Eagle is to gather Major Evans and his businessman together at the factory and then for Henry to send word that Skipper is escaping. Where and who he is escaping from isn’t made exactly clear but I’m thinking it will all come out in the wash sooner or later.

Adhering to Craig’s plan Heinie turns up at the factory posing as a worker. Henry then calls Major Evans and using his ventriloquism skills imitates Green, one of the company directors, telling Evans he has some news about the Eagle and to call the other directors to go to the factory in half an hour.

Gardner receives a call from his unidentified boss at his office telling him he and his cronies should head to the factory on account of the directors will be gathering there. Jean sneaks in just as the thugs leave, picks up the phone and orders a taxi to pick her up at the office she’s just broken into.

Heinie lets Craig and his compatriots into the factory by the back door. The strong man complains that hasn’t been ‘wised-up’ as to what the main plan is going to be so Craig explains that seeing as one of the directors must be holding Skipper prisoner he’s going to make them think that Skipper is escaping.

His expectation is that whoever the guilty party might be will then break cover to stop Skipper skipping off. A minute later Gardner and his two cronies turn up at the factory with Jean following closely behind, Yak conveniently leaving the back gate open in case they have to leave in a hurry which means Jean can easily get into the premises herself. Those scriptwriters think of everything.

Major Evans arrives at the office first with Gardner close behind. Craig leaves the office by another door to avoid being seen by Evans, witnesses Gardner ducking up the stairs and follows him. We then see Jean following Yak and his fellow thug who chance upon the security guard that Heine had previously knocked out in order to steal his pass and gain entry to the factory.

When he tells Yak what happened his fellow thug states that McCoy must be up to something. Yak suggests they find Gardner and tip him off, Jean taking all of this in as she hides out of sight a few feet away.

Craig follows Gardner up on to the roof of the factory building and stays close behind as Gardner inadvertently leads Craig to a room where Skipper is tied up and being held captive in the dark. Craig announces his presence and knocks Gardner out with a desultory slap to the chops but it seems to do the trick.

In order to get up on to the roof before Yak can warn Gardner about Heine’s presence Jean decides to take a short cut and climb a ladder on the outside of the factory building, not realising that Yak catches sight of her before he enters the factory.

All the directors gather in the office and realise they’ve been duped when Green tells them he knows nothing about ringing Evans to arrange the meeting. An authoritative voice suddenly intones “You stand in the shadow of the Eagle.

Gregory has escaped and is on his way to the police” which sends the directors looking everywhere to find out where the voice came from. For some reason, no one bothers to look behind the large coat hanger behind which Billy is hiding and from where he delivered the message.

Thinking that the owner of the mysterious voice might be on the fire escape a couple of the directors open the window just as Jean is climbing past on the ladder. She screams and starts to descend only to realise Yak and his thug are on the way up the ladder to get to her before she can reach the roof.

She jumps through the nearest open window to be greeted by Henry the vent who shows her the way out. Back on the top of the building, Craig is aiding a weakened Skipper towards the staircase when the Eagle himself suddenly appears with a big coat collar wrapped around his face to serve as a rather weak disguise. He and Craig have at it, the Eagle then joined by Gardner who has miraculously recovered from the so-called pummelling Craig administered a few minutes before.

Jean and daddy are momentarily reunited only to be pulled apart as Major Evans and the directors appear and take Skipper captive. Back on the roof top Craig decides he’s outnumbered and tries to climb down to the ground on a rickety steel ladder. The Eagle spots an opportunity and wrenches the top of the ladder from its moorings, sending Craig plunging to his …

Episode Five – The Telephone Cipher

… delayed death as he lands on the roof of the opposite building. It turns out that the film jumped towards the end of the last episode as in this chapter Heinie appears from out of nowhere and rescues Jean from the clutches of her captors, reuniting her in the blink of an eye once again with daddy Skipper.

Yak and his crony catch sight of Skipper about to drive away and attempt to apprehend him before they’re cautioned by a passing policeman. Yak tells the copper that Skipper is insane. The idiot copper buys their story and accompanies Skipper to the local asylum as instructed by Yak. Just in case you’re wondering where Jean is whilst all this is going on look no further than the interior of the now crowded car where she lies slumped inside fast asleep.

The directors, still yet again convinced Skipper is really the Eagle, witness another skywriting exercise in which Ames, one of the directors, has his name displayed in the clouds. Back at the asylum Jean wakes from her stupor – apparently she’s been in shock – and asks for her father. When told she has been brought to the place by none other than Yak, Jean slumps back in bed as if accepting things couldn’t get any worse.

At the carnival things start to take a very surrealistic turn when Henry the vent converses with his dummy as if the wooden puppet has a life of its own. Before this can get totally insane Craig and Heinie turn up looking for Jean and Skipper.

Craig enters his tent straight into the company of Evans and the directors, accompanied by Gardner who holds a gun on Craig. Back at the asylum, Jean asks a nurse to fetch her a glass of hot milk but we know she’s feisty enough to be up to something which she is, phoning the carnival and being told by Henry in code that he, Billy and Craig are being held at gunpoint.

At that moment Heinie appears and disarms Gardner. I have to be honest and admit it might not be Gardner holding the gun on account of its difficult to tell the villains from one another seeing as most of them sport thin moustaches and insist on wearing a hat at all times. 

Now aware that Jean has been kidnapped and held at the asylum Craig turns up masquerading as Doctor McCoy. Distracting the nurse by ‘accidentally’ breaking a thermometer Craig asks Jean how she ended up in the hospital but the most crucial piece of information to come out of this conversation is that I found out Yak’s companion is actually called Tom Moore, played by Bud Osbourne, so I can refer to him by his proper name from now on.

Things start to get rather ludicrous when, after tracking Skipper down in the hospital, Boyle and Moore (Yak and Bud Osbourne), are interrupted by Craig disguised as a doctor by hiding behind a large white mask but no attempt to change his voice, which surely must have been a giveaway to anyone in the film who has heard him speak before.

Craig also does a whole other kind of stupid himself by removing his mask and telling Skipper that Heinie is waiting outside with a getaway car before Boyle and Moore have physically left the room. 

Craig holds off the bad guys and tells Skipper to get out of the hospital. The film then cuts to Jean who has locked the nurse in a closet and somehow or other managed to dress up as a nurse herself. Skipper wanders out of the hospital as slowly as possible and is inevitably spotted by one of the orderlies.

Heinie engages with the asylum staff as they try to hold on to Skipper whilst Craig dukes it out with Boyle and Moore. Craig gets knocked out giving Boyle and Moore the chance to engage in a car chase with Heinie, Jean and Skipper. Back at the hospital Craig lies unconscious whilst a bottle of chloroform drips on to him. 

Heinie jumps from the running board of the car to go back and find his friend, leaving Jean and Skipper to continue being chased by Boyle and Moore. Jean, who is driving the car, is confronted by a man waving frantically in front of a ‘Road Closed’ sign but ploughs on regardless anyway, whereupon a huge explosion probably initiated by the construction crew building the highway sends the car, Jean and Skipper…

Episode Six -The Code of the Carnival

… just a few feet further along the road instead of blowing them to smithereens, although to be fair the car ends up with a blown out tyre. Realising they’re being followed Jean and Skipper hide in the bushes then steal Boyle and Moore’s car, leaving the dim-witted thugs high and dry.

Moore goes off to report to the Eagle leaving Boyle to change the spare. In the asylum two orderlies discover Craig still unconscious due to the chloroform and try to revive him, intending to then turn him over to the police. Their efforts are interrupted when Heinie appears, throws them out of the room and locks the door.

Moore informs the Eagle by phone that Skipper escaped but McCoy is still at the hospital. Boyle picks Moore up, Moore telling him the boss has a great idea but they need to find a leather coat in order to carry out the plan. Boyle points to Craig’s flying togs in the back of the car which for some reason sends them into paroxysms of laughter.

They then arrive at the asylum just in time to catch Heinie carrying an unconscious Craig out of the window. Moore forces Heinie to hand Craig over at gunpoint before driving away and leaving the strong man alone on the sidewalk looking like the proverbial spare man at a wedding.

Heinie returns to the carnival where Little Billy and the others are welcoming Skipper back. When Skipper hears that Craig has been kidnapped he realises the only way everyone will be safe is if he gives himself up to the police, even if that means he will be blamed for the crimes of the Eagle.

On the other hand Skipper reasons that if he is in jail but the Eagle still carries out his dastardly plans it will prove Skipper is innocent. Just at that moment, the police arrive to arrest him anyway. As they leave the tent the Eagle appears once more doing his skywriting trick, this time spelling out the name of Danby, another company director, and then crossing the name out. Danby happens to be present and realises he is a marked man.

The plane suddenly starts to spiral to the ground before landing, the policeman and Jean driving off to intercept the pilot and arrest him. Meanwhile, Boyce and Moore turn up with a now conscious Craig dressed in his flying gear.

It turns out Gardner was the pilot and it was his idea to frame Craig as working for the Eagle, leaving his cronies to tell Jean and the policeman that they caught Craig just after he landed the plane. The policeman takes Craig back to the tent which now contains Major Evans, Gardner, Skipper and assorted business directors and various carnival employees.

As Craig professes his innocence the police officer searches him and finds a note stating “Stand by. When the directors reach the carnival grounds write ‘Danby’ and draw a line through it. G”.

In desperation Craig pulls a gun on everyone but is in turn disarmed, much to his surprise, by a seemingly disappointed Jean who, now apparently resigned to Craig’s guilt, holds a gun on him instead.

She tells Craig and everyone else in the tent that carnival people have their own way of handling traitors, telling Heinie to take Craig outside and ‘peg him out’. Craig is then thrown to the ground and covered in a piece of canvas. Although everyone else stays in the tent they can hear the thump of sledgehammers making contact with Craig’s body as he is dispatched by his own kind. Jean then faints at the horror of it all.

I know how she feels. 

Join me again in a couple of weeks after I’ve schlepped through the next three episodes which I know thousands of you are eagerly waiting to read about. Right?

Shadow of the Eagle Part III – Episodes 7 – 9

Episode Seven – Eagle or Vulture?

Whilst Jean Gregory, daughter of carnival owner Skipper Gregory, is still in fainting mode from the end of the last episode after witnessing her boyfriend Craig being beaten to death whilst covered in a piece of tent canvas, the action cuts to Little Billy being stopped by the policeman who arrested Craig earlier.

Billy is presumably leading the cop on a wild goose chase to ensure he doesn’t witness Craig getting what’s coming to him back from his fellow employees.

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Meanwhile, one of the carnival workers enters the tent with a large sledgehammer resting on his shoulder and informs everyone that “McCoy will never do any more double-crossing”. The directors leave in shock at the brutality of Craig’s death with Gardner, a confidante of the real Eagle, following behind them. 

Heinie suddenly grabs Gardner through an open tent flap and drags him inside where the villain finds himself face-to-face with – gasp shock horror – none other than Craig McCoy himself. At that very moment Skipper reappears in the tent from I don’t know where to be told by Craig that they’re going to be dealing with Gardner later.

It then becomes obvious Jean was in on the plot to fool Major Evans, his directors and the bad guys into thinking Craig had met his maker.

Not realising their boss is in the hands of Craig and company, villains  Boyce and Moore phone the Eagle and suggest he gets rid of the plane he used to frame Craig with before the cops start snooping around. It’s a bit late for that though as the cop who arrested Craig is already standing on the wing inspecting the cockpit, but not for long.

From his lair the Eagle initiates Skipper’s radio-control invention and starts the plane remotely, throwing the cop onto the ground, the policeman watching in amazement as the pilotless aircraft takes to the skies.

Little Billy ends up down at the local cop station paying a fine for speeding and resisting arrest. As he hands over the money he, along with the audience, suddenly remembers his pal Pat Kelly is still in the caboose for taking the blame for the murder of Clark, one of the directors, which in turn gave Craig the opportunity to remain free to track down the Eagle.

Kelly tells Billy that he thinks Gardner was in on the killing of Clark and that he had two accomplices with him. When Kelly describes the two villains in more detail Billy is convinced his friend is talking about Boyce and Moore.

As he leaves the police station he overhears the cops talking about a radio controlled plane with the officer who fell off the unmanned craft earlier.

Billy rings Craig and tells him he has some big news, informing his friend about Boyce, Moore and the pilotless plane. Gardner still won’t squeal under pressure so Henry the vent once more uses his vocal skills to trick the two thugs into thinking he’s their boss, ringing and telling then he’s been pretty badly beaten up and will make his way to their office as soon as possible.

Gardner then turns up at the office swathed in bandages over his face, telling the boys that the vent tried to shoot him as Craig listens to the conversation outside on the office window balcony. Gardner informs his cronies that McCoy knows they were in on the shooting of Clark, suggesting they call the Eagle to discuss matters in more detail.

Boyle is just about to make the call when the phone rings. He picks up the receiver and listens with increasingly suspicious glances at ‘Gardner’ as the real Gardner, having somehow or other loosened his bonds, rings his guys and tells Boyle that Skipper is hiding in the carnival.

Boyle then informs the police of Skipper’s whereabouts before pulling a gun on ‘Gardner’ who is so obviously Henry the vent in disguise you have to wonder at the IQ of some of those bad guys.

Realising the jig is up Craig climbs through the window and disarms Boyce. Unfortunately for Craig and Henry there’s also another two gang members lurking in the other room and before they know it they’re being overpowered by the four thugs.

Boyce then stupidly throws a chair at Craig, misses and hits Moore who was holding both Craig and Henry at gunpoint. Escaping into the other room the good guys scarper out the window and climb down the miraculously rebuilt scaffolding that collapsed at the end of episode two.

Craig and Henry speed away in their car with the bad guys close behind, Boyce instructing Moore to take a pot shot at the tyres on Craig’s car. He gets lucky with his second attempt, causing the car in front to crash and overturn, leaving Craig and Henry trapped in the mangled wreck and fighting for their lives as they slowly…

Episode Eight – On the Spot

… manage to extricate themselves from the burning car. The villains drive off thinking both of them are dead, come up against what appears to be the same “Road Closed” sign that featured at the end of episode five, turn around and come upon Henry trying to help an unconscious Craig out of the upturned car.

They’re not interested in Henry, and just kidnap Craig instead which is a bit careless seeing as how Henry is now free to sound the alarm on all of them but I guess that’s the way these serials work.

The police come back to the carnival and start searching for Skipper who amazingly still hasn’t found a decent hiding place. He ends up pleading with Bob the clown, played by Billy West, to help hide him.

Despite suggesting Skipper should also don a clown outfit so that the police will not be able to tell the two of them apart, you just know the minute Bob reminds Skipper he still owes him two weeks back pay that the clown isn’t going to clown around when it comes to betraying his boss.

Sure enough, Bob makes his way to the tent where Gardner is still tied up and offers to let on where Skipper is. Meanwhile, Henry turns up and along with Heinie, they find Skipper in the tent where Bob left him, still in his clown disguise.

Heinie catches sight of Bob returning with Gardner and the police in tow so Henry tells Skipper to hide in a magician’s cabinet whilst Henry dons the clown outfit himself.

The police arrive and realise the clown is Henry and not Skipper, ignoring Bob’s entreaties that Skipper is somehow concealed inside one of the panels of the cabinet. The police leave and Skipper magically reappears from the cabinet, for some reason forgiving the dirty treacherous clown Bob who sold him out, probably deciding to dock Bob two week’s pay instead. 

Craig is taken to an abandoned quarry by Gardner and the gang but manages to escape, hurling one of the thugs to his death in the process.

At the same time Henry the vent devises an escape plan for Skipper, placing the traitorous Bob the clown in a locked trunk and then fooling the police into thinking it’s Skipper in there instead.

Craig suddenly turns up unharmed at the carnival then immediately drives off again to go and find Skipper who, under the impression Craig is being held captive by Major Evans, has gone with Jean to the aircraft factory to confront Evans and his co-directors.

At the factory Skipper tells Evans that if he releases Craig he’ll sign over the rights to his invention to the aerospace company.

Evans asserts that they already own the patent legitimately and instructs a shifty-looking Green, one of the co-directors, to go and fetch the bill of sale document which will show who sold the patent to them. Just at that moment, as Craig creeps into the office unseen, someone turns out the lights in the office.

A scuffle and a cry of pain can be heard after which Jean stands over the body of Skipper, screaming “Somebody’s killed my father”…

Episode Nine – When Thieves Fall Out

… but he’s not dead, although to be honest Skipper doesn’t look too good either. A few seconds before the light is turned back on someone grabs a person they think is the Eagle but it turns out to be Craig, who swears he had nothing to do with trying to kill Skipper.

Once Skipper comes round everyone argues back and forth about who might the Eagle be, did Craig really try and kill his best friend etc. but either way Craig remains under suspicion, even by Jean.

One of the directors searches him but Craig doesn’t have the bill of sale. Craig points out that no one has left the room since the lights came back on and maybe everyone else should submit to being searched as well. 

Seeing as Skipper was knocked unconscious whilst the bill of sale went missing he’s nominated to search everyone. Whilst Skipper pats the directors down, Jean notices someone dropping a document into a waste paper basket.

Inconceivably, instead of pointing out whoever discarded it she goes to elaborate lengths to lure Craig out of the office into a side room, then throws a glass through a window to get everyone to chase after Craig. Craig however has hidden behind the door in the side room and they both decide to wait in the dark to see who comes back to retrieve the bill of sale.

Lo and behold they witness Major Evans come back to search for the document but he explains, rather unconvincingly, that he also knew the bill of sale was in the basket.

As he and Craig argue back and forth a hand appears through the door of the office and steals the basket. Somehow or other Evans catches sight of a ring on the mysterious disembodied hand and tells Craig he thinks it was Green who was trying to steal the document.

Suddenly the sound of sirens warns them the police are on their way to arrest Craig. Before he skedaddles he tells Jean and Evans that he has a plan to get the bill of sale back. You don’t actually get to hear what the plan is but Craig implies he has two plans in case one should fail. He then scoots off, instructing Jean to “get your butt in the car and get the motor running”.

Making a run for it Craig eludes both the police and the Eagle’s goons in the process. He then jumps into the back of Jean’s car as they and Skipper leave Craig’s pursuers behind and head back to the carnival.

When they arrive the place is eerily quiet. A dejected Little Billy informs them that Bob the clown is still claiming for his unpaid salary and has somehow managed to persuade the local authorities to shut down the carnival until he gets paid.

Heinie kicks Bob in the rear end as he leaves the tent whilst Skipper bemoans the fact that the carnival is all he’s got. Craig reminds him he’s also the inventor of a system that aircraft companies will pay a fortune for, Skipper shooting that down by reminding Craig that it’s making money for someone else, not him.

Craig is intent on proving to Major Evans that the bill of sale is a forgery, which is why Green was keen to keep it to himself. He asks Henry to help him with whatever plan it was he’d cooked up earlier after which they leave just as the police turn up looking for him.

Meanwhile, Major Evans calls on Green and tells him that Skipper and his gang are on their way to recover the bill of sale.

Craig turns up at Greens house expecting Evans to help him with the plan they’d discussed earlier on but Evans double-crosses him and decides to keep the document for himself.

In anticipation of such an eventuality as this, Craig has arranged for Henry to get the drop on Evans and Green, retrieving the bill of sale and leaving the Major and Green looking like the hopeless saps they are.

As Craig and Henry drive back to the carnival Boyle and Moore, who have kept themselves out of sight whilst on the running board of the car, suddenly appear and demand the document.

With a cry of “Come and get it” Craig lays into the two thugs as Henry tries to keep the car on the road. Suddenly one of the fighting trio falls from the back of the car only to be run over by a vehicle following behind. 

Who ends up with tire tracks all over their face and seeing as we’ll be detailing the final three episodes, finally find out for yourselves the identity of the Eagle himself. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait. Honest.

Shadow of the Eagle – Episodes Ten to Twelve

It’s been a long journey but we’ve finally  arrived at the last three episodes of John Wayne’s very first serial, “Shadow of the Eagle”. In chapter twelve the identity of the Eagle will finally be revealed so let’s get going before the film jams and catches alight in the projector – again.

Episode Ten – The Man Who Knew

I think it will help if we start by quoting directly from the update given at the beginning of episode ten for those of you who haven’t been following the story so far.

“A mysterious criminal who calls himself the Eagle is plotting against the directors of an aeroplane factory whom he has tried to frighten with warnings written on the sky in smoke and fire. The directors have reason to suspect that the Eagle is Nathan “Skipper” Gregory, owner of a small carnival show who has accused them of stealing from him an invention worth a fortune.

A bill of sale on which the directors base their claim to the invention has been mysteriously stolen but Craig McCoy, a stunt flyer with the carnival, has traced the theft to one of the directors named Green and has recovered the paper with the aid of his friend Henry, the ventriloquist of the show.”

Now no one can complain they don’t know what’s happening so without further hesitation, on to the denouement of the “Shadow of the Eagle”.

At the end of episode nine a figure falls from the back of a car in which Craig and Henry take on the combined might of the two thugs Boyle and Moore. It’s actually Craig who ends up face down on the tarmac but luckily he lives to fight for another episode or two.

Green turns up demanding that a flustered Craig give him back the bill of sale but Craig has dropped it into a river that runs alongside the highway as he hurtled through the air. Craig assumes Green is the Eagle on account of him giving orders to Boyle and Moore.

This appears to nonplus Green but he’s too busy trying to figure out how to get hold of Skipper in order to tie up any loose ends to take the matter with Craig any further. In the meantime, one of the goons suggests forcing Craig to ring Skipper and trick him into meeting up.

At the villain’s lair in 241 Water Street Green menaces Craig as he orders him to call Skipper on the phone at the point of a gun. Moore helps out by producing a blowtorch with which he intends to induce either Craig or Henry to betray their friend.

Craig demands they leave Henry out of it and dials the phone himself. Jean picks up at the other end and tells Craig that her father is with her back at the carnival but Craig fools the villains by telling them that he’s just heard Skipper has been taken back to the asylum instead.

Boyle and Moore shoot off to the asylum leaving Green to guard Craig and Henry which is an obvious recipe for a disaster. 

Whilst Green takes a call from the Eagle, Craig turns the tables as we all knew he would and wrestles the gun away from him. Over at the factory, Danby, one of the many directors it has become so hard to be able to tell apart from any of the others, informs Major Evans he has just received a very important phone call and will not be able to attend the meeting Evans is about to chair.

Craig phones the asylum and informs the doctor that the two men who brought Skipper in a few days before are criminals and to hold them until Craig turns up. He then threatens Green with the very blowtorch Moore was going to torture Craig and Henry with, forcing Green to tell Craig he and Danby bought the rights to the patent of Skipper’s invention from a mechanic called Frederick P. Kelly.

When Craig asks Green if he can produce this Kelly guy Henry intervenes and reminds Craig that Kelly is actually Pat Kelly, the guy who took the rap on behalf of Craig when he was suspected of killing Clark back in episode three. Craig seems to think that this simplifies everything, telling Henry to phone Skipper and get him to meet up with Craig, Henry and Green at the police station. Craig then shoots off to apprehend Boyle and Moore at the asylum.

The Eagle gets up to his usual shenanigans once more, this time writing “Beware the Eagle” in the sky, frightening two of the last directors still standing to sell their shares in the company to Major Evans.

Jean tells Skipper that Craig is now safe and will be at police headquarters as he’s now worked out the identity of the Eagle. Over at Water street Danby arrives just in time to see Green being forced into a car by Henry and follows them from a safe distance.

Moore and Boyle arrive at the asylum looking for Skipper, Moore forced to pull a gun on the attendants who attempt to overpower the not-so-dynamic duo. Craig then arrives just in time to be knocked unconscious by Moore, he and Boyle then making a run for it. Regaining consciousness just in time Craig takes a shortcut across the grounds of the asylum and jumps into the car being driven by Boyle, Craig attempting to wrestle the gun from Moore as the car careers around a series of hairpin bends before driving off the road.

This enables Craig to get hold of the gun which he then threatens the two crims with, forcing Boyle to drive to police headquarters whilst Craig resides in the back seat with a loaded weapon pointed in their direction.

Jean and Skipper meet up with Henry and Green at the police station, Henry informing everyone that Green is the Eagle. Henry then asks if they can have a talk with Pat Kelly in front of witnesses, Green informing all gathered that Kelly is the man who sold him the invention. Kelly denies everything, challenging Green to produce the bill of sale.

Jean pleads with Kelly to tell the truth and eventually, he confesses he sold the plans to Green but that there was another man in on the deal and he’s been “trying to cash in on it”. Just as Kelly is about to spill the beans a shot rings out as a mysterious stranger shoots Kelly in the back through the barred window of his prison cell.

Jean screams. Naturally.

Episode Eleven – The Eagle’s Wings

As they gather around the corpse of poor old Kelly he starts to come to, mutters the name “Danby” then falls unconscious once more. As everyone goes to get help Kelly comes back to life and sneaks out of the police station, straining the credulity of the audience to the limit.

Craig tells Henry to let Green go as it’s now obvious Green can’t be the Eagle on account of him being present when Kelly was shot. Assuming Kelly is still in danger Craig surmises he’s probably going to head back to the carnival and instructs Henry to hot-foot it back there whilst Craig intends to wring the truth out of Danby.

Green points out to the police the sight of a plane writing the name “Kelly” in the sky, the action then cutting to a heavily disguised Eagle who has apparently been controlling the aeroplane all this time from his hideout using Skipper’s radio-controlled invention.

Jean and Skipper also witness the sky-writing incident and watch as it appears the plane looks as though it’s going to crash. Just as it lands Jean speeds off, determined to find out where the plane has landed.

A message is received at the police station informing the authorities that a plane has just made a forced landing at a country club. Armed with all of this information Green tells Gardner and Boyle to follow the police car whilst he and Moore go on to the factory and stop Craig before he can get to Danby.

This means that Jean, Skipper, Gardner, Boyle and the police are all heading in the same direction to try and find the plane. A seriously wounded Kelly – don’t forget this man has been shot in the back – staggers into the communal carnival tent and collapses, Billy telling both Henry and his dummy to go fetch a doctor. Meanwhile, Craig arrives at the factory, sneaks in the back way, locking an innocent factory employee working in the boiler department in a box. He then rings Danby and makes out he’s a factory worker looking for the man who usually fixes the boiler, Danby offering to come down and look for the guy himself.

The whole thing starts to get a bit strange at this point – as if it hasn’t already – with Danby offering Craig money if he can persuade Skipper, whom Danby still thinks is the Eagle , to desist from killing the rest of the ever-dwindling group of directors.

Craig tells Danby he’s been informing anyone who will listen that Skipper is on the up and up. Danby then says in that case there is someone else he has always suspected and he will get back to Craig once he’s investigated the situation further, upon which Craig just lets him waltz away.

Back at the carnival a doctor arrives and tends to Kelly’s wounds which now appear to have migrated from his back to his head. Billy instructs Henry to scoot off over to the factory and get hold of Craig and tell him what’s going on, as Kelly is now lying comatose in the tent with a wound that won’t stay in one place.

Henry sneaks into the factory by throwing his voice in impersonation of one of the directors to distract the guard at the gate. He then magically finds Craig right away and tells him Kelly is at the carnival and still won’t talk on account of being scared stiff. 

Danby retrieves two envelopes from an office desk, one marked “Bill of Sale Original Inventions’ and the other “Plans of Aero Stabilizer”. He then calls Craig down in the boiler room and tells him he’s now found the proof he was looking for and to get up to room 204 post haste.

He’s just about to give Craig the name of the man he’s been suspicious of when Danby has a coat thrown over his head and is then knocked out. Craig and Henry rush over to room 204 and encounter the board of directors who have also just happened to enter the same room.

They inform Craig that the room belongs to Major Evans and then all rush off to catch their boss who they now think is the Eagle. Craig isn’t so sure and stays behind in the office with Henry, convinced Evans is being framed as he then only appears to realise they’re in room 206, not room 204(?).

Over at the airfield where the plane has landed Gardner rings the Eagle and tells him to act quick as Jean and the police are examining the aircraft, Jean informing the cops that neither Craig or Skipper could have been piloting the plane as the control board indicates it’s radio controlled.

For some strange reason known only to the scriptwriters Jean then climbs into the cockpit just as the Eagle remotely starts the plane and then flies it away. The Eagle then rings Craig in room 206 and tells him Jean is in the plane that Craig is somehow able to see out of the window, informing Craig that he intends taking the aircraft up to five-thousand feet above the carnival and then send it into a death plunge where it will hit the ground at three-hundred miles an hour.

Instructing Henry to keep the Eagle distracted on the phone he runs back into room 204 and asks the operator where the call in room 206 is coming from.

She informs Craig it’s being made from a laboratory on the roof of the factory. He then rushes out of the office straight into what appears to be a trio of villains consisting of Major Evans, Green and Gardner. Fighting his way onto the roof Craig locates the laboratory just as the Eagle sends the plane with Jean in it plummeting from the sky.

Craig breaks down the door but the Eagle is nowhere to be seen. Just as Craig starts to wrestle with the radio control instruments to prevent Jean and the plane from crashing the Eagle appears behind him and knocks Craig out.

Episode Twelve – The Shadow Unmasked

Here it is boys and girls. The final chapter of “Shadow of the Eagle”, and after having diligently watched all of the previous eleven chapters I have absolutely no idea about the identity of the Eagle, so this is much a journey for me as it is for you.

Just before being knocked out by the Eagle it appears as though Craig managed to adjust the controls for the plane so that it wouldn’t crash and it lands safely. When Craig comes to he finds an unconscious Danby lying next him, the company director also having been clonked by the Eagle moments before after having emerged from the closet the Eagle had locked him in.

As usual, they all give chase but the Eagle escapes. Both Craig and Danby are now convinced they know the identity of the Eagle but for some strange reason do not share the information with Henry who has also joined in the chase. Craig suggests they use Kelly to help trap the Eagle, despite Henry telling him that Kelly is scared stiff and therefore probably won’t co-operate.

Craig decides they should give it a go anyway, pulling Danby and Henry close so that he can explain to them the plan he has in mind, albeit one that won’t be shared with the audience as the action cuts to the directors looking for the Eagle before going back to Craig who says “and that’ll prove he’s guilty without a doubt”.

I hate it when they do that.

Craig meets up with Evans and the remaining directors, informing them that Kelly is the only one who can identify the Eagle but is unfortunately he’s at death’s door. That’s the cue Craig has given for Danby, hiding in the office next door, to ring the office Craig is in.

One of the directors picks up the phone and hands it to Craig who then fakes the call by making out he’s just been told Kelly has regained consciousness. Whilst this is going on one of the directors, Ward stands next to Craig looking distinctly uncomfortable. Upon being told that Craig won’t be going back to the carnival to interrogate Kelly, Ward makes an excuse about having a lot of work to do and leaves the office.

Craig joins Danby in the other office and, on the assumption that the man they now know to be the Eagle will probably go to the carnival to try and kill Kelly, tells Danby to wait whilst he tries to get to Kelly ahead of the Eagle.

Over at the police station Henry pulls a nifty ventriloquism trick and gets Moore to admit that it was Gardner who shot Pat Kelly and that Moore’s partner Boyle shot Clark. Remember Clark? The director we all thought had been shot in episode one only for him to turn up alive bound and gagged in an office closet but then ending up dead for real in episode three. Hope that helps.

It’s then Moore’s turn to be thrown into the hoosegow as the serial starts to tie up all the loose ends still dangling very much in the air.

The Eagle arrives at the carnival looking for Kelly and, upon finding him alone with his face covered in bandages, pulls a gun on him only for a voice to call out “drop that gun!”. ‘Kelly’ then removes his bandages to reveal Craig instead.

Kelly steps out from behind a curtain as the directors arrive late as usual to find out that the Eagle is Ward, one of their own. Skipper and Jean then appear on the scene, Skipper asking Kelly to now tell all which he does, and it goes something like this. During the war Kelly thought his old friend Skipper had been killed behind enemy lines and, when going through Skipper’s belonging, found the detailed plans for the radio controlled invention.

Kelly, still thinking Skipper was now flying in heaven, sold the plans to Danby and Green, claiming it was his own invention instead. Ward somehow or other found out that Kelly had stolen the plans from Skipper so Ward decided to blackmail Major Evans and the other directors but make them think the blackmail attempt was actually coming from Skipper himself, the object of the exercise being to force the directors to then sell the invention for peanuts. Ward had then threatened Kelly with death if he made Ward’s intentions known to the others.

Just when it looks as though things have been neatly sown up Ward / the Eagle grabs his gun from whoever took it from him and promises to shoot Kelly. Craig beats him to the draw and Ward makes a run for it.

Once again the chase is on. Ward drives off with Craig following and everyone else trailing behind Craig. Ward races against a train heading for a level crossing but the train beats him to it, killing Ward in the process. Upon hearing that Ward kept to his last promise of not being captured alive, the directors hold an impromptu board meeting next to the railway crossing a few feet away from where Ward’s bleeding corpse lies in the mangled wreck of his car and agree to give twenty-percent of the company to Skipper. Jean, realising she’s now going to be rich, tells Craig to get lost (not really). 

Actually, all’s well that ends well as it always does in these serials, despite in this case the clumsy action, confusing plot and a whole bunch of supporting performers who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag.

On the positive side you’ve got a fresh-faced Wayne and Yakima Canutt working together for the first time, with Wayne also performing some of his own stunts, particularly during the numerous car chase sequences, so on the whole there’s something here to please the most discerning JW fan prepared to watch all twelve episodes in their entirety if they so wish.

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be providing a similarly detailed overview of John Wayne’s second serial for Mascot, “The Hurricane Express”. See you in the front stalls again real soon.

John Wayne serials Shadow of the Eagle together with The Hurricane Express is available

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Steve is a film scholar of note, gaining both an MA in film studies and a Ph.D. for his thesis on the silent films of John Ford. Steve, a scriptwriter and published novelist, provides much of the content you see here and is a dedicated aficionado and longtime fan of John Wayne, John Ford and Western films in general.

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