Sky Patrol is a 1939 American film directed by Howard Bretherton and starring John Trent, along with Marjorie Reynolds, Milburn Stone and Jason Robards Sr.[1] The film also featured actor and comedian Jackie Coogan, who began his film career as a child actor in silent films.[2]

Sky Patrol
Sky Patrol lobby card 1939.jpg
Directed byHoward Bretherton
Written byHal Forrest (comic strip "Tailspin Tommy" and story)
George Waggner (screenplay) and
Norton S. Parker
Produced byPaul Malvern
StarringJohn Trent
Marjorie Reynolds
Milburn Stone
Jason Robards Sr.
Jackie Coogan
CinematographyFred Jackman Jr.
Edited byCarl Pierson
Release date
  • September 12, 1939 (1939-09-12)
Running time
61 minutes
CountryUnited States

Sky Patrol is based on the comic strip Tailspin Tommy by Hal Forrest and Glenn Chaffin.[3][N 1] The third of four "Tailspin Tommy" films made by Monogram Pictures, Sky Patrolwas released on September 12, 1939.[5]


In the final flying test for Sky Patrol graduation, instructor Tailspin Tommy Thompson (John Trent) flies with the son of flight commander Colonel Meade (Boyd Irwin). Carter Meade (Jackie Coogan) freezes during target practice but Tommy covers for him and he graduates.

When Bainbridge (Bryant Washburn), a weapons smuggler, is aware that the Sky Patrol will disrupt his smuggling operations. Carter sees an unidentified amphibious aircraft but is unable to fire on it and is shot down by Bainbridge, who takes him prisoner.

Carter is presumed dead but Tommy and Skeeter Milligan (Milburn Stone) locate a warehouse where the amphibious aircraft is hidden. Tracking the unknown aircraft to a ship rendezvous, Tommy and Skeeter try to get on board but are captured and locked up with Carter.

Monitoring the Sky Patrol radio, the smugglers learn the colonel and the Sky Patrol are heading for the ship. Tommy manages to set up explosives in the hold, and when the three prisoners are about to jump ship, Carter shoots a smuggler, ensuring their escape. The Colonel soon overpowers the rest of Bainbridge's men.

Tommy and Skeeter return to their commercial airline jobs, leaving Carter now in charge of the Sky Patrol.



Principal photography for Sky Patrol took place at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Airport, from July 24 to late September 1939.[6]

The aircraft used in Sky Patrol include:


Aviation film historian Stephen Pendo in Aviation in the Cinema (1985) saw Sky Patrol delving into familiar territory of "flying police". Earlier, Criminals of the Air (1937). Death in the Sky (also known as Pilot X) (1937), Reported Missing (1937), Mysterious Pilot (film serial) (1937 and Secret Service of the Air (1939) all dealt with similar scenarios of air police fighting criminals both on the ground and in the air.[8]



  1. ^ John Trent, as LaVerne Browne was a pilot for TWA flying Douglas DC-2s.[4]


  1. ^ "Catalog: 'Sky Patrol'.", 2019. Retrieved: July 15, 2019.
  2. ^ Wynne 1987, p. 175.
  3. ^ Farmer 1984, p. 326.
  4. ^ Farmer 1984, p. 130.
  5. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Review: 'Sky Patrol' (1939)." AllMovie, 2019. Retrieved: July 15, 2019.
  6. ^ "Original print information: 'Sky Patrol'." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: July 15, 2019.
  7. ^ Santoir, Christian. "Review: 'Sky Patrol'." Aeromovies, October 22, 2010. Retrieved: July 15, 2019.
  8. ^ Pendo 1985, pp. 15–16.


  • Farmer, James H. Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation. Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: Tab Books Inc., 1984. ISBN 978-0-83062-374-7.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
  • Wynne, H. Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 0-933126-85-9.

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