The Shadow of the Eagle

The Shadow of the Eagle (a.k.a. Shadow of the Eagle) is a 1932 American Pre-Code Mascot 12 episode film serial, directed by Ford Beebe and B. Reeves Eason and produced by Nat Levine.[1] The film stars John Wayne in his first serial role.[2] He would go on to star in two other serials for Mascot, The Hurricane Express (1932) and The Three Musketeers (1933).[3] The Shadow of the Eagle is now in the public domain.

The Shadow of the Eagle
The Shadow of the Eagle.jpg
Directed byFord Beebe
B. Reeves Eason
Produced byNat Levine
Written byFord Beebe
Colbert Clark
Wyndham Gittens
StarringJohn Wayne
Dorothy Gulliver
Edward Hearn
Richard Tucker
Music byLee Zahler
CinematographyBenjamin H. Kline
Victor Scheurich
Edited byWyndham Gittens
Ray Snyder
Distributed byMascot Pictures
Release date
  • February 1, 1932 (1932-02-01)
Running time
12 chapters (218 minutes)
CountryUnited States


Colonel Nathan B. "Skipper" Gregory (Edward Hearn), a former World War I ace pilot, is the owner of a travelling carnival, that has fallen on hard times. Only the money brought in by Craig McCoy (John Wayne), the carnival stunt pilot, keeps the carnival from closing. Jean Gregory (Dorothy Gulliver), Colonel Gregory's daughter, works with Craig as a wing walker and parachutist.

A mysterious pilot, the legendary "Eagle", thought to have been shot down by accident by his own squadron and killed in the war, attempts to sabotage the Evans Aero Co., a large corporation, sending threatening messages to the company's five directors via skywriting, the date that the "Eagle" was shot down: May 23, 1918. Gregory is thought to be the Eagle because he has a grudge against the company who stole plans for a radio-piloted aircraft. Suspicions also fall on Craig McCoy (John Wayne), the carnival stunt pilot, who is also skilled in skywriting and had left the message about the "Eagle" after being paid by an anonymous source.

Craig goes looking for the "Eagle", with a new suspect, Mr. Green (Lloyd Whitlock), a director of the corporation and a pilot who flew in the same squadron as the "Eagle", the likely culprit who stole plans to Gregory's invention. When confronted, Green escapes and teams up with two compatriots, Tim Moore {Bud Osborne} and Boyle (Yakima Canutt) but Craig grabs the plans and rushes back to the carnival to show Jean.

Gregory, who is confined to a wheelchair tries to hide from the authorities. Someone steels Craig's aircraft and tries to burn down the carnival. Hoping to prove her father's innocence, the pair then learn of Gregory's disappearance, captured by the henchmen of the "Eagle". A murder occurs at the corporation and Gregory is again implicated.

Jean still thinks that her father is innocent and with Craig, escapes death on many occasions, fighting with gang members, as they go after the real "Eagle". Craig enlist the aid of the carnival's midget ("Little Billy"), strongman (Ivan Linow) and ventriloquist (James Bradbury Jr.) to track down the criminal. Craig unmasks the evildoer and brings the ordeal to an end.


Chapter titlesEdit

  1. The Carnival Mystery
  2. Pinholes
  3. The Eagle Strikes
  4. The Man of a Million Voices
  5. The Telephone Cipher
  6. The Code of the Carnival
  7. Eagle or Vulture?
  8. On the Spot
  9. When Thieves Fall Out
  10. The Man Who Knew
  11. The Eagle's Wings
  12. The Shadow Unmasked


Title card


During the 1930s, after starring in The Big Trail (1930), its subsequent commercial failure meant that Wayne was relegated to minor roles in A-pictures, or starring, with his name over the title, in many low-budget Poverty Row Westerns, mostly at Monogram Pictures and serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation, such as The Shadow of the Eagle. [5][N 1]

The Shadow of the Eagle was cheaply staged and relied heavily on studio sets for interior sequences, although much of the carnival scenes are shot outdoors. Although one of the "poverty row" studios, Mascot was important to Wayne's career and he went on to make two more serials for the studio. In The Shadow of the Eagle, Wayne does most of his own stunt work, which solidified him as a bona fide action star. As the carnival stunt pilot, a Travel Air 2000, commonly known as the "Wichita Fokker", was a popular aircraft used in Hollywood features.[7]


Although concentrating on the aviation aspects of the production, aviation film historian James M. Farmer in Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation (1984), characterized The Shadow of the Eagle as a lightweight formula melodrama.[1]

Like many other serials, The Shadow of the Eagle was re-edited into a feature film version when it was released in home video form. The chapter screen titles were eliminated to create a more continuous flow.[8]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ By Wayne's own estimation, he appeared in about 80 horse operas from 1930 to 1939.[6]


  1. ^ a b Farmer 1984, p. 325.
  2. ^ Weiss and Goodgold 1973, p. 34.
  3. ^ Rainey 2010, p. 603.
  4. ^ Cline 1984, p. 205.
  5. ^ Clooney 2002, pp. 195–196.
  6. ^ Clooney 2002, p. 196.
  7. ^ "NC3670." Civil Aircraft Register: Golden Years of Aviation, 2019. Retrieved: July 8, 2019.
  8. ^ "Miscellaneous notes: 'The Shadow of the Eagle' (1932)." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: July 8, 2019.


  • Cline, William C. "Filmography"., In the Nick of Time. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984, ISBN 978-0-89950-101-7.
  • Clooney, Nick. The Movies That Changed Us: Reflections on the Screen. New York: Atria Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-74341-043-4.
  • Farmer, James H. Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation (1st ed.). Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: TAB Books 1984. ISBN 978-0-83062-374-7.
  • Rainey, Buck. Serials and Series: A World Filmography, 1912–1956. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010. ISBN 978-1-47660-448-0.
  • Weiss, Ken and Ed Goodgold. To be Continued ...: A Complete Guide to Motion Picture Serials. New York: Bonanza Books, 1973. ISBN 0-517-166259.

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Preceded by
The Lightning Warrior (1931)
Mascot Serial
The Shadow of the Eagle (1932)
Succeeded by
The Last of the Mohicans (1932)