The Phantom of the Air

The Phantom of the Air is a 12-episode 1933 Pre-Code Universal film serial directed by Ray Taylor.[1] The film stars Tom Tyler, who was cast most often in Westerns. Other actors include Gloria Shea, LeRoy Mason, Craig Reynolds and William Desmond.[2][3][N 1]

The Phantom of the Air
Directed byRay Taylor
Produced byHenry MacRae
Written byBasil Dickey
Ella O'Neill
George H. Plympton
StarringTom Tyler
Gloria Shea
LeRoy Mason
Craig Reynolds
William Desmond
CinematographyJohn Hickson
Edited byAlvin Todd
Edward Todd
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • 1933 (1933)
Running time
12 chapters (240 minutes)
CountryUnited States


Scientist Thomas Edmunds (William Desmond) and his daughter (Gloria Shea) attend the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio to find a pilot. They select pilot Bob Raymond (Tom Tyler) from the U.S. Border Patrol, to demonstrate an anti-gravity device called the "Contragrav. At the air meet, Mortimer Crome (LeRoy Mason), a friend of Gloria, is his main rival and has his henchman "Skip" (Walter Brennan) sabotage Raymond's aircraft prior to the air race. Raymond crashes but survives.

Edmunds' invention is sought after by a gang of smugglers led by Crome who owns the International Import & Export Company, who wants the invention. The inventor has a secret airfield in a desert region. Raymond comes to the inventor's aid, using another of Edwards' inventions, the superplane, the "Phantom." Able to control the aircraft remotely from an underground headquarters, Bob foils Crome's plans. Gloria has become Bob's love interest.

A last attempt to get at the inventor's work leads to an explosion at his workshop that kills the criminals. Edmunds escapes and is reunited with Gloria and Bob.

Chapter titles

  1. The Great Air Meet
  2. The Secret of the Desert
  3. The Avenging Phantom
  4. The Battle in the Clouds
  5. Terror of the Heights
  6. A Wild Ride
  7. The Jaws of Death
  8. Aflame in the Sky
  9. The Attack
  10. The Runaway Plane
  11. In the Enemy's Hands
  12. Safe Landing




The numerous aircraft in The Phantom of the Air include:

The race at the beginning of Chapter 1 in The Phantom of the Air was the 1932 Cleveland Air Race where Bob Raymond's Wedell-Williams Model 44 racer competed with Crome's Travel Air R Mystery Ship. The Edmunds "Phantom" was an Emsco B7-C, fitted with radio control.[6]

Both Roscoe Turner and "Pancho" Barnes flew in the 1930 National Air Races in Chicago, and their aircraft appear in The Phantom of the Air.[6]


Aviation historian Christian Santoir in Aeromovies described the impact of The Phantom of the Air as embodying the spirit of the early barnstorming era in Hollywood. "... several sequences of aerial stunts, realized, among others, by Art Goebel, Frank Clarke and Ivan Unger in the twenties. We thus witness the passage from one plane to another, the change of a wheel in full flight. We also go from an airplane to a car, from a fast boat to a plane, in the best tradition of 'stuntmen' in Hollywood."[6]



  1. Along with Mascot Pictures, the lowly "poverty row" studio, Universal Pictures became the only major studio committed to the serial format in the 1930s.[4]


  1. Wynne 1987, p. 129.
  2. Harmon and Glut 1973, p. 222.
  3. Farmer 1984, p. 323.
  4. Weiss and Goodgold 1973, p. I.
  5. Cline 1984, p. 208.
  6. Santoir, Christian. "Review: 'The Phantom of the Air'.", October 17, 2010. Retrieved: July 9, 2019.


  • Cline, William C. "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  • Harmon, Jim and Donald F. Glut. The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. London: Routledge, 1973. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  • Weiss, Ken and Ed Goodgold. To be Continued ...: A Complete Guide to Motion Picture Serials. New York: Bonanza Books, 1973. ISBN 0-517-166259.
  • 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.
Preceded by
Clancy of the Mounted (1933)
Universal Serial
The Phantom of the Air (1933)
Succeeded by
Gordon of Ghost City (1933)
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