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BRASS BANCROFT

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Full Name: Brass Bancroft
Codename: J-2
Nationality: American
Organization: Secret Service
Occupation Agent

Creator: Unknown
Time Span: 1939 - 1940

ABOUT THE SERIES

       'Brass' Bancroft is an agent with the American Secret Service.
       A blurb on packaging of the four adventures we have of this fellow states he is "Lt. 'Brass' Bancroft, a stalwart Secret Service agent who risked life and limb to bring to justice illegal alien smugglers, counterfeiters and enemy spies."
       The use of a quote around the first name obviously indicates it is a nickname but what the real name is, I have not yet determined and it is really doesn't matter because everyone, even his girlfriend, calls him 'Brass'. The 'Lt.' comes from the rank he held in U.S. Army Air Corps.
       The activities we follow Bancroft in take place in the two years preceeding America's entry into World War II. The last one shows the nation's nearing the conflict by supplying its allies with supplies but as yet the U.S. was maintaining its neutrality and as a result, people with Bancroft's skills as a pilot were not as in demand by the military as they soon would be. Bancroft is earning a living as an air jockey for a small airline while also 'spending time' with that company president's very attractive grown daughter, Pamela.
       While Bancroft is not an actual agent when we first meet him, he has apparently already tried to join and is, I believe, on a waiting list. When an agent investigating a particularly nasty group of smugglers of illegal aliens show just how nasty they can be, the head of the Secret Service team approaches Bancroft with a request for him to go undercover to join the gang and fight from inside. This will require Bancroft ending the life he was enjoying, getting arrested on a trumped-up charge, and taking on the entire criminal outfit without yet receiving any formal training.
       Bancroft will continue with the Secret Service as a full-fledged agent (with training, I assume) from then on but it will not be the last time that he will be forced to go undercover and face an entire gang, or fifth-column cell, on his own save for the help of his old military buddy and now steady sidekick, 'Gabby' Watters. Re 'Gabby', while that is also obviously a nickname, it is one that fits him as surely as 'Brass' fits Bancroft.

MOVIES

Number of Movies:4
First Appearance:1939
Last Appearance:1940

1 Secret Service of the Air Secret Service of the Air
Also known as Murder Plan
Director: Noel M. Smith
Writer: Raymond L. Schrock
Actors: Ronald Reagan as Brass Bancroft, John Litel as Saxby, Eddie Foy Jr. as Gabby Watters, Ila Rhodes as Pamela Schuyler
Released: 1939

When an undercover Secret Service agent is found out and killed on assignment, his handler approaches airline pilot Brass Bancroft to become an agent and take his place. The case involves a gang smuggling illegal aliens into the States via airplane.

2 Code of the Secret Service Code of the Secret Service
Also known as Brass Bancroft of the Secret Service
Director: Noel M. Smith
Writers: Lee Katz, Dean Riesner
Actors: Ronald Reagan as Brass Bancroft, Joe King as Saxby, Eddie Foy Jr. as Gabby Watters, Rosella Towne as Elaine
Released: 1939

A counterfeiting ring is using a Mexican casino to attract American gamblers bringing their American dollars. The gang then bleach the bills and use stolen treasure plates to make $100 bills.

3 Smashing the Money Ring Smashing the Money Ring
Director: Terry O. Morse
Writers: Anthony Coldeway, Raymond L. Schrock
Actors: Ronald Reagan as Brass Bancroft, Joe King as Saxby, Eddie Foy Jr. as Gabby Watters, Margot Stevenson as Peggy Parker
Released: 1939

Inmates in a prison have turned the print shop into a counterfeiting haven. Brass Bancroft is given the unpleasant mission of going undercover there as a prisoner to stop them.

4 Murder in the Air Murder in the Air
Director: Lewis Seiler
Writer: Raymond L. Schrock
Actors: Ronald Reagan as Brass Bancroft, John Litel as Saxby, Eddie Foy Jr. as Gabby Watters, Lya Lys as Hilda Riker
Released: 1940

As the War in Europe starts up, foreign agents in the U.S. are sabotaging vital war shipments to England. Brass Bancroft goes undercover as a deceased member of the gang to find out the key players. Eventually Bancroft's character will become part of a team using a new secret weapon to destroy an airship.

COLLECTIBLES

Number of Collectibles:1
First Appearance:1939
Last Appearance:1939

1 Secret Service of the Air LC Set Secret Service of the Air LC Set
Lobby Cards
Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright: 1939

A promotion series of 8 color cards that featured 1 card poster and 7 still photo scenes of the movie. These were sent to theaters across the U.S. that played the movie.

MY COMMENTS

       I would normally have likely waffled on this series for a while because the agent gets involved in criminal affairs more than 'counter-spy' stuff. He would eventually nudge his way in, though, I am sure.
       What made me say 'yes' immediately after a fellow spy-fan and frequent contributor told me about him, though, is the identity of the man playing the character in each of the four movie adventures: Ronald Reagan.
       How could I not include in this compendium a series starring a President of the United States? It would not be patriotic at all. And when I consider how many characters already have membership because they worked for the Chief Executive, no way would I pass up a chance like this.

       Reagan refered to his time working for Warner Brothers, the studio that filmed these stories, as the period where he was a "B-movie Errol Flynn". The year was 1939 and Reagan had started his film career only two years earlier. In those 24 months he had appeared in over a dozen films, though, making him very busy but not yet a star. Well, he will star in several of those first films but they will be considered by most, including him, as lower-tiered. Still, they will pave the way to bigger things.
       One amusing anecdote Reagan told Dick Cavett in an interview was that the second in the series, Code of the Secret Service was so bad he refused to watch it. According to him, he and the director had a major falling out with the producer (unnamed in the interview) and decided to get back at the man by filming the movie 'exactly' as the producer wanted, warts and all.

       These four adventures are definitely B-movie material but can be fun if you do not expect very much. Since each is just an hour long, give or take a few minutes, they are not even standard made-for-television movies length.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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