Film Series

I am here employing an arbitrarily strict definition of ‘series’. I exclude:

More than half of all series were detective films, featuring amateur, private, or professional detectives. Only one of these heroes was an original Hollywood creation, namely Brass Bancroft, who featured in a short series of four films. The rest had their origins in short stories, novels, comic strips, stage plays, radio, or TV. Sherlock Holmes was memorable enough to have more than one series based upon him.

    Detective series (27)
Other mediaRole
Sherlock HolmesArthur Conan Doyle1887short storynovels, theatre, films, TVConsulting detective
Sexton BlakeHarry Blyth1893short storycomics, theatre, film, radio, TVDetective
RafflesE W Hornung189?short storytheatre, radio, film, TVJewel thief, cracksman
The Lone WolfLouis Joseph Vance1914novelfilm, radio, TVThief turned detective
Boston BlackieJack Boyle1914short storyfilm, radio, TVThief turned crime fighter
Charlie ChanEarl Derr Biggers1919novel film, radio, TV, comicsPolice detective
Bulldog Drummond‘Sapper’ (H C McNeile)1920noveltheatre, film, radio, TVEx RFC
Philo VanceS S Van Dine1926novelfilm, radioAmateur detective
Ellery QueenFrederic Dannay
Manfred Bennington Lee
1928novelshort stories, radio, film, TVWriter,
amateur detective
The SaintLeslie Charteris1928novelshort stories, film, radio, comics, TVThief, adventurer
Tailspin TommyGlenn Chaffin (writer)
Hal Forrest (artist)
1928comic stripfilm serial, novelPilot
The Shadowvarious1930pulpsradio, comics, film, TVVigilante adventurer
Nancy DrewEdward Stratemeyer1930novelfilm, TVTeenager
Thatcher ColtFulton Oursler1930novelfilmPolice commissioner
Dick TracyChester Gould1931comicsradio, film serial, film, TVPolice detective
Hildegard WithersStuart Palmer1931novelfilm, TVSpinster, schoolteacher
The FoxLaurence Gross
Edward Childs Carpenter
Perry MasonErle Stanley Gardner1933novelshort stories, radio, film, TVAttorney
The Thin ManDashiell Hammett1934novelfilm, TVAmateur detective,
man about town
Mr WongHugh Wiley1934short storyfilm, comicsTreasury agent or PI
Mr MotoJohn P Marquand1935novelfilm, radio, comicsSecret agent,
international detective
Paul TempleFrancis Durbridge1938radioTV, filmWriter, amateur detective
Michael ShayneBrett Halliday1939novelshort stories, film, radio, TV, comicsPrivate detective
Brass BancroftLee Katz
Dean Riesner
1939filmFlyer, secret service agent
Crime DoctorMax Marcin1940radiofilmThief, criminal psychologist
The FalconMichael Arlen1940short storyfilm, radio, TVAdventurer,
amateur detective
Dick BartonEdward J Mason
Geoffrey Webb
1946radiofilmEx commmando

Among the non-detective series, original movie creations were still in the minority, comprising Dr Kildare and Dr Gillespie, plus the Mexican Spitfire. Even the Hardy family, apparently so typical of Hollywood, had its origins in a stage play.

    Other series (17)
Other mediaComment
BlondieChic Young1930comic stripfilms, radio, TV
Bomba the Jungle Boy‘Roy Rockwood’1926booksfilms, comicsDerived from Tarzan
Cisco KidO Henry1907short storyfilm, radio, TV, comics
DoctorRichard Gordon1952novelsfilm, TV
Doctor ChristianJean Hersholt1937radiofilm, TV
Doctor Kildare/
Doctor Gillespie
Max Brand1937filmnovel, radio, TV, comics
Fu ManchuSax Rohmer1913novelfilm, comics, TV
Great GildersleeveDonald Quinn1939radiofilm, TVCharacter in Fibber McGee and Molly
Hardy familyAuriana Rouverol1928theatre (Skidding)film
Henry AldrichClifford Goldsmith1938theatreradio, film, TV
Joe PalookaHam Fisher1921comic stripradio, film, TV
Lum and AbnerChester Lauck
and Norris Goff
1931radiofilm, comic strip
MaisieWilson Collison1935novelfilm, radio
Mexican SpitfireLionel Houser1939film
The Mummy
St. Trinian'sRonald Searle1941cartoonbooks, film
TarzanEdgar Rice Burroughs1912novelfilm, theatre, radio, TV

Comic strips provided the source for many successful film series, but superheroes are noticeably absent. They inspired film serials and TV series, but not film series. Other popular comic strips which seem suited to adaptation as a film series, but were never so used, include Little Orphan Annie and Terry and the Pirates.