Thursday, January 17, 2019

Walt Disney's Adventures of Spin and Marty

Marty arrives at the Triple R.
Although later Mickey Mouse Club serials may be better remembered today, the most popular one--by far--during its original broadcast was The Adventures of Spin and Marty (1955). No, it wasn't based on a famous children's book series like The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure nor did it feature a future Disney superstar like Annette. Yet, it gripped the attention of young TV viewers across the nation and spawned two sequels, a comic book series, and a 45 RPM record.

The 25-episode serial opens with the arrival of Martin Markham at the Triple R Ranch, a working ranch which doubles as a youth camp in the summer. Martin is quickly nicknamed Marty, but he doesn't fit in with the other boys. Having lost both parents, he lives with an overprotective, wealthy grandmother. In fact, she insists that Perkins, the family manservant, stay with Marty for the duration of his stay at the Triple R.

Tim Considine as Spin.
Marty (David Stollery) expresses his displeasure in being shuttled off to the "dirty old farm." He avoids the other lads and lies about being an experienced polo rider--when in fact he's scared of horses. Marty's attitude doesn't sit well with Spin Evans (Tim Considine), a popular boy who worked two jobs to save enough money for a second summer at the Triple R. The two boys eventually clash and it's their fight that initiates a change in Marty's views and in how the other boys view him.

I was surprised with how quickly Spin and Marty became additive viewing in my household. The episodes, each running about 12 minutes, sped by--meaning that we typically watched two (or occasionally three) per day. It's a show about transformation and the episodes skillfully portray how Marty progresses from a defiant outsider to a young man who has found a "home" at the Triple R. 

David Stollery and Tim Considine give incredibly natural performances as the two leads. It's easy to see why so many young viewers related to their characters. It's an impressive feat for Considine because the script is skewed toward getting folks to root for Marty. Spin could have easily become the de facto "villain," but Considine and the writers avoid that pitfall. At the same time, though, I love the fact that Spin and Marty stop short of becoming best pals at the end. They gradually develop a mutual respect and come to understand one another in a way that the other boys don't. It's the beginnings of what could be a great friendship.

Harry Carey, Jr.
Among the adult cast, the standout is Harry Carey, Jr. as a sympathetic ranch hand who works hard to gain Marty's trust. A veteran character actor, Carey, Jr. was a John Ford favorite and appeared in many of the director's famous Western.

As for Considine and Stollery, their careers took different paths. Considine had lead roles in other Disney serials, spent five years as the eldest son on My Three Sons, and even wrote teleplays for other TV shows. Except for an appearance in a Spin and Marty revival in 2000, Stollery retired from show business in 1960. He became an automobile designer and is responsible for one of the Toyota Celica models. On The Adventures of Spin and Marty DVD, he and Considine revisit the real life ranch (located 90 minutes from the Disney studio) where they filmed Spin and Marty in their youth.

J. Pat O'Malley as Perkins.
Following the success of The Adventures of Spin and Marty, Stollery and Considine reprised their roles in two sequels. In The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty, they vie for the affection of Annette Funicello and get involved in a swimming competition. In The New Adventures of Spin and Marty, they join Annette, Kevin Corcoran, and others to put on a show in the old barn. Sadly, only the first serial is on DVD.

If you've never seen a Mickey Mouse Club serial, then you're in luck. The Adventures of Spin and Marty is currently available on YouTube and it's a great one to start with. By the end, you may find yourself building a campfire in your backyard and singing: "Yippee ya, yippee yi, yippee yo."


  1. Oh! YouTube?! I know what I'm watching today!

    Hear me singing "Way out here on the Triple R..."

  2. The last serial is my favorite, with its memorable musical performances by Annette and Darlene Gillespie. I interviewed Harry Carey Jr. many years ago about Spin and Marty and he had nothing but fond memories of his days on the Triple R.

    1. About the third serial and the musical numbers within:

      Don't forget J. Pat O'Malley singing about "The Ghost of Anne Boleyn" - … with 'er 'ead tucked underneath 'er arm …

      … or the Chinese cook (whose name I sadly cannot call to mind) who sang a "lovely Chinese lullaby": My Wild Irish Rose … - and then cut loose with a solid "Nagasaki" (… where the fellas chew tobaccy/ and the women wicky-wacky-woo!)

      Now that's Family Television!

  3. Thanks for the memories. It all comes rushing back reading your column.

  4. I just started watching Spin and Marty on YouTube, despite the zillions of things I have to do today. Thanks for the introduction. I'm one episode in and already having tons o' fun!

  5. I really enjoyed the Triple R a lot! What a nice tribute to the older days of Disney.

  6. I loved this series, too, and it's true - the episodes are very addictive ( same goes for "Annette" ). It's easy to take in 3-4 at a time. :-)

  7. J.Pat OMalley was a very prolific character actor. He guest starred on The Big Valley, The Doris Day Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show among countless others. J. Pat was also on The Andy Griffith Show in a story with Barneys landlady.

  8. Sad thought. Spin and Marty were at the top of Disney's league.