Tales of the Gold Monkey

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Tales of the Gold Monkey
Jake and Sarah in Tales of the Gold Monkey
Created byDonald P. Bellisario
Theme music composerMike Post & Pete Carpenter
ComposerFrank Denson
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes22
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 22, 1982 (1982-09-22) –
June 1, 1983 (1983-06-01)

Tales of the Gold Monkey was an American adventure drama television series[1][2][3] broadcast in prime time on Wednesday nights by ABC from September 22, 1982, until June 1, 1983.[4][5][6] Debuting the year following the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark,[3] the series featured the romance of early aviation, exotic locales, and cliff-hanging action. Creator Don Bellisario said it was based on the film, Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, 1939).[7]

Premise and major characters[edit]

Set in 1938 in the South Pacific, the series is about an ex-Flying Tigers[8] fighter pilot named Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins). Now the operator of an air cargo delivery service based on the fictional South Seas island Bora Gora, he flies a red and white Grumman Goose called Cutter's Goose. Jake's best friend is his mechanic Corky (Jeff MacKay), a good-hearted alcoholic with a hazy memory from heavy drinking. However, a one-eyed Jack Russell terrier named Jack, which barks once for "no" and twice for "yes" (or the opposite if it suits him) would dispute just who Jake's best friend really is. Jack wears an eye patch, but used to have a false eye made of opal with a star sapphire centre that Jake lost in a poker game—and refuses to let Jake forget it.

Jake's love interest and U.S. government spy contact is Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O'Heaney). She sings in the Monkey Bar as a cover for her espionage activities. The Reverend Willie Tenboom (John Calvin), a phony man of the cloth who likes to "bless" the female natives in private "prayer", is in reality a Nazi spy named Willy, with interests in both sides.

"Bon Chance" Louie (played by Ron Moody in the pilot, Roddy McDowall in the series) is the owner of the Monkey Bar and the French magistrate for Bora Gora. Jake's nemesis is the Japanese princess Koji (Marta DuBois), a Dragon Lady type of character who has eyes for Jake. Koji's devoted bodyguard is Todo (John Fujioka), a fierce practitioner of Bushido and loyal to the princess. (Although Calvin, DuBois, and Fujioka were billed on the opening credits of each episode, they actually only appeared on a semi-regular basis in a handful of episodes.)

The title is derived from a gigantic mythical golden statue that is the focal point of the pilot episode, seen only by the viewer at the end of the show. The characters end their search for the statue after finding a substitute brass monkey that is kept at the Monkey Bar for the rest of the series.

History and context[edit]

The series was inspired by the 1939 drama film Only Angels Have Wings.

Originally, the series was to be called Tales of the Brass Monkey, but the Heublein company had run a series of magazine ads with exactly that name about a bar in the Far East, with hints of Casablanca intrigue and references to the Kenpeitai; so, to avoid legal difficulties, the name was changed to Gold Monkey.[9] At the end of the pilot episode, it is revealed that the statue at the bar was actually brass and not gold. However, unknown to the characters (and revealed to viewers only just before the end credits), the island where the statue was found does contain a massive structure apparently made of solid gold that does resemble a monkey. However, a thousand years of neglect had left it covered in vegetation and debris, and it is only exposed by the same volcanic eruption that forces the characters off the island.

As with most of creator Donald P. Bellisario's projects, links exist to his other shows. The most notable is of the character Gandy Dancer (played by William Lucking), an ace pilot treasure hunter who appears in the episodes "Legends Are Forever" and – in flashback form – in "Honor Thy Brother". Although Gandy dies in "Legends Are Forever", Bellisario liked the character enough to adapt him to the present day. The third-season episode "Two Birds of a Feather" of Bellisario's hit Magnum, P.I. has Lucking playing the very similar character of Sam Houston Hunter, also an ace pilot. The episode, which noticeably has little appearance of Magnum or any other regular characters, acted as a backdoor pilot for a proposed spin-off series starring Lucking. However, the series was never picked up, although Bellisario stripped down the 'adventures of an ace pilot' concept and worked it into Airwolf (1984–1986). Jeff MacKay had recurring roles in Magnum, P.I., and later JAG (1995–2005), and Marta DuBois played the role of Magnum's estranged wife Michelle, long-presumed dead, in a story arc that spanned most of that show's run. MacKay and Calvin both went on to play several guest roles in Airwolf; and McDowall, MacKay, Calvin (and stock footage of the Goose) all went on to have guest appearances on the Bellisario series Quantum Leap (1989–1993). Stock footage of the Goose was also used in The A-Team episode "The Island" (season three, episode eight) and in Quantum Leap Episode "Ghost Ship" (season four, episode 16). Additionally, Jake's surname, Cutter, was previously an early working title and character name for that of Magnum, and Bellisario later reused the name "Gushie", who in Gold Monkey was a waiter at the Monkey Bar who used a wheelchair, for a member of the Quantum Leap project team.

Although generally well received in both the United States and overseas (such as the United Kingdom, where it was broadcast on BBC One on Monday evenings), the show was not renewed for another season, mostly due to the ratings not justifying the high cost of production.

This show was an inspiration for the Disney animated series TaleSpin, according to series creators Jymn Magon[10][11] and Mark Zaslove.[12] It also heavily inspired the ninth season of the animated series Archer, "Danger Island".[13]

A fictional recursion occurs in "The Sultan of Swat" in which – while waiting for the Boeing 314 Pan Am Clipper – Jake is reading a book with a dustcover titled Murder on the Footbridge, which is apparently a key plot reference from the 1941 Alfred Hitchcock movie Suspicion.


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Tales of the Gold Monkey: Episode 1"Ray AustinDonald P. BellisarioSeptember 22, 1982 (1982-09-22)
Part one of the series pilot: American pilot Jake Cutter contends with German spies, vicious monkeys and a sassy government agent.[14]
2"Tales of the Gold Monkey: Episode 2"Ray AustinDonald P. BellisarioSeptember 22, 1982 (1982-09-22)
Part two of the pilot. American pilot Jake Cutter contends with German spies, vicious monkeys and a sassy government agent.[14]
3"Shanghaied"Alan J. LeviDonald P. BellisarioSeptember 29, 1982 (1982-09-29)
Jake struggles to rescue Corky from the clutches of a one-armed captain of a slave ship.[14]
4"Black Pearl"Victor LoblDennis Capps and George Geiger & Bob Foster & Paul Savage & Donald P. BellisarioOctober 13, 1982 (1982-10-13)
Jake poses as a defecting American scientist to investigate a top-secret German military experiment.[14]
5"Legends Are Forever"Virgil VogelStory by : Milt Rosen
Teleplay by : Milt Rosen and Reuben Leder and Donald P. Bellisario
October 20, 1982 (1982-10-20)
An old friend with dubious motives talks Jake into transporting supplies to a malaria-stricken African tribe.[14]
6"Escape from Death Island"James FrawleyPeter Elliot & Stephen KatzOctober 27, 1982 (1982-10-27)
Jake and Corky fly an Englishman to an island prison colony, where the man's son is being mistreated for leading an escape attempt.[14]
7"Trunk from the Past"Christian I. Nyby IIJohn Pashdag & Brady WestwaterNovember 3, 1982 (1982-11-03)
Jake believes that a blood-stained trunk holds the key to Sarah's murdered father's search for a pharaoh's tomb.[14]
8"Once a Tiger..."Winrich KolbeL. Ford Neal & John HuffNovember 17, 1982 (1982-11-17)
Jake helps search for a downed aircraft transporting military weapons the Japanese also want.[14]
9"Honor Thy Brother"Mike VejarStory by : Jeff Ray & Danny Lee Cole
Teleplay by : Jeff Ray & Danny Lee Cole and Bill Driskill and George Geiger
November 24, 1982 (1982-11-24)
Jake embarks on a mission to help Corky out of an arranged marriage. Jack gets his glass eye back, briefly.[14]
10"The Lady and the Tiger"Virgil VogelDonald P. BellisarioDecember 8, 1982 (1982-12-08)
Jake crash-lands on an island, where he's aided by a widow and her young son, who's bent on killing a tiger.[14]
11"The Late Sarah White"Harvey S. LaidmanMaryanne Kasica & Michael Scheff and Donald P. Bellisario & George GeigerDecember 22, 1982 (1982-12-22)
Jake heads for the Philippines after Sarah is reported to have died on a secret mission there.[14]
12"The Sultan of Swat"Virgil VogelDavid BrownJanuary 5, 1983 (1983-01-05)
Jake's friend lands in Boragora and is soon accused of having raped and murdered an island girl.[14]
13"Ape Boy"Winrich KolbeStory by : Eric Lerner and Bill Driskill
Teleplay by : Andrew Schneider and Bill Driskill
January 12, 1983 (1983-01-12)
Jake, Sarah and Corky find an ape boy who's sought by an Englishman and two hunters for a circus freak show.[14]
14"God Save the Queen"Virgil VogelGeorge GeigerJanuary 19, 1983 (1983-01-19)
A British lord threatens to blow up a stranded luxury liner carrying the Duke of Windsor, unless the duke hands over the royal jewels.[14]
15"High Stakes Lady"James FrawleyStory by : Lance Madrid III and Bill Driskill
Teleplay by : Bill Driskill
January 26, 1983 (1983-01-26)
Jake becomes involved in espionage when he accompanies a card shark to a high-stakes poker game.[14]
16"Force of Habit"Harvey S. LaidmanStory by : Tom Greene and William Schmidt
Teleplay by : Tom Greene
February 2, 1983 (1983-02-02)
On Boragora, Jake recognises a woman---now donning a nun's habit---who claims she's delivering cholera vaccine to China.[14]
17"Cooked Goose"Donald A. BaerJay HuguelyMarch 4, 1983 (1983-03-04)
While honeymooning on an island, a clipper pilot is beaten and his bride abducted by mercenaries.[14]
18"Last Chance Louie"James FargoStory by : Bob Shayne
Teleplay by : Tom Greene & George Geiger
March 11, 1983 (1983-03-11)
Louie is sentenced to the guillotine for the murder of a French army deserter, and Jake's only hope of saving him is a story that Louie wants to remain a secret.[14]
19"Naka Jima Kill"Jack WhitmanStory by : Thom Thomas and Andrew Schneider
Teleplay by : Andrew Schneider and Tom Greene
March 18, 1983 (1983-03-18)
A newshound covering an assassination attempt against the Japanese defence minister tricks Jake into flying her to Princess Koji's island.[14]
20"Boragora or Bust"Ivan DixonGeorge Geiger & Tom GreeneMarch 25, 1983 (1983-03-25)
Jake's prospector friend could lose his platinum mine to a claim-jumper from the States.[14]
21"A Distant Shout of Thunder"James FargoTom Greene & George GeigerApril 8, 1983 (1983-04-08)
Sarah is used as a scapegoat by a revolutionary, who accuses her of removing a statue from sacred ground in the Marivellas.[14]
22"Mourning Becomes Matuka"David JonesStory by : Jay Huguely
Teleplay by : Jay Huguely and Tom Greene & George Geiger
June 1, 1983 (1983-06-01)
After learning of a plot to assassinate her, Princess Koji asks Jake to determine which guest at her birthday party is vying for her empire.[14]

Home media[edit]

Fabulous Films obtained the DVD rights for the complete series for the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Release dates are listed below. Shout! Factory released Tales of the Gold Monkey: The Complete Series on Region 1 DVD on June 8, 2010.[15]

Region 2/4 (UK) November 16, 2009
Region 2/4 (Australia) November 27, 2009
Region 1 (US) June 8, 2010

All three DVD sets include the same bonus features: original double-length pilot episode; the complete 20-episode series; new 36-minute 'making of' documentary with Stephen Collins (Jake Cutter), Caitlin O'Heaney (Sarah Stickney White), writer/producer Tom Greene, director Harvey Laidman; audio commentaries on five episodes; series synopsis; stills gallery; Caitlin's Original Costume gallery; artifacts gallery; 24-page collector's booklet with episode synopses. The Region 1 and 2 versions have a dedication to "the memory of the late, great Jeff MacKay" printed on the back cover.



U.S. television ratings for Tales of the Gold Monkey
Season Episodes Start Date End Date Nielsen Rank Nielsen Rating Tied With
1982–83 21 September 22, 1982 June 1, 1983 69[16] N/A N/A

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards and nominations for Tales of the Gold Monkey
Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards[17] Outstanding Art Direction for a Series John W. Corso (production designer), Frank Grieco, Jr. (art director), Robert George Freer (set decorator) Won
Outstanding Costume Design for a Series Jean-Pierre Dorleac Nominated
Outstanding Film Sound Editing for a Series Sam Shaw (supervising editor), Bernard P. Cabral, John Detra, Sam Gemette, Donlee Jorgensen, Mark Roberts (sound editor)|Mark Roberts, Erik Schrader, John Stacy, Bob Weatherford, Paul Wittenberg, William Shenberg Nominated
Outstanding Film Sound Mixing for a Series John Kean (production mixer), Michael Casper, Stanley H. Polinsky, B. Tennyson Sebastian II (rerecording mixers) Nominated


  1. ^ The New York Times Archived October 24, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Tales Of The Gold Monkey: The Complete Series". The A.V. Club. June 9, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Tales of the Gold Monkey: The Complete Series". dvdtalk.com.
  4. ^ New York Magazine, 20. Sept. 1982, p. 48.
  5. ^ Douglas Kellner: Foreword: Television criticism and contemporary US politics, in: Betty Kaklamanidou and Margaret J. Tally (eds.): Politics and Politicians in Contemporary US Television Washington as Fiction, London/New York: Routledge 2017.
  6. ^ A. Bowdoin van Riper: Baa Baa Black Sheep and the Last Stand of the WWII Drama, in: Anna Froula and Stacy Takacs (eds.): American militarism on the small screen, New York: Routledge, 2016, pp. 77–92.
  7. ^ Alex McNeil. Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present. 4th Edition. New York: Penguin, 1996, 816.
  8. ^ (This use of the Flying Tigers in 1938 is an anachronism, since the Flying Tigers, an American volunteer fighter pilot group who fought the Japanese for China, operated only from 1941-1942
  9. ^ "John Kenneth Muir's Retro TV Files: Tales of the Gold Monkey". johnkennethmuir.com. 2004.
  10. ^ "Ok, so... © TaleSpin". animationsource.org.
  11. ^ "Yogi Bear Spruce Goose similarities..." animationsource.org.
  12. ^ "Mark Zaslove – Talks Mighty Max and more!". Spoiler Country. 22 December 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  13. ^ Bobbin, Jay. "DVD Releases (for week of March 31)". ontvtoday.com. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "Tales of the Gold Monkey Episodes". TV Guide. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  15. ^ Latchem, John (February 26, 2010). "Shout! Factory Maxing Out". Home Media Magazine. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  16. ^ Lina. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1982-83 Ratings History -- Soap Bubbles Rise, Several Veterans Part and NBC Renews Poorly Rated Masterpieces". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Tales of the Gold Monkey Facts 'n Stuff". Goldmonkey.com. Retrieved 5 July 2018.

External links[edit]