Within the field of one- or two-reel production, live-action drama was sustained into the sound era primarily in serials (or “chapterplays”) which, by the time of sound’s advent, were classified separately from the larger field of short subjects (and which are not included in this filmography). By contrast, the action series – consisting of stand-alone two-reel adventures with a recurrent central protagonist – was a far rarer bird, albeit cut from the same action-packed cloth. Universal was really the only studio to make a specialization of such films, with a focus on western adventure stories, many produced under the company’s “Mustang” brand. Other companies that occasionally dabbled in action series either emphasized similar serial-style situations (as in Educational’s Russ Farrell, Aviator or FBO’s Racing Blood Adventures series) or detective mysteries (like RKO’s Nick Harris Mysteries or Vitaphone’s S. S. Van Dine Detective Mysteries).
Outside of such dime-novel fare, live-action drama was also exemplified in the sound era by the gentrifying style of the theatrical playlet, a briefly prominent format during the transitional period. Vitaphone set the pace here, initiating a series of Vitaphone Playlets as early as the summer of 1927. But the strategy was emulated elsewhere – as, for instance, in Paramount’s Great Stars and Authors, which offered a cameo version of the studio’s origins as “Famous Players in Famous Plays” by promising to unite the “biggest stars of the Broadway stage [with] the leading fiction headliners.”