Flipper (1964 TV series)


Title screen
Genre Children/Family
Created by Jack Cowden
Ricou Browning
Starring Brian Kelly
Luke Halpin
Tommy Norden
Andy Devine (1964)
Ulla Strömstedt (1965)
Flipper (various dolphins)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 88 (List of episodes)
Running time approx. 25 minutes
Production company(s) MGM Television
Distributor MGM Television (1964–1981, 1997–present)
MGM/UA Television (1981–1986)
Turner Entertainment Co. (1986–1997)
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (1986–1997)
Orion Television (1997–1999, 2013–present)
Original network NBC
Original release September 19, 1964 – April 15, 1967

Flipper, from Ivan Tors Films in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television, is an American television program first broadcast on NBC from September 19, 1964, until April 15, 1967. Flipper, a bottlenose dolphin, is the companion animal of Porter Ricks, Chief Warden at fictional Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in southern Florida, and his two young sons, Sandy and Bud. The show has been dubbed an "aquatic Lassie", and a considerable amount of children's merchandise inspired by the show was produced during its first run.


The television show is an extension of the 1963 film Flipper starring Chuck Connors and Luke Halpin as Porter and Sandy Ricks, and of its 1964 sequel, Flipper's New Adventure. For the second film the producers scripted that Mrs. Ricks had died, making Porter now a single parent, with Brian Kelly taking over the role as Porter Ricks but now as a trainee Park Ranger rather than a fisherman. In adapting the films to a television series, the producers gave Porter a second, younger son, Bud, portrayed by Tommy Norden, and the TV series sees him returning permanently to the Florida Keys as the Park Ranger of the Coral Key Marine Preserve. The producers also departed from the films in endowing Flipper with an unnatural degree of intelligence and an extraordinary understanding of human motives, behavior, and vocabulary.[1]

The show was created, by way of the creation of the first film, by Jack Cowden and Ricou Browning, who had experience in underwater filming and underwater performance, notably as the monster in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In Browning's second filmed portrayal of the Creature, Revenge of the Creature, a scene showcases one of the film's shooting locations, Marineland of Florida (depicted with a fictionalized name), presenting several stunts performed by "Flippy, the Educated Porpoise", in a form of product placement. Browning also wrote the book Flipper based on the ancient legend of Taras, a mythical founder of the Spartan City State of the same name (on the coast of Italy where modern day Taranto is located) who was rescued from shipwreck by a dolphin sent by Poseidon, which was picked up and adapted by famous producer Ivan Tors into the first Flipper movie.

Filming locations

Flipper was filmed in Miami at Greenwich Studios (at the time called Ivan Tors Studios) at 12100 Ivan Tors Boulevard in Miami, Florida, USA and at Key Biscayne, Florida. Nassau was an occasional location, especially for underwater footage. The show was produced in cooperation with the Miami Seaquarium, an aquarium also located on Key Biscayne in Miami.

Miami Seaquarium still presents the Flipper Show; a dolphin show in the lagoon that served as the film location for the show.[2]

The Miami Seaquarium set where Flipper was filmed also served as the set of another Ivan Tors production, Gentle Ben; the house where the Ricks family lived was the same house used for the Wedloe family on Gentle Ben. Flipper was moved to Jimbo's Shrimp (also known as Jimbo's Place), located across from Miami Seaquarium, into the care and exercise of James "Jimbo" Luznar, Sr. Flipper lived in a pen in the cove behind Jimbo's Shrimp.

Role of Flipper

Flipper was portrayed at first by a female dolphin named Susie, though primarily by another female, Kathy, and occasionally by other females named Patty, Scotty and Squirt. Female dolphins were chosen because they are less aggressive than males and their skins (unlike the skins of male dolphins) are usually free from scars and other disfigurations acquired in altercations with other dolphins. The five dolphins performed all of Flipper's scenes except the famous tail walk, a trick they were unable to master completely. A male dolphin named Clown was brought in for scenes involving the tail walk.[3] The famous "voice" of Flipper was actually the doctored song of a kookaburra.


The show's theme tune was credited to Henry Vars with lyrics by By Dunham. In France the melody was known as "La Romance de Paris" ("The Love Song of Paris"). The first five episodes of the second season featured a different version of the theme, with Frankie Randall singing new lyrics. After those episodes, the original style of the theme was brought back. The background music of the long underwater sequences was inspired by Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe.

Broadcast history

Filming began in the early summer of 1964, and the first episode of Season 1 was broadcast on September 19, 1964, with the series ending with the 28th episode of Season 3 being broadcast on April 15, 1967; showing on NBC Saturday nights 7:30–8:00 pm, making 88 episodes in total. NBC continued broadcasts with repeats from season 3 until September of 1967. One episode (episode 3 in Season 1 called "SOS Dolphin") was filmed earlier in 1964 as a pilot immediately after the filming of Flipper's New Adventure was completed. Brian Kelly appeared in all 88 episodes, Luke Halpin in 85 and Tommy Norden in 84 episodes. Later, reruns of the first two seasons aired January 1968 – June 1968, NBC, Sunday 6:30–7:00 pm and June 1968 – September 1968, NBC, Sunday 7:00–7:30 pm.

In its debut season in the 1964–65 United States network television schedule, Flipper was a considerable ratings success, rating in the Top 25 especially going up against the long standing and popular The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. Ratings declined only slightly in Season 2 1965–66 United States network television schedule buoyed by its proximity to NBC's popular new Saturday night shows I Dream of Jeannie and Get Smart. Ratings fell sharply in Season 3 against the strong rise in ratings for Gleason's show.

Characters and cast

Animal cast

Flipper the Dolphin.

Human cast

Clockwise from top: Brian Kelly, Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden.

Notable guest stars

Flipper was notable for the casting of a number of guest actors, a good number who went on to stardom in later years or who had already had a stellar acting career.


The Ricks cottage at Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve

The series follows a Bottlenose Dolphin named Flipper who is the wild pet of Porter Ricks, a park warden, and his sons Sandy (15) and Bud (10). Flipper lives in a lagoon near the Ricks cottage at Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve. With the Ricks family, Flipper helps protect the park and preserve and its wild inhabitants. He is also instrumental in apprehending criminals and thugs in the park. Flipper is generally recognized by the characters in the show (and the theme song) as being a particularly intelligent and capable dolphin. Flipper is the special companion of the youngest member of the Ricks family, Bud, and several episodes feature Flipper rescuing Bud from dangerous situations. Flipper is able to somehow communicate through different chatter like tones, head nods and shakes and others attention seeking antics with Sandy and Bud and draw their (and Porter's) attention to danger or in the direction of people needing help. There are few women in the lives of the Ricks males but in the first season, Porter does have a date while Sandy falls for the girl operator of a floating zoo who appears in four episodes. A female oceanographer enters the series in the second season to add a feminine touch to the proceedings but little more than mild flirtations and fondness between her and Porter ensues. Promotional material for the third season announced a new girlfriend for Sandy, although she only appeared in one episode and he has an innocently flirtatious scene with another girl in a separate episode. The series is distinguished for its lush photography of subtropical Florida and its colorful underwater sequences.

Cancellation and subsequent history

The last first-run episode of Flipper aired April 15, 1967. In the conclusion of a two-part episode, the characters of Sandy and Bud are written out of the show (by that time both actors Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden had grown out of their roles), as it is detailed how each plans to leave Coral Key — Sandy has been accepted to the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, and Bud will be attending a private school remedially in Massachusetts, as arranged by their Aunt Martha. At the same time, a new family (the Whitmans) moves to the area: a widowed mother (portrayed by Karen Steele) and her young son and daughter (portrayed by Stuart Getz and Chris Charney). The two new children are depicted as unfamiliar with maritime life, but they promptly befriend Flipper, and promise to be his new companions after Sandy and Bud leave. Plans were made for a fourth season; revolving around the Whitman children taking the role of Flipper's guardians/playmates and their mother becoming involved in a serious relationship with Porter. It would be assumed that Sandy and Bud would make a cameo visit in an episode or two. All this was for naught, however, as Ivan Tors chose not to continue to make a fourth season in this new format, so NBC cancelled it.[4]

Flipper has seen periodic syndication since its NBC cancellation. The show has aired on cable's Family Channel, Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, Discovery Kids, in high-definition on satellite provider Voom's Family Room channel, and on digital subchannel Antenna TV. Most of the images of Flipper jumping against a skyline were not in the originally aired version, as the filming took place in an enclosed lagoon. They were filmed at the end of the series and added for syndication.[4]

The rights to Flipper were later acquired by Turner Entertainment Co., with distribution rights being acquired by The Samuel Goldwyn Company, and in turn acquired by MGM Television (the company that originally produced the series). MGM owns full rights to the series; the series copyright is held by MGM's subsidiary Orion Pictures (whose own holdings include the Goldwyn library).

Flipper appears as a character in the Cartoon Network series The Annoying Orange.

As of November 2016, Flipper airs as one of a handful of classic TV series (alongside Ivan Tors' earlier series Sea Hunt) on the primarily movie-oriented digital subchannel This TV,[5] and can be seen on subscription streaming media channel Hulu.[6]

The series was broadcast in the early 1970s in the USSR and the show was well received by the Soviet people, both old and young alike.


Flipper merchandise generated for the juvenile market during the show's first run is now scarce and collectible. Flipper vintage collectibles include: lunch boxes, song books, comic books, coloring books, a Whitman novel, Big Little Books, souvenir spoons, Whitman frame tray puzzles, a board game, Viewmaster reels (based on the two-part episode "Dolphin Love"), a battery-operated "spouting dolphin" water toy, children's swim trunks with the Flipper logo, and a 1966 Bradley glow-in-the-dark watch.

Home media

Flipper received an incomplete VHS release during the 1990s under the title "Flipper-Original Series". MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the first season on DVD on April 24, 2007. MGM has also issued Season 2 as an 8 disc set in June 2010. Amazon.com is currently selling the set exclusively, on a manufacture on demand basis. The DVD-R discs do not play on some older computer DVD drives.

Awards and recognition

The Miami Seaquarium celebrated the 50th Anniversary of "Flipper" in late 2013 with Tommy Norden and Ricou Browning participating along with a series of commemorative events through 2014. A previous event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Flipper in 2004 was also held with Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden. Flipper was nominated for two TV Land awards: in 2004 for the TV Land Favorite Fauna Award and, in 2003, for the TV Land Favorite Pet-Human Relationship Award. Flipper appeared twice on TV Guide covers.


While the TV show itself was not controversial, several controversies have spun off of it. Ric O'Barry, the head trainer of the Flipper Dolphins (and also Luke Halpin's occasional stunt double[4]), became a world-renowned animal activist after the death of the dolphin who portrayed Flipper most often. O'Barry stars in the Oscar award winning documentary The Cove, which features dolphin capture and captivity. He also wrote of his time with the Flipper movies and TV series and subsequent animal rights activism in a book entitled Behind the Dolphin Smile.

List of episodes

Main article: List of Flipper episodes

First season (1964–1965) Second season (1965–1966) Third season (1966–1967)
  1. 300 Feet Below
  2. The Red Hot Car
  3. SOS Dolphin (pilot episode)
  4. The Gulf Between
  5. City Boy
  6. Dolphin for Sale
  7. Not Necessarily Gospel
  8. Countdown for Flipper
  9. Mr. Marvello
  10. My Brother Flipper
  11. The Second Time Around
  12. Lady and the Dolphin (1)
  13. Lady and the Dolphin (2)
  14. Danger
  15. The Misanthrope
  16. Flipper's Bank Account
  17. The Lifeguard
  18. The Day of the Shark
  19. Love and Sandy
  20. Money to Blow
  21. Flipper's Treasure
  22. The White Dolphin
  23. Teamwork
  24. Flipper and the Elephant (1)
  25. Flipper and the Elephant (2)
  26. Flipper and the Elephant (3)
  27. Bud Minds Baby
  28. Sailor Bud
  29. The Call of the Dolphin
  30. Flipper's Monster
  1. Flipper and the Mermaid
  2. Dolphin in Pursuit (1)
  3. Dolphin in Pursuit (2)
  4. Flipper's Hour of Peril
  5. Coral Fever
  6. Junior Ranger
  7. The Ditching (1)
  8. The Ditching (2)
  9. Flipper and the Spy
  10. Dolphin Patrol
  11. A Job for Sandy
  12. Flipper and the Horse Thieves
  13. Flipper and the Bounty
  14. Shark Hunt
  15. Flipper, the Detective
  16. Flipper's Odyssey (1)
  17. Flipper's Odyssey (2)
  18. Flipper's Odyssey (3)
  19. Slingshot
  20. Flipper and the Shark Cage
  21. The Lobster Trap
  22. Air Power
  23. Gift Dolphin
  24. The Raccoon Who Came to Dinner
  25. Flipper Joins the Navy (1)
  26. Flipper Joins the Navy (2)
  27. Flipper's Underwater Museum
  28. Deep Waters
  29. Dolphin Love (1)
  30. Dolphin Love (2)
  1. Agent Bud
  2. Disaster in the Everglades (1)
  3. Disaster in the Everglades (2)
  4. Lost Dolphin
  5. The Warning
  6. Cupid Flipper
  7. An Errand for Flipper
  8. A Whale Ahoy
  9. Explosion
  10. Executive Bud
  11. Flipper and the Puppy
  12. Flipper's Island
  13. Alligator Duel
  14. Flipper and the Fugitive (1)
  15. Flipper and the Fugitive (2)
  16. The Most Expensive Sardine in the World
  17. Flipper and the Seal
  18. Dolphins Don't Sleep
  19. Aunt Martha
  20. Dolphin for Ransom
  21. A Dolphin in Time
  22. Decision for Bud
  23. The Firing Line (1)
  24. The Firing Line (2)
  25. Devil Ray
  26. Cap'n Flint
  27. Flipper's New Friends (1)
  28. Flipper's New Friends (2)


  1. "Flipper - The Original Series: Season One". DVD Talk. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
  2. Miami Seaquarium: Tickets Prices Coupons Discounts
  3. Ric O' Barry and Keith Coulbourn, Behind the Dolphin Smile, Renaissance Books, 2000, ISBN 978-1-58063-101-3
  4. 1 2 3 Ric O' Barry and Keith Coulbourn, Behind the Dolphin Smile, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1988, ISBN 0-912697-79-2
  5. http://www.thistv.com/view/series/673/Flipper%20(1964)
  6. http://www.hulu.com
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