Saturday, October 12, 2019

Tom Tyler in The Talk of the Town

Taking a break from making Three Mesquiteers movies for Republic Pictures in the early 1940’s, Tom Tyler took on a few supporting dramatic roles for major studio movies, notably, one with Columbia Pictures and a former co-star from his silent film days with FBO, Jean Arthur. Tom just finished making “The Phantom Plainsmen” in 1942 when the director for “The Talk of the Town”, George Stevens, approached him and asked if the famous cowboy would be interested in playing a heavy in a romantic comedy which also starred Cary Grant and the well-known British actor, Ronald Colman. Playing the role of Clyde Bracken, a foreman at Holmes Mills who is suspected of being killed in a devastating fire at the factory started by Leopold Dilg (Cary Grant), Tom makes his appearance about three-quarters of the way into the movie when his character is discovered to have survived the fire. Nabbed by Nora (Jean Arthur), Dilg and Professor Lightcap (Ronald Colman) at the post office in Boston, Clyde gets into a fightfight with the two men, eventually forced into the car with the trio and back to Nora’s house in Lochester, Massachusetts. During the drive Clyde is steely eyed and silent, refusing to give out any information that might get Dilg off the hook. Being somewhat of a pro with the steely eyed look, Tom’s heavy is an appreciated diversion from the friendly smile of Stoney Brooke, a sign of true diversity in acting.

At Nora’s house, Clyde collapses in a chair by the fireplace while Lightcap places a phone call to the police. Wearing a grim expression, Clyde picks up a log by the fireplace and brings it over Lightcap’s head – and Dilg’s head as well -  and escapes. The fact that Tom’s character is indifferent to seeing Dilg being lynched by a whole town whose citizens lost their jobs at the mill is nothing short of disturbing. After all, Clyde could have stayed in hiding in Boston for good, had not one piece of evidence from Regina Bush (Glenda Farrell), a beauty salon owner who gave Lightcap a manicure, slip into his hand from hers during a dance date. Given refuge by Regina, Clyde hides out at the salon until Lightcap roots him out and hauls him into court to confess who was really responsible for the factory arson – and it was not Dilg. Sitting in the witness box, Clyde still wears that indifferent, apathetic expression, playing the role to perfection. It is clear Tom Tyler knows what emotions to convey in demanding scenes like this; compare this performance to his expressions in “Stagecoach”, despite being a western, Tom’s character of Luke Plummer is dramatic in the literal sense of the word. According to an article in Oakland Tribune, Oakland, CA, December 6, 1942, Tom Tyler admitted to not having any qualms about playing roles in non-westerns like “The Talk of the Town” even if they are minor but important roles, as they give him a chance to hone his acting skills. For Tom, it must also have been a delight to work once again with a leading lady from his silent films days: Jean Arthur appeared in both “Born to Battle” and “The Cowboy Cop”, from 1926.

One fun piece of trivia about “The Talk of the Town”: William Benedict, who played Whitey in “Adventures of Captain Marvel”, has an uncredited role as a Western Union boy.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Los Films del Far West: Tom Tyler film booklet titles

In May of 2017 I wrote an article on the Los Films del Far West Spain-published film booklet series as a collectible. One unusual quirk of these film booklets, at least the ones based on Tom Tyler’s silent films for FBO, is that the film still on the cover did not always match the title of the movie; to make matter worse, sometimes a film still from a third movie might creep into the inside of the booklet, nestled among the text. There are a total of 34 issues in this set, thirteen of them based on Tom Tyler’s silent films. Below are the issue numbers and their English translations:

1. El Huracán de Texas (The Texas Tornado) 1928
3. El Valle del Misterio (Tyrant of Red Gulch) 1928
5. Los Puños de Tom Tyler (Terror Mountain) 1928; has a still from “Red Hot Hoofs” on the cover
6. Los Lobos del Far West (The Pride of Pawnee) 1929
8. El Culpable (The Avenging Rider) 1928
13. El Pirata del Desierto (The Desert Pirate) 1927
15. La Ley del Revolver (Gun Law) 1929; has a still from “The Cherokee Kid” on the cover
17. Los Falsificadores (Idaho Red) 1929; has a still from “The Cowboy Cop” on the cover
19. Veloz Como el Rayo (The Cherokee Kid) 1927; has a still from “Trail of the Horse Thieves” on the cover
21. Los Cuatreros (Trail of the Horse Thieves) 1929; has a still from “Phantom of the Range” on the cover
22. Tom y Su Cuadrilla (Tom’s Gang) 1927
24. El Fantasma del Rancho (Phantom of the Range) 1928
31. El Valiente de la Pradera (Lightning Lariats) 1927

Idaho Red


Trail of the Horse Thieves

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Get social with Tom Tyler

Within the last five years, Tom Tyler’s popularity has grown on social media, particularly Facebook. It may seem peculiar that even though the first dedicated page to Tom Tyler is this website’s official social media pages for Twitter and Facebook, there is a group that dates back to October 2015, almost a year after the first version of Aventuras de Tom Tyler (then called Trigger Tom)  hit the Internet. Here is a rundown on the most popular pages and groups besides Aventuras de Tom Tyler on Facebook to Like, Follow, or Join:

Tom Tyler, Screen Hero!

This is the most popular Facebook group dedicated to Tom Tyler, created by fellow fan and supporter Tony A. Corbett of North Carolina. Started on October 28, 2015 this group is an excellent place to network with other Tom Tyler fans as well as up to date news. Tony also owns and manages the Facebook group, Memories of the West, where posts on Tom Tyler are often made.

The Adventures of Captain Marvel 1941

This Facebook page has been around since 2017 and is dedicated to the Republic Pictures film serial. There are many photos of Tom here as well as the rest of the cast like Frank Coghlan Jr., William Benedict and Louise Currie.

Let’s Talk Captain Marvel - Twitter

This is one of those “Let’s Talk” pages on Twitter, dedicated to the DC Comics Shazam! Captain Marvel. Naturally Tom Tyler as the World’s Mightiest Mortal is included as a topic of discussion here.


This is the Facebook counterpart for ‘Let’s Talk Captain Marvel” on Twitter and just as active. Another great place to discuss Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel.

The Phantom - Facebook

This Facebook page is dedicated to the Lee Falk creation, The Phantom, originally portrayed by Tom Tyler on the silver screen for Columbia Pictures in 1943. Material on Tom as The Phantom periodically is posted here.

The Phantom - Twitter

Run by the same person who manages the Facebook page, there is always plenty of awesome photos of the superhero and Tom Tyler as The Phantom too.

The Serial Squadron

Last but not least there is The Serial Squadron on Facebook which devotes enough attention to Tom for all his work in serials such as “Adventures of Captain Marvel”, “The Phantom”, “Phantom of the West” and others to be included here.

The official social media pages for Aventuras de Tom Tyler:

Twitter: December 2016: twitter.com/AventurasDeTom

Facebook: December 2016:  www.facebook.com/AventurasDeTomTyler






Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The top 100 western films of all time and Tom Tyler

The popular website Stacker recently came out with one of the more important movie lists, "Top 100 western films of all time" which encompasses the silent film era to recent Hollywood releases, and of course spaghetti westerns. Big western names like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Lee Marvin, and made this list more than once, but where does Tom Tyler's appearances in big-name westerns rate? One clue to keep in mind is, the movies he does appear in on this list are all directed by John Ford. Here are the three movies Tom appears in, keeping in mind the lower the number, the higher on the scale it falls:

#71 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
#24 Red River
#19 Stagecoach

The movie listed at #1 is no big surprise, while the title will not be disclosed here, it should be mentioned another all-time favorite of many appears in it: Clint Eastwood. Enjoy reading the full list here:



Wednesday, September 18, 2019

More French titles of Tom Tyler films

It has been awhile since a foreign language movie title list has been included in this blog – and after coming across a European movie directory site while in the process of researching something else, felt it was time to continue a list of movies Tom Tyler appeared in – in French. The first list of French movie titles is here. An alternate title for “The Younger Brothers” has been included below. Many thanks to Notre Cinéma for the below titles.

The Grapes of Wrath
King of Alcatraz (1938) - L'Évadé d'Alcatraz
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) - Sur la piste des Mohawks
Gone With the Wind (1939) - Autant en emporte le vent
Frontier Marshal (1939) - L'Aigle des frontières
The Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940) - Le Retour des Texas Rangers
Buck Privates (1940) - Deux nigauds soldats
The Westerner (1940) - Le Cavalier du désert
The Grapes of Wrath (1940) - Les Raisins de la colère
Border Vigilantes (1941) - Coureurs de frontières
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) - Les Aventures du Capitaine Marvel
The Phantom (1943) - Le Fantôme
They Were Expendable (1945) - Les Sacrifiés
Never Say Goodbye (1946) - Ne dites jamais adieu
Badman’s Territory (1946) - La Ville des sans-loi
The Three Musketeers (1948) - Les Trois mousquetaires
Red River (1948) - La Rivière Rouge
The Younger Brothers (1948) - Les Trois mousquetaires du Far West/ Le gang des quatre freres
Samson and Delilah (1949) - Samson et Dalila
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) - La Charge héroïque
Lust for Gold (1949) - Le Démon de l'or
The Great Missouri Raid (1951) -  Les Rebelles du Missouri
What Price Glory (1952) - Deux durs à cuire

Red River






























 



Monday, September 9, 2019

It’s in the money: Tom’s salary during his career

A common subject that often arises during a new Hollywood interest is, what kind of money did they make? Was their salary generous? Or were they barely scraping by? In the case of Tom Tyler, it is considered common knowledge among those familiar with his career that he was not an A-list star who commanded top-dollar for his film roles, even though he may have done so, had he had the right business agent.  However, Tom’s priority was his desire to become an actor, since his teen years. Chances are he never gave much though to an ideal salary, what his true worth might be as an actor, despite the fact he was one of the truly best actors in Hollywood during the mid-1920’s to late 1940’s before he became terminally ill with scleroderma.

One of Tom’s first acting jobs was as a Native American in the 1924 Pathé film serial “Leatherstocking” - where he was paid $50.00 a week ($750.00 a week in 2019) according to the article “The Sucker Who Succeeded”  in Motion Picture Classic, July 1928. Billed under his real name of Vincent Markowski, it must have been an ego booster for the young man who traveled all the way from Hamtramck, Michigan only a few years earlier.  At least Tom knew he could finally make money as an actor, and that is all that mattered to him.

When Tom signed a contract with FBO in 1925, his starting salary per week was about $75.00 ($1,100.00 in 2019) according to The Old Corral - a step up from the money he made while filming “Leatherstocking” and doing bit parts in “Three Weeks” (1924) and “Ben Hur” (1925). As Tom continued to make B-westerns for FBO, chances are he got a little bit of increase in pay, but not much, maybe up to $100.00 or so by the time his contract with FBO/RKO ran out in 1929.
According to an article in Variety, August 3, 1927, "...the negative cost of the Tyler westerns is only 20% of [Fred] Thom[p]son's." Thomson was also paid rather generously by FBO in 1925, his contract paying him $10,000.00 a week. Joseph Kennedy sensed an opportunity for both Thomson and himself, selling Thomson out to Paramount, a competing studio. Unfortunately for Fred Thomson, he contracted tetanus and died on December 25, 1928, barely able to make better money, but at the same time, Tom Tyler proved to be a better money maker for FBO before the studio reorganized as RKO for talkies in 1929.

One of Tom’s known representing agents was Jerry G. Mayer, as mentioned in Hollywood Filmograph, December 31, 1932. Jerry was the brother of Louis B. Mayer, and both men had vested interests in Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). Jerry G. Mayer also had his own production company by 1925, eventually becoming the studio manager for MGM in the mid-1930’s. The Mayer connection made sense, since one of Tom’s first documented film appearances was in the MGM (then called Goldwyn Pictures in the 1920’s) movie, “Three Weeks” in 1924, starring Aileen Pringle. Unfortunately for Tom, who was under contract with Monogram/Trem Carr in the early 1930’s talkies years, having an agent whose priority was with another studio probably did not help his career a whole lot. The other problem was, the star system was still evolving and became implemented in the 1930’s by none other than Louis B. Mayer – Jerry’s brother.  On the other side of that coin, Hollywood was also becoming very political in nature. Who you knew could make or break a movie career, as in the case of John Wayne and director John Ford. It could be that Tom was not interested in the political side of Hollywood,  considering it a job that made him happy, for he certainly loved his work, as Clayton “The Lone Ranger” Moore later attested during the last years of Tom’s life.

It would be a superhero film serial that would provide Tom not only a substantial salary but also a major milestone for his career once his contracts with Reliable and Victory Pictures ran out in the late 1930’s. Clad in a gray and gold leotard for black and white film, Tom Tyler became the World’s Mightiest Mortal in “Adventures of Captain Marvel”, released in 1941. Long considered the greatest serial ever made, Tom was paid $250.00 a week, according to his biography, “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman, for a total of $1000.00 ($17,500.00 in 2019) - four weeks worth of working on this famous Republic film serial.

By the time Tom returned to Republic Pictures as one of the Three Mesquiteers in 1941, the first of thirteen movies he made with the famous team being “Outlaws of Cherokee Trail”, his contract was for $150.00 per week ($2,600.00 in 2019) during the first year of movies, according to The Old Corral, which also included “Gauchos of El Dorado” and “West of Cimarron”. In 1942, Tom’s salary increased to $200.00 a week ($3,150.00 in 2019) for the seven movies he made for Republic that year: “Code of the Outlaw”, “Raiders of the Range”, “Westward Ho”,  “The Phantom Plainsmen”, “The Talk of the Town”, “Shadows on the Sage”, and “Valley of Hunted Men”. When Tom Tyler made his last Three Mesquiteers movie in 1943, “Riders of the Rio Grande”, he made $350.00 ($5,191.00 in 2019) a week. On the surface this did not seem like a bad amount of money, and it wasn’t, given the fact Tom was a workhorse and did manage to stay in the business for over twenty years, and perhaps he was hoping the right agent would come along and give him the career boost he would need.

Tom Tyler was not by any means a wealthy actor, but was able to live comfortably during the mid 1920’s to mid-1940’s until his body was in the developing stage of scleroderma. By 1947, when he made only one movie that year, “Cheyenne”, multiple doctor visits between then and the early 1950’s proved costly, leaving him penniless and lack of ability to obtain contracts during the final stages of his illness. Regardless of his salary or his B-western star status, Tom Tyler left behind an impressive body of work to appreciate and remember him well.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Filmed on location at Warner Springs: “The Texas Tornado”

A scene from "The Texas Tornado"
As the only Tom Tyler FBO silent film available on DVD, “The Texas Tornado” may surprise viewers in that it was filmed on location in Warner Springs, California. Located in San Diego County, Warner Springs is an unincorporated community that was home to the Luiseño and Cupeño tribes in southern California. Related to the Cahuilla tribe, a now-abandoned Cupeño village sits on 200 acres east of Lake Henshaw on California State Highway 79. The Cupeño lived in the San Jose Valley Mountains by the San Luis Rey River, and had two villages, one at present-day Warner Springs, the second, at Wilakal, at San Ysidro. Founded in 1844 by Juan Jose Warner, this piece of land is situated at an elevation of 3130 feet, with a smattering of mountains referred to as Lost Valley, part of the Peninsular Ranges in the state. Of these mountains, Hot Springs Mountain, famous for its scenic and beautiful hiking trails, has an elevation of 6535 feet high and is the highest peak in San Diego County. Since 1912, Hot Springs Mountain has had a fire lookout tower which has been modified over the decades, a popular destination of hikers in Warner Springs.

Lost Valley is prominent in “The Texas Tornado” in a number of scenes: where a simulated cliff dwelling (not native, as the Cupeño built and lived in adobe homes on the land) is shown as the hideout for Latimer’s henchmen and their holding of Frankie Darro captive, and the climactic rescue of Frankie by Tom when the gondola breaks, dangling from the cable between the mountains. When “The Texas Tornado” was filmed, the crew and cast were enthusiastic about making the movie in such a beautiful setting, with the non-stop action, fights, and suspense that took place. The fights were so rough and injurious to Tom Tyler’s legs due to Latimer and his henchmen wearing roweled spurs on their boots, that the spurs had to be banned from further film productions. The good news is, Tom was in tip-top shape in 1928 when this silent film was made, for he had won the Los Angeles Athletic Union weightlifting championship, which allowed him to climb over that cable with Frankie clinging on to him for dear life. The one spectacular stunt missing from the existing DVD of “The Texas Tornado” is a fight between Tom and Jack Anthony at the top of a burning oil derrick, resulting in Tom’s escaping by use of a guy wire, again with Frankie hanging on for safety.

For those who exhibit interest in visiting film location sets, Warner Springs is a destination for Tom Tyler fans, as Lone Pine Studios is, to experience walking upon the land where Tom made one of his surviving silent films.