Saturday, November 18, 2017

More Spanish titles of Tom Tyler films

To continue with the translation of Spanish film titles (which is not easy by any means), below are a handful which are seen in Spain newspapers such as Luz: Diario de la Republica and La Voz for the time period of the late 1920's and early 1930's. As usual, those Spanish titles appearing on film booklets published in Barcelona are considerably easier to identify if only for their containment of more than one identifier on the title page, such as additional actor names, as well as character names in the story, neither of which requires a degree of mastery in the Spanish language.

Silent films:

Born to Battle (1926) - Nacido para luchar (click here to see an alternative Spanish title )

Tom's Gang (1927) - Tom y Su Cuadrilla

Cyclone of the Range (1927) - El Tigre del Rancho

Splitting the Breeze (1927) - Bebiendo los vientos

Pioneers of the West (1929) - Jinetes del Oeste

Neath Western Skies (1929) - Bajo el cielo del Oeste


Valley of the Sun (1940) - El Valle del Sol

Some French and German titles of Tom's films will appear in an upcoming blog post.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Surgery in a covered wagon: “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”

One of the most significant and memorable scenes that takes place in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949) has Tom Tyler as Corporal Mike Quayne who is injured during an Indian attack and has to undergo surgery to remove the bullet from the wound in a covered wagon during the trek through Indian territory out west. The commanding officer, Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) is only a few days away from retirement yet has to guide his cavalry through one last mission – and at the same time, look after Major Mac Allshard's (George O'Brien) wife Abby (Mildred Natwick) and her niece, Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru). As an installment of director John Ford's cavalry trilogy, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, the movie stresses the magnificent land of the west, and not surprisingly, won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Color).

From the time we see Corporal Quayne appearing on horseback seated behind another officer over the crest of the hill, escaping a band of marauding Indians, to when he falls off and collapses onto the ground, injured, to when he is finally propped up by two men so that he could deliver his message to Captain Brittles, is dramatic in itself although not the highest point of the movie for Tom Tyler.

And with him horse and foot--and parks of artillery,
And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun.

Yet with his hair all astray, a bandana tied around his forehead, Quayne explains to his superior that his injury might have been preventable had his men some aid from Captain Brittles. Quayne is guided off in the direction of the covered wagon where he is about to undergo surgery to remove the bullet from his chest wound, temporarily disappearing from the story, to help build up the next scene to come, which takes place during inclement weather.

As the day progresses during the cavalry's march, the blue western skies slowly transform into dark clouds, a bolt of lightning flashing in the distance. While the simulated thunderstorm took place according to the script – at the same moment during filming, a real thunderstorm was looming over the horizon, providing just the right atmosphere for the surgery scene to take place. Laid up in the covered wagon, Abby and Dr. O'Laughlin (Arthur Shields) commence with the operation. Quayne displays a number of painful expressions, teeth gritting, sweat beading upon his forehead as Abby gets ready to administer him a shot of whiskey to help deaden the pain to come. She holds the glass before his lips, but Quayne lifts his hand to move the glass away and replies “After you Ma'am”, to which she takes a swig of the liquor before handing him the glass. Quayne drinks, and they start singing the cavalry song, right before he is finally knocked out so that Dr. O'Laughlin can remove the bullet from his chest. The cavalry continues on its trek, as the thunderstorm continues during the entire scene. Enveloped in total darkness, wrapped up as comfortably as he can be, relaxed for the doctor so the surgery is successful and recovery can be swift, the thunder of darkness along with the whisky shot, offers contentment to Quayne.

Not completely gone from the story, we see Corporal Quayne one last time, days after his surgery while he is recovering, heavily bandaged up and sitting on the end of the covered wagon and anxious to get back into action. Captain Brittles denies the request and orders Quayne back into the wagon so that his recovery is complete. This is the last we see of Quayne in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” and as with Tom's other minor roles in A-westerns, a powerful piece of acting is delivered. What is also significant about this role is that the progressive effects of scleroderma are visible in Tom's face, a terminal disease which has no cure even in 2017.

“She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” is not the first movie where Tom is in a role undergoing surgery in a covered wagon; “The Forty Niners” (1932) has a similar scene minus the actual surgery taking place. In this case, a group of men and women head out west to California to seek their wealth in the gold rush, and Tom, as Tennessee Matthews, gets into a fight with another man (Al Bridge) over a woman. Plugged from the front, Tennessee passes out, injured, and is carried into one of the covered wagons where the unseen doctor removes the bullet. Tennessee recovers, and while he is laid upon blankets, he also has mosquito netting covering him in order to prevent further infection.

Similar to his role in “Stagecoach”, Tom Tyler is onscreen only for a few minutes in the three scenes he appears in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” but makes the most of them, his experience in silent film paying off once again. Had “Stagecoach” been shot in Technicolor, it probably would be similar to this movie, since John Ford directed both, it is not difficult to imagine the vibrant pink, orange and purple colors dominating the western sky, stretching over the raw land of reds and yellows. As a supporting actor, Tom's acting talent is as fine as it comes, and as with the B-westerns of his silent film career, shows that he is perfectly suited to films of the western genre.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Now that you've been introduced to Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel...

Now that the upcoming “Shazam!” movie finally has its star in the form of Zachary Levi, not to mention the new Blu-ray DVD release of “Adventures of Captain Marvel” (Republic), a whole new generation is discovering the work of Tom Tyler. This is of course a very good thing, and once the newly converted Tom Tyler fan takes a serious interest, the next question usually is: “What movie of his should I see next? He made so many of them!” For the fan who likes both superhero movies and westerns, there is the option of watching Tom in the 1941 film serial “The Phantom”, or one of his Three Mesquiteer movies which he also made for Republic. In the latter, the familiar sets are decked with stagecoaches, horses, and a quaint western town. The soundtrack used in “Adventures of Captain Marvel” can also be heard throughout these Three Mesquiteer films. Recommended films: “The Blocked Trail”, “Shadows of the Sage”, “Code of the Outlaw”, and “Riders of the Rio Grande”.

Assuming “The Phantom” and one or two of the Three Mesquiteer movies satisfy, what is next on the roster?

"Call of the Desert"
To go into a direct line back to Tom Tyler's career origins – that of B-westerns for FBO, one of his silent films is highly recommended viewing. There are presently four of his silent films which are available “Call of the Desert”, “Canyon of Missing Men”, “The Texas Tornado” and “Phantom of the Range” (1928). The two latter ones were made for FBO, with the other two made for Syndicate. All four are excellent, and give the viewer an idea of just how far back Tom Tyler's career goes as a silent film leading man. It may be true that he did not resemble the average silent film leading man, as Tom Tyler was above average in more ways than one. Transitioning from silents to early talkies, Tom made B-westerns for Monogram, Reliable, and Victory. These movies are fun to watch, and are all family friendly. Recommended films in this category are: “Two Fisted Justice”, “Tracy Rides”, “Coyote Trails”, “The Feud of the Trail” and “Deadwood Pass”. The plots may be simple, the land beautiful and wild, just perfect for an actor like Tom Tyler. He certainly did not require fancy, lavish sets to play off his rugged masculine persona.

"The Mummy's Hand"
In addition to “Adventures of Captain Marvel” and “The Phantom”, Tom Tyler also made a number of other film serials. Westerns are “Battling with Buffalo Bill” and “The Phantom of the West”, although “The Phantom of the Air” is a fun airplane-stunt filled serial too that is highly recommended.

Much has been made of Tom's role as the movie monster in “The Mummy's Hand” and for a good reason; he was well suited to the role, with his stature and carriage. Don't forget his creepy eyes, courtesy of a camera trick. But his eyes in real life are hardly creepy, and quite nice to look at. There are many supporting film roles Tom Tyler had in dramas like “Brother Orchid” ,“The Talk of the Town” and “King of Alcatraz” worth watching, which prove just how versatile an actor he was.

For the icing on the cake, don't forget to watch John Ford's “Stagecoach” in which Tom Tyler's role as Luke Plummer has been critically acclaimed. Long available on DVD, this movie is a must-have, and is considered to be one of the greatest westerns of all time.

Enjoy your journey through Tom Tyler's movies!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tom Tyler: A real-life Adonis

One of the earliest marketing tactics for Tom Tyler at the start of his silent-film career was to stress his physical appearance as resembling that of Adonis, the youth of Greek mythology famous for his beauty. A theatre ad from The Ogden Standard-Examiner, Utah, October 4, 1925 describes Tom in his debut starring role in “Let's Go Gallagher” as follows: "A new Adonis of the screen – is a rugged, red-blooded he-manish young god of the Ranges!” For cinema patrons, being introduced to Tom Tyler must have been quite the experience: seeing a 6'2” tall, 190l b. well-muscled hunk gallop across the silent film screen on horseback, portraying the hero of the day. The 1920's certainly had its share of handsome actors, but there was something about Tom that stood out. For one thing, he did not look like a silent film actor; to put things into context, had he been born twenty years ago instead of 114 years ago, he would be considered as much of a stud now in 2017 as he was back in 1925. Tom's marvelous physique and facial looks, with his classic nose, wide brown eyes, chiseled cheeks and jawline were perfect for silent film, which quality was not always the best, but of course this was long before digital video enhancement.

Venus and Adonis, by Fontana
Considering Tom Tyler's looks and comparing them with Adonis as portrayed by many a famous artist such as Aristide Fontana (fl. cir. 1870-1890) and Titian (1490-1576), it is easy to see the resemblance between the new star of FBO and a work of art. Even Shakespeare wrote a narrative poem about Venus and Adonis:

Thus hoping that Adonis is alive,
Her rash suspect she doth extenuate;
And that his beauty may the better thrive,
With Death she humbly doth insinuate;

The perfect proportions, hair, similar features that Adonis possessed certainly look like they might come to life in the form of a young, enthusiastic actor. Tom Tyler could have very well been the model for these works of art, and if Hollywood lore is true about Tom working as an art model before making it big in pictures...well, it is easy to see why.

Some DVD marketers are prone to color Tom's eyes blue, as in the DVD cover for “The Laramie Kid”/”Single Handed Saunders” put out by Alpha Home Entertainment ( In reality, Tom's eyes were brown, not a dark brown, but regular brown. On silent film, regular brown eyes may appear to the viewer to be blue (in this case, the pupils are usually distinctly visible), while blue eyes on silent film tend to look “washed out.” One of the best close-ups of Tom's eyes is in “The Silver Bullet” when he is in the saloon ready to reprimand an outlaw. Eyes aside, Tom Tyler's perfectly featured face and physique made him a favorite with youth and women alike in America. What red-blooded American boy would not want to grow up to look and be like Tom Tyler?

As a Hollywood silent film leading man, Tom Tyler soon had a growing public who followed his career, regularly viewing his movies on weekends. They were as devoted to their new hero as they could be, similar to how Adonis had his own following, eventually becoming the focal point of a series of Greek mystery plays. There was no shortage of public reminders of Adonis in the Greek world, his image featured on vases and urns, much the way Tom Tyler appeared on posters, arcade cards, and in film booklets for fans to purchase and collect. One this is for certain: Adonis and Tom Tyler do share one thing, they are remembered for their eternal youthfulness and immortality.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tom Tyler and Al St. John: An ideal team

One of Tom Tyler's most underrated onscreen partners during his Reliable years in the 1930's was Al St. John. Frequently billed as Al “Fuzzy” St. John, Al was a star in his own right dating back to his years in vaudeville. A natural comic talent – he got into the film business in 1912, and his acrobatic talent proved to be an asset in silent films – Al appeared in many a B-western, including “Trail Dust” (1936), “The Fighting Deputy” (1937), “Shadows of Death” (1945), and many others. He made two films with Tom Tyler, “Trigger Tom” (1935), and “Pinto Rustlers” (1936). Even though Al was born in 1893, he hardly looked ten years older than Tom Tyler. Yet the two actors complemented each other in a way that Tom's other film partners did not. To start with, Al St. John shorter than Tom, but he was attractive, blue eyes, blonde, thin yet had a muscular “tough guy” appearance about him, complementing Tom Tyler's dark good looks and physical appearance quite nicely.

In “Trigger Tom”, Al is Stub Macey, who meets Tom in an unlikely manner: after being thrown out of a saloon, somersaulting down the steps, for owing another man money. Tom is of course looking for Stub to offer him a job, and in the process takes care of his new pal's debt, and they go off on their mission. Tom plans on buying cattle from a rancher (John Elliott) after receiving an offer to do so, but runs into trouble when he discovers an outlaw named Mose Jeckyl (William Gould) controls the sale and price of the cattle in the region, regardless of who owns them. Stub helps Tom achieve his mission, even when Tom falls in love with Dorothy (Bernadine Hayes) the lady of the cattle ranch.

In “Pinto Rustlers” Al is Mack, paired with Tom by the inspector (William Gould) in order to put an end to a gang of local horse rustlers. Once the inspector tests Tom to find out if he is man enough for the job (he belts Tom after talking him down), Mack speaks up and tells Tom that he is his pal for life, doing what he has wanted to do to his boss for quite some time. As Mack, Al acts as lookout for Tom while the latter infiltrates the gang of horse thieves to establish justice for a pinto owner who was shot dead. Al does not have as much onscreen time in this movie as he does in “Trigger Tom” but still plays an important role. For example, Mack has to fake being another rustler named Lugo but is eventually caught in the act. With both Tom and Mack temporarily incapacitated – they end up being tied together by rope – Tom breaks free, and continues to pin down the rustlers. Mack is also handy as a safecracker, and breaks open a safe where Tom removes a sum of money and hides it in a piano lid. Al St. John probably could have benefited from more air time in “Pinto Rustlers” alongside Tom, and even though thse two distinguished actors made only two movies together, they certainly had the potential for more films as a semi-permanent team. They not only looked great together, but their acting talents were on a par with each other, which makes them so enjoyable to watch together.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Update: Film identification help and fate of an unreleased Tom Tyler film

I have an update on the following films:

“Cow Punching for Cupid” (Exhibitor's Herald, September 11, 1926) was likely renamed "Red Hot Hoofs".

R94 Series, manufactured in the USA, issued in 1929, two cards:

R94 "Overnight Rider" is probably  “Avenging Rider”.

R94 "Hearts and Hoofs" is probably “Red Hot Hoofs”.

If anyone has any additional information about these three film cards, please contact me at Thank you!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Tom Tyler's Box Office Popularity: 1926 and 1927

While Tom Tyler's silent films proved to be popular with children and families since the inception of his career as a silent film leading man in 1925, by 1926 and 1927 he achieved a degree of ranking at the box office, according to Exhibitor's Herald publication dates of October 30, 1926 and December 31, 1927. What should be pointed out in the October 30, 1926 issue is that while this is mentioned in “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman on page 21 of the book, there appears to be a minor error in Tom's biography: according to Exhibitor's Herald, Tom ranks at #55, and not #35 (as mentioned in the book) ahead of the following actors: Tom Mix, Fred Thomson, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Jack Holt, Richard Talmadge, and Jack Hoxie:

The entire three-page article titled “Theatre Poll Establishes Box Office 'Name' Values” can be viewed here (page 54), here (page 55), and here (56). Still, being in the middle of the top 100 Hollywood stars is not a bad thing, and by 1926, Tom's star was still rising. He was hot property in more ways than one in Hollywood, to be sure, and by the end of 1927, Exhibitor's Herald ranked Tom at #36, ahead of male stars like Ronald Colman, Reginald Denny, Thomas Meighan, Douglas Fairbanks, Lon Chaney, and Wallace Beery. Not only that, but Tom merited a headshot among select others in “The Big Names of 1927”! Not bad at all for a young man who dreamed big of making it in Hollywood and setting out from Hamtramck, Michigan with only 50 dollars in his pocket. This article can be viewed here (page 22) and here (page 23).

From Exhibitor's Herald, December 31, 1927