Tuesday, April 7, 2020

"Powdersmoke Range" from Movie Action Magazine digitized

As with "The Last Outlaw", "Powdersmoke Range" (1935) has not been officially released on DVD, although it has been shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). In addition to Tom Tyler, this RKO western also stars Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Bob Steele, Boots Mallory, Ray Mayer, Sam Hardy, and many other big-name western stars from that era. The story runs thirteen pages and is from Movie Action Magazine, November, 1935. To read this 9.56 MB digitized scan, click here.

Monday, April 6, 2020

“The Last Outlaw” from Boy’s Cinema digitized

Not yet officially released on DVD to my knowledge, “The Last Outlaw” (1936) is now available for viewing – as a digitized film booklet format, scanned from the December 19, 1926 issue of Boy’s Cinema, the popular British publication.  This RKO “urban-western” also stars Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Henry B. Walthall, and Margaret Callahan. The story runs thirteen pages, one column long. To read this 12.3 MB digitized scan, click here.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Sonora Kid: The British Connection

In the realm of silent film westerns with unusual story elements, “The Sonora Kid” (1927) stands out due to its integration of some distinct British elements in the plot. Tom Tyler is a cowboy who obtains work through a ranch owner by the name of Arthur Butterworth. At first glance, the name comes across as being very British – and it is. The surname Butterworth is descended from the former township of the same name in what is now called Milnrow in Greater Manchester, England. Arthur, of course, refers to King Arthur, the famous British leader who protected his land and peoples against the invading Saxons during the late 5th and early 6th centuries. There is also one other story element at present in “The Sonora Kid”: Sir Francis Drake.

British sea captain and explorer Sir Francis Drake first set foot on the west coast of America back in 1579 when his ship Golden Hind plus crew landed at what is now called Point Reyes. In true pirate fashion, Drake managed to vanquish the existing Spanish towns along the west coast near the Pacific before docking his ship after circumnavigating from England. By claiming the region of present-day California for England, Drake made it possible for his country to establish English charters from America’s  Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast. Once Drake secured the region for England, he named it Nova Albion, or New Albion. While he did not establish a residing colony, Drake and his crew sailed back to England in 1580.

Today, there is a prominent bay named after Drake, located 30 miles northwest of San Francisco. A quadricentennial plaque at Drake’s Bay documents the arrival of Drake and his ship on land considered new to British exploration. Once Drake made his initial landing at Point Reyes, he did not make any effort to plant a British colony there. After only staying there for a year and sailing for home to England, the American territory along the Pacific coast that Drake claimed for England eventually expanded his country’s fur trade commerce up to the northwest region of the United States.

Considering “The Sonora Kid” was filmed in California – and that Sonora is about 182 miles east of Drake’s Bay – it may be easy to conclude how an imaginative script came to be. Written by J. G. Hawks and Percy Heath and adapted from the story "The Knight of the Range" by William Wallace Cook, this silent film stars Tom Tyler, Peggy Montgomery, Billie Bennett, Mark Hamilton, Jack Richardson, Ethan Laidlaw, Bruce Gordon, Barney Furey, and Victor Allen. Tom’s character has the last name of MacReady, a typical Scottish/Irish surname which is altogether fitting for Tom Tyler, for it means “trained; expert” – in his case, an expert horseman. Swinging back to King Arthur, Tom dons a suit of armor and engages in a jousting match with a wealthy man from San Francisco, Bruce Gordon. Two men wearing suits of armor on horseback jousting was pretty much a first for a silent film B-western. As the knight in shining armor, Tom not only wins the jousting match but also the hand of Peggy Montgomery, who was to be married to Gordon. Tom is thankful to Peggy for many things in addition to her giving him a copy of “King Arthur” to read when he was not working. With the newly hitched couple making their home on a ranch not too far from where Sir Francis Drake landed, the memory of Merry Old England is not far away.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Collectibles: Tom Tyler on the A. Batschari Mercedes tobacco cards

Tobacco/cigarette cards bearing images of movie stars are popular among collectors of film memorabilia. Much smaller than the arcade/exhibit cards, tobacco cards were primarily manufactured in Europe. More than a few sets were made in England by cigarette companies like Gallaher and Player, while other tobacco card sets were manufactured in countries like Germany. The origins of a tobacco card with a design on one side dates back to 1875 when a small piece of cardboard was placed behind cigarettes in individually sold packs of cigarettes. The cardboard provided support for the paper package containing the cigarettes. Tobacco companies decided to place a design of some kind on these cards: cars, flowers, buildings, engineering feats – and movie stars.

While Tom Tyler did not appear on any of the English manufactured tobacco cards, he did appear on one card in the German A. Batschari Cigarettenfabrik card set. Made in Baden-Baden, Germany, A. Batschari was founded by August Batscharis in 1834 and manufactured both cigars and cigarettes. In the 1920’s, the company was purchased by the Reemtsma Group. The Mercedes brand of cigarette was produced under the new corporation, yet retained the A. Batschari name on its products. The other brand name, Jazmati, was also used in the making of cigarette cards, and used the same photos and card numbers for both sets, each set containing a total of 168 cards.

The Mercedes tobacco card with Tom on it bears the number 89 and measures 2 1/16” x 3” in size. The photo is sepia in color, and manufactured in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. On the front of the card is a full length portrait of Tom Tyler standing by a wood cabin, with Napoleon the dog (Frankie Darro’s pet in the silent films) sitting at his left. This image has also been seen on a Ross Verlag postcard, and not coincidentally, the photo rights on the cigarette card are also printed Ross Verlag in the lower left corner on the front. Other stars in this set include Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Al Jolson, John Barrymore, and Rudolph Valentino.

Friday, February 14, 2020

On Location: The Walker Cabin in “Call of the Desert”

After Tom Tyler wrapped up his final silent film for FBO in 1929, he sought work with another studio, J. P.  McGowan Productions. Luckily for Tom, he signed a new contract for eight silent films to be distributed by Syndicate Pictures. The filming location for these eight silent films was at Santa Clarita, California. One of the most notable buildings in Santa Clarita that appears in these silent films is the Walker Cabin. Located on the Walker Ranch in Placerita Canyon, the cabin became a popular filming location for many western films from 1930 to the 1940’s.

Tom Tyler and Bobby Dunn standing in front of the Walker Cabin
In the 1930 silent film “Call of the Desert”, the Walker Cabin is where Tom is carried by Hardrock (Bobby Dunn) and Nate (Cliff Lyons) into Jean Walker's (Sheila Le Gay) ranch home where she lives with her uncle Tod (Bud Osborne), to nurse him back to health. Not coincidentally, the character names who reside at the Walker Ranch bear the Walker name, to give the story a feel of authenticity. With the spacious living room and set of books on the large square table, the bedroom where Tom quietly recovers from being struck ill while out on the desert trying to make his way to the spot in Placerita Canyon where his father left the gold claim for his son, the Walker Cabin is a vision of comfort and friendliness, the way a ranch home would be to a needy stranger, Rex Carson (Tom Tyler). The town center which has its gold claim recorder and other local offices, along with a horse rental business, is comprised of other cabins on the Walker Ranch.

The Walker Ranch was established by Frank Evans Walker, who was the region’s first homesteader. He built the family cabin in 1909 so that it could be surrounded by the oak trees, near a seasonal stream lined with idyllic willow and sycamore trees. It was not long before their ranch grew to include more cabins, primarily to house local gold panners. It should be mentioned that it was at this location where the first gold in California was discovered. This camp included picnic tables, stoves, barbecues, and full housekeeping amenities for those who decided to stay for extended periods, searching for gold. Sadly, the first Walker cabin burned down in 1918, but Frank built a new one which became the filming location for “Call of the Desert” and “Canyon of Missing Men”.  Upon taking into consideration the westerns made during Hollywood’s early years, Frank Walker rented out his ranch to filmmakers, which brought in income to help feed his family of twelve children and keep the mining camp in operation until the 1950’s. Many a famous western actor set foot upon the Walker Ranch for filming: William S. Hart, who was also a neighbor of Frank Walker; Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, John Wayne, Bob Steele, and many others. The earliest silent film shot at Walker Ranch was in 1928 – meaning that Tom Tyler was among the first silent film actors to set foot on the famous property. In 1950, Placerita Canyon State Park was established, its ownership being under Los Angeles County.

While the multiple cabins on the Walker Ranch no longer exist, the good news is, the existing Walker Cabin has been restored so that visitors to the park might see what it looked like during Hollywood’s western silent film days.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Aventuras de Tom Tyler newsletter on hiatus

The Aventuras de Tom Tyler newsletter is on hiatus for a few months due to time constraints (as well as a few non-Tom Tyler projects I am involved in that are priority). In the meantime, this blog will be updated a few times a month as usual, and for your viewing pleasure:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Need help in identifying a Tom Tyler movie with a French title - Identified!

Updated note (January 26, 2020): It appears the newspaper Republican and Herald (Pottsville, PA, January 25, 1930) mislabeled a still similar to the one below as being from "The Phantom Rider".  Fellow forum member Vince at forum.westernmovies.fr sent me several scans from a film booklet, Les Films du Far-West which contains the still identical to the one below. The title on this is "Le Vol du Diamant", which leads me to believe "'Neath Western Skies" had two different translations in French - the other one being "Le Lion du Ranch". Literally, "Le Vol du Diamant" means "The Flight of the Diamond", and diamond drills are the central part of the plot in "'Neath Western Skies". Many thanks to Vince for this information!

Back in November 26, 2017 I did a blog article on French titles of Tom's movies. However one of the translations turned out to be inaccurate. The cinema listing for “Le lion du ranch" appeared in the newspaper L'Echo d'Alger, January 20, 1932:

After some initial inquiry at forum.westernmovies.fr, it was originally concluded by me it was probably “West of Cheyenne” (1931). However, that is not the case. Another member at the above named French forum shared a still of “Le lion du ranch" which was published in the book  “Le Western ou le Cinéma Américain par Excellence” by J L Rieupeyrout and A. Bazin, 1953. Please take a look at the still below and see if you can recognize which Tom Tyler movie this is from. The date of the movie is most likely 1931, which means it is one of Tom's lost talkies. Please email your reply to aventurasdetomtyler_@_triggertom.com (remove the underscores). Many thanks to Vince at  forum.westernmovies.fr for sharing this image!