Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tom Tyler and Jeanne Martel: their wedding day

Tom Tyler was married for about five years to actress Jeanne Martel, who was also a B-film star. Although she was twelve years younger than Tom, the age difference did not keep them from getting to know one another and eventually marrying. At the age of 33, Tom probably felt it was time for him to settle down, despite the fact he did not lead a “swinging bachelor” lifestyle. In fact, his only other publicly known love interest was in Ethlyn Clair, who starred with Tom in “Gun Law” and “The Pride of Pawnee”, both in 1929. Yet nothing came of that relationship, so far as we know, which meant that Tom simply did not yet find the right woman for him.

Tom met his wife-to-be on the set of “Santa Fe Bound” in 1936. The newly met couple spent the usual amount of time getting to know each other, including time spent with their families, and married on September 3, 1937. Tom and Jean made two more movies together, “Lost Ranch” and “Orphan of the Pecos”, both in 1937 before they signed up to perform with the Wallace Brothers Circus for a year. In the 1930's, spending one's honeymoon while circus touring must have been uniquely romantic, not to mention the hard work involved with touring by train. Eventually, however, Tom and Jeanne divorced sometime around 1945. Below are photos of Tom getting into an airplane on the way to the wedding, plus an actual wedding day photo. He certainly looks handsome in a tuxedo, and Jean looks lovely in her bridal dress. It goes without saying they were one of the best looking couples in Hollywood in the 1930's.

From The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA, August 29, 1937
From The Los Angeles Times, CA, September 4, 1937

Monday, March 12, 2018

Buck Moon Trail, Part 2

Note: This is the second part of a series of fan fiction. Please keep in mind that outside of the primary character, Tom Tyler, all others are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Screencaps are from Tom's movies and are used simply as visuals. With the usual disclaimer aside, if you would like to link back to this story and need help doing so, please contact me at Thank you and enjoy the story!

After the covered wagon arrived in Marshall, Missouri, its travelers decided to spend the night there. Twilight was starting to fall. The men outside set up camp and spent some time collecting dry wood nearby, while Julie started to prepare supper along with Joe, who rode the stallion all the way across the country. Joe had plenty of experience in long-distance travel on horseback, and preparing supper afforded him some time to speak to the only woman in the group. As he pared some root vegetables for dicing, Julie added some beef stock to drinking water in the cooking pot for stew. Joe glanced at her, thinking that she tried to be engrossed in what she was doing while at the same time thinking about Tom.

“Pretty long day, huh Julie. You seem worried about Tom. I know you care about him.” Joe leaned back and wiped the back of his right hand against the side of his jeans. His green eyes had a devilish twinkle in them, dirty blond hair disheveled across the top and back.

Julie hesitated before answering. “I do, Joe. Maybe too much.” Out of habit, the right corner of her mouth turned down while she thought. “What happens if we don't get Tom to our destination in time?” She uncrossed her legs, smoothing the skirt of her dress.

“Aw, we'll get him to Oklahoma in time, Miss Julie. It's just that – well I was wondering.” Joe picked up his knife and started to dice the parsnips and potatoes. Julie watched his slow, deliberate movements. The neat piles of chopped onions and carrots were joined by the other vegetables, forming a colorful row, ready to be added to the cast iron pot.

“Wondering what?” Julie caught a whiff of smoke from Joe's cigar which rested on a chunk of sedimentary rock next to the cooking utensils.

“I think there is something you should know about Tom and I don't rightly know how to put it to you.” Joe placed the diced vegetables so quietly into the pot, no splash of water could be heard. He looked at her and smiled, revealing his straight white teeth. As they spoke, Tom crawled to the rear of the covered wagon and leaned against a board, savoring the clean air. He was not supposed to move around too much, and was also afraid Julie might see him. Tom kept out of their direct line of sight and snuggled beneath a blanket. He thought he heard his name being spoken outside and did not wish for anyone to know he overheard any conversation about him.

“Why?” Julie curiously asked Joe. “It's not serious, is it? I mean outside of his being ill.” Her eyes cast down towards the cooking pot over the campfire.

“Well sort of. Maybe I should not have said anything.” Joe picked up the wood spoon and stirred the slow-cooking stew. Julie was hungry, as were the other men who sat on the other side of the wagon tending to the horses. “No. I was wrong to say anything, Julie. I know how you feel about him. I have to respect that.” Joe took a drag on his cigar, holding it in his weathered hand. Tom heard every word quite clearly, jolted into an awareness he never felt before. 'Did I do something wrong?' Tom thought to himself. He crawled back towards the middle of the wagon and pretended to sleep while supper cooked. 'I wonder what Joe was going to tell Julie?' Tom became a little scared but told himself not to reveal any feeling as such nor act as if he heard the conversation, for fear of alienating Julie or one of the men. He pulled the blanket up to his face and thought he heard the two men on the other side of the wagon. Tom shut his eyes and concentrated on the slowly fading sunlight on the western horizon. He breathed deeply, developing a natural rhythm, an exercise Julie taught him to help ease his physical pains. Supper will be ready by the time he awoke from his nap, and Tom was already starting to forget the conversation that transpired between Julie and Joe not more than ten minutes ago.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Collectibles: Tom Tyler movie banners

Of the different vintage film poster sizes, one of the rarest is the banner. Usually made of canvas weight fabric with bright colored painted designs and lettering, these banners were displayed in the front of a cinema near the box office. Meant to be eye-catching to the movie patron, these banners were often manufactured in limited quantities which means that very few of them survive today, particularly those from the 1930's to early 1940's. Banners from these two decades on average measured from 119” x 36” to 117” x 35” in size, with some variation in size. These movie banners had a total of eight grommets along the top and bottom edges, which were then tied to a bar and displayed so that it hung flat without sagging. When a cinema was lucky enough to acquire a banner, it would arrive rolled up, and would be stored the same way after the movie it was advertised for ended its run.

There are three Tom Tyler movie banners that are confirmed to exist: “Phantom of the West”, “Battling with Buffalo Bill”, and “Adventure of Captain Marvel”. In very good to excellent condition, these banners can command up to $1000.00 upwards in price.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dutch titles of Tom Tyler films

"Jungle Mystery" from  De Noord Ooster
Wildervank, Netherlands, March 13, 1934
One interesting and fascinating thing about the many Dutch translated titles of Tom Tyler movies is they were seen not only in the Netherlands but also in the many Dutch colonies around the world during the first two decades of Tom Tyler's film career. For example, a number of newspapers and broadsheets mention cinema ads shown in what was then the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia) and Dutch West Indies like Curacao, Bonaire and Saba. When these Tom Tyler films were shown in such exotic locations, it was usually for the benefit of Dutch traders in these locales. Even “Adventures of Captain Marvel” was shown in Indonesia, usually untranslated as a film title. Sometimes films shown in the Dutch West Indies would also bear a Spanish translated title, as in “El Problema de los Valientes”, published in Amigoe di Curacao June 13, 1950 – Santa Fe Scouts! On the positive side, were it not for Dutch colonization, many of Tom's movies would probably not be shown in these parts of the world during the 1930's. It is also worth mentioning that according to the Dutch Puntenlijst (ranking list) of popular culture figures in Bataviaasch nieuwsblad, August 7, 1928 Tom Tyler ranks at #12. With thanks to Delpher for the following titles:


Red Hot Hoofs (1925) Een geboren Vechtersbaas
Tom's Gang (1927) De verspeelde Hoeve
The Desert Pirate (1927) De woestijnpiraat
When the Law Rides (1928) Buiten bereik der wet
Tyrant of Red Gulch (1928) De Verborgen buit
The Pride of Pawnee (1929) Dappere Tom
The Law of the Plains (1929) 'T recht zegeviert

"Mystery Ranch", from Soerabaijasch Handelsblad, Surabaya, Indonesia, October 22, 1934


The Phantom of the West (1931) Het spook van het westen
A Rider of the Plains (1931) De ruiter zonder vrees
The Man from Death Valley (1931) De Geheimzinnige Pachter
Jungle Mystery (1932) De geheimen van het oerwoud
Deadwood Pass (1933) De pas in het Doodenwoud
War of the Range (1933) De verspeelde hoeve
Ridin' Thru (1934) Een verijdeld complot
Unconquered Bandit (1935) Zijn Vader gewroken
Coyote Trails (1935) De Spookhengst
Born to Battle (1935) Op 't kantje af
The silver bullet (1935) De zilveren kogel
Rio Rattler (1935) De bende van Rio
The Last Outlaw (1936) Op Vrije Voeten
Phantom of the Range (1936) De spookruiter
Brothers of the West (1937) De Geheime speurder
Lost Ranch (1937) De plicht voor alles
Orphan of the Pecos (1937) Het witte gevaar

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Polish titles of Tom Tyler films

"A Rider of the Plains" cinema ad
It seems only natural to have an entry just for Polish titles of Tom's movies, given his Polish-Lithuanian background. Most of his films did in fact appear in Poland, usually a few years after their initial release here in the United States. As it goes with title translations, sometimes one pops up that looks somewhat unusual, as in the case of one Polish title: “Szatański Cowboy”. For some people, a Google translation is hardly needed, for its literal meaning is “Satanic Cowboy” and briefly described as an early talkie, according to Polona. As bizarre and humorous as this sounds for a Tom Tyler 1930's western, this movie is most likely “A Rider of the Plains” (1931) because the plot is about an outlaw cowboy named Blackie Saunders (Tom) whose friend is a pastor, Jim Wallace (Ted Adams). Jim was a former member of Blackie's gang before he went straight. Tom's all-black outfit plus the hat helped in this particular role, which he turns in an outstanding performance. With thanks to Biblioteki Narodowej and Filmweb for the Polish titles of the following Tom Tyler movies:


The Wyoming Wildcat (1925) – Król cowboy'ów i maly bohater
'Neath Western Skies (1929) – Walka o diamenty
The Phantom Rider (1929) – Jeździec widmo
Pioneers of the West (1929) – Pionierzy zachodu


A Rider of the Plains (1931) – Szatański cowboy
Two Fisted Justice (1931) –  Pod szubienicą
The Man from New Mexico (1932) – Postrach Meksyku
Vanishing Men (1932) – Przyjaźń w obliczu śmierci
Honor of the Mounted (1932) – Tajemnica zamkniętego kufra
Stagecoach (1939) –  Dyliƶans
The Night Riders (1939) – Nocni jeźdźcy
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) – Bębny nad Mohawkiem
Frontier Marshal (1939) – Szeryf z pogranicza

"Red River"

Brother Orchid (1940) – Orchid, brat gangstera
The Westerner (1940) – Człowiek z zachodu
The Talk of the Town (1942) – Głosy miasta
The Princess and the Pirate (1944) –Księżniczka i Pirat
Never Say Goodbye (1946) – Nigdy nie mów do widzenia
Blood on the Moon (1948) – Krwawy księżyc
Red River (1948) – Rzeka Czerwona
I Shot Jesse James (1949) – Zabiłem Jessego Jamesa
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – Nosiła żółtą wstążkę


Best of the Badmen (1951) –Najlepszy z najgorszych

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Tom Tyler's eyes: The mirror to the soul

Some of the most popular actors in Hollywood can be identified just by a picture of their eyes. In Hollywood, many times an actor's acting ability can be told how they use their eyes especially when it comes to conveying emotions and unspoken words. Tom Tyler certainly knew how to use his eyes when it came to acting, no doubt the result of many hours practice when he took correspondence lessons in acting.

In “The Mummy's Hand” (1940), Tom's eyes were “blacked out” using a camera technique in some scenes to make him seem even more frightening. On film, this technique made his eyes seem to “gel” and shine unnaturally, just like a real monster brought back to life after being dead for many centuries.

In “Stagecoach” (1939) when he saunters up to the bar and turns in the film's top acting performance, Tom looks around nervously, as he awaits the arrival of the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) to have a showdown with. Tom does not have any trouble making direct eye contact with the camera when the script calls for it, as he did in “San Antonio” (1945) when he is standing outside the saloon, getting ready to take on Errol Flynn in a gunslinging match. Perhaps the best close-up of Tom's eyes is in “The Silver Bullet” (1935), when he is in the saloon ready to reprimand an outlaw. With his right eyebrow slightly raised, Tom's eyes shine like discs, with
the light hitting his face at just the right angle. It is a vicious, authoritarian stare made at the outlaw, who then makes the wise decision to turn himself in to Tom's newly appointed authority as the town's sheriff. Such a camera shot makes this movie a favorite among Tom's fans, in addition to its bittersweet story of a blind man seeking justice by learning how to shoot a gun.

Tom Tyler's brown eyes were perfect for silent film, to be sure, and even better for the talkies he made during the 1930's, and the color films he made in the 1940's before he fell ill with scleroderma. More than one publicity photo show Tom's eyes sparkling, full of life and light, eyes that could tell the story of his journey to Hollywood from Hamtramck, Michigan. Eyes that not only acted well, but also could hold the beholder spellbound, speak of an era long gone yet cherished and held close to the heart.

Born in the dust and cradled in the dark,
It feels the fire of an immortal spark,
And learns to read, with patient, searching eyes,
The splendid secret of the unconscious skies.

- H. Van Dyke

Friday, February 9, 2018

Acting Dangerously: Tom Tyler the stuntman

FBO, like other small film production outfits during the 1920's, had its stars performing dangerous stunts without the benefit of using professional stuntmen. With Tom Tyler being young, athletic and muscular, he could certainly pull off any stunts required of him in a film script. Sometimes Tom also had to protect co-stars placed in the same situation that he was in, keeping them safe from being killed on the set. Perhaps it was a feeling of invincibility on Tom's part – as any young man might feel, having traveled such a long way from home to  the destination of where his future lay, ready to conquer Hollywood and anything it handed him. He certainly was not afraid to perform these stunts, even though the first few ones came very close to costing him his life.

It was in Tom's debut starring role of “Let's Go Gallagher” in 1925 where he completes his first rescue mission, releasing Frankie Darro and his dog Beans who were tied to a train track by a gang of outlaws. In this case, it was Tom's horseback riding skills of a speedy pace that made this rescue possible. Yet this was just a precursor to a greater rescue later on in the film, where Tom also had to rescue the heroine (Barbara Starr) who was stuck on a runaway carriage, headed down the steep grade of a mountainside. Once again speed and precision played an important role, and Tom in all his grandeur rescues the frightened girl from getting killed, and establishes him as a major film star of athletic capability.

The theme of having to rescue a girl from a perilous situation, usually involving a cliff, followed in the next few Tom Tyler films made for FBO. For example, in “The Wyoming Wildcat” (1925), Tom makes a daring rescue while on horseback, leaping off the top of a cliff while remaining on his horse, plunging into a whirlpool of water below, to save Virginia Southern from drowning. It is not difficult to imagine the audience's reaction when viewing this silent film for the first time in movie theatres. But Tom's early silent films were meant to be fun, entertaining, adventurous, and hold the viewer spellbound all at once. Since 1925 was the year Tom became a star, a leading man for FBO, it was only natural for his publicists to market him as being one of the most exciting actors that year – and he was!

Can you imagine having to experience almost getting killed while shooting a scene – then having to reshoot the scene with better safety measures in place? That is what happened in “The Cowboy Musketeer” (1925). In this silent film, Tom is ambling along on horseback when he happens to glance off to the side of the trail and sees Frances Dare stuck in her car, tangled up in a collapsing rickety wood bridge, and races to catch her before she falls into the water. While they are suspended from Tom's lariat, tied to his horse's saddle, somehow the rope comes loose, and the couple end up going over the falls, holding on to each other tightly. Tom and Frances survive the ordeal, and while the scene was shot over to prevent any similar mistakes, provides an example of how dangerous it can be for the starring actor to perform stunts of this nature. It could be just luck that Tom managed to survive so many dangerous stunts while filming, although the cliff-water-falling combination must have proven to be too risky, for FBO certainly could not afford to lose its brand new star to a potentially fatal accident.

Starting with “Born to Battle” (1926) and “Wild to Go” (1926), the stunts Tom performed were not as dangerous yet they remained exciting. In these two movies he had to jump from a ship and swim to safety to escape his captors. Tom is an expert swimmer, however, as can be attested to his physical training in addition to weightlifting.

Another exciting stunt typically performed by Tom involved his rescuing a girl on a runaway horse while he too is on horseback, gently and safely scooping her up in his right arm. Such a stunt is risky in itself, yet Tom makes it look incredibly easy. On the positive side, such a stunt is thrilling to view on film while not quite as dangerous as those stunts that Tom performed during his first few starring roles.

It was not until the filming of “Idaho Red” in 1929 when Tom became victim to a different type of accident, one that almost killed him, and most likely caused him to develop scleroderma during his mid-40's. During the filming of a scene where Tom has been captured by a group of bandits and left in a cellar, a demijohn of chemicals spilled and temporarily asphyxiated him until the rest of the crew discovered him and had to revive him. This must have been terribly frightening for Tom, not knowing what happened to him even though it was just another close brush with death.

Out of the first three Tom Tyler starring role silent films mentioned above where he performs life-threatening stunts, only one of them exists as a 35mm print in a film archive: “The Wyoming Wildcat”. Even though this silent film is not restored, it remains a valuable piece of film history with regards to Tom's film career. Hopefully one day it will see restoration as well as digitization. Until then, however, we can appreciate the thrilling stunts Tom performs in his existing talkies, not to mention “The Texas Tornado” (1928).