Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tom Tyler: A very articulate actor

Even though he was considered to be shy, Tom Tyler was in fact very articulate – and it shows in an article that he wrote for Broadway and Hollywood Movies (Vol. 4 No. 5, November 1933) magazine. Titled “We Take It and Like It”, this one page article complete with a three pictures of Tom – one where he is punching out a bad guy in one of his many westerns, plus a full page photo of him and Caryl Lincoln in “War of the Range” – reveals something very intimate about the man, mainly, his ability to compose a piece that is almost lyrical, descriptive and captivating – like his movies are. Such an insight reveals that Tom Tyler was a sensitive man, not afraid to be “in touch with his feelings” but in a masculine way, hinting at his nature and personality.

For example, in this article he mentions being born in Port Henry, New York, right in the Adirondacks – and very proud of his birthplace in this hamlet. It seems only natural for a man like Tom Tyler to have been born in such a location, nestled in one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. More will be written about that in a future article here on this blog, but for now, to return to Tom's eloquent words in “We Take It and Like It”, our hero certainly has no problem in taking pride in the roles he plays in his westerns, albeit B-westerns. Tom Tyler was a star, a leading man, clean-cut, unapologetic about playing heroes despite mentioning A-list films and their stars in the article, not out of envy nor comparison, but more out of his knowing what suited his personality, interests and career best. Let's face it, Tom Tyler was not an actor who required a bunch of fancy, lavish sets to be built for him to appear on, nor all kinds of frills associated with being a top-notch actor. Most importantly, as an actor, Tom Tyler embodied the old-fashioned cowboy values so prevalent in westerns. Tom's onscreen persona is not that different from his real-life one: he really was clean cut, very low-key, a quiet life in Hollywood where he could nurture his interests and hobbies when he was not studying scripts nor seeking work. Having said all that, I will let Mr. Tyler take it from here in “We Take It and Like It.” Enjoy the article.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tom Tyler: A well-dressed man

Tom Tyler is one of those actors who looks great in just about anything he wears. While the suit – and suit style – is considered to be “what makes the man”, and Tom has worn suits in a number of film roles like “The Last Outlaw”, “King of Alcatraz”, “The Talk of the Town”, even “The Phantom” - he also looks just as great in jeans and a western-style shirt. The latter was his usual form of dress in his many B-westerns in which he starred, complete with the boots and cowboy hat, and sometimes with the scarf to top off the look. Most importantly, his one really spectacular look was when Tom donned leotards for the roles of Captain Marvel and The Phantom, which required him to be in top physical shape for these two famous film serials. What is really amazing about Tom's two superheroes is that he was 38 and 40 years old, respectively, when he brought these popular comic-book figures to life on the silver screen. Now that requires looking really good, physically speaking.

Finally, Tom could look just as fabulous wearing his standard weightlifting clothes, with his gym shorts and sturdy shoes, or swimming trunks, for that matter. Lastly – when Tom first arrived in Hollywood as Vincent Markowski, one of the jobs he would take was as art model – a job that usually requires shucking off clothes and posing in the nude. As a young man with the perfect male body, and a very handsome face to match, it is not hard to imagine Tom Tyler as an art model. It can be said, Tom Tyler was a man who was always well-dressed, no matter what he wore, for he was a man with style, and carried it off very well.

Monday, March 13, 2017

“Coyote Trails”: Tom riding bareback

Tom Tyler was an expert horseman, but there are few existing film scenes where he is riding bareback without any reins nor other riding equipment. The best one I can think of is his film “Coyote Trails” where he has the task of taming a beautiful wild stallion named Phantom (not to be confused with The Phantom, Tom's 1943 film serial role). The few scenes where Tom manages to jump upon the stallion and ride through the valley in hopes of discovering what is happening to all the stolen mares is something to watch.

It is clear from the first meeting of Tom with Phantom led to a kinship, for he helped free this magnificent horse from a trap intended for the animal.

And of course as soon as Phantom is freed Tom says “So long, Handsome!” to it. Phantom seems to prefer his new name given him by Tom – after all, what horse wouldn't? Handsome is a perfect fit for Handsome, that is, Tom Tyler.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

“Mystery Range” 1937 photo play

Jerry Bergh to Tom: "Let me go you- you Brute!"

If Tom Tyler wore a scent, Brut would be a perfect fit for him. :)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Human interest in Tom Tyler's Trem Carr movies Part 2: “God's Country and the Man” and “Two Fisted Justice”

In continuing the second part of this series about human interest in Tom Tyler's Trem Carr films, we start with “God's Country and the Man” (1931). Tom is Steve Rawlins, a Texas Ranger who is summoned by his immediate superior (William Bertram) to take on a case involving arms smuggling on the southern border. Steve is directed to take along another ranger by the name of Kelly (George “Gabby” Hayes) familiar with the area, who has had previous contact with the smuggler, Livermore (Al Bridge). Livermore is owner of a saloon where he conducts the smuggling operations from his upstairs office, selling arms to Mexico's General Gomez. Steve must come up with enough evidence to convict Livermore but at the same time becomes romantically with a woman who happens to be Livermore's girl, Rose (Betty Mack).

Much of the story revolves around the saloon, if not just for its location: it has a very dark element to it despite the night time gaiety, the music, laughter, dancing, card playing and of course liquor. Livermore's saloon is also in many ways a deadly trap; any time a patron happens to hear ominous violin playing which seems to come from nowhere, is listening to a death warning, for it means someone is going to be murdered. Steve and Kelly learn this piece of information from the bartender once they take a seat at the bar. Steve also unexpectedly finds himself trying to be picked up by a local girl who has taken an immediate liking to him once he walks into the saloon: suddenly remembering his supervisor's admonishment about his weakness when it comes to women, he playfully picks up the girl and sits her on a table, perhaps as a means of discouraging her interest in him. As soon as Steve meets Rose, however, he forgets about his supervisor's words and starts displaying social proprieties to her: asking her for a dance at Livermore's chagrin, chatting with her, and finding out who she is. Rose even confides to Steve that he “may be dancing with death”, a reference to the controlling, murderous Livermore. But the temporary diversion brings her a sense of relief, her instinct telling her that Steve is a government agent working undercover, just as she is.

Rose plays up to Livermore quite well, acknowledging the complex relationship she has with him, and the game of love and attraction is something he simply cannot refuse. His mind is on little else whenever she is alone with him. Rose succeeds in making him believe she loves her “bad boy”, waiting for the right moment for him to give himself away, as she hopes to placate him when it comes to the violin playing. The single song Livermore plays several times throughout the film is not of the sweet-stringed variety; it has a funerary demeanor, with its foreboding notes; quite literally a “song of death.” It is a song that cannot be softened, neither can its violin player be softened, even when Livermore spends a few minutes gently petting a small white bird in his office while his henchmen are standing in a row in front of his desk. As soon as the violin is picked up and played, a look of fear and mortality come over the faces of the men, one of whom is immediately shot dead by Livermore when he stops playing his violin.

As soon as Steve finds Rose alone in her room upstairs of the saloon, he talks to her, trying to acquire information about her role in all this, her relationship with Livermore, and of course his own feelings for her. Much to Steve's surprise, she drops her convincing Spanish accent and speaks in English, telling him that she too is a government agent trying to close in on Livermore's arms smuggling operations. Unknown to the two of them, Livermore eavesdrops on their conversation, eventually calling her out. Steve finds himself in a position of rescuing her from Livermore's men, while his partner Kelly holds Livermore hostage in his own office. But the violin playing has not yet stopped; Livermore reaches for his instrument of death, Kelly being his final target, while Steve successfully frees Rose, his partner paying the final price.

Directed by J. P. McCarthy and written by Al Bridge (who also played the role of Livermore) with Wellyn Totman, “God's Country and the Man” integrates some very basic western elements with the intricate and complex human relationships of its main characters, from fidelity to love and sacrifice. With human interest elements like these as a central part of the plot, “God's Country and the Man” is an early Tom Tyler talkie worth an hour of viewing time.

Despite the shortcomings of the existing print-to-DVD of “Two Fisted Justice” (1931) (an entire reel is missing, shortening the movie by about 19-20 minutes from the original), this is a Trem Carr film worth exploring. It goes without saying that the most seemingly important part of the film is missing, the beginning where Tom meets President Lincoln in person prior to leaving for the south as a government agent on a special mission during the Civil War. As in his FBO movies, Tom has a boy companion who he rescued from an Indian attack, a member of a small family traveling through the territory by covered wagon. Named Danny (Bobbie Nelson), the boy witnesses his guardians get killed, and is lucky enough to see someone on horseback nearby: the fringed leather and poncho-wearing Kentucky Carson (Tom Tyler). Possibly the most poignant scene in the movie is where Danny tells Kentucky that the two adults he was traveling with were not his parents, implying he was adopted, a second tragic loss of a couple who loved him and raised him as their own. Kentucky takes Danny in as his own, along with Sagebrush, the boy's dog, as they all ride together on horseback into town. But after having been away from town for awhile, Kentucky soon discovers the place he calls home is now run by a criminal element, with Nick Slavin (William Walling) as the leader. To make matters worse, Kentucky has a romantic interest in Nancy Cameron (Barbara Weeks), whose father (John Elliott) became a member of Slavin's gang. Kentucky is unaware of this, although Sagebrush feels uneasy around Cameron, when they are standing next to each other in the local general store. Compared to Cameron, Kentucky is the man the dog prefers, jumping into his arms and licking his face, making Cameron feel uneasy while Kentucky explains to him how dogs can sense a trustworthy person or not. Upset, Cameron exits and leaves Kentucky with enough time to guess what is happening in town, its downfall into a lawless form of “law and order.”

Cameron eventually decides to leave Slavin's gang, perhaps out of concern for his daughter Nancy, but also because of Kentucky. Nancy eventually wants to marry Kentucky and be happy with him, without having to worry too much about her father. It is not long before Slavin finds out about Cameron's wanting to leave the outfit and sends one of his men, Cheyenne Charlie (Pedro Regas) to eliminate Cameron. That night, Danny is sound asleep in bed with Sagebrush by his feet, the dog awakened by noises outside. Soundlessly walking downstairs, Sagebrush can hear Cameron and Charlie fighting, and stops, lingering nearby, as an alert for his master to hopefully find him and tell Kentucky what is happening. During the struggle, Charlie ends up the victim, knifed to death, while Cameron escapes. By the time this happens, Danny has left his bed and found his missing dog, witness to a murder.

It is not long before Slavin's men gather around Cheyenne Charlie and see Danny, knowing he was witness to a horrific crime, but the boy does not talk. The men shuffle Danny inside the house across from where he is staying and stand over him, intimidating him with questions, and finally targeting his weak spot; his beloved dog Sagebrush. “You love your dog don't you Danny”, the words reverberate through his mind, a fear instilled like he never felt before. Danny sticks by his guns and refuses to disclose who killed Charlie, knowing it could place not only the suspect who was merely defending himself at harm but also incriminate the one person he trusted the most: Kentucky Carson. Sagebrush is carried outside by one of the men in a threatening manner, and a gunshot is heard. Danny's eyes tear, and the boy falls apart, sitting on the table surrounded by Slavin's men, his small body finally collapsing in agony, his small hands covering his face as he truly believes his beloved Sagebrush has been killed by a very evil person.

Marshal Houston (Gordon De Main) is advised to arrest Slavin and end the dominating criminal element in town. Danny finally confesses that Cameron knifed Cheyenne Charlie to death, and Cameron is convicted in a kangaroo court, ready to hang in the center of town. In the nick of time, a letter of reprieve arrives from President Lincoln, delivered to Kentucky Carson, who turns it over to the sheriff and lets Cameron free, a climactic scene which includes the arrest of Slavin and his gang. Young Danny is happy to be with Kentucky in his new home, along with Nancy, when out of nowhere Sagebrush shows up, completely unharmed, and delighted to be reunited with his master.

Directed and written by George Arthur Durlam, “Two Fisted Justice” has its share of action like the other Tom Tyler westerns, but takes its time in exploring the full range of emotions in a child who has been through more than his share of life-changing events at a very young age. Yakima Canutt appears as one of Kentucky's fellow poncho riders and performs the stuntwork in the film.

Stay tuned for the third part of this series!

Note: The following Trem Carr movies with Tom Tyler are still on the “lost film” list:

“Partners of the Trail” (1931)
“The Man from Death Valley” (1931)
“Galloping Thru” (1931)
“Vanishing Men” (1932)

“The Man from New Mexico” (1932) exists as a complete 35mm print at the Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. Hopefully one day this will see restoration and digitalized for consumer DVD purchase.