May 1 of this year marks the 63-year passing of the actor Tom Tyler. It does not seem like it was that long ago when he left this earth but he left behind an interesting career in the field of acting and of course weightlifting. His local obituary in the Detroit Free Press provided a bare minimum of information about Tom, and the few inaccuracies (as well as questions) notwithstanding, appears here.
|Detroit Free Press, Detroit, MI, May 3, 1954|
One thing that stands out in this writeup is that it does not mention the rare disease which affected him during his mid-40's: scleroderma. Scleroderma not only affects the skin but all major organs, often wrecking havoc with the lungs, kidneys, and in Tom's case, heart. Second, his height is listed as 6'4” but that could have very well come from a garnished publicity piece provided by his studios. Most importantly, and the following requires some explanation, his dwindling finances, and film ownership as mentioned in this particular obituary.
Being terminally ill, Tom no doubt had a lot of medical bills to pay, and by the time he was diagnosed, which is around 1946 to 1947 when he made only three movies (“Badman's Territory”, “Never Say Goodbye” and Cheyenne”), he was no longer a leading man, relegated to bit roles in major studio motion pictures. This meant that he was not likely able to secure health insurance if it was offered through these studios, having such minor contract roles.
With regards to film ownership and copyright, such a task would have been the responsibility of his business manager. It is true that some actors and actresses were business savvy enough to request a copy of the film print they just completed with their studios and file a copyright on it. For example, if Tom's movie “Let's Go Gallagher”, his very first starring role silent film back in 1925, were to be copyrighted, his business manager would have contacted the Copyright office in Washington D.C., drawn up the papers, have Tom sign the papers, and provide the required information along with the $1.00 fee that it cost back then (page 39 at the following link: www.copyright.gov/reports/annual/archive/ar-1925.pdf). In brief, any work copyright matters were not his job, Tom's job was to do what he loved the most, which was act.
The few questions that arise from reading this obituary are the following: were Tom's two sisters and their children his only survivors? What about his two brothers Frank and Joe? And his parents? Did Tom's parents pass away before he died? It seems utterly tragic just how much Tom Tyler lost during the last years of his life: his once magnificent physical strength, physique, looks, career, and wife (Jean Martel and Tom divorced somewhere between 1944 and 1947). Yet Tom was lucky enough to have a sister like Katherine – giving hospice to a sibling is never easy. Even though Tom Tyler is gone he is still very much remembered, highly thought of and loved by his present generation of fans.