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, 190 lb. 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