Sunday, August 12, 2018

Tom Tyler's Horseshoe Collection

Antique horseshoes, not from Tom's collection
Did you know that Tom Tyler collected horseshoes?

In addition to his hobbies of cabinet making, cooking, and flying, he also saved horseshoes which he purchased or was given since he first expressed interest in them soon after he arrived in Hollywood all the way from Hamtramck, Michigan. An article from Battle Creek Enquirer, Michigan dated November 3, 1928 provides some in-depth information about Tom's horseshoe collection. Tom started collecting horseshoes at the start of his Hollywood career, possibly as a sign of good luck, but also as a way of having some in-depth knowledge about horses and his film work. A horseshoe collection certainly makes for an interesting holiday party topic, during cocktails or dinner. According to the article, Tom had horseshoes dating back to 1840 in his collection. Many times horseshoes of that age can be found in antique shops nowadays, for those who live in the city or suburbia. When he was not busy reading scripts, Tom read diligently on the subject of horseshoes, learning to identify the time period it was made, whether it was made for a filly, buggy horse, or a workhorse, and everything else about horseshoes.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou has taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

The Phantom, from Tom's movie "Coyote Trails"
Tom kept his horseshoes mounted in a 10' long display box, with a glass cover, similar to jewelry or coin display boxes frequently seen at antique shows. Tom's display box had a black velvet background, and each horseshoe inside had its own brass tag containing the date, description and origin. With a properly mounted collection like that, it is no wonder that it soon became popular at many horse shows held in southern California. It seems like Tom Tyler appreciated rustic décor, and enjoyed collecting horseshoes, keeping them on display in his house in Hollywood. After all, any actor like Tom Tyler who collects horseshoes for a living must be an interesting individual.

Tom with his horse Tucker in "Battling with Buffalo Bill"

Monday, July 30, 2018

Meet Tom Tyler's FBO directors

Tom Tyler worked with a total of five different directors while under contract with FBO from 1925 to 1929, the majority of them being with Robert De Lacey. Tom clearly worked well with all his directors which can be attested to in his biography, “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman. Between 1927 and 1929, Tom had four other directors before resuming work under Robert De Lacey in 1928 with “Tyrant of Red Gulch”. Tom and Robert's last film together was “The Pride of Pawnee” in 1929. Following are some brief biographical notes on these five directors and their careers.

Robert De Lacey was Tom's first director for FBO and helped launch the brand new star into an overnight star. There are two different sources regarding the dates and places of Robert's birth and death: one states he was born February 17, 1898 in Prescott, AZ, and died on July 24, 1943 in Los Angeles, CA, while IMDB states he was born on June 7, 1892 in Illinois, and died on March 3, 1976, in Los Angeles. Robert started his career in Hollywood as a film editor around 1923, and at one point, his wife assisted him in the editing process. The De Lacey couple worked together on “Mighty Lak' a Rose” (1923) for Edwin Carewe's First National Production. Robert's wife soon dropped out of the scene though, but he continued with film editing for "The Bishop of the Ozarks" (1923) for Cosmopolitan Film Company, and “Madonna of the Streets” 1924 made by Edwin Carewe Productions. It appears that Robert made his directorial debut with Tom Tyler, who made his starring debut in “Let's Go Gallagher” (1925). Robert also directed stars like Tom Mix and Patsy Ruth Miller, but by 1930, directed his last film which starred Tom Keene, “Pardon My Gun”. Unfortunately Robert's career in Hollywood seems to have ended around 1930. He was no relation to the blond moppet of silent film, Philippe de Lacy.

James Dugan directed one of two films with Tom Tyler, the first being “The Desert Pirate” in 1927. Prior to that he worked briefly worked as an actor in “Warming Up” (1928), “Night Parade” (1929), “Racket Cheers” (1930), and “Devil and the Deep” (1932). James was born on May 19, 1898 in Los Angeles, CA, and died on August 5, 1937 in Hollywood at the young age of 39 due to heart disease. He directed one other movie starring Tom Tyler, “Phantom of the Range” (1928). Exhibitor's Herald October 8, 1927 states that James was going to be the first director for “When the Law Rides” (1928) but for whatever reason, Robert De Lacey held directing honors for this movie. James started his Hollywood career at the Lasky studio as property man, then as cameraman at Fox studios. In 1927, his wife Patricia gave birth to a daughter, which may explain why his directorial career with Tom was placed on hold, which meant being an assistant director once again for awhile. James also worked as an assistant director in talkies up until his death in 1937, working on movies such as “Goin' to Town” (1935) and “Espionage” (1936).

Frank Howard Clark directed “The Texas Tornado” in 1928, but was probably better remembered for being a screen writer. Born on May 15, 1888 in Pittsburgh, PA, and died on January 19, 1962 in Los Angeles, CA, Frank wrote 130 stories, many for FBO which Tom starred in but also for other actors such as Richard Talmadge, Rex Lease, and Florence Vidor. The stories he wrote or did the screenplay for Tom Tyler are: “Tom's Gang” (1927), “Splitting the Breeze” (1927), “The Desert Pirate” (1927), “The Texas Tornado” (1928), “Phantom of the Range” (1928), “Terror Mountain” (1928), “The Avenging Rider” (1928), “Trail of the Horse Thieves” (1929), “Idaho Red” (1929), and “The Pride of Pawnee” (1929). Frank also co-wrote the famous film serial “The Hazards of Helen” (1914). He only directed a total of three movies, one of which is a silent film short, and seemes to have preferred the writing process to directing. Frank's last story was for “The El Paso Kid” in 1946 starring Sunset Carson.

Louis King directed only one Tom Tyler silent film, “Terror Mountain” (1928). Louis was born on June 28, 1898 in Christianburg, VA and died on September 7, 1962 in Los Angeles, CA. He got his start in Hollywood as a chracter actor, often portraying the heavy in silent film shorts. His acting credits include “The Printer's Devil” (1923) and “Main Street” (1923), but when it came to directing, Louis specialized in westerns during his early silent film years. Louis went on to direct for Fox Films, which includes the movies “Murder in Trinidad” (1934) with Nigel Bruce, and “Charlie Chan in Egypt” (1935) with Rita Hayworth. By 1957, Louis was directing for television, episodes of popular shows that include “Gunsmoke”, “Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color”, “Zane Grey Theatre”, “Death Valley Days”, and “Tales of Wells Fargo”. Sadly, Louis died from injuries relating to a car accident he was involved in during the month of August 1962 while in Oklahoma. His family included wife Mary, two children, Pamela and Richard, and brother Henry King, who was also a Hollywood director and producer.

Wallace Fox also directed only one film, “The Avenging Rider” (1928) which starred Tom Tyler for FBO. Wallace was born on March 9, 1895 in Purcell, OK, and died on June 30, 1958 in Hollywood, CA. He made his directorial debut with “The Bandit's Son” (1927) which starred Bob Steele. He continued to direct for the following production companies: FBO, Pathé, George W. Weeks, RKO, and Universal. “The Avenging Rider” was not the last time Wallace would direct Tom Tyler; the two worked again in “Partners of the Trail” (1931), and later on in “Powdersmoke Range” (1935). Wallace proved to be a talented director, and his career extended through the 1950's. Highlights of his directing career include the 1945 film serial "Brenda Starr, Reporter" which starred Joan Woodbury in the title role. Later on in his career, he directed episodes for the following television shows: "The Gene Autry Show", "Annie Oakley", "The Range Rider", and "Ramar of the Jungle". Wallace was married to Cleo Easton, and uncle to the actress Rita Carewe, who was the daughter of his brother Edwin Carewe. Rita was married to LeRoy Mason, who was the heavy in a number of Tom Tyler silent films, and also in the 1933 Universal film serial “The Phantom of the Air”. Wallace had one more brother in the business, Finis Fox, who was a director and writer. An interesting piece of trivia: Wallace, Edwin and Finis were all registered members of the Chickasaw tribe.

Monday, July 23, 2018

It's not Sleeping Beauty

There is something sexy about Tom Tyler when he is “knocked out” in a movie, ending up in a reclining position. Sometimes it's from a shock of electricity, as in “Adventures of Captain Marvel”, or smacked on the head with the butt of a gun, as in “Tracy Rides”. Not to mention the famous final scene he had in “Powdersmoke Range” where he ends up dying in the arms of Harry Carey, sacrificing his life for his new found friend. And of course, both “Stagecoach” and “The Westerner” capitalize on Tom's final moments in the movies, when he is shot, and ends up on the ground with the camera panning his face, his eyes closed.

One thing is for certain about Tom Tyler: just like the Greek god he was marketed as since his debut of “Let's Go Gallagher” in 1925, he may as well have sprung off a frieze, come to life with his physique and looks. The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about handsome men and celebrated it like no other ancient culture. Time to get down to business! Here are Tom's best reclining shots:

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Shazam! teaser trailer Zachary Levi

Warner Brothers has finally released a teaser trailer for "Shazam!" and here it is!

Hopefully millenials who see this movie - plus anyone else for that matter - will seek out the original portrayal of Captain Marvel on the silver screen, "Adventures of Captain Marvel", 1941 Republic Pictures film serial!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Silent film unmade reverted: From “Cow Punching for Cupid” to “Tom and His Pals”

Over a year ago back in May 2017 I wrote this blog article on Tom Tyler called “Silent Films Unmade”. There was in fact a clipping from The Film Daily August 20, 1926 included in the article which surprisingly enough, turned out to be the key in identifying an existing Tom Tyler film.

The title in question was “Cow Punching for Cupid”, starring Doris Hill, Leroy Mason, Dick Brandon, Frankie Darro, and directed by Robert DeLacey. This cast perfectly matched that of “Tom and His Pals”, also released in 1926. To compare the two images below – a film still titled “Tom and His Pals” we see the checkered tablecloth with people sitting at it, with the one from Exhibitor's Herald, September 11, 1926, plus the small picture behind Tom and Frankie on the wall to the one in the still on the far left. So it seems like “Tom and His Pals” was a last minute title change for whatever reason. Motion Picture News for 1926 lists “Cow Punching for Cupid” as the silent film's original title release so who knows – maybe Tom knows the reason for the title change when we don't.

Exhibitor's Herald, September 11, 1926

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tom Tyler's shirts: The secret is in the zipper

"Fast Bullets" - note the side zipper!

Have you ever wondered how Tom Tyler managed to wear his shirts so well?

While he certainly kept fit on a regular basis during the 1930's through weightlifting, the real marvel of his onscreen wardrobe was how his shirts managed to fit him like a glove. Since Tom had a perfect torso, having shirts that fit so perfectly was no problem, whether they were front button-down shirts or the pullover shirts he periodically wore. Like all other actors and actresses, a tailor would take the physical measurements, and match the ideal wardrobe according to the film genre and story. Tom had
two different long-sleeved pullover styles in his wardrobe; one was black with white trim and a laced bow at the throat, the other one, white with black trim and laced bow.

"Cheyenne Rides Again" - the zipper once again
Tom often had to change clothes several times throughout one film, particularly if he got dirty from rolling around on the western soil when fistfighting a small group of men. Once that shirt got dirty, Tom switched into his pullover shirt. This shirt was worn in “Pinto Rustlers”, “Mystery Range”, “Cheyenne Rides Again”, “Coyote Trails”, “Terror of the Plains”, and “Fast Bullets”, to name a few movies made during the 1930's. The most notable thing about this shirt, however, was visible whenever Tom raised his left arm from his side: a zipper that ran from a few inches below his armpit to the bottom hem of the shirt. This zipper did not just help mold Tom's marvelous torso, though; it was also functional in helping him get in and out of it with ease, especially when he was given only a few minutes to change clothes in between scenes being shot. Unlike the button-down shirts, which sometimes came undone – a button slipping loose from its matching hole – there was no similar concern with the zippered shirts that Tom wore so well.

"Ridin' Thru" - the second button from the bottom came undone

Thursday, June 28, 2018

“Ridin' Thru” classic Tom Tyler B-western

Up until November 30, 2017, “Ridin' Thru” was previously only offered through Sinister Cinema when Alpha Video released it on DVD as part of a double feature also includes “The Fighting Trooper” (1934) starring Kermit Maynard, the brother of western actor Ken Maynard. While it is always nice to see a competitive source offer the same movie, what differentiates the Alpha Video version is that it was made from a brown-tinted print of the movie.

Tom Tyler is Tom Saunders, an itinerant cowboy whose trail partner is Ben (Ben Corbett), traveling on their way to their next job at Elmer “Dad” Brooks (Lafe McKee) ranch. Brooks' ranch is in financial trouble and while he would like to sell some of his horses to pay the bills, he can't because his livestock is being stolen out from under his nose. The movie opens with a magnificent white stallion nodding his head as he stands upon a cliff, as he does at several points throughout the film, perhaps more as an acknowledgement of his handsomeness rather than as a sign he is a horse thief. When Tom and Ben arrive at the ranch they discover it has been transformed into a dude ranch so that Brooks could make some money to pay his bills. Once they get hired for the job by an unrelenting foreman by the name of Winthrop (Philo McCullough), Tom and Ben discover what has been happening with the horses – and are requested by Brooks to find out who is behind the entire operation. While Tom is providing the brainpower to trap the horse thieves, he falls in love with Dolores (Ruth Hiatt), the niece of “Dad” Brooks.

There is no shortage of friction between Tom and Dolores when they first meet, which continues throughout the story. The first time is when she is having a picnic with a friend named Myra and Tom decides to move her car away from where it was parked; next, when Tom exits her house and spills a drink she was carrying on a tray right onto her dress. Dolores never loses a moment to make a disparaging remark at Tom: calling him a chump, a big ninny, then eventually thinking he really is dumb, and finds Tom to be too far beneath her. Yet the chump comment occurs during one of the funnier moments of the film; Dolores asks Tom to help her onto her horse, and he does, placing his hand on her behind as he lifts her into the saddle. Regardless of how Dolores treats Tom, he is still the perfect gentleman, even rescuing her when she is on horseback and her horse suddenly sees the white stallion and takes off after it. Tom swoops her up in his big strong right arm while on his own horse and gently sets her down on the ground before fetching some water from a nearby creek to splash on her. By then though Dolores is gone, having left with Winthrop, who she thinks was the man who rescued her.

Despite the way Tom feels, he cannot help but wonder why she even bothers with him; for instance, dancing with him at a costumed ball on the ranch which all of the guests attend. She acknowledges Tom's aid in tracking down the horse thieves for her uncle, but has no emotional connection with Tom. He would like to be more than just friends with her but even at that level he fails. Dolores relents though, and when Tom honestly tells her that she is a peach, not a pill, her hopes are raised if only but a notch.

Hot on the trail of closing in on the horse thieves, Tom and Ben find themselves framed by Winthrop, captured, and tied up on a remote part of the ranch. Blackie, Tom's horse, chews through the ropes binding them like the smart horse that he is, freeing Tom. As soon as three of the culprits appear from beyond a barn Tom fistfights them – all three men at once. Tom finally gets a confession from Winthrop, and with the case wrapped up, gets ready to leave the ranch with his pal Ben. Before they part, Dolores executes a perfect Mae West imitation, even looking like her, as she asks Tom “Why don't you come back and see me sometime”. At that point Tom and Dolores have finally made up, as they exchange a kiss.

Like Tom Tyler, Ruth Hiatt was also a former silent film actress born in 1906, three years after Tom, and is on a par with his acting talent and looks. Bud Osborne plays the sheriff, another alumni of Tom's films which date back to his late silent films such as “Call of the Desert” (1930). Directed by Harry S Webb (as Henri Samuels), the written story is credited to actress Carol Shandrew (she played a role in Tom's film “Tracy Rides” as the daughter of a sheep herder) and Rose Gordon even though the plot has been recycled from an earlier film, “The Phantom of the Desert” (1930) starring Jack Perrin. It is possible that these two ladies names were credited due to a studio quota at the time. The stallion closely resembles the one who starred in “Coyote Trails” (1935), another Tom Tyler film. The western scenery is beautiful, and “Ridin' Thru” was popular enough to warrant a full-color portrait of Tom as he looked and dressed in this movie in exchange for a dozen Dixie cup lids.

With Alpha Video still issuing Tom Tyler films, they seem to be the most likely DVD distributor to issue any further movies of his that continue to be found.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tom's favorite roles

One of the most commonly asked questions of a Hollywood celebrity in an interview is their favorite movie filmed, plus their general attitudes about their own work. Tom Tyler loved his work and obviously loved all the roles he played, no matter what movie it was, whether it was a starring role or supporting role. It is perhaps for that reason why it has been difficult to find any information that answers the above question, as there are no extensive interviews with Tom Tyler in the papers. However, there are a few early sources that might hint at which movies he thought were his very best, ones which he favored the most.

For example, Tom claims that “Wild to Go” was one of his best movies, if only for the fact he got to enjoy the company of many pretty young girls and not just one leading lady (it should be remembered that Tom was much closer to his two sisters Katherine and Molly in real life than he was to his two brothers), and it is safe to say he felt comfortable enough around women yet not be a “ladies man” type. Considering how Tom phrased it, maybe “Wild to Go” was also a personal favorite of his, and luckily, this is one of his silent films made for FBO which has survived and is housed at Cinematek in Brussels, Belgium.

It is yet unknown if Tom particularly favored his critically acclaimed role in “Stagecoach”, or even as the comic book superheroes Captain Marvel or The Phantom. If he did, he was probably a little quiet about it, either out of his shyness, or maybe even modesty, for he was no braggart in Hollywood. Tom knew he was physically very strong, capable of many feats as the film scripts demanded, just as well as having the talent to turn in a top-notch performance, no matter what type of role he was in.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Just plain Tom

As Tom Hall in "Fighting Hero"

For the person newly introduced to Tom Tyler's work in westerns of the 1930's which are plentiful on the market, the majority of his film character names remains the same as his adopted one – Tom. Having come a long way from being Vincent Markowski, Tom Tyler probably never dreamed he would be a big enough Hollywood icon to go by his first name alone in the many movies he made. Since his professional name was tailored after the silent film star Tom Mix to some degree – many of Mix's screen characters were also named Tom – one other feature both Tom Tyler and Tom Mix share is this: their earliest character names were completely different from their own, with a few exceptions. Tom Mix had the character name of Tom in a number of silent film shorts in the early 1910's, such as “The Telltale Knife” (1911) and “The Scapegoat” (1912). In a way this naming practice set the standard for new silent film western stars, such as Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, and Tom Tyler.

As Tom Gallagher
Once he was selected as the new western star for FBO, his first starring role being “Let's Go Gallagher”, Tom Tyler appeared onscreen as Tom Gallagher, a hard-fighting youth who finds himself caught in a whirlwind of adventure. Such a memorable debut caught the public's eye quickly enough, for soon Tom appeared in successive movies bearing character names such as Phil Stone (The Wyoming Wildcat), Dennis Terhune (Born to Battle 1926), Dandy Carrell (The Arizona Streak) and Jerry McGill (The Cowboy Cop). For the rest of the year 1926 and into 1927, Tom's onscreen names were always Tom but a different, simple last name, and by the time he finished his contract with FBO, sixteen of the silent films he starred in had the character name of Tom. Surprisingly enough, none of the eight movies Tom made for Syndicate directed by J. P. McGowan had character names of Tom; each one was totally different, such as Rex Carson in “Call of the Desert.”

Unlike Tom Mix, who made eleven movies in the 1930's, Tom Tyler made 47 movies during that decade where he had the starring role, already long established as an icon himself. For it did not matter if any one of his given movies saw him as Tom or some other name in the story. Tom Tyler was a highly recognizable star on the silver screen, if not for his distinctive looks and voice, for his low-key persona which made him a true favorite of many an American family.

As Tom Corrigan in "The Desert Pirate"

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Buck Moon Trail, Part 3

Note: This is the third 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! 

Supper that night might have been mundane as last night's had Julie not been thinking about Joe's conversation with her earlier. When the time came for her to help feed Tom, who remained in the covered wagon all bundled up, peering out the back and feeling the warmth of the campfire, her movements might not have felt so forced. Julie lovingly held a bowl of hot stew, and spoon fed Tom, occasionally offering him a vegetable or bite of bread. At least his stomach was able to hold down some nourishing food. Plus, Julie felt a lot safer sitting next to Tom for supper than she did with any of the other men, although she did not know why.

“Was that good?” Julie asked Tom, as he finished the last drop of a second bowl of stew. Tom dabbed the left corner of his mouth with a green cloth napkin.

“It was delicious. Thank you, Julie.” Tom's face was close to her own and she looked into his amber eyes. Almost golden, she thought to herself. Pupils visible, eyes that sometimes seemed darker from Tom's left side when the light cast onto it. Now Julie smiled, her lips parted slightly, dropped a tiny kiss on his forehead. All of a sudden she forgot what happened over an hour ago, and started to fall into Tom. A warmth spread over her and it wasn't from the campfire; it melted away her worries, her troubles.

“You're welcome, Tom.” Julie picked up the other end of the blanket Tom left unused, and wrapped it around her shoulder. Tom's eyes widened and he smiled at her. “Do you have any idea how good you are for me?” she asked him.

Tom burst out laughing. “I may as well have asked you the same thing!” he replied, his nose touching her face. They both laughed merrily, a laughter that drowned out the chit-chat of Joe and the other men on the other side of the campfire. Julie felt Tom's arm around her, his big strong hand on her left shoulder. His touch was gentle, yet friendly and protective, like that of a sibling. For the first time during their trip across the country, Julie felt content for the first time. It could have been the first hour of darkness that helped, while the embers of the campfire started to burn down. Every single ember Julie watched go out, matched a part of her past which died out completely. Why would she be worried about such insignificant things anyways, when Tom's health meant so much more to her anyways? She breathed out and shut her eyes. Tom must have noticed because he looked at her expressionless face, which slowly grew back into one of a happy love.

Julie thought to her herself, 'There is just no way I am in love with a man like Tom. It's impossible. It cannot happen. It cannot happen to me. Why? HOW do these things happen?' Her eyes remained closed.  “If you only knew...” she began, her soft words trailing off into the dark of night.

Tom raised his eyebrows before producing a closed-lip smile. His eyes studied her face, taking in her translucent skin and pale pink lips. “I care about you too, Julie. You're just like a sister to me.” At that moment Julie's eyes opened wide before she burst out laughing, loud enough for the men outside the wagon to hear her, also startling Tom.

“Where's my flask?” Julie screamed, thrusting her right hand into her cotton purse and yanked it out, almost tearing the fabric. Tom's eyes widened at her while she took a deep swig. Julie's eyes closed once again and right before she was ready to pass out, a sharp bolt of lighting hit the land close by. It seemed to come out of nowhere, for no rain could be heard falling from the sky. The skies were clear after all when the troupe entered Missouri. Yet something changed, which made Julie think there something more than just a disturbance in the atmosphere. For her, it was a feeling, something that should not exist, something she had to overcome, whether she was drunk or not. 'Ignore it', Julie told herself. 'Just ignore it.' She wanted to scream but did not, could not, perhaps due to Tom's making a resigned sigh before turning over on his side, an indication he wanted to sleep.

“Goodnight Julie,” Tom softy called to her. He wanted to say something about her drinking before bedtime but figured it was useless. His only hope was that she was sober by the time they arrived at their destination. The distant whirring of cicadas lulled Tom to sleep but kept Julie awake. She finally got up, as tipsy as she was, climbed out of the back of the wagon and started walking away from the camp. Joe and the other two men were asleep in their sleeping bags under the stars in front of the wagon, so she did not have to
worry about one of them waking up and following her. Julie kept going on, walking into the night going by the light of the moon. Not really thinking, she found an outcropping of rocks, and sat down by them. Encrusted with mica and quartz, the moonlight seemed to make the rocks wink at her and beckon, as she ran her fingers over them. Pulling out her flask once more, Julie took a final swig and passed out, crawling underneath the shallow ledge of the upper rock. The thunder started up once again only this time, approached closer, and the darkness of night soon turned yellow, drowned out by the sound of rain falling.

To be continued...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Update on Aventuras de Tom Tyler website

By now regular visitors have noticed a change to the homepage of Aventuras de Tom Tyler. There are two reasons behind this: the code needs to be brought up to date for 2018, and due to the volume of material on the site, for aesthetics. Nothing will be lost or removed; if anything, more will be added, particularly regarding the types of roles Tom Tyler played on film. Those four animated stars on the homepage, courtesy of CSS3 code, will have links for each one of them: Cowboys, Superheroes, Movie monsters, Dramatic Roles.

Also – because a number of Tom's “lost films” have surfaces in the past several years, there will be a stress on the need to restore and digitize them (the list thus far consists of: “Jungle Mystery”, “The Man from Nevada”, “The Man from New Mexico”, “Lightning Lariats”, “Cyclone of the Range”,

Tom's non-FBO silent films made for Syndicate Pictures and directed by J. P. McGowan are most likely to be found here in the states; his FBO films, in Europe, active centers being Spain, Russia, Belgium, Netherlands. This is not say an FBO film won't pop up in another European nation; it primarily depends on how thorough a film archive documents what it holds, not to mention the constant influx of donated collections. A film archive operates like a museum; film collectors donate their collections, items are accessioned, the condition of the donated items evaluated (35mm prints from the silent film era usually take priority due to their unstable nature, being made from nitrate which is highy flammable), entered into their database (most professional archives utilize PastPerfect, a software database created just for museums, libraries, film archives), and so on.

In the meantime, the main website is still fully functional, any kinks in the code will eventually be worked out, and enjoy all regular updates there and of course on the blog.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Tom Tyler and the Motion Picture Hall of Fame in Anaheim, California

The Motion Picture Hall of Fame in Anaheim, California sounds like a prestigious institution in the domain of Hollywood glamour, but at the height of its operation between 1971 and 1979, it was a combination historical Hollywood museum and cinema which specialized in exhibiting films made before 1950. These films included all genres, even silent films, and film serials. The theatre originally had 48 seats but was eventually remodeled to include 98 seats, with enough space left over to display the collection of the cinema owner, Doug Wright, who worked in movie promotion for a major Hollywood agency. Doug's collection included 2000 items ranging from celebrity autographs, films scripts, movie posters, movie props of all kinds, and early motion picture cameras. Located in what was an old banquet hall located in back of the Saga Hotel (now called Grand Legacy at the Park) on 1650 S. Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim, with the nearest crossroad being Disney Way, Motion Picture Hall of Fame became a destination for connoisseurs of classic film. What diehard cinema patron would not want to be surrounded by a plethora of film memorabilia while enjoying pre-1950's classic films? At the same time, any funds generated from ticket and museum prices went towards a permanent home in the form of a museum for Doug's entire collection.

Most importantly, Doug Wright held an annual event which honored a number of stars in memorable roles, films that were relevant to Hollywood history. In 1975, one of those films happened to be “Adventures of Captain Marvel”,  the 1941 Republic production which is considered to be the greatest serial of all time. Frank Coghlan, William Benedict, Louise Currie, and David Sharpe attended the event during the second week of March, 1975. Tom Tyler was also honored posthumously at the event,  and most importantly, the cinema ran “Adventures of Captain Marvel” from February 27 to May 20 of that year, one chapter per week, in true film serial style.

From The Los Angeles Times, CA, March 14, 1975

Cinema ticket prices were only $1.50 on weekends for the matinee, and for children under the age of 12, $.75 cents. Museum admission was $2.00. While the Motion Picture Hall of Fame generated enough interest among locals and tourists,  funding for the permanent museum ran short and by 1979, ceased operation as a cinema.

Sadly, the Motion Picture Hall of Fame of Anaheim no longer exists although the hotel remains, along with a number of businesses that include Pizzaterian, Jimboy's Tacos, Alpha Mart, Discount Tickets & Tours and Creamistry on the ground floor. Despite its brief period of operation – just barely one decade long – it held an important position in Hollywood cinema history.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Tom Tyler at Mostly Lost 2013

One of the most important events in the nitrate community is the annual Mostly Lost one held at Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia. Open to the public, the audience of film enthusiasts attempt to identify the exhibited films. It just so happens that back in 2013 at Mostly Lost, a snippet of a Tom Tyler film was shown. Titled “Tom Tames Outlaw”. This film was distributed by Excel Movie Products, a Chicago, IL based company that distributed both 16mm and 8mm films for home use. The company also manufactured film projectors for home use, to encourage people to buy them specifically designed for use with the films available in their catalogs. “Tom Tames Outlaw” was probably an 8mm of “War of the Range” (1933), probably during the 1940's or 1950's. Of course this is not the only one which has been repackaged for home use; Atlas Films was another company that frequently released movies on 8mm for home use, such as “Cowboy Justice”, another Tom Tyler film which was “A Rider of the Plains” (1931).

Screencaps of “Tom Tames Outlaw” can be viewed here.

Friday, April 27, 2018

An expert swimmer: Tom Tyler

While Tom Tyler's area of athletic expertise was weightlifting, he was also a talented swimmer, a skill which helped in a number of film roles in both silent film and talkies. Even though Tom was not selected to play Tarzan in the movies (that role went to Johnny Weissmuller), he could certainly swim like the famous Edgar Rice Burroughs character. As with the weightlifting, Tom also spent a considerable amount of time in the swimming pool at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, no doubt after a strenuous workout with the weights. Swimming was a great way to cool off, and for Tom, was also a favorite form of recreation. Looking fantastic in his swimsuit, Tom could swim well anywhere whether it was a swimming pool, river, ocean, or one of the Great Lakes. There is a photo of Tom with his newly wedded wife Jean Martel in their swimsuits,  (in “The Tom Tyler Story”, by Mike Chapman) in Michigan by one of the Great Lakes were they spent their family holiday swimming. Having been born in Port Henry, New York, the young Vincent Markowski probably spent many a summer swimming in nearby Lake Champlain, having already developed a well-toned muscular body.

One of the earliest movies that showcased Tom Tyler's swimming talents was “Born to Battle” (1926). In this silent film, he escapes from a boat where he was held after being kidnapped, and swims to shore on the property of a girl's school. Tom emerges from the water dripping wet, right in front of a group of schoolgirls. The same theme was repeated again in “The Avenging Rider” (1928), which allowed Tom to showcase his swimming talents once again. Unfortunately neither one of these silent films are available for viewing Tom's muscular strokes in the water - “Born to Battle” exists as a print in several film archives, while “The Avenging Rider” is a lost film. The good news is, Tom's swimming can still be seen on film in the  movie “Honor of the Mounted” (1932). In this movie Tom is hot on the trail of the man who murdered his friend in a cabin north of the American border. Tom is framed for the murder, and on permission from his superior, crosses the border to track down the murderer, Scott Blakely (Stanley Blystone). This particular role is a plus for Tom, as he plays a Mountie in full regalia and looking handsome as ever. During the climactic scene, he dives off a cliff into the river after Blakely, who has escaped in a canoe, and swims after him. Watching Tom engage in endurance swimming is exciting, chasing the murderer in the water, while he is wearing his uniform. Swimming in such a matter can be no easy task, and requires practice, since clothing can be restrictive in movement whenever one is in the water. Tom Tyler makes it look easy though, just like he makes all his other stunts look easy.

"Honor of the Mounted" 1932

"Honor of the Mounted" 1932

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Collectibles: Tom Tyler lantern slides

Lantern slides, more officially referred to as coming attraction slides, were often displayed through the use of a special projector just for that use on movie screens in movie theatres of the 1900's through 1930's as a means of encouraging audiences to consider patronizing the next silent film being shown there. Often a series of different coming attraction slides were used during the minutes before the showing of whatever silent film was being shown that particular evening. Basically, these slides were the forerunner of the modern movie trailer and are considered highly collectible. While collectible they are also very fragile, being made of thin sheets of glass, which could be easily broken if not stored properly.

Early Tom Tyler FBO silent film lantern slides were manufactured by Combined Photo Industries, Long Island City, NY; National Studios, Inc, NYC; and Photo Repro Co. Inc., Long Island City,  NY. When it came to producing lantern slides, they were either drawn or hand painted, from a photograph taken of the subject, although some were also made directly from a photo, with color later being added by hand in a manner to preserve the transparency of the slide. Standard American lantern slides measured 4” x 3 1/4” in size. Each slide was cleaned then coated with a thin solution of varnish or gelatin. Once the solution dried, the slide was then ready to have an image created upon it.(1) In other words, the slide became the canvas for the work of art, which might contain the leading man or woman's headshot, film title, director's name, plus any other information. Sometimes if there was enough room on the slide, a small scene from the film might be added, too. For many of Tom Tyler's silent films, lobby card images were replicated onto lantern slides, such as “The Arizona Streak” and “Born to Battle”. One particularly beautiful lantern slide is from the silent film “The Cowboy Musketeer” which depicts Tom on horseback, rescuing Frances Dare from the path of a stampede of steer. This scene also appeared on the bottoms of lobby cards created just for this movie. As a coming attraction slide, this particular one was sure to attract the interest of young audiences anxious to view the next action packed Tom Tyler western. Lantern slides like those for “The Wyoming Wildcat” and “Let's Go Gallagher”, Tom is depicted sitting upon his horse, moving like the wind, as a clever piece of marketing. Even more delightful, what American youth would not be enticed to view Tom Tyler's next exciting silent film like “The Wyoming Wildcat” while waiting for “Let's Go Gallagher” to be shown at the matinee? So not only were these lantern slides a vital part of movie marketing, they were targeted particularly to the audience attending the film to be shown at that time – once again, in the same vein as the modern movie trailers shown at the cinema nowadays.

Storing lantern slides requires few special materials such as four-flap wrappers made of acid-free paper, and a cardboard box measured to fit these slides. Lantern slides should always be stored vertically instead of horizontally inside the box to prevents the weight of stacked glass from breaking the ones beneath. Avoid storing the box of slides in the attic or cellar, away from humidity. For further reading about the history and collecting of lantern slides, check out the article “Coming Attraction Slides: A Guide for Collectors” by Kevin John Charbeneu in The Silent Film Quarterly Spring 2016 issue.

1. Optic projection: principles, installation and use of the magic lantern, projection microscope, reflecting lantern, moving picture machine. Simon Henry and Henry Phelps Gage. Comstock Publishing Company: Ithaca, N.Y. 1914.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tom Tyler the expert horseman

Can you imagine having to be an expert horse rider in order to become a movie star? That is what Tom Tyler had to do when he first signed a contract with FBO in 1925 after being slected from among many other young and eager hopefuls at a chance for the brass ring. Being able to ride efficiently was a central requirement according to FBO's contract, and even though Tom had practically no experience in horseback riding, still said yes to his employer on the day he interviewed. Tom also had to figure out how he could get in enough practice before the shooting of his debut film, “Let's Go Gallagher” in 1925. Given the two weeks he had for preparing to memorize his lines in the script, Tom made sure he could fit horseback riding lessons into his busy schedule, since that was also the time he became a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, winning one of his many weightlifting medals that year. Once Tom got in front of that moving picture camera on his horse Flashlight, his director told him he rode just like a real cowboy, as if Tom had been born on a ranch instead of a hamlet by Lake Champlain in New York. ("The Sucker Who Succeeded", Motion Picture Classics, July 1928) Of course, being an expert horseman not only means being able to ride exceptionally well, but to master a number of mounts besides the basic left-side mount, and to perform stunts when the script demanded it. Most importantly, Tom Tyler's horsemanship is what makes his westerns so exciting: the utilization of exceptional riding skills combined with his athletic prowess.

For example, one stunt that Tom mastered early on was moving from his saddle on his horse to a crouching pose directly on the saddle, sideways, then launching himself off onto another rider who was usually the bad guy, taking him down. A lobby card from his silent film “The Wyoming Wildcat” 1925 depicts Tom in this exact pose. A similar stunt was executed in “The Texas Tornado” when Tom is in high-speed pursuit on horseback in rescuing the ranch lease from Latimer, so that he could get to the bank in time to renew it.

Another fairly difficult horseriding stunt Tom learned to perform is grabbing onto an overhead tree branch and swinging the body upwards, leaving the horse completely. Tom did this on “Cheyenne Rides Again”, and while up in the tree, waited until the bandits came riding by to drop onto them and impede their destination. Again, the physical body strength required for this was of no challenge for the world's champion weightlifter.

Tom performing the rear mount in "Feud of the Trail"
One horse mounting method that Tom Tyler excelled at was the rear mount. He apparently had to practice at not leaping directly over the horse, given his upper-body strength ability, but rather land directly in the saddle. Rear mounting is no easy task and not recommended for riders who do not have the physical strength nor the coordination for it. In Tom's case, he had to learn the proper judging distance in mounting his horse, for more than once he would either launch directly over the horse, as if playing leapfrog, or even on the horse's neck, thereby injuring the both of them. By the time Tom was filming “The Man from New Mexico”, he discovered that the rear mount in particular could be hazardous, due to his incredible upper body strength. Over time, fewer to no accidents occurred to Tom during the rear mount procedure, and it is certain that his horse was equally grateful, too.

From The Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1927
The flying mount can be exciting to the viewer, if only for its daredevil appearance. This method requires the rider to hang onto the horn of the saddle while the horse is in motion, both feet and legs off the ground, forming almost a scissor-like position, and mount in the saddle while the horse remains in motion, often at a gallop. Tom would more or less “fly” beside his horse while in the process of mounting the moving animal. He learned this method of mounting early on in his career, and there is even a picture of him executing such a mount on his horse, Flashlight, during his tenure with FBO. Of course, this method of mounting also remained in use throughout his career in talkie westerns, as a means of providing excitement to the western story lines Tom Tyler appeared in.

One fascinating horseriding stunt is the ability remain in the saddle even when the horse is trying to buck its rider. This is what happened in “Ridin On” where Tom's horse was frightened by another man's horse drawn buggy, the two almost colliding into each other. Tom was able to get his horse under control without leaving his saddle – quite an achievement in itself. Most men would be tossed from the horse, resulting in serious injuries. Tom Tyler, however, made all of his stunts look easy though, with all of his hard work, to delight and thrill his audiences.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Tom Tyler: The Cowboy Cop (1926)

One of two Tom Tyler silent films made for FBO which had Jean Arthur as his leading lady was “The Cowboy Cop” (1926). As his eighth starring role, Tom appears in a rather unusual plot for a western: a cowboy who finds himself in a big city out west and gets involved with an exciting and adventurous lifestyle. His love interest happens to be an heiress, he engages in a high-speed pursuit on horseback, and a motorcycle chase after crooks. Directed by Robert De Lacey and written by Frank Richardson Pierce and F. A. E. Pine, the plot as it appears below is adapted from several trade publications sources: Moving Picture World, August 7, 1926; Motion Picture News, August 28, 1926; and Exhibitor's Herald, August 7, 1926.

Jerry McGill (Tom Tyler) arrives in the big city of Los Angeles from a ranch in Arizona but meets up with a robber by the name of Dago Jack (Pat Harmon) who pretends to get him a room at a hotel but ends up robbing him instead (think Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in the 1970 Neil Simon comedy, “The Out of Towners”). Dejected, Jerry walks around the city until he sees a hungry newsboy (Frankie Darro) who doesn't have enough money to eat, and as a gesture of kindness, Jerry parts with his last few cents from his pocket and gives it to the boy to purchase a meal. Frankie is forever grateful and in turn, the two become fast friends.

Jerry manages to get a job with the Los Angeles mounted police, and with his horseback riding skills, gets hired in no time. The only problem is, he sees little action on horseback due to being appointed to a rather wealthy district, where there is practically no crime. Before he knows it, Jerry is introduced to a wealthy heiress, Virginia Selby (Jean Arthur) in a rather unusual manner: she is on a runaway horse in which he must go after her and rescue her. Soon Jerry and Virginia start spending time and getting to know each other. Virginia's privileged background is hardly a barrier to her interest in him, in fact, she starts inviting him over to her house to meet her father and have dinner.

A visiting count from an eastern European country by the name of Mirski is a guest at a social event at Virginia's house when he decides to send two hitmen to break into the safe and steal the valuable jewels. Even though Jerry is dressed in his finest dinner suit, he still engages in a fight with the crooks, chasing them first by car, then by motorcycle , finally capturing them. After Jerry finds he has been in the city long enough, he decides to return home to his ranch in Arizona. To his surprise, Jerry is persuaded by Virginia to stay with her on the family ranch in California and marry her.

Tom's onscreen pal Frankie is included in practically every scene, the latter dancing the Charleston, much to the delight of the viewers. He also accompanies Tom in all the fights, and is equally amazed at having gone from being a lowly newspaper boy to high society literally overnight. It may be that getting to see how the other half lived which prompted Tom and Frankie to eventually compromise and stay with Virginia on her California ranch.

Film stills from “The Cowboy Cop” (Motion Picture News, August 28, 1926) show Tom in a city police uniform walking his beat in the park, with little Frankie Darro as his partner, complete in a miniature police uniform. As in most big cities, Tom's police character rides horseback, along with Frankie on his pony. It is worth noting that the police uniform that Tom Tyler wore had to be custom made in order to properly fit his muscular build. Of course, Frankie's dog Sitting Bull, also appears in “The Cowboy Cop”.  A picture of Tom from Exhibitors Herald, August 7, 1926 shows Tom in his police uniform and holding hands with Jean Arthur, erroneously listed as Dorothy Dunbar, who appeared in “The Masquerade Bandit”, “Lightning Lariats”, and “Red Hot Hoofs” with Tom.

Cinema owners who previewed “The Cowboy Cop” also critiqued the film, often saying this will appeal most to Tom Tyler and Frankie Darro fans, even though the story line is rather unusual for a standard western for its time period (Exhibitor's Herald, April 30, 1927). However it should be remembered that FBO purposefully gave Tom Tyler scripts that employed highly creative concepts, not just to deviate from the silent film western, but to imagine an actor like Tom Tyler in unlimited places and time periods (the same was also done with “The Sonora Kid” and King Arthur). Perhaps most importantly, “The Cowboy Cop” is one of the handful of Tom Tyler FBO silent films which survived and is archived at EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. Hopefully “The Cowboy Cop”, given its unique plot and stars of Tom Tyler and Jean Arthur, can be restored and digitized for public viewing.
From Motion Picture News, August 28, 1926