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

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