Friday, December 13, 2019

In Tom Tyler’s backyard: Arctic City Film Studios

Tom Tyler, aged 21
Back in the mid-1910’s to early 1920’s, Port Henry, New York – the hamlet where Tom Tyler was born in 1903 – had its own movie studio, Arctic City Film Studios. Having a movie studio in his backyard while growing up, then-named Vincent Markowski must have been enamored with big name actors and actresses filming there.

Built in 1915 with its concept of origin dating to at least 1914, Arctic City became the location for movies with the following settings: the west, Klondike, Yukon, Siberia, Lapland, Russia, and Eskimo. With the beautiful Adirondacks as the backdrop, it was not long before producers took advantage of the new studio and started filming there. The brainchild of “Caribou Bill” Cooper, Arctic City was quickly built, and with the earliest days of movie making being on the east coast, primarily New York City, and New Jersey, it seemed only natural to have a studio that emulated the western and northwestern frontier in exciting films. The end result of Arctic City wound up being different than what Caribou Bill originally envisioned yet it was still magnificent and up to film production standards as to what the little western town should look like. Some of the most popular film production companies made silent films at Arctic City: Solax, Vitagraph, Equitable, Edison, Peerless, Metro, Famous Players, Fox, and many others. By 1919, independent producers were able to film at Arctic City.

From Picture Play, August 1921
It seems like the good people of Port Henry were excited at the idea of having a movie studio in town, and some of the wealthy townspeople helped back the project financially. Caribou Bill had an experienced background in Alaska and out west, even had connections with Dawson City in Yukon, where 533 reels of silent film from the 1910’s and 1920’s were discovered in 1978. In 1909, Caribou Bill returned to the states and attended the Alaska-Yukon Exposition in Seattle. While at this Expo, he spoke to the men representing Vitagraph, wound up signing a contract with them, and headed straight for New York as a technical advisor for a movie set in the northwest. Even though Caribou Bill died in 1933 at the age of 61, he got to see his Arctic City studio idea come to fruition – and put Port Henry on the map. Being located only seven hours away from New York City meant that Port Henry was ideal for the many actors and actresses who worked out of the city.

From The Capital Times, Madison, WI, May 2, 1930
Even to the citizens of Port Henry who toured the Arctic City to see where their favorite stars filmed movies were impressed: a single street lined with buildings on either side, reminiscent of a late 1800's western town. Offices for mining engineers, a bank, a Ritz hotel, doctor's office, a small church, and a saloon aptly named “Aurora Borealis” made up the town. The stage at Arctic City was 80 by 100 feet in size, with full film facilities and properties that permitted the creation of a silent film from start to finish. Arctic City even had its own zoo of trained animal actors. Wild animals included Russian bears, Russian timber wolves, as well as domesticated dogs and horses for the stunts. Michael Schliesser was in charge of handling the animal stunts. These animals were very well trained and would listen to and follow commands on demand. However, the dogs always seemed to be fighting, perhaps due to the different breeds: Malemutes, or Alaskan Huskie sled dogs, and Hudson Bay dogs. Located so far north near the Canadian border, Arctic City could get very cold during the winter months – as low as 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Even Lake Champlain, the Great Lake upon which Port Henry sits, often developed a sheet of ice near the shoreline. More often than not, the movie studio shot on location in the Adirondacks: Sometimes directly on Lake Champlain, or Plattsburgh, where the famous actress Jean Arthur was born.

What must have really been exciting for the citizens of Port Henry was this: many times a movie being filmed at Arctic City would require extras to appear in the movie. It remains unknown if Vincent Markowski appeared as an extra, or if any of his immediate family members did, although the mere thought is in fact exciting and would reasonably influence his desire to become an actor when he was in his teens. One name that does pop up repeatedly in the extras is Ezra Horsefall, who resided at the local senior home in Port Henry at the time. It is probable that young Vincent, only a boy at the time before his family moved to Hamtramck, Michigan, did know at least one neighbor who was an extra at a film production in Arctic City.

Appropriately enough, in 2009, The Moriah Historical Society hosted its first Silent Film Festival. Moriah is right next to Port Henry, and also showcased films related to the area – one being “Adventures of Captain Marvel”. One chapter from this critically acclaimed film serial was exhibited, to honor Tom Tyler, who was born in Port Henry. Several chapters from “The Perils of Pauline”  were shown too. No doubt Port Henry has much to be proud of, with its Hollywood connections, and Tom Tyler.

A partial list of silent films made at Arctic City:

“The Perils of Pauline” (1914) – Directors: Louis J. Gasnier and Donald MacKenzie. Writers: Charles W. Goddard and Basil Dickey. Stars: Pearl White and Crane Wilbur. (Note: filmed at Ausable Chasm, Ithaca, and Saranac Lake for New York locations. Saranac Lake was the first location of Caribou Bill’s movie studio before its location moved to Port Henry a year later.)

“Hearts in Exile” (1915) – Director: James Young. Writers: John Oxenham, Owen Davis. Stars: Clara Kimball Young, Montagu Love.

“The Destroyers” (1916) – Director: Ralph Ince. Writer: James Oliver Curwood and Edward J. Monagne. Stars: Lucille Lee Stewart and Huntley Gordon.

“The Long Trail” (1917) – Director: Howell Hansel. Writer: Eve Unsell. Stars: Lou Telligan and Mary Fuller.

“The Great White Trail” (1917) – Directors: Leopold Wharton, Theodore Wharton. Writers: Gardner Hunting and Leopold Wharton. Stars: Doris Kenyon and Paul Gordon.

“Vengeance Is Mine” (1917) – Director: Frank Hall Crane. Writer: John A. Moroso. Stars: Irene Castle and Frank Sheriden.

“The Tiger’s Cub” (1920) – Director: Charles Giblyn. Writers: George Goodchild, George Potter. Stars: Pearl White and  Thomas Carrigan.



“Northwind’s Malice” (1920) – Directors: Paul Bern, Carl Harbaugh. Writer: Rex Beach. Stars: Tom Santschi and Jane Thomas.

“Idol of the North” (1921) – Director: Roy William Neill. Writers: Frank S. Beresford, Tom McNamara. Stars: Dorothy Dalton and Edwin August. Lost silent film.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1927) – Director: Harry A. Pollard. Writer: Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stars: Margarita Fischer and James B. Lowe.

References:

“Arctic City – At Twenty Below” by Leonie Nathan and Jules Cowles, Picture Play, August 1921
“Arctic Productions” Wid’s Daily, December 21, 1918
“Hero of Alaska Gold Rush is now a Movie Executive in Hollywood”, NEA Service, The Capital Times, Madison, WI, May 2, 1930.
“Caribou Bill Cooper of Old-Time Alaska Dies” The Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA, November 2, 1933.
William F. Cooper, localwiki.org/hsl/William_F._Cooper
“Moriah and Port Henry in the Adirondacks” By Jacqueline Ann Viestenz, Frank Edgerton Martin,
www.porthenrymoriah.com/living-here/about/moriah-historical-society




Sunday, December 8, 2019

From the American West to the Unknown: A review of “Weird Western”

“Weird Western” third edition, Libro de Oro, Cinefania, ed. by Dario Rodolfo Lavia. Argentina: Buenos Aires. October 2019. 286 pages. Spanish.

The basic story elements of a western film – the land, the cowboy hero, and bad men – can allow for variations that extend to the realms of the imagination. It is not surprising then that westerns often implement elements from other genres and cultures in the story, a practice which dates back to the early years of silent film. These elements often add spice and excitement to the story, which by itself may otherwise seem repetitive to the regular cinema patron of westerns.

“Weird Western” from Cinefania is much more than a reference book on westerns of this type; it provides a wealth of information for movie trivia and general film discussion. Weird is not always strange, in this case, but rather pertains to these crossover elements blended into the red and purple mountains of the western landscape, with the prairies holding as much action as a hidden cave.

Edited by Dario Lavia, “Weird Western” covers every subgenre in chronological order: Indian Legends (confined to silent films), Weird Silents, Pre-war B-Westerns (1930 to 1941), War to Post-War (1942 to 1958), Weird Charros (a charro is a cowboy from Mexico), Weird Gaucho, Picturesque Westerns, Weird Westerns on Television, Canonical Westerns, Weird Spaghetti Westerns, Canonical Westerns, and Weird 21st Century Westerns. Five Tom Tyler westerns are included in this book: “Terror Mountain” (1928), “Tyrant of Red Gulch” (1928), “Phantom of the Range” (1936), “Orphan of the Pecos” (1937), and “The Phantom Plainsmen” (1942).

Terror Mountain” includes gangsters in a snowy setting at Big Bear Mountains near Los Angeles, while “Tyrant of Red Gulch” has a band of Russian bad men operating out of a cave hidden in the Rockies. “Phantom of the Range” contains some interesting elements such as a supposed real ghost protecting the Hiram Moore, a treasure map hidden in the painting of Hiram, a female spy doubling as a housekeeper, and an estate auction. “Orphan of the Pecos” can lay claim to being one of very few westerns which has a snake-oil salesman who also happens to be a ventriloquist – the ventriloquist element no doubt being borrowed from Edgar Bergen, Hollywood’s most famous ventriloquist of the 1930’s to 1950, before he made his mark in television thereon. The Three Mesquiteers movie “The Phantom Plainsmen” has Nazis, a Captain Marvin who owns a ranch in Wyoming, Marvin’s son Tad who is studying medicine in Germany, and enough intrigue to make it a noir western.

There are many other notable westerns of interest in “Weird Western” with big-name stars of their own eras: “Where Is This West?” (1923) with Jack Hoxie; “The Winking Idol” (1926), a film serial with William Desmond; “Gold Ghost” (1934) with Buster Keaton; “Border Phantom” (1937) with Bob Steele, and many others. The chapter of Weird Westerns on Television contain some surprising inclusions. The long-running western show “Bonanza” was known to explore unusual themes and elements, as seen in the episodes “Hoss and the Leprechaun” (1963)  and “Twilight Town” (1963). The series “The Wild Wild West” (1965 to 1969) starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, which successfully blended the western and science fiction genres to create steampunk, merits two pages in “Weird Western”.

The chapter on Canonical Westerns include movies that seem outlandish by their titles and plots but retain cult followings, such as “Billy the Kid Versus Dracula” (1966). In this movie, John Carradine plays Dracula, while Chuck Courtney is Billy the Kid. Of course, Frankenstein has to have his own western too, and does, in “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter” (1966), with John Lupton as Jesse, and Narda Onyx as Dr. Maria Frankenstein. For the Weird 21st Century Westerns, “Jonah Hex” (2010), “Cowboys and Aliens” (2011),   and “Bone Tomahawk” (2015) are covered, among others.

Each entry for these and the other films mention the director, production company, date of release, main stars, and a description of what makes these westerns so far from the usual wagon trails. Full-color movie posters of all sizes plus black and white posters and film stills make this a highly readable Spanish language film book.

Many thanks to Dario Lavia for including the blog article “Lost in Translation: How ‘Tyrant of Red Gulch’ became ‘The Sorcerer’ across the pond” as a reference in his film entry for “Tyrant of Red Gulch” in “Weird Western” 3rd Edition.

To order a copy of “Weird Western”, go to:

www.cinefania.com/book/?fbclid=IwAR2LEZXBjdtMymTh5rtSp0IbP1Ic6BuOC2-5Q6wZwGGV6BrsI0l7Xm-OP2w









Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Buck Moon Trail, Part 5

Note: This is the fifth 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 aventurasdetomtyler@triggertom.com. Thank you and enjoy the story! 

Joe’s mouth hung open, wide enough for a large pink-bodied dragonfly to enter. He glanced at Tim, who raised his right eyebrow, then at Bob, who rubbed the back of his right hand against his chin. Joe motioned for the two men to huddle with him and draw a plan to see who stayed with Tom while Joe and another man went to look for Julie. Joe bent down and pulled two blades of dry grass from the ground. “Pull straws. Short straw stays with Tom, long straw follows me to find out where that girl is.” Joe held onto the blades of grass firmly without breaking them. Tim pulled the short straw.

“Guess I’m Julie’s temporary replacement in looking after Tom. I’ll prepare some bacon for the two of us. I’ll keep the campfire going and make more coffee for when Julie returns. I’m sure she’ll need it.” Tim looked at Joe and Bob before casting his eyes downward, as if he could do his part to keep Julie out of the bottle. Joe placed his gloved hand on Tim’s shoulder.

“Great. If you need anything...” Joe started, Tim nodding and finishing his pal’s sentence:

“Fire the gun into the air.” Everyone in the troupe knew what to do should one of them be out of sight of the other, which has not happened until now. Luckily the sun was out, the sky clear and blue, with no sign of last night’s rain, which meant the weather was suitable for seeking out a missing person from their troupe.

“Bob, you’re coming with me. We need to find Julie. Like Tom mentioned, an outcropping of rocks. Let’s look around. I don’t think she could have gone too far last night, what with the thunder and rain. All right let’s go.” As Joe and Bob walked away from the horses and wagon, scanning the perimeter of their camp, they headed towards a rocky area located about a mile away. Tim walked over to the campfire and prepared some bacon. While the bacon cooked, he pulled out a loaf of bread and cut some slices, enough for Tom and himself. Tim worried about Julie and hoped the two men would bring her back soon so they could all eat before heading on their destination to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, which was three hundred miles away. Tim did the math in his head while he chatted with Tom. It would take about two weeks to get there. It did not help that Julie’s disappearance was holding them up. Tim hoped they did not lose too much time in getting her back so they could hit the dirt road. Tom poked his head out the back of the wagon and inhaled the bacon and hot coffee.

“Smells good.” Tom welcomed the smell of coffee by inhaling it. Then he tilted his cup so that Tim could see it and refill the cup.

“It’s ready, partner.” Tim made the bacon sandwiches and offered one to Tom before pouring him another cup of coffee. “Good, huh.” Tim sat down near Tom on the back of the wagon and joined him for breakfast. Tom pulled the blanket around him, while touching one of Julie’s crystals with his left hand, while holding the sandwich in his right hand.

“Purple,” Tom began, admiring the small amethyst geode. “What do you suppose Julie does with these?” His delicate brows formed a furrow. Tim glanced at Tom before taking a bite of his own bacon sandwich. She has several other rocks in her bag. Peculiar.”

“I always thought she used them, until I discovered her taste for liquor took care of that for her,” Tim replied, taking a sip of coffee. Tim’s words went right above Tom’s head, as they finished their breakfast then waited for Joe and Bob to return with Julie.

                                                                  ~

Julie awoke and crawled out from under the rocks, barely remembering how or why she had been there last night. The only thing she remembered was the rain, the temporary feeling of emotional separation from Tom. Now she pushed her long hair off her face, sighed, and sat on top of the rocks. It must have been her state of mind that made her jump up at the words “There she is!” Joe spotted her, and with Bob, raced to where she sat. “Julie! You gave us quite a scare!” Julie was so happy to see Joe she hugged him.

“Oh! I don’t remember what happened. I’m so happy to see you, Joe, and Bob.” Julie hugged Bob too, and something in him came alive. Bob’s blue eyes sparkled at her, his hands gently clasped around her arms.

“It’s good to have you back, Julie. Tom’s been waiting for you. And Tim will have breakfast for us by the time we get back to the wagon.

“Can you walk?” Joe asked Julie. She nodded in return, eager to return to the wagon and of course Tom. “Bob – help keep an eye out for invaders. I know you have your gun, I’ve got mine, but Julie doesn’t have hers.

“Sure thing. We’ve been gone for what – Fifteen? Twenty minutes?” Bob looked up at the sun to check its position in the sky. “We’ll have enough time to eat when we get to the wagon before heading out. In the meantime...”

Julie glanced around. The covered wagon was within sight, from where she could see. “Let’s hurry,” she whispered. The three of them walked in a straight path down the rocky butte towards their covered wagon. They moved quickly, and before they knew it, were within earshot of their camp. Tom saw Julie and waved to her as he smiled. Tim prepared bacon sandwiches and coffee for Julie, Joe, and Bob. Julie savored her breakfast as she snuggled up with Tom. It felt good to have the food and coffee in her stomach. The three men put out the campfire and packed up the equipment. Bob looked at Julie wistfully as she shared an intimate moment with Tom, holding the amethyst geode between her left index finger and thumb. But Julie was thoroughly lost in Tom as the horses and covered wagon continued heading west towards Oklahoma, oblivious to everything else around her at the moment.


To be continued...

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Three Weeks (1924) possible repatriation

Tom Tyler in "Three Weeks" 1924

In 2010, the Russian film archive Gosfilmofond in Moscow began the repatriation of over 200 American-made silent films to the Library of Congress. One of the 235 silent films on this list is “Three Weeks” (1924), directed by Alan Crosland, starring Aileen Pringle and a very young Tom Tyler, who was billed as Bill Burns. What makes this copy of “Three Weeks” so special is that it remains the only surviving complete print of the movie, at a total of eight 35mm reels. “Three Weeks” is the only surviving silent film Tom Tyler appeared in during his earliest year in the film industry, 1924.


If “Three Weeks” is eventually repatriated to the United States it will be in digitized format, which will be a bonus, especially if the Library of Congress decides to allow a distributor to finally make the movie available. Gosfilmofind presently offers copies of “Three Weeks” at $35.00 per reel, making the total for all 8 reels rather costly for a movie that runs 80 minutes long. Unfortunately, this present project between Gosfilmofond and the LOC has been put on hold, but hopefully will be resumed in the near future.

Also in the Gosfilmofond archive are "Lightning Lariats" (extant), and "The Avenging Rider" (1 reel). It remains unknown if these two Tom Tyler silent films will be repatriated along with “Three Weeks” and the other silent films on the list but hopefully they eventually will be.



Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tom Tyler and Marlene Dietrich (and the Countess Di Frasso)

From St. Louis Globe-Democrat,
St. Louis, Missouri, August 6, 1935
At some point in the mid 1930's, Marlene Dietrich,  Hollywood's highest paid actress at the time, noticed Tom Tyler and started to keep company with him. Obviously Marlene did not mind the fact that Tom was a B-western leading man cowboy making small potatoes compared to her salary of $200,000.00 to $300,000.00 per movie. Chances are she was not thinking of money or star status while being Tom’s dinner date partner. In 1935 Tom had to politely decline an interest in Jean Carmen, his leading lady in “Born to Battle”, who was attracted to him at the time, according to “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman. Tom did not mention to Jean who he was seeing at the time, although the standard Hollywood gossip columns would mention who was keeping company with who. There is little other information about the nature of the relationship between Tom and Marlene outside of a few social events the couple attended. It is unknown if Tom had any personal interest in her outside of being her sometime escort; chances are he appreciated her company and being seen as her dinner partner, shy as he was, while Marlene dominated the conversations with him. As Hollywood relationships go, this one proved to be brief, long before Tom would marry Jean Martel in 1938. Before Tom Tyler and Marlene Dietrich knew it, a third famous Hollywood figure (not an actress) would enter the picture.

In October 1935 Tom attended a party hosted by the Countess DiFrasso with other big name stars such as Richard Barthlemess and Jack Oakie. Marlene was also in attendance, and quite possibly Tom's date for the evening. At the time, the Countess, her full name being Dorothy Cadwell Taylor Dentice di Frasso, was a popular hostess in Los Angeles, often inviting the stars to her dinner parties. Dorothy’s second husband was Count Carlo Dentice di Frasso, a former member of Italy’s Parliament, who she married in 1923. In May 1935, Marlene and Tom, along with Dorothy, Clark Gable and his wife Maria Langham, and Brian Ahearne, left the Hollywood Stadium after viewing the boxing matches and headed to the northern part of California for the weekend.

From Silver Screen, October 1935
It must have been gratifying for Tom to have a social life with A-list stars, if only for a brief while,  being escort to one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses. Apparently the Countess had an eye for Tom Tyler too, for soon she was keeping company with him in 1935, too, well through the end of the year. Being a wealthy heiress – Dorothy’s first husband Claude Graham White was in aviation, plus her father Bertrand was a leather-goods manufacturer – she could certainly afford to take the break and seek some feminine satisfaction from being in the social company of Tom Tyler. During the fall season of 1935, Dorothy and her friends Ed Sullivan and Loretta Young, along with Tom Tyler, visited the New York Aquarium (Silver Screen, October 1935). Loretta and Tom chatted about the fish in the tanks, admiring them, just as they admired each other’s company, for Loretta was also a big star during the 1930’s.

Along with Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy showed the social scene what type of man a woman really wants: Tom Tyler. Hollywood columnist Lloyd Pantages addressed both Marlene Dietrich and Tom Tyler in his June 1, 1935 column (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph), wondering why no one in Hollywood has not done something more “constructive” about getting Tom into the A-list of actors of the 1930’s. Pantages concludes with: “He seems to be just what the ladies are asking for”. The fact that Tom Tyler could be escort to Hollywood actresses when invited to social functions and be the perfect gentleman said a lot about him.

From Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, June 1, 1935

To see external and internal views of Dorothy di Frasso's mansion, click here.













Saturday, November 9, 2019

Collectibles: Tom Tyler on Dixie Cup Lids

One of the most popular movie star trading “cards” of the 1930’s to 1940’s among children were the round Dixie single-serve ice cream cup lids which bore a photo of an actor or group of actors on the inside portion. Tom Tyler appeared on two Dixie cup lids, one photo is from “Fast Bullets” in the 1930’s, and as one of the Three Mesquiteers in “The Phantom Plainsmen” in the 1940’s. Dixie cup lids came in two different sizes: 2 1/4” and 2 3/4”.

The history of the appearance of Hollywood stars appearing on Dixie cup lids dates back to 1933, but up until that year, circus animals and performers appeared on the Dixie Cup lids beginning in 1930. In 1932, nature animals made their debut on the inside of the ice cream cup lids. The Hollywood actor sets contained 24 different lids. Each set might see a different design in the photo and informational text on the star. For example, the Tom Tyler “Fast Bullets” lid contains a full circle photo with the text on the outer edge of the photo, whereas the mid-1940’s design had only a ¾ of the circle photo, with text below in several lines.

Tom Tyler was not the only cowboy to appear on these Dixie Cup lids. Ken Maynard was the first western star to appear in the 1934 series of these lids, while Roy Rogers can boast appearing the most times on the lids – a total of twelve, in different profiles and poses. Wild Bill Elliott also appeared twelve times, but like Tom, was often paired with other western stars on a single lid. The last Dixie cup lid to show a Hollywood star on the inside was in 1954. These lids could also be sent in to its manufacturer in exchange for an 8 x 10” color photo of a favorite star (usually the same one on the matching cup lids). The preprinted color photo also contained more photos on the back, along with biographical and studio information.

The Dixie cup ice cream single-serves were assembled at Consumers Supply Co, formerly known as Rutherford County Gas & Oil Co., was located in Murfreesboro, TN. Among its products were ice, sodas, and ice cream. One of its most popular products were single-serve ice cream cups, complete with a lid that was sturdy enough to seal the ice cream from moisture. These cups were manufactured by Individual Drinking Cup Co. New York in 1910.  While the company name may not ring a bell, it was later renamed Dixie, due to its most popular product, the Dixie cup, which was created in a sterile environment, meaning, that each cup was manufactured and assembled completely by machinery without an employee having to physically touch the cup. One interesting piece of history about this disposable cup is that it was manufactured with the intent to prevent germs and infection from being spread, thus being named Health Kup. Lawrence Luellen invented his paper cup in 1907 while he was a practicing lawyer and believed the common sharing of glasses at public drinking water sources.

Today, Tom Tyler Dixie cup lids can be found at antique shops and online auction sites.









Saturday, October 19, 2019

Meet Nick Musuraca A.S.C.!

Nick Musuraca, American Cinematographer, February 1941
One of the best known cinematographers for RKO – and its earlier incarnation of FBO – is Nick Musuraca. Born in Riace, Calabria, Italy on October 25, 1892, he immigrated to the United States in 1907. Nick got his start in Hollywood as a chauffeur to silent film producer and director J. Stuart Blackton. It was not long before his talent with camera lighting was noticed by Blackton, who signed Nick on as cinematographer for one of his production company’s silent films, “The Virgin Queen”, 1923. Soon after, Nick did “On the Banks of the Wabash” for Vitagraph, an elaborate production as it involved shooting on a full-sized riverboat steamboat on location, Manhasset Bay, Long Island, New York. However, Nick’s career at Vitagraph was short lived, for soon after the making of this silent film, Vitagraph was purchased by Warner Brothers. The good news is, since Blackton had connections with Vitagraph, and continued to play a directorial role with Warner Brothers, bringing along Nick for a bunch of silent films, which included stars like Tyrone Power Sr., Myrna Loy, May McAvoy, and Louise Fazenda. In 1926, Nick Musuraca was cinematographer for a small production company, B.P. Schulberg Productions, making one movie for them, “His New York Wife” starring Alice Day. The turning point of Nick’s career came when Joseph Kennedy Sr. signed him on as a regular cinematographer for FBO pictures, maintaining that position when FBO transitioned to RKO in 1928, and throughout the 1940’s, working behind the camera for everything from westerns to dramas, noir, horror and comedies.

Tom Tyler in "Blood on the Moon" 1948
So where exactly does Tom Tyler fit in here? Actually, it is more of a case where Nick Musuraca fits in here. Once Nick signed that contract with FBO, his first assignment was being cinematographer of “Lightning Lariats”, a 1927 silent film western starring Tom Tyler. Naturally Tom and his pals gave Nick a very warm welcome. The two men worked together well, as Tom was always an agreeable actor and loved his work. In 1927, Nick and Tom worked together on: “The Cherokee Kid”, “Tom's Gang “, “Splitting the Breeze”, and “The Sonora Kid”; in 1928, “Tyrant of Red Gulch”, “When the Law Rides”, “Terror Mountain”, “The Avenging Rider”, and “Phantom of the Range”; in 1929, “Trail of the Horse Thieves”, “Gun Law”, “The Pride of Pawnee”, and “Idaho Red”.  However, 1929 was not the last year Nick and Tom would work together, even though for almost two decades they worked for two different studios. In 1948, Tom snagged a minor role in the memorable Robert Mitchum western noir film, “Blood on the Moon”. Nick Musuraca was the director of photography, working his magic with lighting and the camera. In one scene with Tom Tyler inside a building, everything is dark, with the exception of lighting upon Tom’s face, and ceiling partitions. Meant to build up the drama, Tom eventually gets plugged, falling away backwards into darkness.

“Life is a shadow that flits away
In a night of darkness and woe."
- H. C. Andersen

Critically acclaimed even though it did not garner any Oscar nominations, “Blood on the Moon” is one of the best of its genre, and included many western stars besides Tom Tyler: Walter Brennan, Tom Keene, Harry Carey Jr., Ben Corbett, and Bud Osborne.

Nick Musuraca was nominated for an Oscar in cinematography for his work in “I Remember Mama”, a 1948 movie starring Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Oskar Homolka, about an immigrant family from Norway living in San Francisco in the year 1910. He continued to work in film for RKO until 1954, when he switched to working in television. As director of photography, shows he worked on include: “The Life of Riley”, “The Lone Wolf”, “Four Star Playhouse”, “The Lucy Show”, and “F Troop”.  In addition to “Blood on the Moon” and “I Remember Mama”, Nick Musuraca’s work really shown in the Val Lewton produced movie “The Black Cat” (1942).  Starring Simone Simon, “The Cat People” was a box office smash for RKO in 1942 but also set a standard for the use of shadows in lieu of an actual monster in horror movies.

Nick Musuraca died on September 3, 1975 at the age of 82 while living in Los Angeles. He wife was Josephine, and together they had three children: Nicholas Jr., Ann Marie, and Mary Jo. Nick was a Member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), and with well over 200 credits under his belt, had a rich and varied career in Hollywood dating back to the silent film era.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Tom Tyler in The Talk of the Town

Taking a break from making Three Mesquiteers movies for Republic Pictures in the early 1940’s, Tom Tyler took on a few supporting dramatic roles for major studio movies, notably, one with Columbia Pictures and a former co-star from his silent film days with FBO, Jean Arthur. Tom just finished making “The Phantom Plainsmen” in 1942 when the director for “The Talk of the Town”, George Stevens, approached him and asked if the famous cowboy would be interested in playing a heavy in a romantic comedy which also starred Cary Grant and the well-known British actor, Ronald Colman. Playing the role of Clyde Bracken, a foreman at Holmes Mills who is suspected of being killed in a devastating fire at the factory started by Leopold Dilg (Cary Grant), Tom makes his appearance about three-quarters of the way into the movie when his character is discovered to have survived the fire. Nabbed by Nora (Jean Arthur), Dilg and Professor Lightcap (Ronald Colman) at the post office in Boston, Clyde gets into a fightfight with the two men, eventually forced into the car with the trio and back to Nora’s house in Lochester, Massachusetts. During the drive Clyde is steely eyed and silent, refusing to give out any information that might get Dilg off the hook. Being somewhat of a pro with the steely eyed look, Tom’s heavy is an appreciated diversion from the friendly smile of Stoney Brooke, a sign of true diversity in acting.

At Nora’s house, Clyde collapses in a chair by the fireplace while Lightcap places a phone call to the police. Wearing a grim expression, Clyde picks up a log by the fireplace and brings it over Lightcap’s head – and Dilg’s head as well -  and escapes. The fact that Tom’s character is indifferent to seeing Dilg being lynched by a whole town whose citizens lost their jobs at the mill is nothing short of disturbing. After all, Clyde could have stayed in hiding in Boston for good, had not one piece of evidence from Regina Bush (Glenda Farrell), a beauty salon owner who gave Lightcap a manicure, slip into his hand from hers during a dance date. Given refuge by Regina, Clyde hides out at the salon until Lightcap roots him out and hauls him into court to confess who was really responsible for the factory arson – and it was not Dilg. Sitting in the witness box, Clyde still wears that indifferent, apathetic expression, playing the role to perfection. It is clear Tom Tyler knows what emotions to convey in demanding scenes like this; compare this performance to his expressions in “Stagecoach”, despite being a western, Tom’s character of Luke Plummer is dramatic in the literal sense of the word. According to an article in Oakland Tribune, Oakland, CA, December 6, 1942, Tom Tyler admitted to not having any qualms about playing roles in non-westerns like “The Talk of the Town” even if they are minor but important roles, as they give him a chance to hone his acting skills. For Tom, it must also have been a delight to work once again with a leading lady from his silent films days: Jean Arthur appeared in both “Born to Battle” and “The Cowboy Cop”, from 1926.

One fun piece of trivia about “The Talk of the Town”: William Benedict, who played Whitey in “Adventures of Captain Marvel”, has an uncredited role as a Western Union boy.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Los Films del Far West: Tom Tyler film booklet titles

In May of 2017 I wrote an article on the Los Films del Far West Spain-published film booklet series as a collectible. One unusual quirk of these film booklets, at least the ones based on Tom Tyler’s silent films for FBO, is that the film still on the cover did not always match the title of the movie; to make matter worse, sometimes a film still from a third movie might creep into the inside of the booklet, nestled among the text. There are a total of 34 issues in this set, thirteen of them based on Tom Tyler’s silent films. Below are the issue numbers and their English translations:

1. El Huracán de Texas (The Texas Tornado) 1928
3. El Valle del Misterio (Tyrant of Red Gulch) 1928
5. Los Puños de Tom Tyler (Terror Mountain) 1928; has a still from “Red Hot Hoofs” on the cover
6. Los Lobos del Far West (The Pride of Pawnee) 1929
8. El Culpable (The Avenging Rider) 1928
13. El Pirata del Desierto (The Desert Pirate) 1927
15. La Ley del Revolver (Gun Law) 1929; has a still from “The Cherokee Kid” on the cover
17. Los Falsificadores (Idaho Red) 1929; has a still from “The Cowboy Cop” on the cover
19. Veloz Como el Rayo (The Cherokee Kid) 1927; has a still from “Trail of the Horse Thieves” on the cover
21. Los Cuatreros (Trail of the Horse Thieves) 1929; has a still from “Phantom of the Range” on the cover
22. Tom y Su Cuadrilla (Tom’s Gang) 1927
24. El Fantasma del Rancho (Phantom of the Range) 1928
31. El Valiente de la Pradera (Lightning Lariats) 1927

Idaho Red


Trail of the Horse Thieves

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Get social with Tom Tyler

Within the last five years, Tom Tyler’s popularity has grown on social media, particularly Facebook. It may seem peculiar that even though the first dedicated page to Tom Tyler is this website’s official social media pages for Twitter and Facebook, there is a group that dates back to October 2015, almost a year after the first version of Aventuras de Tom Tyler (then called Trigger Tom)  hit the Internet. Here is a rundown on the most popular pages and groups besides Aventuras de Tom Tyler on Facebook to Like, Follow, or Join:

Tom Tyler, Screen Hero!

This is the most popular Facebook group dedicated to Tom Tyler, created by fellow fan and supporter Tony A. Corbett of North Carolina. Started on October 28, 2015 this group is an excellent place to network with other Tom Tyler fans as well as up to date news. Tony also owns and manages the Facebook group, Memories of the West, where posts on Tom Tyler are often made.

The Adventures of Captain Marvel 1941

This Facebook page has been around since 2017 and is dedicated to the Republic Pictures film serial. There are many photos of Tom here as well as the rest of the cast like Frank Coghlan Jr., William Benedict and Louise Currie.

Let’s Talk Captain Marvel - Twitter

This is one of those “Let’s Talk” pages on Twitter, dedicated to the DC Comics Shazam! Captain Marvel. Naturally Tom Tyler as the World’s Mightiest Mortal is included as a topic of discussion here.


This is the Facebook counterpart for ‘Let’s Talk Captain Marvel” on Twitter and just as active. Another great place to discuss Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel.

The Phantom - Facebook

This Facebook page is dedicated to the Lee Falk creation, The Phantom, originally portrayed by Tom Tyler on the silver screen for Columbia Pictures in 1943. Material on Tom as The Phantom periodically is posted here.

The Phantom - Twitter

Run by the same person who manages the Facebook page, there is always plenty of awesome photos of the superhero and Tom Tyler as The Phantom too.

The Serial Squadron

Last but not least there is The Serial Squadron on Facebook which devotes enough attention to Tom for all his work in serials such as “Adventures of Captain Marvel”, “The Phantom”, “Phantom of the West” and others to be included here.

The official social media pages for Aventuras de Tom Tyler:

Twitter: December 2016: twitter.com/AventurasDeTom

Facebook: December 2016:  www.facebook.com/AventurasDeTomTyler






Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The top 100 western films of all time and Tom Tyler

The popular website Stacker recently came out with one of the more important movie lists, "Top 100 western films of all time" which encompasses the silent film era to recent Hollywood releases, and of course spaghetti westerns. Big western names like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Lee Marvin, and made this list more than once, but where does Tom Tyler's appearances in big-name westerns rate? One clue to keep in mind is, the movies he does appear in on this list are all directed by John Ford. Here are the three movies Tom appears in, keeping in mind the lower the number, the higher on the scale it falls:

#71 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
#24 Red River
#19 Stagecoach

The movie listed at #1 is no big surprise, while the title will not be disclosed here, it should be mentioned another all-time favorite of many appears in it: Clint Eastwood. Enjoy reading the full list here:



Wednesday, September 18, 2019

More French titles of Tom Tyler films

It has been awhile since a foreign language movie title list has been included in this blog – and after coming across a European movie directory site while in the process of researching something else, felt it was time to continue a list of movies Tom Tyler appeared in – in French. The first list of French movie titles is here. An alternate title for “The Younger Brothers” has been included below. Many thanks to Notre Cinéma for the below titles.

The Grapes of Wrath
King of Alcatraz (1938) - L'Évadé d'Alcatraz
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) - Sur la piste des Mohawks
Gone With the Wind (1939) - Autant en emporte le vent
Frontier Marshal (1939) - L'Aigle des frontières
The Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940) - Le Retour des Texas Rangers
Buck Privates (1940) - Deux nigauds soldats
The Westerner (1940) - Le Cavalier du désert
The Grapes of Wrath (1940) - Les Raisins de la colère
Border Vigilantes (1941) - Coureurs de frontières
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) - Les Aventures du Capitaine Marvel
The Phantom (1943) - Le Fantôme
They Were Expendable (1945) - Les Sacrifiés
Never Say Goodbye (1946) - Ne dites jamais adieu
Badman’s Territory (1946) - La Ville des sans-loi
The Three Musketeers (1948) - Les Trois mousquetaires
Red River (1948) - La Rivière Rouge
The Younger Brothers (1948) - Les Trois mousquetaires du Far West/ Le gang des quatre freres
Samson and Delilah (1949) - Samson et Dalila
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) - La Charge héroïque
Lust for Gold (1949) - Le Démon de l'or
The Great Missouri Raid (1951) -  Les Rebelles du Missouri
What Price Glory (1952) - Deux durs à cuire

Red River






























 



Monday, September 9, 2019

It’s in the money: Tom’s salary during his career

A common subject that often arises during a new Hollywood interest is, what kind of money did they make? Was their salary generous? Or were they barely scraping by? In the case of Tom Tyler, it is considered common knowledge among those familiar with his career that he was not an A-list star who commanded top-dollar for his film roles, even though he may have done so, had he had the right business agent.  However, Tom’s priority was his desire to become an actor, since his teen years. Chances are he never gave much though to an ideal salary, what his true worth might be as an actor, despite the fact he was one of the truly best actors in Hollywood during the mid-1920’s to late 1940’s before he became terminally ill with scleroderma.

One of Tom’s first acting jobs was as a Native American in the 1924 Pathé film serial “Leatherstocking” - where he was paid $50.00 a week ($750.00 a week in 2019) according to the article “The Sucker Who Succeeded”  in Motion Picture Classic, July 1928. Billed under his real name of Vincent Markowski, it must have been an ego booster for the young man who traveled all the way from Hamtramck, Michigan only a few years earlier.  At least Tom knew he could finally make money as an actor, and that is all that mattered to him.

When Tom signed a contract with FBO in 1925, his starting salary per week was about $75.00 ($1,100.00 in 2019) according to The Old Corral - a step up from the money he made while filming “Leatherstocking” and doing bit parts in “Three Weeks” (1924) and “Ben Hur” (1925). As Tom continued to make B-westerns for FBO, chances are he got a little bit of increase in pay, but not much, maybe up to $100.00 or so by the time his contract with FBO/RKO ran out in 1929.
According to an article in Variety, August 3, 1927, "...the negative cost of the Tyler westerns is only 20% of [Fred] Thom[p]son's." Thomson was also paid rather generously by FBO in 1925, his contract paying him $10,000.00 a week. Joseph Kennedy sensed an opportunity for both Thomson and himself, selling Thomson out to Paramount, a competing studio. Unfortunately for Fred Thomson, he contracted tetanus and died on December 25, 1928, barely able to make better money, but at the same time, Tom Tyler proved to be a better money maker for FBO before the studio reorganized as RKO for talkies in 1929.

One of Tom’s known representing agents was Jerry G. Mayer, as mentioned in Hollywood Filmograph, December 31, 1932. Jerry was the brother of Louis B. Mayer, and both men had vested interests in Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). Jerry G. Mayer also had his own production company by 1925, eventually becoming the studio manager for MGM in the mid-1930’s. The Mayer connection made sense, since one of Tom’s first documented film appearances was in the MGM (then called Goldwyn Pictures in the 1920’s) movie, “Three Weeks” in 1924, starring Aileen Pringle. Unfortunately for Tom, who was under contract with Monogram/Trem Carr in the early 1930’s talkies years, having an agent whose priority was with another studio probably did not help his career a whole lot. The other problem was, the star system was still evolving and became implemented in the 1930’s by none other than Louis B. Mayer – Jerry’s brother.  On the other side of that coin, Hollywood was also becoming very political in nature. Who you knew could make or break a movie career, as in the case of John Wayne and director John Ford. It could be that Tom was not interested in the political side of Hollywood,  considering it a job that made him happy, for he certainly loved his work, as Clayton “The Lone Ranger” Moore later attested during the last years of Tom’s life.

It would be a superhero film serial that would provide Tom not only a substantial salary but also a major milestone for his career once his contracts with Reliable and Victory Pictures ran out in the late 1930’s. Clad in a gray and gold leotard for black and white film, Tom Tyler became the World’s Mightiest Mortal in “Adventures of Captain Marvel”, released in 1941. Long considered the greatest serial ever made, Tom was paid $250.00 a week, according to his biography, “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman, for a total of $1000.00 ($17,500.00 in 2019) - four weeks worth of working on this famous Republic film serial.

By the time Tom returned to Republic Pictures as one of the Three Mesquiteers in 1941, the first of thirteen movies he made with the famous team being “Outlaws of Cherokee Trail”, his contract was for $150.00 per week ($2,600.00 in 2019) during the first year of movies, according to The Old Corral, which also included “Gauchos of El Dorado” and “West of Cimarron”. In 1942, Tom’s salary increased to $200.00 a week ($3,150.00 in 2019) for the seven movies he made for Republic that year: “Code of the Outlaw”, “Raiders of the Range”, “Westward Ho”,  “The Phantom Plainsmen”, “The Talk of the Town”, “Shadows on the Sage”, and “Valley of Hunted Men”. When Tom Tyler made his last Three Mesquiteers movie in 1943, “Riders of the Rio Grande”, he made $350.00 ($5,191.00 in 2019) a week. On the surface this did not seem like a bad amount of money, and it wasn’t, given the fact Tom was a workhorse and did manage to stay in the business for over twenty years, and perhaps he was hoping the right agent would come along and give him the career boost he would need.

Tom Tyler was not by any means a wealthy actor, but was able to live comfortably during the mid 1920’s to mid-1940’s until his body was in the developing stage of scleroderma. By 1947, when he made only one movie that year, “Cheyenne”, multiple doctor visits between then and the early 1950’s proved costly, leaving him penniless and lack of ability to obtain contracts during the final stages of his illness. Regardless of his salary or his B-western star status, Tom Tyler left behind an impressive body of work to appreciate and remember him well.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Filmed on location at Warner Springs: “The Texas Tornado”

A scene from "The Texas Tornado"
As the only Tom Tyler FBO silent film available on DVD, “The Texas Tornado” may surprise viewers in that it was filmed on location in Warner Springs, California. Located in San Diego County, Warner Springs is an unincorporated community that was home to the Luiseño and Cupeño tribes in southern California. Related to the Cahuilla tribe, a now-abandoned Cupeño village sits on 200 acres east of Lake Henshaw on California State Highway 79. The Cupeño lived in the San Jose Valley Mountains by the San Luis Rey River, and had two villages, one at present-day Warner Springs, the second, at Wilakal, at San Ysidro. Founded in 1844 by Juan Jose Warner, this piece of land is situated at an elevation of 3130 feet, with a smattering of mountains referred to as Lost Valley, part of the Peninsular Ranges in the state. Of these mountains, Hot Springs Mountain, famous for its scenic and beautiful hiking trails, has an elevation of 6535 feet high and is the highest peak in San Diego County. Since 1912, Hot Springs Mountain has had a fire lookout tower which has been modified over the decades, a popular destination of hikers in Warner Springs.

Lost Valley is prominent in “The Texas Tornado” in a number of scenes: where a simulated cliff dwelling (not native, as the Cupeño built and lived in adobe homes on the land) is shown as the hideout for Latimer’s henchmen and their holding of Frankie Darro captive, and the climactic rescue of Frankie by Tom when the gondola breaks, dangling from the cable between the mountains. When “The Texas Tornado” was filmed, the crew and cast were enthusiastic about making the movie in such a beautiful setting, with the non-stop action, fights, and suspense that took place. The fights were so rough and injurious to Tom Tyler’s legs due to Latimer and his henchmen wearing roweled spurs on their boots, that the spurs had to be banned from further film productions. The good news is, Tom was in tip-top shape in 1928 when this silent film was made, for he had won the Los Angeles Athletic Union weightlifting championship, which allowed him to climb over that cable with Frankie clinging on to him for dear life. The one spectacular stunt missing from the existing DVD of “The Texas Tornado” is a fight between Tom and Jack Anthony at the top of a burning oil derrick, resulting in Tom’s escaping by use of a guy wire, again with Frankie hanging on for safety.

For those who exhibit interest in visiting film location sets, Warner Springs is a destination for Tom Tyler fans, as Lone Pine Studios is, to experience walking upon the land where Tom made one of his surviving silent films.





Saturday, August 10, 2019

Storing paper-based film collectibles

Note: This article has been modified from my original article written for Hubpages on October 10, 2017.

ESCO Arcade card from "The Arizona Streak", 1926
For those of you who collect paper-based film memorabilia on Tom Tyler, perhaps some of the most important questions are, “What is the best way to store these? Can I display this item in a frame?” The answer to the first question takes preservation into consideration, and contrary to popular belief, storage materials for film collectibles from the mid-1920’s to the 1940’s are not expensive at all. In fact, acid-free paper envelopes and polyethylene bags are affordable, found in office supply stores, and websites like Amazon. Similar items should always be stored together, such as arcade/exhibit/postcards, lobby cards, film booklets, and film stills. For the ambitious collector, a cataloguing system might also be used to keep track of what is being collected. Regardless if you have only a handful of colorful arcade cards of Tom Tyler, or an extensive film still collection, following is a list of different paper-based film collectibles and the ideal way to store them.

ESCO postcard, "When the Law Rides" 1928
Arcade/Exhibit cards and postcards

These movie collector cards, manufactured by the Chicago Exhibit Supply Company (ESCO), were dispensed through vending machines for a penny each back in the 1920's and 1930's. Western stars were very popular subjects on these cards. Many times film scenes were reproduced on these cards too, especially silent films. Each arcade/exhibit card measured 5.2” x 3.2” in size, about the same size as a postcard produced during the same time period. What makes arcade/exhibit cards stand out is the number of colors a single image would be available in. These cards usually came in duotone; for example, an arcade card of Tom Tyler and Frankie Darro in a scene from “Cyclone of the Range” comes in yellow/orange as well as gray/purple. A very wide range of colors were used to manufacture these cards, which range from red, blue, green, yellow, magenta, lime green, navy, even aqua. A small photo album with acid-free poly sleeves is an ideal way to store these intriguing film collectibles.


Photo of Tom Tyler, 1927
Cigarette, chocolate and biscuit cards

Also referred to as tobacco cards, a number of companies used to produce film star photos on these small cards, using bright colors, although very early cards were produced in black and white. The original purpose of cigarette cards was to provide a stiff package so the product would not get crushed. Cigarette companies like Rothmans (England), Player (England), and Ogden's (England) are just a few names popular among cigarette card collectors. The average size of these cards was usually 2” x 3” in size, sometimes even smaller. Some companies like A & M Wix issued several different sized cards with film stars on them. In addition to cigarette cards, film star cards like those produced by Cloetta, a Swedish candy company, were included in their chocolate products, and similar cards produced by De Beukelaer found in their biscuit (cookie) packages, were very close in card size. Most cigarette cards are stored in baseball card plastic pages, especially those seen at ephemera shows.

Biblioteca Films, "The Man from Death Valley"
Film stills and film star photos

Most film stills and film star publicity photos measure 8” x 10” in size, on glossy photo paper. Those which contain autographs of a star are usually worth a few bucks. Film stills have long been used as marketing tools for recently released films and are sought after by favorite film collectors. Depending upon the age of the film still or publicity photo, there may be a little surface wear, as well as wear along the edges of the photo. There might also be writing along the edge either in pen or pre-printed on the film still to identify which movie it is from. Acid-free plastic sleeves that measure 8 1/2” x 11” in size are an ideal way to store a large collection of film stills. One particular favorite still, or publicity photo, might also be framed and hung on the wall.

Film booklets

Often seen at ephemera shows and in antique shops, film booklets come in a variety of sizes depending upon the publisher, and nation of origin. Basically, a film booklet is a thin publication with a stapled binding, containing a film story. Usually, several film shots are also included in the publication. One of the most popular film booklets in English is Boy's Cinema, published in the UK from 1919 to 1940 and contained several film stories, often profiling one film on the front cover. Spy films, war dramas, and westerns were favorite genres for this publication. An issue of Boy's Cinema measures 7 1/2” x 10 7/8” in size. Another popular film booklet was Biblioteca Films, published in Barcelona, Spain. In this case, each issue was devoted to an entire movie, with the film title in Spanish. For example, the film booklet for “Galloping Thru”, a 1931 Tom Tyler talkie, translates as “Deuda de Sangre”. These film booklets measure 4 3/4” x 6 7/8” in size, smaller than Boy's Cinema.
Lobby card for "Honor of the Mounted" 1932
Spain also came out with a series of western film booklets, Los Films del Far-West, numbered in a series. Other examples of film booklets also include Photo Aventures, in French, similar to the Biblioteca Films, and Film-Kurier, in German. Like film stills, 8 1/2” x 11” acid free clear plastic binder sleeves are the ideal way to store film booklets. If a film booklet is starting to separate from its binding, or the paper is frail and crumbles when touched, it can also be stored in an acid-free envelope that is 5” x 7” in size.

Lobby cards

Lobby cards produced in the United States measure a standard 11” x 14” in size, although cards produced before 1930 also measured 8” x 10”. Usually produced in a series of eight, these lobby cards were displayed in the lobby of movie theatres across the country.
One sheet, "Tracy Rides" 1935
Nowadays, Tom Tyler silent film lobby cards can have a market value of $300.00 to $500.00, depending upon the movie. Older lobby cards may have thin paper base, which is prone to tearing due to its age. Lobby cards that are in excellent shape without any tears along the edge can be displayed in a frame; more fragile ones not in use can be stored in an 11” x 14” Itoya portfolio book.

One sheets, half sheets, and larger posters

Probably the most popular popular sized movie poster being produced today is the one sheet. Measuring 27” x 40” in size, these are easily displayable in a frame; when they are not is use they can be rolled up and stored inside a polyethylene bag that covers the entire poster. Other movie poster sizes include the following: insert (14” x 36”), window card (14” x 22”), half sheet (22” x 28”), two sheet (41” x 54”), three sheet (41” x 81”), six sheet (81” x 81”), and twenty-four sheet (246” x 108”). If you have the wall space for one of these larger posters, then display in a frame is the perfect choice; if not, they should be stored rolled inside a polyethylene bag the width of the poster.

www.archivalmethods.com




Saturday, July 27, 2019

Collectibles: Tom Tyler on the Picturegoer series postcards

Among the movie cards manufactured in Europe, Picturegoer series postcards was one of the most popular sets to come out of England, next to the Boys Cinema cards. Printed in London, England, these postcards used a real photograph of an actor on the front, with the writing space and address on the reverse. The Picturegoer company began manufacturing movie memorabilia in 1921 to 1960. Not only did they produce more than 6500 postcards bearing real photos of actors and actresses, the company also published a number of consumer film magazines: Picturegoer Magazine, Film Weekly, Picture Show, and Film Pictorial.

The Picturegoer postcard which have photos of Tom Tyler on the front date from the 1930’s to 1940’s. These postcards have a glossy surface, and measure 3 1/2” by 5 1/2” in size. The photographs are in black and white, with the star’s name at the bottom of each postcard, and the name of the film production or distribution company in the lower right corner in the white border framing each photo.
There are four known cards on which Tom Tyler appeared: cards numbered 381, 381a, 381b, and 828.

Card number 381 depicts a very young Tom Tyler with his hair slicked down, the image itself dating to around 1925. There is no film production name on this card.

Picturegoer postcard #381

Card 381a has a photo of Tom, probably from “Phantom of the Air”, dressed in his aviator’s uniform and scarf. This postcard has the film company Universal in the lower right hand corner.

Picturegoer postcard #381a

Card 381b has a photo of Tom with his horse, probably from “Partners of the Trail” (1931), with the British release company listed as Wardour, in the lower right hand corner of the card. The horse is light colored, and the harness, plus Tom’s outfit, match the description in this lost film.

Picturegoer postcard #381b

Card 828 has a photo of Tom dressed in his frequent early 1940’s western clothes, facing right, with the name Republic at the lower right corner of the card, from one of the Three Mesquiteers movies.

Picturegoer postcard #828









Sunday, July 14, 2019

Happy 100th Anniversary of your acting lessons, Tom!

Tom Tyler, circa 1925

As the year 2020 approaches, the year marks a special milestone in the life of Tom Tyler. Believe it or not, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary that Vincent (Wincenty) Markowski began a correspondence course in acting through Johnson Screen Training School at the age of 17 in 1920, according to the article "The Sucker Who Succeeded", Motion Picture Classic, July 1928. Taking his career seriously, Vincent worked hard, driving a truck and transporting cans of film to local cinemas where he lived in Hamtramck, Michigan. Young Vincent was an enthusiastic worker, clearly loved being able to get his foot in the door of the movie business. Upon the completion of the acting course, Johnson Screen Training School sent Vincent a letter, which also served as a certificate to verify that Vincent did indeed complete the course, with all assignments completed, including the correct application of actor’s makeup. It is unknown exactly how many lessons total that Vincent was required to take, an estimated guess would be between ten to twelve lessons, meaning that the course could easily be completed within a couple of months.


It would not be until 1923 when Vincent, then aged 20 years old, would leave his home town with his close friend Emil Karkoski, and the fifty dollars that Vincent’s sister loaned him for the trip. According to “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman, when the two young men arrived in Denver, Colorado, Emil decided to return home to his family, while Vincent trudged on, with his continuing enthusiasm and courage, never failing to believe in himself. There is the possibility that Vincent was also aware he did not have much time to achieve his specific goal, having died during his fiftieth year due to complications from scleroderma. With time moving as quickly as it does for some of us, it will not be long before the 100th anniversary of Tom Tyler’s debut as a leading man for FBO in 1925 will be celebrated.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Say it isn’t so: Censorship in “The Law of the Plains”

It would be difficult for the modern Tom Tyler fan to consider the case of censorship, or even the need for it, in one of his starring roles movies. What might be an even bigger challenge is to think it could happen in one of Tom’s later silent films made for Syndicate Pictures – yet it did, and Bell Pictures Inc., the distributor (New York City), was forced to remove a few frames from the final print of “The Law of the Plains”, released in 1929.

“The Law of the Plains” is the only Syndicate Pictures silent film on which there is scant information; next to nothing at Lantern Media History, and a bare mention in major newspapers outside of cast members and very brief plot description. In fact, Natalie Joyce, Tom’s leading lady in the movie, is not given a character name, not even at IMDB. Consequently, composing the story line for “The Law of the Plains” page of Aventuras de Tom Tyler proved to be the most challenging of all Tom Tyler silent films, most of which have a wealth of information on them, including the many lost silent films he starred in. A routine inquiry was sent to the Library of Congress about plot information, and they were extremely accommodating and helpful, even leading me to put an inquiry at the New York State Archives, which holds many records on silent films – and “The Law of the Plains” happened to be one of them. Upon the recent receipt of a photocopy of the record for this silent film, some rather interesting information was included, a tidbit that would make a fantastic piece of trivia among Tom Tyler fans and later 1920’s silent film western fans.

It seems that upon the final screening of “The Law of the Plains” by the State of New York Education Department, Motion Picture Division, which granted exhibition licenses (a license to show the movie at cinemas) a request was made to Bell Pictures Inc. to remove the frame from the first reel of the film where Limpy (possibly, Al Ferguson, who is referred to a “Gang Leader” at IMDB) swats at a fly which landed on his face – and utters a curse word. There is no reference to the actual curse word in the photocopy record, aptly labeled as “Indecent”; unfortunately, neither is there a mention of all cast members and their characters, outside of Tom Tyler being mentioned. Since Tom’s silent film westerns have always been considered family- and children-friendly, any lip movements that mimic a curse word had to be removed. Once this change was made, the film reel was sent back for review by the examiners at the Motion Picture Division and declared appropriate for exhibition.

While on the subject of archival records on silent films, one other interesting piece of information stood out: in 1929, it cost $3.00 per 1000 lineal feet of film to acquire a license to exhibit the silent film. So with the five reels of 35mm, the total cost for the exhibition license in 1929 was $15.00 – or $225.00 in the year 2019.

Obviously no one would be able to see the Limpy character make the curse word in “The Law of the Plains” but not because the film does not exist; four of the five reels are at the Library of Congress, and one of those happens to be the first reel – the reel designated as needing a modification before the film could be granted a license for exhibition at cinemas across the United States. Hopefully, “The Law of the Plains” will seek restoration within the next few years.

A huge thank you to the New York State Archives in Albany for their help in providing the above information FOC (free of charge), and of course the Library of Congress, who has always been a pleasure to deal with when it comes to my research of Tom Tyler and his work.