Sunday, June 2, 2019

When Two Heroes Meet: Tom Tyler and Abraham Lincoln

It is not too far-fetched at all to imagine a meeting of Tom Tyler with President Abraham Lincoln. While a number of Tom’s movies take place during Lincoln’s presidency, the one that most stands out is “Two Fisted Justice”. In this B-western from Trem Carr Pictures, Tom is Kentucky Carson, an agent on a special mission down south during the Civil War, sent by President Abraham Lincoln. The existing print of this movie is available from Sinister Cinema, but unfortunately is missing the reel which contains the famous meeting of Kentucky with President Lincoln. That is not to say we cannot conclude what this event actually looked like, for we have film stills, along with film synopses and descriptions from Hollywood trade publications, along with a film booklet from Spain, Biblioteca Films, that provides insight on this missing reel. On the positive side, a more complete 16mm print of “Two Fisted Justice” is at UCLA – which hopefully will be restored and digitized one day. In the meantime, let’s take a look at this scene where Kentucky Carson meets Abraham Lincoln before he receives a reprieve to free Cameron (John Elliott) who is about to be hanged for murdering Cheyenne Charlie (Pedro Regas), from the President himself. Considering the point where Kentucky receives this letter, the missing footage is from the beginning of the film, where he is called into Lincoln’s office. The two men shake hands, and Kentucky is deputized and sent out west during the Civil War to maintain peace along with his Poncho Riders.

In the Biblioteca Films title “Al que a hierro mata”, the Spanish title for “Two Fisted Justice”, President Lincoln issues a memo dated April 15, 1861, a means to eventually summon Kentucky Carson into the Oval Office – and in turn sends him to a post out in Kansas territory. The memo reads as follows:

“Fuerzas rebeldes han formado una confederación de los Estados del Sur, optando por la sesión de la Union.

“Las fuerzas de los territorios fronterizos han recibido órdenes de concentrarse en Washington.

“Los ciudadanos leales de dicho territotio se organizarán para mantener el orden y hacer cumplir la ley durante las emergencias, Hay que preservar la Unión!”

English translation:

“Rebel forces have formed a confederation of the Southern States, opting for the session of the Union.

“The forces of the border territories have been ordered to concentrate in Washington.

“The loyal citizens of said territory will be organized to maintain order and enforce the law during emergencies. We must preserve the Union!”

The exchange between Lincoln and Kentucky continues in the Oval Office:

El muchacho esperó a que Lincoln extendiera un salvaconducto y, antes de entregárselo, se lo leyó el presidente, diciéndole:

-Mire lo que dice; creo que con esto basta.

“El portador, Kentucky Carson, puede viajar y obrar como lo crea conveniente. Los officiales del gobierno federal deben prestarle apoyo. Comuníquese con el suscrito si se desea confirmar esta autorización. - A. Lincoln's

-Gracias, señor – exclamó Kentucky una vez que tuvo en su poder aquella autorización.

-Qué piensa hacer ahora? - le preguntó el presidente.

-Iré al territorio de Kansas. Allí hay mucho qué hacer, pero le prometo que lo mantendré en pas…

Pues buena suerte – le dijo el presidente despidiéndole. Ya sabe que hay que obrar con energía. Cada uno debe ser un héroe que exponga su vida.

In English:

The boy waited for Lincoln to extend a pass and, before handing it over, the president read it to him, saying:

“Look what he says; I think this is enough. The carrier, Kentucky Carson, can travel and act as he sees fit. The federal government officials must support him. Contact the undersigned if you wish to confirm this authorization.” - A. Lincoln

"Thank you, sir," exclaimed Kentucky once he had that authorization.

“What do you plan to do now?” the president asked him.

“I'll go to Kansas territory. There is a lot to do there, but I promise that I will keep it in country.”

“Well good luck”, said the president, saying goodbye. “You already know that you have a lot of work to do. Each man who risks his life is a hero.”

Precisely why Abraham Lincoln summoned Kentucky Carson to the Oval Office: because he knew Kentucky was of hero material who would not let the President nor his country down. It seems fitting that these two men should be meeting, under the circumstances they did, given their historical place in American History – and film history.

Released on October 20, 1931, “Two Fisted Justice” stayed in movie theatres long enough for the media to take advantage of the Lincoln factor to exhibit it near February 12 – President Lincoln’s Day, the day he was born on in 1809. The New York State Exhibitor states that this movie “ an ideal attraction for Lincoln's Birthday, what with sequences depicting Tyler and the martyred President.” (January 10, 1932). Movie trivia about American Presidents in film and who portrayed them may be a fun and interesting topic of conversation, but how many people today know that Abraham Lincoln was depicted in a B-western, and one that starred Tom Tyler? Mention this to someone interested in Lincoln and who portrayed him, and the answer would be Joseph Mills.

Due to the movie’s human nature side plus the presidential element, “Two Fisted Justice” was one of the few early Tom Tyler movies to be exhibited in France, under the title “Seul Contre Tous”, dubbed in French. A full page ad for this movie even appeared in Hebdo Film, July 9, 1932. Other publicity materials for “Two Fisted Justice” also appeared in Spain and Poland. “Two Fisted Justice” was one of Tom Tyler’s more important movies of the early 1930’s, with the Civil War, President Lincoln, and justice concepts which dominate the plot. Considering the reach of “Two Fisted Justice”, it can be asked if President Lincoln himself would want to meet Tom Tyler after viewing the movie. There is the strong possibility that he would.

From Hebdo Film, July 9, 1932

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