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.