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.