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.

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