Tuesday, April 7, 2020

"Powdersmoke Range" from Movie Action Magazine digitized

As with "The Last Outlaw", "Powdersmoke Range" (1935) has not been officially released on DVD, although it has been shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). In addition to Tom Tyler, this RKO western also stars Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Bob Steele, Boots Mallory, Ray Mayer, Sam Hardy, and many other big-name western stars from that era. The story runs thirteen pages and is from Movie Action Magazine, November, 1935. To read this 9.56 MB digitized scan, click here.

Monday, April 6, 2020

“The Last Outlaw” from Boy’s Cinema digitized

Not yet officially released on DVD to my knowledge, “The Last Outlaw” (1936) is now available for viewing – as a digitized film booklet format, scanned from the December 19, 1926 issue of Boy’s Cinema, the popular British publication.  This RKO “urban-western” also stars Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Henry B. Walthall, and Margaret Callahan. The story runs thirteen pages, one column long. To read this 12.3 MB digitized scan, click here.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Sonora Kid: The British Connection

In the realm of silent film westerns with unusual story elements, “The Sonora Kid” (1927) stands out due to its integration of some distinct British elements in the plot. Tom Tyler is a cowboy who obtains work through a ranch owner by the name of Arthur Butterworth. At first glance, the name comes across as being very British – and it is. The surname Butterworth is descended from the former township of the same name in what is now called Milnrow in Greater Manchester, England. Arthur, of course, refers to King Arthur, the famous British leader who protected his land and peoples against the invading Saxons during the late 5th and early 6th centuries. There is also one other story element at present in “The Sonora Kid”: Sir Francis Drake.

British sea captain and explorer Sir Francis Drake first set foot on the west coast of America back in 1579 when his ship Golden Hind plus crew landed at what is now called Point Reyes. In true pirate fashion, Drake managed to vanquish the existing Spanish towns along the west coast near the Pacific before docking his ship after circumnavigating from England. By claiming the region of present-day California for England, Drake made it possible for his country to establish English charters from America’s  Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast. Once Drake secured the region for England, he named it Nova Albion, or New Albion. While he did not establish a residing colony, Drake and his crew sailed back to England in 1580.

Today, there is a prominent bay named after Drake, located 30 miles northwest of San Francisco. A quadricentennial plaque at Drake’s Bay documents the arrival of Drake and his ship on land considered new to British exploration. Once Drake made his initial landing at Point Reyes, he did not make any effort to plant a British colony there. After only staying there for a year and sailing for home to England, the American territory along the Pacific coast that Drake claimed for England eventually expanded his country’s fur trade commerce up to the northwest region of the United States.

Considering “The Sonora Kid” was filmed in California – and that Sonora is about 182 miles east of Drake’s Bay – it may be easy to conclude how an imaginative script came to be. Written by J. G. Hawks and Percy Heath and adapted from the story "The Knight of the Range" by William Wallace Cook, this silent film stars Tom Tyler, Peggy Montgomery, Billie Bennett, Mark Hamilton, Jack Richardson, Ethan Laidlaw, Bruce Gordon, Barney Furey, and Victor Allen. Tom’s character has the last name of MacReady, a typical Scottish/Irish surname which is altogether fitting for Tom Tyler, for it means “trained; expert” – in his case, an expert horseman. Swinging back to King Arthur, Tom dons a suit of armor and engages in a jousting match with a wealthy man from San Francisco, Bruce Gordon. Two men wearing suits of armor on horseback jousting was pretty much a first for a silent film B-western. As the knight in shining armor, Tom not only wins the jousting match but also the hand of Peggy Montgomery, who was to be married to Gordon. Tom is thankful to Peggy for many things in addition to her giving him a copy of “King Arthur” to read when he was not working. With the newly hitched couple making their home on a ranch not too far from where Sir Francis Drake landed, the memory of Merry Old England is not far away.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Collectibles: Tom Tyler on the A. Batschari Mercedes tobacco cards

Tobacco/cigarette cards bearing images of movie stars are popular among collectors of film memorabilia. Much smaller than the arcade/exhibit cards, tobacco cards were primarily manufactured in Europe. More than a few sets were made in England by cigarette companies like Gallaher and Player, while other tobacco card sets were manufactured in countries like Germany. The origins of a tobacco card with a design on one side dates back to 1875 when a small piece of cardboard was placed behind cigarettes in individually sold packs of cigarettes. The cardboard provided support for the paper package containing the cigarettes. Tobacco companies decided to place a design of some kind on these cards: cars, flowers, buildings, engineering feats – and movie stars.

While Tom Tyler did not appear on any of the English manufactured tobacco cards, he did appear on one card in the German A. Batschari Cigarettenfabrik card set. Made in Baden-Baden, Germany, A. Batschari was founded by August Batscharis in 1834 and manufactured both cigars and cigarettes. In the 1920’s, the company was purchased by the Reemtsma Group. The Mercedes brand of cigarette was produced under the new corporation, yet retained the A. Batschari name on its products. The other brand name, Jazmati, was also used in the making of cigarette cards, and used the same photos and card numbers for both sets, each set containing a total of 168 cards.

The Mercedes tobacco card with Tom on it bears the number 89 and measures 2 1/16” x 3” in size. The photo is sepia in color, and manufactured in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. On the front of the card is a full length portrait of Tom Tyler standing by a wood cabin, with Napoleon the dog (Frankie Darro’s pet in the silent films) sitting at his left. This image has also been seen on a Ross Verlag postcard, and not coincidentally, the photo rights on the cigarette card are also printed Ross Verlag in the lower left corner on the front. Other stars in this set include Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Al Jolson, John Barrymore, and Rudolph Valentino.

Friday, February 14, 2020

On Location: The Walker Cabin in “Call of the Desert”

After Tom Tyler wrapped up his final silent film for FBO in 1929, he sought work with another studio, J. P.  McGowan Productions. Luckily for Tom, he signed a new contract for eight silent films to be distributed by Syndicate Pictures. The filming location for these eight silent films was at Santa Clarita, California. One of the most notable buildings in Santa Clarita that appears in these silent films is the Walker Cabin. Located on the Walker Ranch in Placerita Canyon, the cabin became a popular filming location for many western films from 1930 to the 1940’s.

Tom Tyler and Bobby Dunn standing in front of the Walker Cabin
In the 1930 silent film “Call of the Desert”, the Walker Cabin is where Tom is carried by Hardrock (Bobby Dunn) and Nate (Cliff Lyons) into Jean Walker's (Sheila Le Gay) ranch home where she lives with her uncle Tod (Bud Osborne), to nurse him back to health. Not coincidentally, the character names who reside at the Walker Ranch bear the Walker name, to give the story a feel of authenticity. With the spacious living room and set of books on the large square table, the bedroom where Tom quietly recovers from being struck ill while out on the desert trying to make his way to the spot in Placerita Canyon where his father left the gold claim for his son, the Walker Cabin is a vision of comfort and friendliness, the way a ranch home would be to a needy stranger, Rex Carson (Tom Tyler). The town center which has its gold claim recorder and other local offices, along with a horse rental business, is comprised of other cabins on the Walker Ranch.

The Walker Ranch was established by Frank Evans Walker, who was the region’s first homesteader. He built the family cabin in 1909 so that it could be surrounded by the oak trees, near a seasonal stream lined with idyllic willow and sycamore trees. It was not long before their ranch grew to include more cabins, primarily to house local gold panners. It should be mentioned that it was at this location where the first gold in California was discovered. This camp included picnic tables, stoves, barbecues, and full housekeeping amenities for those who decided to stay for extended periods, searching for gold. Sadly, the first Walker cabin burned down in 1918, but Frank built a new one which became the filming location for “Call of the Desert” and “Canyon of Missing Men”.  Upon taking into consideration the westerns made during Hollywood’s early years, Frank Walker rented out his ranch to filmmakers, which brought in income to help feed his family of twelve children and keep the mining camp in operation until the 1950’s. Many a famous western actor set foot upon the Walker Ranch for filming: William S. Hart, who was also a neighbor of Frank Walker; Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, John Wayne, Bob Steele, and many others. The earliest silent film shot at Walker Ranch was in 1928 – meaning that Tom Tyler was among the first silent film actors to set foot on the famous property. In 1950, Placerita Canyon State Park was established, its ownership being under Los Angeles County.

While the multiple cabins on the Walker Ranch no longer exist, the good news is, the existing Walker Cabin has been restored so that visitors to the park might see what it looked like during Hollywood’s western silent film days.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Aventuras de Tom Tyler newsletter on hiatus

The Aventuras de Tom Tyler newsletter is on hiatus for a few months due to time constraints (as well as a few non-Tom Tyler projects I am involved in that are priority). In the meantime, this blog will be updated a few times a month as usual, and for your viewing pleasure:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Need help in identifying a Tom Tyler movie with a French title - Identified!

Updated note (January 26, 2020): It appears the newspaper Republican and Herald (Pottsville, PA, January 25, 1930) mislabeled a still similar to the one below as being from "The Phantom Rider".  Fellow forum member Vince at forum.westernmovies.fr sent me several scans from a film booklet, Les Films du Far-West which contains the still identical to the one below. The title on this is "Le Vol du Diamant", which leads me to believe "'Neath Western Skies" had two different translations in French - the other one being "Le Lion du Ranch". Literally, "Le Vol du Diamant" means "The Flight of the Diamond", and diamond drills are the central part of the plot in "'Neath Western Skies". Many thanks to Vince for this information!

Back in November 26, 2017 I did a blog article on French titles of Tom's movies. However one of the translations turned out to be inaccurate. The cinema listing for “Le lion du ranch" appeared in the newspaper L'Echo d'Alger, January 20, 1932:

After some initial inquiry at forum.westernmovies.fr, it was originally concluded by me it was probably “West of Cheyenne” (1931). However, that is not the case. Another member at the above named French forum shared a still of “Le lion du ranch" which was published in the book  “Le Western ou le Cinéma Américain par Excellence” by J L Rieupeyrout and A. Bazin, 1953. Please take a look at the still below and see if you can recognize which Tom Tyler movie this is from. The date of the movie is most likely 1931, which means it is one of Tom's lost talkies. Please email your reply to aventurasdetomtyler_@_triggertom.com (remove the underscores). Many thanks to Vince at  forum.westernmovies.fr for sharing this image!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Tom Tyler’s movies in Malaysia and Singapore

It has been some time since an article has been written about the global reach of Tom Tyler’s silent films and talkies, so for this one, we will go to Malaysia and Singapore. These two countries in Southeast Asia saw the majority of Tom’s earliest silent films, beginning with “Let’s Go Gallagher” (1925) during the later half of the 1920’s. Since Tom Tyler’s movies retained their original American English titles (Malaysia, then called Malaya, remained under England’s control until 1957; Singapore, until 1959), it is probably safe to guess that his movies were targeted towards the British, and Malays and Singaporeans who could understand English. 1927 seems to be the last year of Tom Tyler’s silent films for FBO that were released in Malaysia and Singapore, “The Desert Pirate” being the last one, although the Syndicate Pictures produced “The Lone Horseman” was the last silent film from the 1920’s to be exhibited in those two countries. “The Canyon of Missing Men” (1930) was the very last of his silent films to be shown in 1933.

The marketing of Tom’s silent films in cinema listings was no less exciting or intriguing as they were in American newspapers. For example, “The Wyoming Wildcat” (1925) listing for Surina Theatre in The Straits Times (December 3, 1927) reads: “The very latest rage of filmdom, a champion in every sense of the word, a horseman who brings memories of Buffalo and Pawnee Bill, a crack shot of uncanny skill.” “The Cowboy Cop”  (1926) listing for Surina Theatre in Malaya Tribune, February 17, 1928, has: “A roaring melodrama of Cowboy Life on plains and boulevards, packed with Typical Tyler Thrills.” “Tom and His Pals” (1926), also at Surina Theatre describes the silent film as being “The comedy-action gang of the west, the most popular trio in the world” in Malaya Tribune, May 18, 1928.

From Morning Tribune, June 26, 1936
By the 1930’s, a number of Tom’s talkies made it to the other side of the world, in addition to his film serials. Cinema listings in the Malaya and Singapore newspapers for the film serials were a bit of an aberration, however. Instead of just one serial chapter being shown along with a feature film and cartoon, a handful of chapters were shown together in one night, and on occasion, the entire serial was shown. That meant a full three to three and a half hours of sitting through the serial, with at least one intermission. This was the case with Tom’s Universal serial, “Phantom of the Air”. The cinema listing for Empire Talkies from Morning Tribune (June 26, 1936) has: “7:30 PM To-night one show only: Complete serial ‘Phantom of the Air’ 12 chapters 24 reels Featuring Tom Tyler.” “Jungle Mystery” (1932) was shown at the Ritz Cinema in Geylang, all 12 chapters at once, according to Malaya Tribune, August 3, 1934. It is unknown why the cinema showed the entire serial all at once; it is possible the cinema was leasing the movie for a week or less, thus forcing them to show the entire serial the way they did. At any rate, these film serial listings remain a curiosity in the world of film serials.

A number of Tom Tyler 1940’s movies were also exhibited in Malaysia and Singapore. “The Mummy’s Hand” (1941) was advertised as being “The most exciting thriller since ‘Frankenstein’!” at Capitol Theatre (The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 19 March 1941). "Into a tomb of a thousand terrors...Daring a terrible curse to come face to face with the world's most amazing monster!"

These newspapers as mentioned above were published in British English. With thanks to NewspaperSG  for these Tom Tyler movie listings.

Let’s Go Gallagher (1925)
The Wyoming Wildcat (1925)
The Cowboy Musketeer (1925)
Born to Battle (1926)
The Arizona Streak (1926)
Wild to Go (1926)
The Masquerade Bandit (1926)
The Cowboy Cop  (1926)
Tom and His Pals (1926)
Out of the West (1926)
Red Hot Hoofs (1926)
Lightning Lariats (1927)
The Sonora Kid (1927)
Cyclone of the Range (1927)
Tom’s Gang (1927)
Flying U Ranch (1927)
The Cherokee Kid (1927)
The Desert Pirate (1927)
The Lone Horseman (1929)

Canyon of Missing Men (1930)
Phantom of the West (1931)
Partners of the Trail (1931)
Galloping Thru (1931)
The Man from New Mexico (1932)
Jungle Mystery (1932)
Phantom of the Air (1933)
Riding Thru (1934)
Silent Valley (1935)
Mystery Ranch (1934)
Fighting Hero (1934)
Santa Fe Bound (1936)

The Mummy’s Hand (1941)
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)
Valley of the Sun (1942)
The Phantom (1943)
San Antonio (1945)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Tom Tyler in Real Estate, Hollywood style: Willet and Tyler

At one point in the 1930's during his acting career, Tom Tyler entered the real estate business with a partner. Willett and Tyler Realtors had their office located at 771 North Vine in Hollywood. Tom met Willett (first name unknown) some time in 1934, and by 1935, the team was placing real estate ads in the Los Angeles Times. One of their standard classified ads reads as follows: “We specialize in exchanges, leases, sales. Bring your listings for quick action. Willett and Tyler, 771 N. Vine, GR4416.” The GR4416 was the phone number – quite different from the standard ten digit phone number used by a landline or cellphone. A total of three property listings appeared in the Los Angeles Times, which probably does not seem like a whole lot. There was however a number of ads placed by Willett and Tyler offering their services. Willett was probably the more experienced of the two men in the field of real estate; back then, selling real estate was an apprenticeship, with Tom in this case being the apprentice. The business itself did not get very far, and Tom Tyler left some time late in 1935. He did not give up his day job as an actor, which was a good thing as he was unable to afford to do so.

Following are the real estate ads as posted by Willett and Tyler in the Los Angeles Times. The average price for a 5-room bungalow house downtown was $3,950.00 in 1935. A 7-room Spanish style house in Beverly Hills was $5,300.00 – cheap by today’s standard.

The Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1934

The Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1934
The Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1934
The Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1934

The Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1934

Today, the address of 771 N. Vine is occupied by RodeWay Inn.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

2020 is not just the start of a new year – and new decade – for Aventuras de Tom Tyler. 2020 also marks the 100th year since Vincent Markowski started making plans to leave his cozy family home in Hamtramck, Michigan, for an acting career in Hollywood. To that end, he took acting lessons through a correspondence course, which was popular at the time in order to attract fresh talent and the best-looking young men and women to young Hollywood. It seems hard to believe this event – Tom Tyler as a teenage boy receiving an education in acting – took place that long ago. Vincent was not even named Tom back then and it is entirely possible that he did not imagine what his professional name might be as an actor. But he did have the belief in himself, the work ethic and drive for ambition which enabled him to succeed as a leading man for FBO Productions, owned by Joseph Kennedy Sr. at the time.

There is a certain magic in thinking about the year young Vincent Markowski embarked upon his life ambition. It may have been a hundred years ago, but for Tom Tyler, his time has come for his earliest work in silent film to be rediscovered, viewed, and cherished. 2020 is the year for this to finally happen; all and any updates regarding these silent films from 1925 to 1929 will be first mentioned here at Aventuras de Tom Tyler. Let’s make 2020 the best year for Tom!