Monday, April 20, 2020

Tom Tyler and His Pals: The Sound Era

Tom with Andy Shuford in "A Rider of the Plains"
By the early 1930’s when Tom Tyler transitioned to making sound movies, the “Tom and His Pals” marketing motto since his silent film years underwent a transition, too. For one thing, Tom’s riding partner was an adult male, sometimes in the form of Ben Corbett, Billy Franey or even George “Gabby” Hayes. One western even had an African-American as Tom’s pal – Fred “Snowflake” Toones, in “Single Handed Saunders” (1932), a rarity in itself. There remained a few exceptions to this, primarily in an attempt to recapture the magic of Tom and his pals previously seen in the silent films made for FBO. To that end, two movies produced by Trem Carr introduced a young pal to Tom’s character: “A Rider of the Plains” (1931) and “Two Fisted Justice” (1931). In 1933, Monarch Productions followed suit with “War of the Range”. Each one of these movies had a different child actor in the role of Tom’s pal, and one unique feature of these boys is, unlike Frankie Darro, these kids all had blonde hair. Following is a brief profile of the three child actors who played Tom Tyler’s pal for an hour’s length of action and adventure.

Andy Shuford

Born as William Andrew Shuford on December 16, 1919 in Helena, Arkansas, Andy was best known for his roles in “Law of the North” (1932) and “A Rider of the Plains” (1931). Andy’s first film appearance was in a Little Rascals short, “Ten Years Old” in 1927. Prior to working with Tom Tyler, he was an established child star in his own right, appearing in “The Big Trail” (1930) and “The Great Meadow” (1931). Andy played Tom’s partner Silent Sandy in “A Rider of the Plains” (1931) – so named due to his tendency to talk too much when he was not supposed to. Consequently, his mouth tended to get him into trouble. Tom remained firm with him at all times in bringing him up, for he plays a parental role to Sandy in this movie and is not just a “big pal” to the boy. Andy’s last movie appearance was in “The Mayor of Hell” (1933), which starred James Cagney. When he joined the United States Army Air Corps during World War 2, Andy left his film career behind, becoming a highly decorated pilot and achieving the rank of colonel. Andy Shuford died on May 19, 1995 at the age of 77 in Monteagle, Tennessee.

Bobby Nelson

Robert John Nelson was born on January 17, 1922 in Sana Monica, California. Acting came naturally to Bobby, the son of a silent film star and director, Jack Nelson. Bobby’s first film role came in 1926 at the age of four in the silent film “Beyond the Rockies”. His onscreen personality and charm soon led to further roles in movies, such as “Tarzan the Mighty” (1928), “Oliver Twist” (1933), and the Gene Autry film serial, “The Phantom Empire” (1935). As Danny in “Two Fisted Justice”, nine-year-old Bobby played an orphan who lost his guardians to an Indian attack, taken in by Kentucky Carson (Tom Tyler). Witnessing a murder, Danny risks losing his beloved dog Sagebrush. Very reminiscent of the silent films Tom Tyler made with Frankie Darro, who was sometimes characterized as being an orphan, Bobby’s performance was worthy of a juvenile Oscar, had the award existed in 1931 (it was introduced in 1934). But this was not Bobby’s only appearance with Tom Tyler; he also had a role as Ezra Podge in Chapter 4 of “Battling with Buffalo Bill”, also released in 1931. Bobby’s last film role was in “The Boothill Brigade” (1937), and five years later in 1942, joined the Army during World War 2. His military career lasted four years before he was discharged in 1946. As an adult, he was a public accountant. Sadly, Bobby died at the young age of 52 on December 5, 1974 in Los Angeles.

Wesley Giraud

Wesley Giraud was Tom’s last young pal Jimmy Carlysle, appearing in “War of the Range” (1933). Sporting blond hair and freckles, Wesley was born on July 1, 1918 in New York City. His first film appearance was in “One Man Law” (1932) starring Buck Jones. He also appeared in movies like “No Greater Glory” (1934) which also starred Frankie Darro, “The Plainsman” (1936), and “Boys Town” (1938). As Jimmy Carlysle, the younger brother of Grace Carlysle (Caryl Lincoln), Wesley was a natural as Tom’s young pal: the type of boy who loved the outdoors with his rugged personality, faithful pal to the very end, when Tom helps the boy on the mend after he is shot. The last movie Wesley made was “Gallant Sons” (1940). After his film career, Wesley worked in the furniture business, then as a mailman. In 1971, Wesley survived a stroke, rehabilitating while watching movies he appeared in on television. He died at the age of 74 on May 5, 1993 in San Diego, California.

Honorary mention: the adorable moppet named Bill in “Single Handed Saunders” who brings his broken wagon to Tom the Blacksmith to fix. Bill appears to have either light brown or possibly red hair. Unfortunately this young actor’s name is not credited nor mentioned anywhere on IMDB or elsewhere. If anyone knows his name, please send it to me so I can add it. Thank you!

April 21, 2020 - We have a name for this little boy! Noel Newhard, age 3 in the screencap below. His father Guy Newhard was a film actor and camera man who had a minor role as a cowboy in "Single Handed Saunders". Many thanks to JimmieFan at Nitrateville for helping to identify this young man! Read more about Noel and his father in the article given to me by JimmieFan here.

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