It may sound unusual for Tom Tyler to be considered a father figure, having never had any children of his own in real life, but onscreen, he played the role on more than one occasion with his young co-stars from the silent film era to early talkies. Whether his co-stars were Frankie Darro, Andy Shuford, Bobby Nelson, or Wesley Giraud, Tom was someone these boys looked up to onscreen, or even admired and respected in real life, as in Frankie Darro’s case. Tom was very good with children in silent films which drew children from all over the United States and the world to the Saturday matinee to enjoy his latest adventure on the silver screen. Even in silent films where there are multiple children – including babies! – like “Idaho Red” and “The Man from Nevada”, Tom is there, talking to the youngsters, playing with them, protecting them, rescuing them from bandits. In other words, doing all the things a father does with his children. Let’s not forget when Tom delivers a baby in “Clancy of the Mounted” - the baby of his brother’s wife.
"A Rider of the Plains" 1931
In silent films like “The Desert Pirate”, Tom becomes a surrogate father to Frankie Darro, after shooting the boy’s father who is in fact a major criminal. In the movie “A Rider of the Plains” Tom is literally parenting his pal and riding partner Andy Shuford, who has wayward tendencies but with the help of a pastor friend, helps get him on the straight and narrow with a loving but firm hand. Screen portrayals of fatherly figures aside, in real life, Tom was uncle to a number of nephews his siblings had. In “The Tom Tyler Story” by Mike Chapman, there is a photo of Tom holding his sister Katherine’s newborn baby, Raymond, smiling at the tiny guy. After all, little Raymond could have been his own child. Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there.