Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tom Tyler: A real-life Adonis

One of the earliest marketing tactics for Tom Tyler at the start of his silent-film career was to stress his physical appearance as resembling that of Adonis, the youth of Greek mythology famous for his beauty. A theatre ad from The Ogden Standard-Examiner, Utah, October 4, 1925 describes Tom in his debut starring role in “Let's Go Gallagher” as follows: "A new Adonis of the screen – is a rugged, red-blooded he-manish young god of the Ranges!” For cinema patrons, being introduced to Tom Tyler must have been quite the experience: seeing a 6'2” tall, 190 lb. well-muscled hunk gallop across the silent film screen on horseback, portraying the hero of the day. The 1920's certainly had its share of handsome actors, but there was something about Tom that stood out. For one thing, he did not look like a silent film actor; to put things into context, had he been born twenty years ago instead of 114 years ago, he would be considered as much of a stud now in 2017 as he was back in 1925. Tom's marvelous physique and facial looks, with his classic nose, wide brown eyes, chiseled cheeks and jawline were perfect for silent film, which quality was not always the best, but of course this was long before digital video enhancement.

Venus and Adonis, by Fontana
Considering Tom Tyler's looks and comparing them with Adonis as portrayed by many a famous artist such as Aristide Fontana (fl. cir. 1870-1890) and Titian (1490-1576), it is easy to see the resemblance between the new star of FBO and a work of art. Even Shakespeare wrote a narrative poem about Venus and Adonis:

Thus hoping that Adonis is alive,
Her rash suspect she doth extenuate;
And that his beauty may the better thrive,
With Death she humbly doth insinuate;

The perfect proportions, hair, similar features that Adonis possessed certainly look like they might come to life in the form of a young, enthusiastic actor. Tom Tyler could have very well been the model for these works of art, and if Hollywood lore is true about Tom working as an art model before making it big in pictures...well, it is easy to see why.

Some DVD marketers are prone to color Tom's eyes blue, as in the DVD cover for “The Laramie Kid”/”Single Handed Saunders” put out by Alpha Home Entertainment ( In reality, Tom's eyes were brown, not a dark brown, but regular brown. On silent film, regular brown eyes may appear to the viewer to be blue (in this case, the pupils are usually distinctly visible), while blue eyes on silent film tend to look “washed out.” One of the best close-ups of Tom's eyes is in “The Silver Bullet” when he is in the saloon ready to reprimand an outlaw. Eyes aside, Tom Tyler's perfectly featured face and physique made him a favorite with youth and women alike in America. What red-blooded American boy would not want to grow up to look and be like Tom Tyler?

As a Hollywood silent film leading man, Tom Tyler soon had a growing public who followed his career, regularly viewing his movies on weekends. They were as devoted to their new hero as they could be, similar to how Adonis had his own following, eventually becoming the focal point of a series of Greek mystery plays. There was no shortage of public reminders of Adonis in the Greek world, his image featured on vases and urns, much the way Tom Tyler appeared on posters, arcade cards, and in film booklets for fans to purchase and collect. One this is for certain: Adonis and Tom Tyler do share one thing, they are remembered for their eternal youthfulness and immortality.

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