Tom Mix

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Tom Mix
Tommixportrait.jpg
Tom Mix, 1925
Born Thomas Hezikiah Mix[1]
(1880-01-06)January 6, 1880
Mix Run, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 12, 1940(1940-10-12) (aged 60)
Florence, Arizona, U.S.
Other names Thomas Edwin Mix
Occupation Actor
Years active 1909–1935
Spouse(s) Grace I. Allin (1902–1903)
Kitty Jewel Perinne (1905–1906)
Olive Stokes (1907–1917)
Victoria Forde (1918–1931)
Mabel Hubbell Ward (1932–1940)

Thomas Edwin "Tom" Mix (born Thomas Hezikiah Mix;[1] January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies. Between 1909 and 1935, Mix appeared in 291 films,[2] all but nine of which were silent movies. He was Hollywood's first Western megastar and is noted as having helped define the genre for all cowboy actors who followed.[1]

Early years[edit]

Thomas Hezikiah Mix was born January 6, 1880 in Mix Run, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles (60 km) north of State College, Pennsylvania, to Edwin Elias Mix (February 22, 1854 – November 29, 1927) and Elizabeth Heistand (November 1858 – July 25, 1937). He grew up in nearby Dubois, Pennsylvania, where his father, a stable master for a wealthy lumber merchant, taught him to ride and love horses.[3] He spent time working on a local farm owned by John Dubois, a lumber businessman. He had dreams of being in the circus and was rumored to have been caught by his parents practicing knife-throwing tricks against a wall, using his sister as an assistant.

In April 1898, during the Spanish-American War, he enlisted in the Army under the name Thomas E. (Edwin) Mix. His unit never went overseas, and Mix later failed to return for duty after an extended furlough when he married Grace I. Allin on July 18, 1902. Mix was listed as AWOL on November 4, 1902, but was never court-martialed nor apparently even discharged. His marriage to Allin was annulled after one year. In 1905, Mix married Kitty Jewel Perinne, but this marriage also ended within a year. He next married Olive Stokes on January 10, 1909, in Medora, North Dakota.

In 1905, Mix rode in Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade led by Seth Bullock with a group of 50 horsemen, which included several former Rough Riders. Years later, Hollywood publicists would muddle this event to imply that Mix had been a Rough Rider himself.

After working a variety of odd jobs in the Oklahoma Territory, Mix found employment at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, one of the largest ranching businesses in the United States, covering 101,000 acres (409 km²), hence its name. The ranch had its own touring Wild West show in which Mix appeared. He stood out as a skilled horseman and expert shot, winning national riding and roping contests at Prescott, Arizona in 1909, and Canon City, Colorado in 1910.[4]

Film career[edit]

Selig Polyscope[edit]

Tom Mix in Mr. Logan, U.S.A., 1919

Tom Mix began his film career as a supporting cast member with the Selig Polyscope Company. His first appearance was in a short film titled The Cowboy Millionaire, released on October 21, 1909.[2] In 1910 he appeared as himself in a short documentary film titled Ranch Life in the Great Southwest in which he displayed his skills as a cattle wrangler. Shot at the Selig studio in the Edendale district of Los Angeles (now known as Echo Park), the film was a success and Mix became an early motion picture star.

On July 13, 1912, Olive gave birth to their daughter Ruth. Mix performed in more than 100 films for Selig, many of which were filmed in Las Vegas, New Mexico. While with Selig he co-starred in several films with Victoria Forde, and they fell in love. He divorced Olive Stokes in 1917. By then, Selig Polyscope had encountered severe financial difficulties, and Tom Mix and Victoria Forde both subsequently signed with Fox Film Corporation, which had leased the Edendale studio. Mix and Forde married in 1918 and they had a daughter, Thomasina Mix (Tommie), in 1922.[citation needed]

Mixville[edit]

Tom Mix went on to make more than 160 cowboy films throughout the 1920s. These featured action-oriented scripts which contrasted with the documentary style of his work with Selig. Heroes and villains were sharply defined and a clean-cut cowboy always "saved the day." Millions of American children grew up watching his films on Saturday afternoons. His intelligent and handsome horse Tony also became a celebrity. Mix did his own stunts and was frequently injured.

Tom Mix, 1925

Mix's salary at Fox reached $7,500 a week. His performances weren't noted for their realism but for screen-friendly action stunts and horseback riding, attention-grabbing cowboy costumes and showmanship. At the Edendale lot Mix built a 12-acre (49,000 m2) shooting set called Mixville. Loaded with western props and furnishings, it has been described as a "complete frontier town, with a dusty street, hitching rails, a saloon, jail, bank, doctor's office, surveyor's office, and the simple frame houses typical of the early Western era." Near the back of the lot an Indian village of lodges was ringed by miniature plaster mountains which on screen were said to be "ferociously convincing." The set also included a simulated desert, large corral and a ranch house with no roof, to facilitate interior shots.

In 1927, Tom Mix was the #1 box office star in America, but when his contract ran out with Fox in 1928, he was signed by Film Booking Office of America (FBO), a small movie studio run by Joseph P. Kennedy, who would merge it into RKO Radio Pictures. Mix was 49 and by most accounts he was ready to retire from the movies. Kennedy needed a replacement for FBO's Western superstar Fred Thomson, whom he had dealt to Paramount Studios. Thomson was second only to Mix at the box office.[5]

Mix played hard-to-get, threatening to move to Argentina to make films or joining the circus, but eventually, he signed with FBO, although he eventually left the studio for Universal due to salary disputes with Kennedy. He said of Kennedy that he was "tight-assed, money-crazed son-of-a-bitch".[6]

In 1929, Mix was a pallbearer at the funeral of Wyatt Earp (during which he reportedly wept).[7]

1930s[edit]

Mix appeared with the Sells-Floto Circus in 1929, 1930 and 1931 at a reported weekly salary of $20,000. He and Forde were divorced in 1931. Meanwhile, the Great Depression (along with the actor's free-spending ways and many wives) had reportedly wiped out most of his savings. In 1932, he married his fifth wife, Mabel Hubbell Ward. Universal Pictures approached him that year with an offer to do talkies which included script and cast approval. He did nine pictures for Universal, but because of injuries he received while filming, he was reluctant to continue with any more. Mix then appeared with the Sam B. Dill circus, which he reportedly bought two years later (1935).

Mix's last screen appearance was a 15-episode sound Mascot Pictures serial, The Miracle Rider (1935), receiving $40,000 for four weeks of filming. Also that year, Texas governor James Allred named Mix an honorary Texas Ranger. Mix went back to circus performing, this time with his eldest daughter Ruth, who had appeared in some of his films. In 1938, Mix went to Europe on a promotional trip, while his daughter Ruth stayed behind to manage his circus, which soon failed. He later excluded her from his will. He had reportedly made over $6,000,000 (approaching $400 million in early 21st century, inflation-adjusted values) during his 26-year film career.

Radio[edit]

Postcard sent in response to an entry for a radio program contest in 1941

In 1933, Ralston-Purina obtained his permission to produce a Tom Mix radio series called Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters which, but for one year during World War II, was popular throughout most of the 1930s through the early 1950s. Mix never appeared on these broadcasts, and was instead played by radio actors: Artells Dickson (early 1930s), Jack Holden (from 1937), Russell Thorsen (early 1940s) and Joe "Curley" Bradley (from 1944). Others in the supporting cast included George Gobel, Harold Peary and Willard Waterman.

The Ralston company offered ads during the Tom Mix radio program for listeners to send in for a series of 12 special Ralston-Tom Mix Comic books available only by writing the Ralston Company by mail.

Death[edit]

On October 12, 1940, after visiting Pima County Sheriff Ed Nichols in Tucson, Arizona,[4] Mix headed north toward Phoenix on U.S. Highway 80 (now Arizona State Route 79), driving his 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton. He stopped at the Oracle Junction Inn, a popular gambling and drinking establishment, to call his agent, and then continued toward Phoenix. About eighteen miles south of Florence, Arizona, Mix came upon construction barriers at a bridge washed away by a flash flood. He was unable to stop in time. The car swerved twice and then rolled into a gully, pinning his body underneath.[4] He had placed a large aluminum suitcase containing a substantial sum of money, traveler's checks, and jewels on the package shelf behind him. It flew forward and struck Mix's head, shattering his skull and breaking his neck. The actor was killed almost instantly. Eyewitnesses said Mix had been traveling at 80 mph.[4] He was 60 years old. It was rumored that alcohol may have also been a factor.

The funeral of Tom Mix was held at the Little Church of the Flowers in Glendale, California on October 16, 1940, attended by thousands of fans and Hollywood personalities. He was interred nearby in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.[4]

A small stone memorial marks the site of his death on State Route 79, and the nearby gully is named "Tom Mix Wash". The plaque on the marker bears the inscription: "In memory of Tom Mix whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the old West in the minds of living men."

Legacy[edit]

Tom Mix was "the King of Cowboys" when Ronald Reagan and John Wayne were youngsters and the influence of his screen persona can be seen in their approach to portraying cowboys. When an injury caused football player Marion Morrison (later John Wayne) to drop out of USC, Mix helped him get a job moving props in the back lot of Fox Studios.

Mix made 291 movies throughout his career.[2] As of 2007, only about 10% of these were reportedly available for viewing, although it was unclear how many of these films are now considered lost films.

Tom Mix memorial plaque

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Mix has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1708 Vine Street. His cowboy boot prints, palm prints and hoof prints of his horse, Tony, are at Grauman's Chinese Theatre at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1958 he was inducted posthumously into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1959 a 'Monument To The Stars' was erected on Beverly Dr. (where it intersects Olympic Blvd. and becomes Beverwil) in Beverly Hills. The memorial consists of a bronze-green spiral of sprocketed "camera film" above a multi-sided tower, embossed with full-length likenesses of early stars who appeared in famous silent movies. Those memorialized include Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Will Rogers, Conrad Nagel, Rudolph Valentino, Fred Niblo, Tom Mix, and Harold Lloyd. There is a Tom Mix museum in Dewey, Oklahoma and another in Mix Run, Pennsylvania. Between 1980 and 2004, 21 Tom Mix festivals were held during the month of September, most of them in DuBois, Pennsylvania.

Cultural references[edit]

Tom Mix, 1925

By the 21st century, most people were more familiar with Tom Mix's name through the many cultural references which have echoed long after his death, rather than from having seen his films. Cereal boxtop premiums (radio premiums) from the 1940s relating to Mix are still traded by collectors. Mix was referred to in Conny Froboess' 1951 song "Pack' die Badehose ein" and in a 1953 Dinah Washington song, "TV Is the Thing This Year" for EmArcy Records (signifying a change in technology from radio to television).

  • In the JD Salinger short story "The Laughing Man", the Chief is described as having "the most photogenic features of Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, and Tom Mix."
  • In 1967, Mix was featured with many other 20th century celebrities on the cover of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  • In Woody Allen's 1983 film Zelig, archival footage is shown of Mix attending a party at Hearst Castle near San Simeon, California.
  • Bruce Willis played Tom Mix in the 1988 Blake Edwards film Sunset, with James Garner as Wyatt Earp. The film was very loosely based on the fact that Earp and Mix knew each other when Earp was serving as a consultant during the silent film era.
  • In The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed Clampett's reason for going to Beverly Hills was to live in the same place as Tom Mix.
  • Daryl Ponicsan's novel Tom Mix Died for Your Sins (1975) evokes Mix's life and personality. Clifford Irving offered a pseudo-autobiographical version of Mix's early adulthood, drawing him as a brash young gringo who befriends and then joins up with the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa in the novel Tom Mix and Pancho Villa (1982).
  • In the 2008 movie Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, the mysterious little boy claiming to be Walter Collins finally confesses to the police that the reason he ran away to Los Angeles was in hopes of meeting Tom Mix and his horse Tony.
  • In the children's novel "Letters From Rifka" by "Karen Hesse", the protagonist Rifka Nebrot mentions learning the English language by reading comic books about a cowboy named Tom Mix who shoots at bad guys.
  • James Horwitz's book They Went Thataway (1975) ends with Horwitz visiting Tom Mix Wash (where Mix died) and leaving his childhood cowboy boots at the foot of the monument.
  • A resurrected Tom Mix appeared in two of Philip José Farmer's Riverworld novels, The Dark Design (1977) and The Magic Labyrinth (1980) as a traveling companion of Jack London, along with a short story featured in the anthology Riverworld and Other Stories (1979).
  • In the "Mulcahy's War" episode of M*A*S*H Father Mulcahy used a Tom Mix pocket knife to perform an emergency tracheotomy (1976).
  • Philip K. Dick's sci-fi novel The Penultimate Truth features an underground bunker named 'the Tom Mix'.
  • In Batman/Houdini: The Devil's Workshop (1993), Tom Mix is a high profile figure in Gotham society, and takes up Houdini's offer of a free punch to the stomach.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel The Laertian Gamble, Miles O'Brien reads a Tom Mix Western.
  • In an episode of Raw Toonage, Bonkers D. Bobcat plays a cowboy character named "Trail Mix Bonkers", an obvious homage to Tom Mix, as well as a play on both his name and trail mix.
  • The menacing cowboy character in David Lynch's film Mulholland Drive contains oblique references to Mix.
  • The ghost of Tom Mix haunted a Hollywood couple in the supernatural thriller The Ghosts of Edendale (2004).
  • Ralston-Purina briefly revived its Tom Mix boxtop fan club during the 1980s, and in 2007 had Tom Mix pages on the company's website.
  • Tom Mix is mentioned as being a pall bearer and weeping at the funeral for Wyatt Earp at the beginning of the end credits for the 1993 George P. Cosmatos film Tombstone.
  • In a scene of the 1962 Mexican film El Extra starring Cantinflas in which he is trying on a suit to broaden it for another actor, he states that he feels "just like Tom Mix".
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Gunfighters", the TARDIS lands at Tombstone, Arizona in 1881, where the Doctor says he doesn't understand why they want to dress like Tom Mix.
  • The United States Postal Service has commemorated Tom Mix on a first-class mail postage stamp.
  • In Salt-Water Moon, by Canadian playwright David French, Jacob describes watching "The Lucky Horseshoe", calling it "one of the best Tom ever made," and tries to seduce Mary when describing it.
  • Italian comic series Captain Miki was renamed in Turkey by comics calligrapher Ferdi Sayışman as "Captain Tom Mix" (Yüzbaşı Tommiks) in the 70s, and comics are being published with this name till today.
  • In the series Bewitched in the episode "Serena's Youth Pill", Darin tries to convince young Larry Tate to drink the magic antidote by telling him it would help Larry grow up to be a cowboy like Tom Mix.
  • In the 2010 Boardwalk Empire episode "The Emerald City", Nucky Thompson's servant Eddie Kessler offers to frisk someone who's come to see him. Nucky chides him: "You're Tom Mix all of a sudden?"[8]
  • American artist Robert Ecker has incorporated Mix's trademark 10-gallon hat and his image in several works - including "End of an Era" (mezzotint, 1982) and "Persistance of Imagery #25" (Painting, 2013).
  • On page 283 of Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan says his favorite politician, Barry Goldwater, reminds him of Tom Mix.

Filmography[edit]

see Tom Mix filmography

References[edit]

Advertising (1919)
  1. ^ a b c "Tom Mix Museum". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Tom Mix". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Thomas Edwin Mix (1880-1940)". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Mix Funeral to be Held in Hollywood". The New London Evening Day. October 14, 1940. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ Beauchamp, Cari (2010). Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years. New York: Knopf. pp. 164–65. ISBN 1400040000. 
  6. ^ Quirk, Lawrence J. (1996). The Kennedys in Hollywood. Taylor Publications. p. 303. ISBN 978-0878339341. 
  7. ^ Peterson, Roger S. (July–August 1994). "Wyatt Earp". American History (Weider History Group) 29 (3). ISSN 1076-8866. 
  8. ^ Venutolo, Anthony. "'Boardwalk Empire' recap: Nucky strikes back against the D'Alessios". NJ.com. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Basinger, Jeanine (1999). Silent Stars. ISBN 0-8195-6451-6.
  • Birchard, Robert S. (1993). King Cowboy: Tom Mix and the Movies. Burbank: Riverwood Press. ISBN 1-880756-05-6.
  • Jensen, Richard D. (2005). The Amazing Tom Mix: The Most Famous Cowboy of the Movies. iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 0-595-35949-3 ISBN 978-0595359493.
  • Menefee, David W. (2007). The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era. Albany: Bear Manor Media.
  • Mix, Olive Stokes, with Eric Heath (1957). The Fabulous Tom Mix. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  • Mix, Paul E. (1972). The Life and Legend of Tom Mix. New York: A. S. Barnes and Company.
  • Ohmart, Ben (2002). It's That Time Again. Albany: BearManor Media. ISBN 0-9714570-2-6.

External links[edit]