Tom Tryon

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Tom Tryon
Tryon in The Unholy Wife (1957)
Thomas Lester Tryon

(1926-01-14)January 14, 1926
DiedSeptember 4, 1991(1991-09-04) (aged 65)
  • Actor
  • novelist
Years active1955–1991
Ann Noyes
(m. 1955; div. 1958)

Thomas Lester Tryon (January 14, 1926 – September 4, 1991) was an American actor and novelist. As an actor, he was billed as Tom Tryon and is best known for playing the title role in the film The Cardinal (1963), featured roles in the war films The Longest Day (1962) and In Harm's Way (1965), acting with John Wayne in both movies, and especially the Walt Disney television character Texas John Slaughter (1958–1961). Tryon later turned to the writing of prose fiction and screenplays, and wrote several successful science fiction, horror and mystery novels as Thomas Tryon.

Early life and education[edit]

Thomas Tryon was born on January 14, 1926, in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Arthur Lane Tryon, a clothier[1][2] and owner of Stackpole, Moore & Tryon (he is often erroneously identified as the son of silent screen actor Glenn Tryon). He served in the United States Navy in the Pacific from 1943 to 1946[2] during and after World War II.

Acting career[edit]


Tryon appeared on stage in Wish You Were Here (1952), Cyrano de Bergerac (1953), and Richard III (1953).[3]

Early appearances[edit]

Tryon appeared in The Way of the World (1955). He also guest-starred in 1955 as Antoine De More in the two-part episode "King of the Dakotas" of NBC's western anthology series Frontier.[citation needed]


Tryon was signed to a long-term contract to Paramount. His film debut was in The Scarlet Hour (1956) at Paramount, directed by Michael Curtiz. It was a crime drama about a man whose married lover persuades him to commit a robbery; Tryon was second billed. He was top billed in a low budget war film at Allied Artists, Screaming Eagles (1956), then supported Charlton Heston and Anne Baxter in Three Violent People (1956) at Paramount. He was announced for, but did not end up appearing in, Short Cut to Hell.[4]

Tryon's work was mostly in TV, appearing in Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, The 20th Century-Fox Hour, Playhouse 90 (an adaptation of Charley's Aunt), Zane Grey Theater, Studio 57, Matinee Theatre, and Lux Video Theatre. He had a support role in RKO's The Unholy Wife (1957) billed after Rod Steiger and Diana Dors. He had the lead in a low budget science fiction film at Paramount, I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958). Tryon appeared in the lead in "The Mark Hanford Story" (February 26, 1958) on NBC's Wagon Train with Onslow Stevens and Kathleen Crowley. His other television roles included The Restless Gun with John Payne, General Electric Theater, The Millionaire, and The Big Valley.[citation needed]

Texas John Slaughter[edit]

Tryon played Texas John Slaughter in a series of TV movies for Disney which ran from 1958 to 1961. The role was based on actual historical figure John Slaughter.[5] He was considered but eventually passed over for the role of Janet Leigh's lover, Sam Loomis, in the classic thriller Psycho (1960); the role went to John Gavin.[6]

20th Century Fox[edit]

Tryon is on the right behind John Wayne, from the movie The Longest Day

Tryon starred in The Story of Ruth (1960) at 20th Century Fox. For that studio he appeared in Marines, Let's Go (1961). Disney borrowed him to star in a satire about the space age, Moon Pilot (1962). He was one of many names in The Longest Day (1962) at Fox. In 1962, Tryon was cast to play the role of Stephen Burkett ("Adam") in the unfinished Marilyn Monroe-Dean Martin comedy film, Something's Got to Give, directed by George Cukor, but lost that role after Monroe was fired from the movie; the picture was remade with Doris Day and James Garner as Move Over, Darling (1963) with Chuck Connors playing Tryon's part. Tryon guest starred on Dr. Kildare and The Virginian.[7]

Otto Preminger[edit]

Tryon's greatest role was as an ambitious Catholic priest in The Cardinal (1963). The film was a box office hit and Tryon received a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. However, that honor barely compensated for the trauma and abuse he suffered at the hands of director Otto Preminger.

"Finally, I was in a position of being able to pick my roles," said Tryon in 1986. "But I didn't like the movie. I didn't like me in the movie. To this day, I cannot look at that film. It's because of Preminger. He was a tyrant who ruled by terror. He tied me up in knots. He screamed at me. He called me names. He said I was lazy. He said I was a fool. He never cursed me. His insults were far more personal."[8]

Tryon guest-starred on Kraft Suspense Theatre and then was reunited with Preminger in In Harm's Way (1965) starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas.

He had the lead in The Glory Guys (1965) with Senta Berger and James Caan.

Later acting career[edit]

He was part of a live television performance of The Fall of the House of Usher. He also co-wrote a song, "I Wish I Was", which appeared on an obscure record by Dick Kallman, star of the short-lived 1965 television sitcom Hank. Other television roles include episodes of The Big Valley, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, and the 1967 TV movie remake Winchester '73 in which Tryon played James Stewart's original role with a supporting cast featuring Dan Duryea, John Drew Barrymore, Joan Blondell, John Dehner and Paul Fix. Tryon went to Australia for his final screen performance as the lead in Color Me Dead (1969), a remake of the noir classic D.O.A. (1950), which had slipped into public domain.

Writing career[edit]

Disillusioned with acting, Tryon retired from the profession in 1969 and began writing horror and mystery novels. He also moved into film financing, serving as executive producer of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun (1971).

His best-known work is The Other (1971), about a boy whose evil twin brother may or may not be responsible for a series of deaths in a small rural community in the 1930s. He adapted his novel into a film released the following year that starred Diana Muldaur, Uta Hagen, and John Ritter. Harvest Home (1973), about the dark pagan rituals being practiced in a small New England town, was adapted as The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978), a television miniseries starring Bette Davis.

Tryons other books include Crowned Heads, a collection of novellas inspired by the legends of Hollywood. Tryon sold the film rights to Universal to make four films based on the novellas.[9] The first of these novellas, Fedora, about a reclusive former film actress whose relationship with her plastic surgeon is similar to that between a drug addict and her pusher, was later converted to a feature film directed by Billy Wilder.[10]

Other novellas in the collection were based on the murder of former silent screen star Ramón Novarro and on the complicated relationship between actor Clifton Webb and his mother. Lady (1974) concerns the friendship between an eight-year-old boy and a charming widow in 1930s New England and the secret he discovers about her. His novel The Night of the Moonbow (1989) tells the story of a boy driven to violent means by the constant harassment he receives at summer camp. Night Magic, written in 1991, was posthumously published in 1995.

Personal life[edit]

In 1955, Tryon married Ann L. Noyes, the daughter of stockbroker Joseph Leo Lilienthal and his wife, the former Edna Arnstein. She was the former wife of Thomas Ewing Noyes, with whom she had been a theatrical producer.[11][12] The Tryons divorced in 1958.[1] Ann died in 1966.[1][13] Tryon said that she committed suicide and that he kept a photograph of her in his apartment.[14]

During the 1970s, he was in a romantic relationship with Clive Clerk, one of the original cast members of A Chorus Line and an interior designer who decorated Tryon's apartment on Central Park West in New York City, which was featured in Architectural Digest.[citation needed] From 1973 to 1977, Tryon was in a relationship with porn actor Casey Donovan.[15]


Tryon died on September 4, 1991, at the age of 65 in Los Angeles, California.[16] The announced cause of death was stomach cancer. Tryon's literary executor, C. Thomas Holloway, later stated Tryon's illness was related to his HIV-positive status. Tryon asked to keep this information private. When Tryon's lover Clive Clerk explained, "Tom didn't want his readers or his relatives to know," Holloway disapproved, writing, "I see it as Tom's selfish silence helped the Dark Ages [of public acceptance of HIV/AIDS] continue into the millennium."[17]



Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Scarlet Hour E.V. "Marsh" Marshall
1956 Screaming Eagles Pvt. Mason
1956 Three Violent People Beauregard "Cinch" Saunders
1957 The Unholy Wife San Sanders
1958 I Married a Monster from Outer Space Bill Farrell
1960 The Story of Ruth Mahlon
1961 Gundown at Sandoval Texas John Slaughter
1961 Marines, Let's Go Pfc. Skip Roth
1962 Moon Pilot Capt. Richmond Talbot
1962 The Longest Day Lt. Wilson
1962 Something's Got to Give Stephen Burkett Unfinished film
1963 The Cardinal Stephen Fermoyle Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Laurel Award for Top Male Dramatic Performance (5th place)
1965 In Harm's Way Mac
1965 The Glory Guys Capt. Demas Harrod
1968 Persecución hasta Valencia Harry Bell
1969 Color Me Dead Frank Bigelow
1971 Johnny Got His Gun Executive producer
1972 The Other Writer and executive producer


Year Title Role Notes
1955 The Way of the World Episode dated March 28, 1955
1955–1957 Matinee Theater Various roles 8 episodes
1955 Frontier Antoine De More Episodes: "King of the Dakotas: Parts 1 & 2"
1956–1957 Fireside Theatre Various roles 3 episodes
1957 The 20th Century Fox Hour Abe Lincoln Episode: "Springfield Incident"
1957 Playhouse 90 Charley Wyckham Episode: "Where's Charley?"
1957 Zane Grey Theatre Jeff Anderson Episode: "Black Is for Grief"
1957 Lux Video Theatre Sam Episode: "Design for November"
1958 Wagon Train Mark Hanford Episode: "The Mark Hanford Story"
1958 The Restless Gun Sheriff Bill Riddle Episode: "Sheriff Billy"
1958 General Electric Theater David Episode: "Strange Witness"
1958 The Millionaire Tony Drummond Episode: "The Tony Drummond Story"
1958–1961 Disneyland Texas John Slaughter 17 episodes
1959 On Trial David Episode: "Strange Witness"
1962–1970 The Virginian Various roles 4 episodes
1963 Dr. Kildare Dr. William Ellis Episode: "The Mosaic"
1965 Kraft Suspense Theatre Tom Banning Episode: "Nobody Will Ever Know"
1965–1967 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Various roles 2 episodes
1966 The Big Valley Scott Breckenridge Episode: "The Midas Man"
1967 Winchester 73 Lin McAdam Television film
1967 The Road West Sheriff Platt Episode: "Charade of Justice"



  • The Other (Knopf, 1971) ISBN 9780394436081
  • Harvest Home (Knopf, 1973) ISBN 9780394485287
  • Lady (Knopf, 1974) ISBN 9780394490939
  • The Night of the Moonbow (Knopf, 1989) ISBN 9780394560069
  • The Wings of the Morning (Knopf, 1990) ISBN 9780394523897
  • In the Fire of Spring (Knopf, 1992) ISBN 9780394585888
  • The Adventures of Opal and Cupid (Viking Press, 1992) ISBN 9780670822393
  • Night Magic (Simon & Schuster, 1995) ISBN 9780684803937


Short stories and novellas[edit]

  • Bobbitt (1976)
  • Fedora (1976)
  • Lorna (1976)
  • Willie (1976)


  1. ^ a b c "Tom Tryon profile". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Tom Tryon-Biography". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  3. ^ "Tom Tryon". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on November 14, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2021.
  4. ^ Tom Tryon Wins Break With Cagney; Theater Men Plan Six Pictures Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, January 28, 1957, pg. A7.
  5. ^ Has Gun-and How He Travels!: Tom Tryon Just Missed Some Film Plums. Now He's Happy as a Hard-Ridin TV Sheriff Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune, November 2, 1958, pg. f28.
  6. ^ "BEHIND THE CAMERA - PSYCHO". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  7. ^ Green, Paul (2014). A History of Television's The Virginian, 1962-1971. Jefferson NC: McFarland. p. 26. ISBN 9780786457991. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  8. ^ THE FLAMBOYANT TOM TRYON Christy, Marian. Boston Globe 2 Nov 1986: C25.
  9. ^ Mary Murphy. "Four-Film Deal for Tryon Novel", Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1976, pg. e12.
  10. ^ Joshi, Sunand T. (2001). The modern weird tale. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-0986-0.
  11. ^ Everett Aaker, Television Western Players of the Fifties (McFarland, 1997), page 506
  12. ^ "Miss Lilienthal, Pensacola Bride", The New York Times, December 20, 1944.
  13. ^ "Noyes, Ann L.", The New York Times, November 24, 1966.
  14. ^ "Actor Tom Tryon Does a Hollywood Fadeout—and a Best-Selling Author Takes His Place". Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  15. ^ Edmonson, Roger (1998). Boy in the Sand — Casey Donovan, All-American Sex Star. Los Angeles, California: Alyson Books. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-555-83457-9.
  16. ^ "Author, actor Thomas Tryon dies of stomach cancer". Boca Raton News. Boca Raton, Florida. Associated Press. September 5, 1991. p. 4A. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  17. ^ Holloway, C. Robert, Dangerous Crossing: Memoir of a Fateful Trip (Holloway, 2013), page 88