Tom Mix, Cowboy Actor

Saved by the Pony Express
R: Francis Boggs. D: Tom Mix, Thomas Carrigan. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Our first scene shows cowboys and their sweethearts, enjoying a quadrille on horseback. ‘Happy Jack’ rides off with Belle Archer, the sweetheart of Jim. Jim, furiously angry, attacks Happy and the cowboys, taking Jim’s pistol from him, hustle him out of the bunk-house. Later the pistol falls to the floor and explodes, the bullet striking and killing Happy, who is alone. The brave fellow writes on a piece of paper before he dies, ‘I shot myself accidentally, Jack.’ A gust of wind blows the note into a corner, Jim entering, is discovered examining his revolver over the dead man, and is accused of murder. Later, we see Jim on trial for his life. The lame cowboy finds the last message of Happy Jack. He limps out to the road and hands the paper to Jim’s friend, the Pony Express rider. His horse goes lame. He lassos and mounts an unbroken broncho and is on his way again in a wild dash to save the life of his friend. The jury foreman is about to pronounce the verdict of ‘guilty,’ when the spunky rider dashes into the courtroom still mounted and delivers the message that proves Jim’s innocence. Then a big hurrah for Jim and the Pony Express rider.”
Moving Picture World synopsis

“Some of the reasons for Mix’s later popularity may be seen long before he had reached stardom, in Selig’s Saved by the Pony Express (July 1911). The film shows a novel square dance on horseback, which might be an invention of the Wild West shows from which Mix entered pictures. The plot concerns a false accusation of murder: the note that will clear the accused of the crime has to be carried by the pony express rider in a race against time. The film is perhaps not very well made and does not even make any important use of landscape (…) Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see the ease of the players in the saddle, especially the pony express rider, played by Mix, who jumps off his horse and onto the waiting horses with show-off skill. Mix never pretended to be a great actor, and even at the peak of his stardom chose to be filmed at a long distance from the camera most of the time.”
Eileen Bowser: The Transformation of Cinema 1907-1915. Vol. 2, part 2. University of California Press 1994, p. 172

>>> Francis Boggs

Sage Brush Tom
R: Tom Mix. B: Tom Mix. D: Tom Mix, Goldie Colwell, Ed Brady. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1915
Print: Prelinger Archives San Francisco

Thomas Hezekiah Mix (1880-1940)
“Cowboy Actor. His movie career spanned 26 years, from 1909 through 1935. He made over 300 feature films, produced 88, wrote 71 and had time to direct 117. However, he made only 9 sound films and a cheap 15 chapter series called Miracle Rider. He had a sidekick sorrel steed named ‘Tony’ and the duo was renowned for performing their own stunts. No trick cameras or fake scenes were ever used, but at a price. Mix was injured many times. (…)
His father taught him to ride, and for the next few years he worked various odd jobs in town and as a waterboy for lumberjacks in the Allegheny Mountains. The Army was his vehicle to the outside world enlisting at age 18 and attained the rank of Sergeant spending the duration of his military time in the continental U.S. Tom ended his enlistment by simple desertion (not revealed until his death), found a variety of odd jobs in the Oklahoma Territory then was employed at the 101 Ranch, a defining period in his life, the largest in the country at that time, where he honed his western skills as a horseman and expert shot even winning prizes in Rodeo competition. The Selig Polyscope Company came to Oklahoma to make western movies. Mix was engaged to find cowboys, Indians and locations for filming. He offered to play a part, then signed on with Selig making 170 silent movies and eventually for The Fox Company. (…) His movie career wound down in the 1930’s after silent films were replaced by talkies. He was never successful in making the transition and simply quit accepting an offer to tour with the Sells-Floto Circus. He began his own circus in 1937, but the venture proved a financial disaster. His big top folded in 1938. The final curtain was just around the corner. Two years later, while heading to California to discus a possible return to the movies, Tom Mix died in Arizona when his car plunged into a ravine. (…)”

502-Tom Mix

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Tom Mix has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has his cowboy boot prints, palm prints in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. A posthumous induction was made into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There is a Tom Mix museum in Dewey, Oklahoma and another in Mix Run, Pennsylvania. (…)
In 1933 Tom Mix began endorsing Ralston Cereal through the Tom Mix Straight Shooters Club and a radio series that outlasted him by ten years. Millions of kids tuned in glued to their radios. They learned the secret handshake, password and then sent in their saved box tops and hard to come by quarters for such items as the guns, rings, air planes, books, lariats, coins, bandanas, badges, stationery, cowboy clothes, make-up kits, telegraph sets, periscopes and branding irons. Things a must to have in those days by kids.”
Find a Grave

“In July 1915 Tom had moved to the excellent town of Las Vegas – the proper one in New Mexico, not the vulgar gambling resort in Nevada – and made his movies there. Sage Brush Tom was one of many. Like the others, it was written, directed and produced by Tom: Colonel Selig left Mix a great deal of autonomy and rarely even visited the set. It is a comedy: Tom buys a photograph of an actress (hardly a racy one – she is all muffled up in an overcoat) and falls in love. He takes his stub of a pencil and writes a clumsy fan letter to her, at her studio (Selig Polyscope) back East – film studios were still back East in those days. (…) It’s light-hearted, inconsequential but mildly amusing. The 1915 audiences in the nickelodeons probably laughed heartily. (…) The short is interesting also because we see the first signs of Mix’s costume getting flashier. There are silver conchas on the seams of his chaps, the bridle he uses has silver ornamentation, and he is using the fancy saddle he won in the 1913 Frontier Days rodeo in Prescott, AZ. Later, of course, Mix would exaggerate this exotic wardrobe and become duded-out in fancy frippery but here we see the start of that process.
Jeff Arnold
Jeff Arnold’s West

>>> WESTERN