Tom Mix, Cowboy Actor

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

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

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