Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tom Mix: An Early Western Superstar

Last week I blogged about William S. Hart, the first Western movie star. Hart got the ball rolling and soon Westerns were a favorite genre among moviegoers in the days of silent film.

The next actor to make it big in the Cinematic Wild West was Tom Mix. Unlike Hart, he wasn't a professional actor drawn to a new medium. Instead, he was a real-life cowboy. He worked various jobs in Oklahoma including a stint in 1904 as a bartender and sheriff/marshal in Dewey, Oklahoma. He later worked at Miller's 101 Ranch and earned a reputation as a crack shot and fine rider, winning prizes at rodeos all around the West.

He later got a gig at Will A. Dickey's Circle D Ranch, a Wild West show that provided cowboys and horses to the early motion picture studios. In the first decade of the Twentieth century, small ranchers were being bought out and centralization was the name of the game. Many cowboys found themselves out of work and ended up living in Hollywood. There they lived like they always had, in bunkhouses and taking care of steers and horses, but this time their employers were the studios.

The Selig Polyscope Company put Mix was in his first film in 1909 and he went on to make a hundred shorts for them before signing with the Fox Film Corporation. His films always highlighted his skill with the rope and as a rider. Mix did some amazing stunts such as leaping off cliffs and riding on top of trains. These were the days before trick photography and when you see Mix doing something crazy on film, he really was doing it.

Unlike many silent stars, Mix managed to make the switch over to sound films and continued working until 1935, thrilling a whole new generation of fans.

Photo courtesy the Beinecke Library.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I wrote about Tom Mix too for the A to Z. Your blog is interesting. History from a different perspective. I write non-fiction about
    Arizona history.
    Rita at http://tatteredpast.blogspot.com


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