Larger than Life: Tom Mix
Selig - Polyscope Company employs
Tom Mix to handle the horses for
its documentary Ranch Life in the Great Southwest, (1909). Mix also
appears in the film. Over the
next eight years, he makes, for Selig, nearly a hundred one and two reel
films. In 1917, his career
blooms when he moves to Fox Studios.
The films he makes in the next ten years changes the course of
Western film history.
like Anderson and Hart, bases his character and costume on
the cowboy. His huge success
makes certain that the cowboy is the recognizable Western hero.
There are Westerns films about mountain men and scouts, soldiers,
miners and outlaws; this includes films about the Great Northwest, based
on the Jack London, James Oliver Curwood or Rex Beach
follows Hart as the cowboy hero, Mix's idea
of his role cannot be dramatically diverse.
Hart aims for moral principals and realism, Mix
to entertain. Tom Mix
films are a mixture of stunts, comedy, fistfights, chases and above all
"larger than life." During
the 1920s, Tom Mix's costumes become increasingly detailed and
authentic Western evolves into Mix's
the action is Tom
on his horse Tony chasing cars and yes, even
airplanes. Tom Mix's
West is a fantasyland with one film Tom Mix in Arabia (1922).
Tom Mix's movies leave the Hart's stern Victorian
goodness Westerns far behind. In Tom Mix, the Roaring 20s finds its perfect Western star.
films are unquestionably pleasant. The
stunt work is outstanding with Mix doing his own stunt work. Fights on top of trains are his specialty.
The studio films the movies on location, often at stunning places
like the Grand Canyon. He plays characters with attractive qualities but simple:
heroic, polite, and ingenious. His
characters hardly ever kill anyone.
The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926), Tom
finds the outlaws' hiding place.
Without losing his hat, Tom swims underwater into the
outlaws' cave. He spots a
frog and puts his hat over the frog.
It swims away and catches the outlaws' attention.
Tom jumps into the middle of the twelve outlaws and a huge
fistfight develops. Miraculously,
he captures the outlaw gang, single-handed.
match the characters he plays on the silver screen,
biography has been pure fiction. He
claims to have charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt,
fights in China and the Philippines, joins the Boers to fight the British
and campaigns against Diaz in Mexico.
Nothing is true. In the army, he never sees action and eventually deserts.
His acting career begins with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild
West Show, the same outfit that Thomas Ince is later to take over.
experience with the Miller Brothers show turns him
into an excellent rider. This
results in his films heavily relying on his horsemanship.
Hart's movies never had this stunt work. During their heydays as action stars,
years younger than William S. Hart is.
At the end of his career, his last film,
The Miracle Rider,
(1935), Mix returns to the Wild West shows with the Sam B. Dill
Circus. Many of the early
Western stars have their roots in the circus and Wild West shows.
It is here they gain bull riding, roping, and shooting skills.
Art Acord, Buck Jones, Hoot Gibson, Ken
Maynard, Jack Hoxie, Tim McCoy and William Boyd
appear in the arena.
Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, and others move back and forth between films
and Wild West shows. In 1920,
Maynard appears with the Pawnee Bill's show.
Pawnee Bill has been a partner of Buffalo Bill. From the films of the 1920s, we see the strong link between
the Western film and its Wild West show origins.
For the Western, the Wild West shows commercialization of the
cowboy proves more important to the Western than William S. Hart's
legitimate theatre background.