MCCOY, Colonel Tim

(1891–1978)
   Born Timothy John Fitzgerald McCoy, Tim McCoy was a flamboyant cowboy star who had actually lived the life he portrayed on-screen. Although he was born in Michigan, McCoy went west at a young age, ranched, and served with the U.S. Army, becoming an expert in Native American affairs and rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After finishing his service in World War I, McCoy was hired by James Cruze as technical consultant on The Covered Wagon (1923) in charge of bringing in authentic Native American crewmembers. McCoy’s proficiency in Native American sign language proved as impressive as his masculine good looks, leading MGM to sign him to star in a series of silent Westerns to begin his long career. Usually billed as Colonel Tim McCoy, he moved easily into sound pictures with Columbia in the 1930s. The trademark costumeof Colonel McCoy included immaculately tailored suits, an enormous ten-gallon hat with a high brim, an ornate crossover holster belt full of cartridges, and a large bandanna. In his early Westerns, he wore solid black with a white hat, but in his later Westerns he changed to a black hat, still extra large. The costume simply reinforced his persona—that of a very large man dominating every situation for good. Standing at the entrance to the saloon, the batwing doors swinging behind him, McCoy’s character would size up the situation, the camera usually showing a closeup of his trademark look: a flashing of the eyes from side to side. Friend and foe knew at once who was master of the circumstances. Usually McCoy was associated with white horses, and his favorite was Starlight. In what was probably his most memorable screen role, McCoy played one of the Rough Riders in a series of cowboy films for Monogram. McCoy was the elder cowboy of the threesome, which included Buck Jones and Raymond Hatton. The Rough Riders series ended when McCoy was called into service again during World War II and when Buck Jones died in the Cocoanut Grove fire in 1942. Essentially, McCoy’s film career ended after that. During the 1950s, he appeared frequently in television Westerns, but he also toured for many years with various circus companies, including the Carson Barnes Circus. In film and in the circus ring, Colonel Tim McCoy was a showman with his marksmanship, his horsemanship, and his adroitness with a whip.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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