MIX, Tom

(1880–1940)
   Tom Mix, for all practical purposes, was responsible for the juvenilization of the cowboy hero and the development of the celebrity cowboy hero. If William S. Hart’s Westerns were noted for their dark realism, Tom Mix’s Westerns were noted for their showmanship and glamour and for their appeal to younger audiences than had been the norm for Western cinema. Like later Western film celebrities, the on-screen persona often became confused with the off-screen persona. Mix’s publicity often exaggerated his pre-film career as an authentic ranch cowboy and former lawman. He did in fact have a ranching background with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch in Oklahoma, although most of that experience came from performing in their famous Wild West show. And he did serve for a short time as a peace officer in Dewey, Oklahoma. Mix’s connections with the 101 Ranch Wild West show eventually landed him in the movies with Selig Polyscope Company. His subsequent film career is usually divided into three phases. First is the phase of the early one- and two-reel silents made for Selig between 1909 and 1917. Most of these films were quickly produced affairs that were often more closely related to contemporary comic shorts than to other contemporary Westerns. Perhaps his best film of this period is Chip of the Flying U (1914), with Kathlyn Williams, based upon the B. M. Bower novel of the same title. The second phase is the late silent era during which Mix worked with Fox from 1917 to 1928. The Fox films were five- to eight-reelers, a number of which were non-Westerns. During this period, Mix starred in several films based on the novels of Zane Grey: The Lone Star Ranger (1923), The Last of the Duanes(1924), Riders of the Purple Sage(1925), and The Rainbow Trail (1925), all directed by Lynn Reynolds. While these all took great liberties with the original novels, adding plenty of classic Tom Mix stunt work and tricks with Tony the Wonder Horse, Riders of the Purple Sage reverts to the Hart model of dark Westerns, strong on tragedy but light on action. The third phase is Mix’s work during the sound era from 1932 to 1935. Although he achieved great celebrity from his silent Westerns, his best work is probably in the late films of the sound era. Destry Rides Again (1932), based on the Max Brand novel, was billed as Tom Mix’s return to the screen after a period working as a circus performer and is usually considered his best film. It follows the novel more closely than the later versions and shows that Mix could do more than stunt work when he had to. The typical Tom Mix Western was seldom concerned about the West and typical tensions between the frontier and civilization common to earlier work of Broncho Billy Andersonand William S. Hart. The focus instead was always on Tom Mix as the performer. While the early silents especially were often shot on location with authentic Western locales, many around the Las Vegas, Nevada, area, few scenes actually celebrated the landscape. In fact, typical shots showed blank background with Mix solitary in the frame. Comic situations abounded in his films, and the action nearly always developed around opportunities for his stunt work rather than the usual violence of other early Westerns.
   Mix took great pride in his athletic prowess, claiming that he always performed his own stunts. He did not, of course, but it was usually because his directors would not allow it. When the talkies came, the question for Mix, as with all actors, was whether his voice would suit the new movies, and, truthfully, his silent films are usually considered superior, but not because of his voice; the silents were more suited to his action scenes, his athletic emphasis on performing incredible stunts. The perfect Tom Mix film would have very little dialogue with or without sound technology. Tom Mix was both actor and persona. He took great pains to develop the Tom Mix legend, which, through the reappearance of his one serial (and last film) The Miracle Rider (1935) and the long-running Tom Mix radio show (1933–1950), outlasted him for a decade after his death. He never hesitated in acknowledging that his persona did not reflect that of an authentic cowboy. No doubt his circus background influenced all he did on-screen. The costume he developed set the standard for later screen cowboys such as Gene Autry in that it was essentially uniform from one film to another—heavily starched and covered with intricate stitching. It was Tom Mix who first began wearing gloves regularly.
   Mix’s critical reputation in the United States has traditionally been low. His early silents have been compared unfavorably with those of Broncho Billy Anderson and William S. Hart. His best later films, Riders of the Purple Sage (1925) and Destry Rides Again (1932), were superseded by later, superior versions of the same stories. But his reputation in Europe was always greater than in the United States. By 1914 thousands were rushing to Paris theaters to see Tom Mix Westerns. In Italy and Great Britain as well, it was Tom Mix’s Westerns that began developing a steady market for Westerns throughout the century.
   Mix died a fitting death for a star of action Westerns. On October 12, 1940, his car topped a hill at a high speed near Phoenix, Arizona, and, not seeing a construction crew until it was too late, he swerved and flipped over a hill and was pinned beneath. Legend claims he was wearing a white suit, unwrinkled in the crash, along with his diamond belt buckle. The suitcase that crushed him was full of $20 gold pieces. Blake Edwards’s 1988 film Sunset provides a greater-thanlife account of Tom Mix.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mix, Tom — orig. Thomas Hezikiah Mix born Jan. 6, 1880, Mix Run, Pa., U.S. died Oct. 12, 1940, near Florence, Ariz. U.S. film actor. He worked as a cowhand and a deputy sheriff and served in the army and in the Texas Rangers before joining a Wild West show… …   Universalium

  • Mix, Tom — orig. Thomas Hezikiah Mix (6 ene. 1880, Mix Run, Pa., EE.UU.–12 oct. 1940, cerca de Florence, Ariz.). Actor de cine estadounidense. Trabajó como vaquero, asistente de sheriff y sirvió en el ejército y en los Texas Rangers, y en 1906 se unió a un… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Tom Mix — en 1925 Nombre real Thomas Hezikiah Mix[1] Nacimiento …   Wikipedia Español

  • Tom Mix — [Tom Mix] (1880–1940) a US actor in more than 400 silent ↑westerns. He was the first ‘King of the Cowboys’ and was one of Hollywood s richest actors in the 1920s. He wore white clothes and a white hat, and was an excellent rider. His films… …   Useful english dictionary

  • tom — /tom/, n. 1. the male of various animals, as the turkey. 2. a tomcat. [1755 65; generic use of TOM] * * * (as used in expressions) Clancy Tom Clark Tom Cruise Tom Hanks Tom Kilburn Tom Mboya Tom Mix Tom Stoppard Sir Tom Watson Tom Wolfe Tom * * * …   Universalium

  • Tom — /tom/, n., v., Tommed, Tomming. n. 1. See Uncle Tom. 2. a male given name, form of Thomas. v.i. 3. (often l.c.) to act like an Uncle Tom. * * * (as used in expressions) Clancy Tom Clark Tom Cruise Tom Hanks Tom Kilburn Tom Mboya Tom Mix Tom… …   Universalium

  • Tom Parker — Dieser Artikel befasst sich mit dem Manager „Colonel“ Tom Parker. Für den englischen Fußballspieler Thomas Robert „Tom“ Parker siehe Tom Parker (Fußballspieler). „Colonel“ Tom Parker (* 26. Juni 1909 in Breda, Niederlande als Andreas Cornelius… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tom Tom Club — Tina Weymouth mit Tom Tom Club (1986) Tom Tom Club ist eine Funk Band, ein Nebenprojekt von Tina Weymouth, Bass Gesang, und Chris Frantz, Schlagzeug, die gleichzeitig Mitglieder der Talking Heads waren. Ihr erstes Album wurde 1981 auf den Bahamas …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tom — (as used in expressions) Clancy, Tom Clark, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Tom Kilburn, Tom Mboya, Tom Mix, Tom Stoppard, Sir Tom W …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Tom Mix — en 1925 Données clés Nom de naissance Thomas Hezikiah Mix …   Wikipédia en Français

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