Above is Albert Victor Adamson (acting under the name Denver Dixon) in a bit role in a 1942 Range Busters oater for Monogram.
|Albert Victor Adamson|
1894 - 1972
AKA Denver Dixon, Art Mix, Al Mix, Al James
and his company names included:
Art Mix Productions,
Victor Adamson Productions Inc.,
California Motion Picture Enterprises,
California Motion Pictures Enterprises,
California Sound Studios Ltd.,
Security West Coast Studios,
Security National Picture Corporation,
|The history of Albert Victor Adamson/Denver Dixon is full of questions and confusing timelines. Additionally, there are various Adamson silent and sound films that are lost and/or missing, including a few titles which are unknown to this day. I visualize Adamson of the 1920s loading reels of nitrate prints in the back of a Ford ... and headin' out to peddle his latest film project to some states rights distributor.|
There remains confusion over the name "Art Mix". We know that Albert Victor Adamson/Denver Dixon was "Art Mix". And in the mid 1920s, George Kesterson came on board to portray "Art Mix" in Adamson's silent creations. And there was a rodeo/circus performer named Bob Roberts whom Adamson hired to play the "Art Mix" character. I speculate that Mr. Roberts became the "Art Mix" of later circus fame.
Biographical info on Albert Victor Adamson is sketchy. Existing biographies have him born January 4, 1890, 1891 or 1892 and there are two variations on his birth location:
1) He was born in Kansas City, Missouri and the family somehow wound up in New Zealand.
2) Adamson was born in New Zealand (possibly Auckland, New Zealand).
Birth index records at a New Zealand government website confirm that Albert Victor Adamson was born in 1894 in New Zealand to John William Adamson and Sabina Adamson.
He was fairly consistent in reporting New Zealand as his birth location. June 22, 1924 and June 7, 1925 issues of the Film Daily tradepaper contain brief biographies on Denver Dixon which mention his birth in New Zealand. The 1942 World War II draft registration for Albert Victor Adamson has his birth as January 4, 1892 and Auckland, New Zealand. The 1920 and 1940 census also list New Zealand. But nothing is simple or easy - the World War I draft registration for Denver Dixon has him born January 4, 1891 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Regardless of where he was born and raised, Adamson / Dixon was working in Hollywood circa 1916, and perhaps, even earlier. Below are crops from two articles. The first relates to Dixon's two-year tour of theaters in Australasia (meaning Australia and New Zealand). The other is about Douglas Fairbanks and notes that Dixon, Charlie Stevens and a few other names are members of the "Fairbanks' cowboys".
Above - from the September 22, 1917 issue of The Moving Picture World magazine (available at the Internet Archive website). While on this theater tour, Dixon showed two Selig Polyscope films: "The Days of the Thundering Herd" was a 1914 Selig Tom Mix adventure. That "The Diamond S Roundup" was probably "The Diamond S Ranch", a 1912 Tom Mix for Selig.
The Selig Polyscope film company went belly-up around 1918. Was Dixon's two year tour sponsored or supported by Selig ... or did he get hold of a couple Tom Mix westerns and opted to tour on his own accord?
Above - Denver Dixon's association with Douglas Fairbanks from an article in the March 15, 1919 issue of The Moving Picture World magazine (available at the Internet Archive website).
He began creating films around 1919-1920 under the name "Art Mix Productions", most probably to capitalize on Tom Mix's box office appeal and fame. Initially, Adamson portrayed his heroic screen cowboy "Art Mix". And he also did most of the other chores such as directing, producing and writing. Circa 1924, he had become too busy behind the camera and hired George Kesterson to portray the Art Mix character. Newspaper blurbs and ads indicate the first with Kesterson was A RIDER OF MYSTERY RANCH (1924).
A few of Adamson's silent oaters survive and are available on DVD (from Grapevine Video, Sinister Cinema, and oldies.com):
(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
|Left is a 1920s arcade/vending card showing a young George Kesterson (1896-1972). In his silents as well as later henchman roles in talkies, he wore a tall hat, probably to disguise his short height. When Victor Adamson/Denver Dixon became too busy behind the camera, Kesterson became silent hero Art Mix. And Kesterson kept the Art Mix name through scores of henchie roles in the 1930s and 1940s.|
Above is a crop from a May, 1924 theater ad for A RIDER OF MYSTERY RANCH (1924), which is probably the first with George Kesterson as "Art Mix".
J. Craig Owens was doing some research and discovered additional information on Adamson, and you'll find some newspaper headlines below. J. Craig writes: "In doing research on the Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, California, where apparently Tom Mix and Wyatt Earp used to hang out, I started coming across news articles on Victor Adamson building a movie studio right by the Monrovia Santa Fe Train station circa 1927-1928. He shot, to the best of my knowledge, two to three westerns before he was forced out of the studio bearing his name. Anyway, the studio had a Hopi Indian theme to it and was erected very quickly. And, of course, Adamson was a big man in a small town like Monrovia, operating out of the Chamber of Commerce office while his studio was being built. Apparently, Adamson hired and used local Monrovians as bit parts and extras in his films (while there). He seemed to also be quite a showman even if he did come across as a carnival barker."
(Courtesy of J. Craig Owens)
Above are several 1927 newspaper headlines relating to Victor Adamson's attempt to create his own movie studio in Monrovia, California. In the lower left, you should be able to see the mention of "among those present were George Kesterson (Art Mix) ... ".
The August 2, 1927 Film Daily carried the announcement: "Monrovia, Cal. - Victor Adamson Prod. has opened its new studio here. It has been named Studio Santa Fe."
About a dozen years later, Adamson filmed MORMON CONQUEST (Security, 1939) in the Kanab, Utah area ... and his plans included the establishment of a movie studio/production facility in Kanab.
Above are crops of 1920s newspaper theater ads for various Art Mix westerns. Note the RIDERS OF BORDER BAY article which mentions George Kesterson as the star. There is conjecture that DESERT VULTURES was filmed in 1928 but not released until 1930. However, the above theater ad for DESERT VULTURES is from an August, 1929 newspaper.
Adamson / Dixon and Kesterson may have split and there are reports that Adamson tried to halt Kesterson's continued use of the Art Mix moniker. Apparently, he was unsuccessful or didn't press the issue. To add more confusion, there is scuttlebutt that Adamson / Dixon hired another fellow to play Art Mix - this was a circus/rodeo cowboy named "Bob Roberts". There's some speculation about "Bob Roberts" on the next webpage.
Then came a few more westerns from Dwain A. Esper's Hollywood Producers and Distributors company. The November 1, 1928 issue of the Film Daily tradepaper has Esper in New York making states rights distribution deals for six Art Mix features (and other films). The February 16, 1930 Film Daily has a review of SAGEBRUSH POLITICS noting that it was a "part talker" and Esper's Hollywood Producers was the production company. On the next webpage, there's a pressbook cover for Esper's THE BANDIT CHASER.
The August 7, 1929 Film Daily has a mention of producer J. Charles Davis doing six Art Mix westerns (as well as other films) for the 1929-1930 release period. Those were to be available in both silent and sound versions. The six Art Mix titles for Davis were listed as: SIX GUN SIMPSON, WEST OF THE ROCKIES, TWO BAD MEN, BELOW THE BORDER, THE CACTUS KID, and BORDER OUTLAWS.
WEST OF THE ROCKIES is on our lost/missing westerns list. It may be good that it's disappeared. The August 9. 1930 Motion Picture News had a review and following are some excerpts:
"Terrible"; "Your audience, including the kids and most rabid western fans, will guffaw at this one. It's not meant for comedy, but it surely should hand them a laugh. An amateurish western ..."; "There hardly seems any excuse for pictures as bad as this one. If you must play it, plenty of musical shorts, cartoon and novelty support is needed."
Add those Esper and J. Charles Davis film announcements and we have a total of six to twelve Art Mix westerns, but only a handful were actually lensed. Am unsure if the person playing Art Mix in those films is Adamson / Dixon ... or George Kesterson ... or "Bob Roberts" ... or a mixture of all three.
When talkies arrived, Adamson / Dixon continued churning out grade Z oaters starring Buffalo Bill, Jr., Wally Wales, Buddy Roosevelt and Bill Patton, all second echelon western movie heroes from the silent era who were on the downhill side of their starring career.
And yes - the story is true. The opening title credit for Buffalo Bill, Jr.'s LIGHTNING BILL (Superior, 1934) is misspelled LIGHTING BILL (and neither the script or film has anything to do with billing for your electric lights). A screen capture of the opening title is shown further down on this webpage.
Les Adams adds that Victor Adamson was 'location director' for C. C. Burr's Atlas Pictures in 1938. Les also notes that Adamson had a penchant for utilizing characters who bordered on idiocy (perhaps for comic relief) and he or Tom Palky or Black Jack Ward usually got the assignment. There was always something not-quite-right about most of the characters in his films anyway, and this not-quite-right quality finally hit its peak in the William Barrymore (Boris Bullock) character in THE RAWHIDE TERROR (Security, 1934). Les had the following comments on that film in an issue of his Yesterday's Saturdays publication:
"This film suspends all logic from beginning to end. Half of the cast seems to be suffering from amnesia or faulty eyesight, or both, and everybody is a relative to everybody else, although nobody seems to be too clear on the exact relationships. All hands are either a Blake or a Brent and are quick to answer to either name. Edmund Cobb and William Barrymore are brothers - maybe - separated as kids, while Tommy Bupp is a son - possibly - of Barrymore. Cobb, an orphan sheriff, is after Barrymore, an orphan villain, while Art Mix and William Desmond, possibly brothers, appear to ride around a lot looking after Bupp, a future second-generation orphan. Cobb and Frances Morris, hopefully not related, ride off into the sunset together. The rest of it is kind of confusing."
Appears that THE RAWHIDE TERROR was originally planned as a serial, but never came to fruition. Adamson / Dixon slapped it together as a feature, and that explains the dialogue and continuity lapses and general chaos.
Among Adamson's last gasp as a B western producer were DESERT MESA (Security, 1935) and MORMON CONQUEST (Security, 1939), both of which starred Tom Wynn/Wynne (which was the real name for prolific stuntman, driver and henchman Wally West). MORMON CONQUEST is on our lost/missing westerns list. DESERT MESA was among the lost and missing, but was found in late 2017 and made available on DVD.
His sound era production company is often referred to as Superior Talking Pictures. Not so - Superior was a B film outfit which created their own films and released others such as Adamson's fodder. The name of Adamson / Dixon's production company for his westerns with Buffalo Bill, Jr., Buddy Roosevelt, et al was "California Motion Picture Enterprises" (sometimes spelled "California Motion Pictures Enterprises" with an S added to Picture). Then there was "Security Pictures" and "Security West Coast Studios". For MORMON CONQUEST, Adamson's company became "Security National Picture Corporation".
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Adamson / Dixon, George Kesterson and the several legal wranglings over the Art Mix name. There were tradepaper blurbs circa April-May, 1925 about the Fox film company getting a restraining order and contempt citation against Dixon and his Art Mix Productions. Fox claimed that the Art Mix name and advertising would confuse the public into thinking the films starred Fox's cowboy hero Tom Mix. Dixon and his company were found in comtempt and fined by a Los Angeles court judge. Four years later, there was another lawsuit. In Summer, 1929, the J. Charles Davis Production company was planning an Art Mix series starring Art Mix (George Kesterson who purportedly had gone through a legal name change to Art Mix). Davis wanted a restraining order against Victor Adamson/Denver Dixon, Dwain Esper, and Hollywood Producers Distributors from using the Art Mix name in a different series of westerns. There's a few reports on the court battles, and the result was that George Kesterson could continue using the "Art Mix" name. The December 11, 1929 issue of Variety summarized the December 10, 1929 Los Angeles Superior Court ruling:
"... enjoined Denver Dixon and Dwain Esper, producers, and Art Mix Productions, from giving the name of 'Art Mix' to any other player. George Kesterson, cowboy player who adopted the name (meaning "Art Mix") seven years ago, can use it no matter who his employers are, the court ruled."
|B westerns often had misspelled names of cast and crew members, and this poster for RAWHIDE ROMANCE (Superior, 1934) has two spelling errors: the real life wife of Jay Wilsey/Buffalo Bill, Jr. was Genée Boutell, and the poster spelling has her as Genee Bontell. And Marin Sais is spelled as Marion Sais.|
This isn't the first nor last B-western to contain spelling boo-boos.
Above - the LIGHTING spelling boo-boo in the opening title of the Buffalo Bill Jr. LIGHTNING BILL (Superior, 1934).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
The title lobby card for LIGHTNING BILL (Superior, 1934) has the correct spelling. This was one of four 1933-1934 Adamson productions starring Buffalo Bill, Jr. (Jay Wilsey).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above are Buddy Roosevelt and heroine Patsy Bellamy in the title lobby card from LIGHTNING RANGE (Superior, 1934). This was one of four 1933-1934 oaters that Roosevelt did for Adamson.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
|In the mid 1930s, and calling himself 'Tom Wynn/Wynne', prolific stuntman and henchie Wally West had a very brief fling at herodom when he starred for Adamson / Dixon in DESERT MESA (Security, 1935) and MORMON CONQUEST (Security, 1939).|
MORMON CONQUEST is on our lost/missing westerns list. DESERT MESA was among the lost and missing, but was found in late 2017 and made available on DVD.
Many years ago, Larry Imber sent an e-mail noting that "Denver Dixon filmed most of his films in and around Pearblossom, California, north of Victorville. There were several small ranches in the area, and he made use of the buildings, horses, cowboys, and whatever else he could hustle." Genee Boutell (wife of Jay Wilsey/Buffalo Bill, Jr.) was interviewed in Boyd Magers' Westerns Women book. She mentions that she met Wilsey on location "out on the desert up around Lancaster".
Adamson, no longer behind the camera, continued working as a henchie and bit player in Hollywood through the 1940s, billing himself as Denver Dixon. This stage of his career totals at least 130 films, mostly B westerns.
During the 1960s, Adamson - in collaboration with his son Al Adamson - returned briefly to the world of film production with features such as HALF WAY TO HELL (1961) and TWO TICKETS TO TERROR (1963). Al Adamson was murdered in 1995, and more about his death is below.
You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and then to the California Death Index. There you will find a record for: Denver Dixon, born 1/4/1890 and he passed away in the Los Angeles area on 11/9/1972.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Adamson / Dixon and his wife Dolores Booth. Have also included a link to the IMDB for Albert Victor Adamson, Jr. (Al Adamson), the son of Adamson Sr. and Dolores Booth:
Albert Victor Adamson, AKA Denver Dixon, Art Mix, Al Mix, et al: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0011535/
Wife Dolores Booth (1908-1959; born Nevada; full name: Rose Dolores Emaniski): http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0095679/
Son Albert Victor Adamson, Jr. (Al Adamson) (1929-1995): http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0011467/
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Index, and Variety tradepaper have information on Adamson.
In addition, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has Dolores Booth (1908-1959; full name: Rose Dolores Emaniski) as a circa 1930 wife of Adamson. However, a 1929 marriage license has her name as 'Julia Emanski'. And she's 'Julia Booth' on the 1956 marriage license of son Kenneth. Julia was also the mother of Al Adamson, Jr. In the census records below, there was an earlier wife - Ione Dearie (1920 census) along with a circa 1926 divorce.
The American Film Institute (AFI) has a listing of silent and sound films for Art Mix: http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/SearchResult.aspx?s=&Type=PN&Tbl=&CatID=DATABIN_CAST&ID=15655&searchedFor=Art_Mix_&SortType=ASC&SortCol=RELEASE_YEAR
Director Richard L. Bare helmed movies as well as dozens of TV series including GREEN ACRES. He authored a couple of books: The Film Director (MacMillan Company, 1971) and Confessions of a Hollywood Director (Scarecrow Press, 2001). Chapter 11 of Confessions is devoted to his early experiences with Victor Adamson/Denver Dixon and the creation of a western with Wally Wales, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and platinum blonde Victoria Vinton as the heroine (and I believe his earlier book also references Adamson / Dixon). While Bare identifies the title as THE DOUBLE CROSS, the released film is probably the two-reel short ADVENTURES OF TEXAS JACK (Security, 1934). Google has several preview pages available online of Bare's commentary on Adamson / Dixon:
For many years, there's been a question about whether Adamson's DESERT MESA and MORMON CONQUEST are one and the same. The answer is No! They are separate films:
Brigham Young University film archivist James V. D'Arc recently authored a history of Utah film-making and a MORMON CONQUEST still is in his book. It clearly shows stuntman/stage driver/henchman Wally West. There's an excerpt from D'Arc's book on Google and you can see the photo on his page 118. D'Arc also mentions that the premier of MORMON CONQUEST occurred in July, 1939:
The photo shows Wally West (in buckskins and kneeling). The thinnish man on the right is Sherry Tansey, a veteran henchman in scores of westerns. And standing to the right of Tansey is George Morrell.
There are over a dozen 1938-1939 newspaper articles on Adamson / Dixon, Tom Wynn/Wally West, and the production and premier of MORMON CONQUEST. These appeared in the Kane County, Utah Standard newspaper, and can be downloaded from the Utah Digital Newspaper archive at the University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library. The articles also note that Adamson / Dixon was attempting to establish a studio at Kanab, Utah. Go to:
If there's a problem or that link times out for you, go to: http://digitalnewspapers.org/newspaper/?paper=Kane+County+Standard
In the Keyword within article box, enter "Mormon Conquest" (surrounded by the quote marks), and run the search.
As mentioned, Al Adamson was murdered in the mid 1990s. Ed Tabor sent me some newspaper clippings on the crime, and I can e-mail those to you if you want (there are three jpg images). You may also want to visit: http://gregkrieger.tripod.com/aladamson/adamsontrial.html