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|
(1890 or 1892 - 1972)
AKA Denver Dixon, Art Mix, Al Mix, Al James
and his company names included:
Art Mix Productions
Adamson Productions Inc.
California Motion Picture Enterprises
California Sound Studios Ltd
Security West Coast Studios
Security National Picture Corporation
From newspaper accounts in late 1924, we know that Fox Film Corporation initiated legal action to restrain Adamson/Dixon from using the "Art Mix" name (as Fox was churning out films at that time with Tom Mix). I've yet to locate any documentation as to the resolution on this (though it appears that Fox did not prevail since Adamson/Dixon and Kesterson continued calling themselves Art Mix).
(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
Above 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 Kesterson's first film as Art Mix.
(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) ... ".
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 mentions that Esper was 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 copy of the opening title is shown below.
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:
"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). Both DESERT and MORMON are lost/missing films.
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".
|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.|
Above - the spelling boo-boo in the opening title of 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).|
Both films are on our lost/missing westerns list.
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 film credits, most of which are 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 further info on his bizarre death is below.
You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and then to the California Death Records database. 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 (1890-1972), AKA Denver Dixon, Art Mix, Al Mix, et al: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0011535/
Wife Dolores Booth (1908-1959): 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 has information on Adamson:
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. Appears that 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 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". Check the Exact Phrase box 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