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Tony Jr. and the Tony Jr. lookalikes/doubles were with Mix in THE MIRACLE RIDER (Mascot, 1935)
(From Old Corral image collection)


Producer and Mascot owner Nat Levine released the fifteen chapter THE MIRACLE RIDER serial in 1935. Mix was paid $40,000.00 ($10,000.00 X 4 weeks of work), and he needed that paycheck because of his financial losses in the stock market crash and the Depression, a tax judgement, divorces, marriages, etc. And at the time, Mix also had hefty expenses due to his traveling circus.

Stuntman Cliff Lyons doubled Mix in most all of the action scenes, high speed horse chases, etc.

In January, 2009, I viewed all of the THE MIRACLE RIDER in hopes of confirming that Tony Jr. was in this serial ... and exactly how many doubles for Tony Jr. were used by Mix and Cliff Lyons. Running through 15 episodes and 300+ minutes of serial ... starting and stopping and capturing images from the DVD ... I have a semi-answer on this question. Tony Jr. did work in the serial ... very briefly. And there were at least three substitutes/impersonators for Tony Jr. ridden by Mix and Lyons, and these are the horses that show up in most of the film.

There were also one or more "sacrifical hosses" used in trips, falls, etc. An example is the cliffhanger ending of chapter 12 when Ed Cobb shoots Mix (Lyons) and the horse does a fall on top of a hill ... and Mix (Lyons) tumbles down the hill to certain death.



Tony Jr.


Above are DVD screen captures from the opening titles and credits from Chapter 1 of THE MIRACLE RIDER (Mascot, 1935). While the credits are rolling and scrolling on the screen, Mix rides two different horses, and introduces us to Tony Jr. as shown above. But the dominant mounts that Mix used in THE MIRACLE RIDER do NOT include Tony Jr.

Note the long and thin face blaze and "dot" on the nostril of Tony Jr. Is this the horse that became Gene Autry's Lindy Champion: http://www.autry.com/geneautry/champion/lindychampion.html

The story goes that Gene and Lindy Champion stayed at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville in 1941, and there is a photo on the hotel website. However, the face blaze on Gene's horse does not match the Tony Jr. face above: http://www.thehermitagehotel.com/hotel/hotel_history.aspx



The Tony Jr. lookalikes/doubles

I have six large jpg image collages of all three of these horses and each image contains a bunch of screen captures and stills which are not included below. If anyone wants, shoot the Old Corral webmeister an e-mail.




(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card from Chapter 1 of Mix's THE MIRACLE RIDER. Note the face blaze with the diamond pattern on the horse, along with the shortish white socks on the front legs. That isn't Tony Jr.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Tony Jr. lookalike #1: images above and below - Tom Mix with a double for Tony Jr. This horse, along with Tony Jr. lookalike #2 shown below, are the dominant mounts used in the serial. Lookalike #1 has a face blaze with a diamond shape between the eyes and four white socks. Mix is atop this horse in the THE MIRACLE RIDER title lobby card above. It is also the horse that Mix is riding toward us as THE MIRACLE RIDER episodes begin (and superimposed in the upper left of the screen is "Nat Levine Presents"). As the opening titles begin rolling, Mix is riding lookalike #3.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Tony Jr. lookalike #2: above is a DVD screen capture from Chapter 11 of THE MIRACLE RIDER (Mascot, 1935). When I saw this horse, I immediately thought it was Autry's original Champion. But it's not - this horse has a wide white face blaze with a diamond as well as four white socks (and Champion had only three white socks - see below).

(From Old Corral image collection)

Tony Jr. lookalike #3: above is Mix with a third double for Tony Jr. This horse has four white socks as well as a unique and irregular face blaze that runs over the left eye. The mane is light in color.

Julie Ann Ream has been involved in the Silver Spur Awards, Rex Allen Days, more. Her grandfather was B-western tunesmith and support player "Cactus Mack" McPeters. On Julie's website, there's a photo of Cactus Mack and a hoss that he bought from Tom Mix. See if the horse looks like our Tony Jr. lookalike #3: http://julieannream.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/Cactus_Mack.93211833_std.jpg




(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Gene Autry and the original Champion.
There has been some speculation that Tony Jr. - or one of Mix's Tony Jr. lookalikes - became Gene Autry's original Champion. The answer is No! On the left are Gene with the original Champion. Champion had a unique white face blaze along with white socks on three legs (no white sock on the front right leg).

There is scuttlebutt that horse trainer Johnny Agee - who was with Mix and his circus in the 1930s - brought one or more of the Tony Jr. lookalikes to Gene soon after Mix's 1940 death. And Gene used the horse(s) as doubles for Champ, and/or one of the lookalikes became Gene's Lindy Champion.

I asked author and Mix expert Bud Norris about Autry, Johnny Agee and the Tony Jr. lookalikes and Bud responded: "When Tom died, Johnny Agee went with Gene Autry and Gene bought the horses as well. I spoke with Gene at the Golden Boots in 1980, and ... (he) verified buying the horses, and used some of the Tony, Jr. doubles in his films prior to WW2. I also have a letter from Gene stating the same thing."




(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
 

Above is Gene Autry putting one of his Champions through his paces, doing one of their rodeo tricks (possibly the 'End of the Trail' routine). I had originally thought this was Lindy Champion, but decided to investigate further after doing a blowup of the face blaze which seems to be off center and toward the left eye on the horse in this photo.

If the various Champion identifications are correct at the the Gene Autry website, this horse is probably Touring Champion: http://www.autry.com/geneautry/champion/touringchampion.html



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