(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is Jack Hoxie circa 1933 ... and his cross-draw rig.
(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
(Courtesy of Marshall Wyatt)
(Courtesy of Bill Russell)
Above is a vending/exhibit card for Al Hoxie and it includes a reference to Al's starring role in the silent THE TEXAS TERROR (Rayart, 1926).
|Special thanks to guest commentator Bill Russell for authoring the biographies on Jack and Al Hoxie.|
A number of famous family connections are associated with the Western movie. To name a few would include the Burns (Fred and Bob), the Randalls (Jack and Bob Livingston), the Maynards (Ken and Kermit), the Bradburys (director Robert and his son, Bob Steele), the Holts (Jack, Jennifer, and Tim), and the Farnums (Dustin and William).
Added to that list can go the name of Hoxie, a name that conjures up fast-riding, rip-snorting action, and Western heroics at its best. They were the Hoxie brothers, Jack and Al, and they rode across the screen during that golden era of the silent Western.
Jack, the older of the two and by far the most popular, was one of the top cowboy stars of that era. Lesser known was his half-brother Al, who was born Alton J. Stone on October 7, 1901, but adopted the name of Hoxie when he became a star.
Jack was born John Hartford Hoxie on January 11, 1885, probably on Kingfisher Creek, between Kingfisher and Guthrie, Oklahoma. Sources differ on his date and place of birth, but it was probably on or near Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Some sources list 1888 as his year of birth. In a 1963 interview he is reported to have said 1888 was the year, but the date on his grave says 1885, which, according to his family, is the correct year.
At any rate, the family moved to a ranch in the Salmon River country in Northern Idaho not long afterwards and this is where Jack became a full-fledged, working cowboy. Young Al also learned his cowboying in Idaho, having been born there. Matilda, the mother of the two boys, was part Nez Perce Indian. Jack's father, Bart, a veterinarian, was killed in a horse accident a few weeks before Jack was born. Madilda later married a horse trader named Scott Stone. Following a severe winter during which the ranch lost many head of cattle, Stone, the father of Al and stepfather of Jack, moved his family into Boise where Al received his formal education. Following the divorce of Matilda and Scott, the boys split up, young Al returning to the Salmon River country and Jack remaining in Boise where he got a job as head packer for the U. S. Army fort located there.
His main interest, however, was in rodeos and he continued to ride the circuit, winning numerous contests. In 1909 he met Wild West showman/performer Dick Stanley and joined his show. It was during his stint with Stanley that he married his first wife, Hazel Panky, a Western trick rider.
From rodeos and Wild West shows, it was only a step away to Hollywood for the young Jack where the need for cowboys as extras was in great demand. Almost overnight Jack became cowboy actor Hartford Hoxie, later shortened to Hart. From about 1913, until he made his first starring film, the 1919 serial, LIGHTNING BRYCE, Hoxie was cast in over 35 films, a number of them in Helen Holmes' two-reelers for Pathe. Hoxie was also cast in pictures starring one of Kalem Studio's leading actresses, Marin Sais. He appeared with her in two-reel features, and in one, the 1917 THE MAN FROM TIAJUNA, had a featured role. (Marin Sais became Jack's second wife, following his divorce from Hazel).
The 15-chapter serial, LIGHTINING BRYCE, co-starring Ann Little and released by National Film Corp., was the turning point for the cowboy actor. Now billed as Jack Hoxie, the serial transformed him into a bona fide cowboy hero.
By this time, brother Al had drifted into Hollywood at Jack's request, and in Jack's next serial, THUNDERBOLT JACK, Al, billed as Alton J. Hoxie, was cast as Marin Sais' younger brother.
During the 1921-22 season, Jack churned out thirteen fast-paced Westerns and was rapidly becoming one of the top Westerns stars of the era. Most of them were produced by Ben Wilson, an actor, director, and producer, with release by Arrow Pictures. Notable among the Wilson/Arrow sagebrushers were CYCLONE BLISS, THE SHERIFF OF HOPE ETERNAL, and DEVIL DOG DAWSON. Jack was also becoming a big hit in Europe where many of the Arrow pictures were shown. Al worked in many of Jack's films, doubling and doing stunts for him as well as for actors at other studios.
Following his success at Arrow, Jack signed with Anthony J. Xydias' Sunset Productions, releasing through Aywon Pictures. Some of the eight entries in the Sunset series were directed by Bob Steele's father, Robert Bradbury. The Sunset pictures, beginning with BARB WIRE in 1922 and ending with DESERT RIDER in 1923 were rated a notch above the Arrow productions and placed Jack higher on the cowboy star ladder.
Universal head Carl Laemmle then became interested in Hoxie and in 1923 Jack joined the Universal stable of Western stars that included Art Acord, Hoot Gibson, Harry Carey, Pete Morrison, Ted Wells, Fred Humes, Edmund Cobb, and Roy Stewart. His first picture for Universal was DON QUICKSHOT OF THE RIO GRANDE. In short order, Hoxie became second only to Hoot Gibson on the 'Big U' lot. Al went with Jack to the premier maker of Westerns and became a stock player at that studio earning $45 per week.
Over the next five years, Jack made thirty-six features for Universal, elevating him to a spot as one of the top ten box-office draws. The Universal pictures were the highlight of Jack's career. During that period, Al worked in most of Jack's pictures, billed under his real name until the end of 1925 when Francis Ford approached young Al about the prospect of starring in a series for independent producer Morris Schlank releasing through Rayart and Arrow Pictures (Schlank was also producing the Bob Reeves Westerns). Al signed for $75 a week and was promised Ford as director but instead got J.P. McGowan, not known for quality productions. The first out of the camera was BURIED GOLD, with Ione Reed co-starring and it turned out to be the best of the lot. Reed would appear in many of Al's pictures who had changed his name to Hoxie, an effort obviously to build off the fame of his brother.
With release of TEXAS TERROR in 1926, the series was completed and his contract was not renewed so Al went with producer Bud Barsky. He made eight pictures for Barsky, all of which were shot at the same time in the Three Rivers section of the Sequoia National Forest in California, obviously in the name of economy. Apparently it was mass confusion at the location with only director Paul Hurst knowing what was going on. Of the Barsky pictures, BLUE STREAK O'NEIL ('26) stands out as probably representative of the series with SMOKING GUNS the last of the series, released in 1927.
Al then began a long association with William Pizor Productions for a series of ten features that would be made in 1928. Released through Krelbar Pictures, they were all shot near San Diego at what was known as La Mesa Studios. These were also cheaply made but they gained for Al a following of young admirers. Unfortunately, with release of RUSTLER'S END in November 1928, Al's starrng career came to an end, sort of! In 1930, at a time when most theaters were showing talkies, Al re-appeared on the screen in starring roles when two silent features of his, ROARING GUNS and FIGHTING COWBOY, were released. It's believed that these were made from footage from earlier films by William Pizor and exhibited in theaters that had not converted to sound yet. This was not an uncommon thing in those early days.
Despite these later showings, Al's starring career was really over, along with a number of other Western stars of the silent era. Studios were re-tooling for sound and dropping their Western series since they didn't see any future in Westerns. Al would make a few personal tours, then take a job in the Oregon woods working for a warehouse lumber company. He returned to Hollywood in 1934 to give it one more try, appearing in three short features by Imperial Pictures starring Wally Wales, but that was about it.
Al re-surfaced on the Western scene in the mid-1970s when he appeared as a very popular guest at several Western film fairs. In the interim, he had worked at a number of jobs, including serving as a police officer with the Anaheim Police Department for a number of years and as a security officer at a California state mental institution. His heroic screen image was put to a test in 1968 when he disarmed a deranged mental patient, earning him the California Medal of Valor.
Al retired that same year and he and his third wife, Marie, lived quietly at their Redlands, California home. She died in 1979 and Al succumbed three years later.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - the title lobby card from the silent FIGHTING FURY (Universal, 1924). The female lead was silent serial heroine Helen Holmes (HAZARDS OF HELEN), who was the wife of silent and sound B western director/actor J. P. McGowan. Part of Hoxie's range costume in both silents and talkies was a cross-draw rig, with the reversed holster on his left hip.
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
Above is another great silent era photo from Ed Phillips, and the caption on the back reads: "This is not publicity stuff! Motion picture people in Hollywood are too busy following their profession to stop and assume their street clothes when they "go off the lot" to transact business at the banks or other centers of trade. They often go "as is". Here is one instance. They are all Hollywood stars, lined up at the Savings window of the Hollywood Agency of the First National Bank of Los Angeles of which M F Palmer is the manager. They are, reading from left to right, Jack Hoxie, Pat O'Malley, Raymond Keane, Marion Nixon and Mary Philbin."