(From Old Corral collection)
Note the news about "Tom MIX AND HIS NEW PONY, TONY JR." During the filming of FLAMING GUNS, Tom was injured in a horse fall.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Mix and Mickey Rooney in MY PAL, THE KING.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Mix in THE TEXAS BAD MAN.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above, Mix chats with Frank Brownlee in TERROR TRAIL.
The best of the bunch - and the most fun - is MY PAL, THE KING (Universal, 1932) with a very young Mickey Rooney (of the 'Mickey McGuire' shorts) in a tale of Mix (and his Wild West Show) saving the young monarch (Rooney) from a couple baddies, one of which is Paul Hurst (Monte Hale's sidekick for a while at Republic). Other good ones: THE FOURTH HORSEMAN (Universal, 1933), with Mix and heroine Margaret Lindsay overcoming Fred Kohler Sr.; and THE TEXAS BAD MAN (Universal, 1932) with lawman Tom going undercover as a notorious outlaw. I also like THE RIDER OF DEATH VALLEY (Universal, 1932), but others feel this entry has too much sand and desert and not enough action.
The remaining handful were OK ... but not great. These were: DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (JUSTICE RIDES AGAIN) (Universal, 1932), HIDDEN GOLD (Universal, 1932), FLAMING GUNS (Universal, 1932), TERROR TRAIL (Universal, 1933), and THE RUSTLER'S ROUNDUP (Universal, 1933).
What were Tom's first words in a sound western? His first talkie was DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (released April, 1932) and was based on the novel by Max Brand. In the opening scenes, a bunch of school kids are on recess and patiently waiting for Mix (as "Tom Destry"). They see Tom and hoss silhouetted on top of a high hill. He gallops down, jumps a fence, reins up at the corral, and rears his horse. And the hoss is a Tony Jr. lookalike with the wide face blaze that runs over the left eye. Then a quick change as Tom begins a conversation with the kids and he's astride Tony Jr. His first words on screen: "Hello Kids!"
Daniel B. 'Dan' Clark, a great cameraman who worked with Mix at Fox, did a nice job filming eight of the nine. But overall, the series was inconsistent. Perhaps the reason is that Universal assigned the nine films to eight different directors (Arthur Rosson directed two).
Some are relentless in their criticism of Mix's dialog delivery in these screen adventures, with blame being placed on dentures that may have been ill fitting and/or caused Tom to be self conscious and uncomfortable when doing his lines. But cowboy movie heroes of that day (and later) were never known as great thespians, and the scripts were often inane and juvenile. Mix's delivery is quite acceptable when compared to Sunset Carson, Reb Russell or Bob Custer. He was certainly on even ground with Ken Maynard and Tom Tyler. Some writers have even claimed that Tom's voice was high pitched and/or squeaky, perhaps due to an old injury or bullet wound. After re-looking at all his sound work, I didn't notice any irregularites in his baritone voice. Overall, I thought he delivered his lines pretty well. I suggest that the main issues with Mix and his "talking pictures" are a simple lack of experience and training coupled with a 50+ year old voice and body.
Some also criticize these Universals as a poor showcase of a fading cowboy star. Again I disagree. During the early 1930s, there were some good series westerns such as the Columbia groups of Tim McCoy and Buck Jones, and Ken Maynard was doing his features at Tiffany and KBS/World Wide. But there were a lot of mediocre (bad) westerns starring the likes of Jack Hoxie, Bill Cody, Bob Custer and Buffalo Bill Jr. (Jay Wilsey).
A couple things occurred during the filming. Even though some of the films, posters, et al listed the original Tony, that horse had been put out to pasture. The replacement was a new mount named Tony Jr. (which was no relation to the original) along with several doubles/lookalikes. Mix was also injured in one or more horse falls, and one incident was covered by the newspapers. One headline reads:
"TOM MIX INJURED WHEN HIS HORSE FALLS IN STUNT ... Actor Regains Consciousness Several Hours After Accident"
The fall occurred on October 21, 1932 near Lone Pine, California while shooting OH PROMISE ME (which was the working title for FLAMING GUNS). Tom's horse couldn't negotiate a five foot embankment and the 52 year old Mix was catapulted over the animals head and wound up under the horse's body. Mix suffered a concussion and broken ribs.
THE RUSTLER'S ROUNDUP (1933) was completed in late 1932. Over the pleading and objections of the Universal brass, Tom Mix decided he was too old, injured or tired to do another batch of screen adventures. And just before Christmas, 1932, he officially announced his retirement from the movie business, and that he and Mabel were planning a leisurely tour around the world. As to Universal, they hired Ken Maynard as their cinema cowboy for the 1933-1934 release season.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is the title lobby card for THE RUSTLER'S ROUNDUP (1933) which was released to the theaters in March, 1933 and was Mix's finale in his nine film series at Universal. Mix completed filming on this entry in December, 1932 and announced his retirement from Hollywood due to illness and accidents.
|Tom and wife Mabel hit the sawdust trail again, initially with their own small outfit labeled the "Tom Mix Roundup". Then Mix became the headline attraction for the Sam B. Dill Circus. When Dill passed away in 1935, Mix purchased the outfit, fashioning it into his own circus and wild west extravaganza. However, he did not foresee the problems of a traveling show as well as the financial difficulties that would confront the venture. In retrospect, the mid to late 1930s were not kind to these shows and many failed (such as Tim McCoy's Wild West show which opened and closed in less than a month).|
Around this time, the Ralston Purina Company of St. Louis negotiated a deal with Mix to use his name and character for a new radio show, and "The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters" first hit the airwaves in September, 1933 over NBC (later, the program was on the NBC Blue network). Mix was never a participant in the broadcasts --- the TM-Bar Ranch in Texas was the setting with Ralston peddling their cereal products from Checkerboard Square. For much of its run, the program was a fifteen minute serial, airing Monday through Friday around 5:00 p.m. along with other quarter hour adventures such as "Captain Midnight" and "Jack Armstrong". It went off the air for a year or two during World War II but returned over the Mutual Broadcasting System in 15 and 30 minute versions with Curley Bradley in the role of Tom Mix. The program ended in 1950.
(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)
Above - a calendar check reveals that the combination of Thursday and August 1 occurred in 1935.