Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tom Tyler!

A postcard with a scene from one of his FBO silent films. I think that may be a very young Frankie Darro or Darrow holding the gun. Frankie was billed with both spellings of his last name.

Original still from his silent film "Wyoming Wildcat."

A Spanish novelization of one of Tom's silent films. These little magazines were sold at theaters.

Ah the perils of eBay. I'm afraid that I haven't abandoned some sort of project involving the life and career of Tom Tyler and these are some recent acquisitions concerning the B-Western star who actually wanted to act. The careers of many of the B-cowboys from the 1930s through 50s were defined by the stardom they attained with their series. Outside of those films, these actors really didn't have a career. Once their series was over, that was it.

Tyler was different. He yearned to be an actor who had that life outside the confines of low budget oaters. And he succeeded in becoming a character actor in a wide range of films. His parts were supporting, but often showy. I just watched him in the Errol Flynn western "San Antonio" and he was great as Flynn's initial menace.

He's got a great part in the Cary Grant/Ronald Colman dramady "Talk of the Town," and is in "Gone with the Wind." That's pretty good for an actor whose training was churning out westerns.

These three items are all from his silent career at FBO studios. Tyler was a popular western star whose job was eliminated when FBO became RKO. He even announced he was going to change his name so he could start his career over as a non-western performer. That didn't happen and Tyler took the lead in a series of very low budget silent westerns at the dawn of the talkie era.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Tyler was willing to play the bad guy, which was often a showy role for an actor – Buster Crabbe told me he played a bad guy once in "Swamp Fire" and enjoyed it – and because of that choice he was able to perform in some pretty solid pictures.

I've been think that once I finish the SECRET PROJECT proposal perhaps I should seek someone to do a Tom Tyler scrapbook bio.

© 2010 Gordon Michael Dobbs

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