Tom Mix (January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) was one of the most prolific screen actors in history having starred or appeared in 291 films (all but 9 of which were silent films) between 1910 and 1935. He helped define the cowboy/western movie genre and was known as “King of the Cowboys” before anyone had heard of Roy Rogers. I’ve watched perhaps one or two Tom Mix films when they were shown on TCM’s Sunday evening silent film fest. By today’s standards, those old films are nothing less than corny but in the 19teens and 20’s, the theaters were filled with star struck kids who idolized The King of the Cowboys. One of the original superstars of Hollywood, Tom’s lifetime earnings were over $6 million which would be about $700 million in today’s dollars. He embellished his personal history to match his on screen persona. His self-written bio claimed that he had fought (with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders) in the Spanish American War, the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion. The only truth in any of those stories was that he enlisted in the Army at the outbreak of the Spanish American War, but never saw combat and deserted to marry his first wife.
Served as a pallbearer at the funeral of legendary western lawman Wyatt Earp in 1929.
Appears on sleeve of The Beatles‘ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.
Made over $6,000,000 during his career but an extravagant lifestyle had sharply reduced his estate to a modest amount by the time he died.
Rumors that that Mix’s radio career never got off the ground after he left films because his voice was high-pitched are not true. His voice, in fact, was deep and husky in tone. Radio was such a low-paying profession that it could not support his high-on-the-hog style of living. He loved sports cars, wild parties and fancy clothes. He owned a huge Hollywood mansion that had his name emblazoned above it in neon lights and had numerous ex-wives to support. Mix instead left films for his true passion, the circus. He became one of its greatest showmen.
Tom’s parents were Edwin and Elizabeth Mix. They named him Thomas Hezikiah Mix. When he enlisted in the Army in 1898, he listed his name as Thomas E. Mix (for Edwin).
Charter member of the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1958.
He deserted the army to marry his first wife, Grace Allin; the fact that he was a deserter did not come up until after his death, by which time he was so famous that the army had to hold its tongue and give him a full military burial. This dovetails neatly into the known facts and into the legend of Tom Mix.
Daughter with Victoria Forde, Thomasina
4/13/02: His guns were stolen from the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, OK.
Never had kind words for John Wayne because, many believe, he was afraid that Wayne would push him out of the limelight. That hatred grew as Wayne’s star rose and, due to the fact that Mix wouldn’t take a pay cut to do radio, his own star began to fall. Asked by a journalist what he thought of Wayne, Mix only replied, “The only Christian words that I could use are ‘no-talent upstart’”. Wayne, for his part, had disliked Mix since Wayne’s college days at USC, when Mix told several members of the football team (Wayne among them) to stop by Fox Studios and he would get them jobs in the movies. Wayne and several others did so a few weeks later, only to be informed that Mix had never told anyone at the studio about his promises of employment, and they were thrown off the lot. Wayne never forgave Mix.
If Tom was still making movies today, you can bet that he would be fighting islamic terrorists.
The end of the trail for Tom Mix came on October 12, 1940 as he was driving from Tucson, AZ in his 1937 yellow supercharged Cord 812 Phaeton. He failed to heed highway signs warning of a washed out bridge ahead. Traveling at about 80 MPH, Tom lost control of the huge automobile as he came upon some road barriers. The car went into a dry creek, overturned and Tom was struck in the back of the head with an aluminum suitcase carrying cash and jewels. His skull was fractured and his neck broken, he died instantly.