"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Local Color on the A1 Ranch & An Angelic Attitude (both Selig Polyscope, 1916)

Tom impresses the Eastern lady

Both these Tom Mix 14-minute one-reelers were released in July 1916 and date from the time when Tom had moved his production from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Los Angeles. ‘Colonel’ Selig was cutting back on production a bit but Tom still made 40 movies that year, mostly comedy shorts which turned a quick profit for Selig. Today, they are dated, of course, not to say corny, but they are still a lot of fun.

The two films (and others made at the time) have pretty much the same plot: Tom tries to impress an Eastern lady played by Victoria Forde. Tom and Vicky, as he called her, met on location in Arizona in 1915. Tom’s marriage to third wife Olive wasn’t going well. The couple had a love of horses in common but Olive knew nothing of movies and cared little for them, while Vicky, 19 and a sultry beauty, was the daughter of an actress and had ambitions herself to be a star of the silver screen. She and Tom hit it off, and she became his leading lady. Later, they both got contracts with Fox and were married in 1918, three days after the divorce from Olive came through.
Victoria Forde
In Local Color, Tom (who wrote and directed as well as starred) decides to impress Vicky Hoskins, a writer (Forde) with some of the wild and wooly character of the West. He dons Buffalo Bill whiskers and tells Vicky that he has come to Texas after he shot his grandma, and says that he also shot his last two wives. He then shoots a bandido (rather obviously a dummy) off a horse and his men drag the body across the prairie. Vicky is shocked and thrilled at the same time, and flirts a little with Tom. The cowboys (among whom we see Tom’s bosom pal Sid Jordan) tell Vicky that cowboy ‘law’ dictates that flirting must inevitably lead to marriage, and they dragoon a passing tramp in as a ‘parson’ to perform the ceremony. Tom laughs like mad but isn’t quite so amused when the tramp announces that he is a legitimate parson after all and the couple are now tied in matrimony. But they shrug, make the most of it and live happily ever after.
The great Tom Mix
In An Angelic Attitude, directed by Tom but this time written by longtime collaborator the splendidly named Edwin R Coffin, Victoria is an artist, Grace, rather than a writer but Tom is still trying to impress her. The difference is that this time Tom has a rival, the elderly ranch foreman Old Daniel Miller (Joe Ryan) who leers rather lewdly at the artist (the caption tells us that his “mind is full of Grace”) , but she is far from interested in his advances. Interestingly, Vicky is blonde this time. Tom hatches a plot to get Old Daniel to dress up as an angel, with false wings, to pose for a portrait for Grace. He hoists Daniel up on a rope so that he ‘flies’, then a laughing Tom and Grace leave him hanging there and go off together. The End.
You can get them on DVD
These are hardly sophisticated comedies but they probably got a great laugh from the 1916 audiences. There are some good action sequences in both, though. In Angelic Attitude Tom does a great stunt fall down a cliff to appear at Grace’s feet and the shooting in Local Color is dramatic. Tom rides Blue, his pre-Tony mount, in both. They are available on an Alpha Home Entertainment DVD and are worth a look if you want a quick chuckle and are a Tom Mix fan, as, indeed, who is not?

Vicky and Tom in the 1920s

1 comment:

  1. It's always a pleasure to be surprised by photos of the great Tom Mix!