Early western movie stars with ties to Oklahoma………
Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. The date was October 12, 1940 when the 1937 Model 812 super charged Cord with the 170 horsepower and 3000 dollar price tag was towed in from Highway 89 not far outside of Florence, AZ. The car and its famous cowboy actor driver were estimated to have been traveling at 80 miles an hour when it suddenly came upon a highway construction site. The car crashed through a barricade and went flying into a gulch where it flipped over, pinning the driver underneath. According to local coroner E.O. Divine, death was instantaneous.
At the funeral Rudy Vallee sang the driver’s favorite song, Empty Saddles as many famous movie people from the era, including William Fox, Jack Warner, Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cary and Gene Autry, looked on. By now most of you movie buffs know I’m talking about Tom Mix. His wife, Mabel Ward Mix, and his many friends knew Tom was a man who pushed himself hard. Although many were in shock at his death author Paul Mix writes that Tom himself would have wanted to “end fast.” In his book Tom Mix, Paul also states that Tom wanted to be remembered as a cowboy first.
I should mention here that two years later Tom’s horse Tony, who had been in many of his movies, died of old age at 40.
On December 5, 1947 a 7 ft. statue of a rider less horse was erected on the very spot where Tom died with this engraving: “In memory of Tom Mix whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterizations and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the Old West in the minds of living men.”
Tom Mix was a hero to millions of people around the world. As a top billed movie star in his day, he could have become aloof but instead he never forgot where he came from or his early friends. While on tour, he would often visit children’s hospitals where he would make a large donation or appear at a fund raising event to help draw more people. His fame only increased with his death and today his memory is kept alive in our own Tom Mix Museum in Dewey where you can watch his films, see his fancy clothes and saddles and even look at old Tony who has been preserved for display.
You can learn more about Mix at this year’s Western Heritage Days in Dewey but now I’d like to tell you a little about two other famous silent movie cowboys, Jack and Al Hoxie. According to The Lives and Films of Jack and Al Hoxie by Edgar M. Wyatt, Jack Hoxie was born in a small cabin between Kingfisher and Guthrie Oklahoma on January 11, 1885 and he died on March 27, 1965. At the age of 80 he was long past his prime as a movie star but was still in constant demand to make appearances. Like Mix, Jack loved people and he was a true cowboy. He had started off doing ranch work and then began competing in rodeos. The rodeos led to work as a movie extra. In 1910 Cecil DeMille directed his first western and Jack was cast as an extra until he was discovered when the leading man was killed. In 1919 Jack starred in his own film called “Lightening Bryce”. His rise to stardom and that of his brother Al became legendary and at the height of their careers only Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson and Tom Mix were as well known. After he retired, Jack moved to Keyes, Oklahoma where he is buried. Al died on April 6, 1982 and is buried in a California cemetery next to many other big screen stars. Most of Al’s memorabilia is in the Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. If you want to know more about these stars from another era check out the Western Heritage Days weekend coming to Dewy this September. It’s a trip into history I know you’ll like. Till next week, I’ll see ya down the road….