August 9, 1903
Port Henry, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 1, 1954 50) (aged|
Hamtramck, Michigan, U.S.
|Resting place||Mount Olivet Cemetery, Detroit|
|Spouse(s)||Jeanne Martel |
(m. 1937; div. 1940s)
Tom Tyler (born Vincent Markowski; August 9, 1903 – May 1, 1954) was an American actor known for his leading roles in low-budget Western films in the silent and sound eras, and for his portrayal of superhero Captain Marvel in the 1941 serial film The Adventures of Captain Marvel . Tyler also played Kharis in 1940's The Mummy's Hand , a popular Universal Studios monster film.
Tyler was born Vincent Markowski or Markowsky(sources differ) in Port Henry, New York, to Lithuanian-American parents Helen (née Montvilos) and Frank Markowski. he had two brothers: Frank Jr. and Joe (who changed his last name to Marko) and two sisters: Katherine (Mrs. Slepski) and Maliane "Molly" (Mrs. Redge). He made his First Communion in a small church in Mineville around 1910. His father and older brother worked in the mines for the Witherbee Sherman Company.
In 1913, his family moved to Hamtramck, Michigan, where he attended St. Florian Elementary School and Hamtramck High School.After graduating from high school, he left home and made his way west, finding work as a seaman on a merchant steamer in the U.S. Merchant Marine, a coal miner in Pennsylvania, a lumberjack in the Northwest, and even a prizefighter.
Tyler was an amateur weightlifter sponsored by the Los Angeles Athletic Club during the late 1920s. He set a new world's amateur record for the right-hand clean and jerk by lifting 213 pounds (97 kg). In 1928, he won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) heavyweight weightlifting championship, lifting 760 pounds (340 kg)—a record that stood for fourteen years.
Around 1924, Tyler arrived in California and found work in the film industry as a prop man and extra.His first screen appearances as an extra included Three Weeks (1924), Leatherstocking (1924), and Wild Horse Mesa (1925). In 1925, Tyler was signed to a contract with Film Booking Offices of America (FBO) to star in a series of western adventures with a starting salary of about $75 per week. His first starring role was in Let's Go, Gallagher (1925). Over the next four years, he starred in 28 additional westerns for FBO, including The Masquerade Bandit (1926), The Sonora Kid (1927), The Texas Tornado (1928), The Avenging Rider (1928), and Pride of the Pawnee (1929). While romance was generally underplayed in these early westerns, a number of up-and-coming heroines—including Doris Hill, Jean Arthur, and Nora Lane—contributed to the overall appeal of Tyler's films, which enjoyed critical praise and were popular with Saturday matinee audiences. His four years with FBO gave him valuable riding and acting experience and made him a popular cowboy hero in the latter years of the silent film era.
In 1929, Tyler signed with Syndicate Pictures, where he made his last eight silent films in 1929 and 1930, including The Man from Nevada (1929), Pioneers of the West (1929), The Canyon of Missing Men (1930), and Call of the Desert (1930). In 1930, Tyler was loaned out to Mascot Pictures for his first "all talking" sound film, The Phantom of the West, a typical ten-chapter Saturday matinee cowboy cliffhanger featuring a mysterious secret villain and numerous stunts and action sequences. Kermit Maynard, the brother of Ken Maynard, was Tyler's stunt double in the more dangerous sequences.In 1931, Tyler made his first Syndicate sound film, West of Cheyenne, which showcased his excellent voice for westerns despite his awkward delivery of lines. Tyler concluded his tenure with Syndicate Pictures with Rider of the Plains (1931) and God's Country and the Man (1931). He was also strongly considered for the role of Tarzan by MGM in their Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
Syndicate merged into Monogram Pictures, which signed Tom Tyler to an eight-picture contract as part of the company's sagebrush series. These typical low-budget "quickies" included Man from Death Valley (1931), Single-Handed Sanders (1932), The Man from New Mexico (1932), and Honor of the Mounted (1932), each made for about $8000. All of his Monogram films received critical and popular support.When Monogram chose Bob Steele to star in the next season's series, Tyler moved over to Universal to do three chapter plays—a safari yarn called Jungle Mystery (1932), Clancy of the Mounted (1933), and Phantom of the Air (1933)—while managing to fit in four low-budget Westerns for John R. Freuler's Monarch Pictures, including The Forty-Niners (1932), When a Man Rides Alone (1933), Deadwood Pass (1933), and War on the Range (1933).
In 1934, Tyler signed a two-year contract with Harry S. Webb's Reliable Pictures for eighteen low-budget western films, tailored as second features on double bills for second- and third-tier movie houses.These films included Mystery Ranch (1934), The Silver Bullet (1935), Born to Battle (1935), Silent Valley (1935), Fast Bullets (1936), and Santa Fe Bound (1936). Despite a few well-done scenes and some good performances by supporting players such as Slim Whitaker, Charles King, Earl Dwire, and even the silent-era "Hebrew" comedian Max Davidson, most of these films were of average quality with production shortcomings that restricted the effectiveness of Tyler's performances. By 1936, companies such as Republic Pictures and Paramount Pictures were producing larger-budget, better-quality western films with impressive exterior locations that overshadowed the type of Poverty Row low-budget offerings that brought Tyler to fame.
In 1936, Tyler signed a two-year contract with Sam Katzman's new Victory Pictures for eight western films, each budgeted at about $6000. The first five of these films were directed by Bob Hill and included Cheyenne Rides Again (1937) with Lucile Brown and Feud of the Trail (1937), in which Tyler played a dual role. Of lesser quality, the final three included two co-starring his wife, Jeanne Martel: Orphan of the Pecos (1937) and Lost Ranch (1937), the latter containing a rare scene in which Tyler lip syncs two songs, "Tucson Mary" and "Home on the Range".Following Brothers of the West (1937), Katzman did not renew Tyler's contract with Victory, replacing him with Tim McCoy as the company's top western star.
With no starring roles being offered to him, Tyler took a job with the Wallace Brothers Circus in 1938.He returned to Hollywood and appeared in supporting roles and bit parts in several feature films, including John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) with John Wayne, Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) with Henry Fonda, Gone With the Wind (1939) with Clark Gable, The Westerner (1940) with Gary Cooper, and John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) (also with Henry Fonda). His most unusual role was that of Kharis the mummy in Universal's The Mummy's Hand (1940), in which he was cast because the studio felt he resembled a younger Boris Karloff well enough to match stock footage of Karloff from The Mummy (1932).
In 1941, Tyler signed a two-year contract with Republic Pictures to star in 13 films in the popular Three Mesquiteers series in the role of Stony Brooke opposite Bob Steele playing Tucson Smith, and Rufe Davis or Jimmie Dodd playing Lullaby Joslin.Tyler's $150-per-week salary during the first year was increased to $200 per week for the second year. These final 13 films in the Three Mesquiteers series (39 through 51) represent some of Tyler's best work, and his last leading roles: Outlaws of Cherokee Trail (1941), Gauchos of El Dorado (1941), West of Cimarron (1941), Code of the Outlaw (1942), Raiders of the Range (1942), Westward Ho (1942), The Phantom Plainsmen (1942), Shadows on the Sage (1942), Valley of Hunted Men (1942), Thundering Trails (1943), The Blocked Trail (1943), Santa Fe Scouts (1943), and Riders of the Rio Grande (1943), the last film in the series.
During this period Republic, which failed to secure the rights to Superman, purchased the rights to another comic book superhero, Captain Marvel. In his late thirties at the time, Tyler was still in good shape and was offered the title role at $250 per week for four weeks' work. In the title role in The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941), Tyler portrayed the first film adaptation of a comic book superhero.
Tyler's last major screen role was in the Columbia Pictures serial The Phantom (1943), based on Lee Falk's comic strip. In costume, Tyler bore a striking resemblance to the Phantom character, and he delivered one of his best performances. Columbia filmed a sequel to The Phantom more than a decade later, but the studio's rights to the Phantom property had lapsed. Producer Sam Katzman was forced to film new scenes with hero John Hart, wearing a new costume that resembled the Phantom only vaguely. The patchwork was released as The Adventures of Captain Africa (1955), and footage of Tyler's Phantom appears in some of the long shots.
In 1943, the forty-year-old Tyler was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis. He was physically limited to occasional supporting roles in western films, including San Antonio (1945) with Errol Flynn; They Were Expendable (1945), Red River (1948), and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) with John Wayne; Badman's Territory (1946) with Randolph Scott; Masked Raiders (1949), Riders of the Range (1950), Rio Grande Patrol (1951), and Road Agent (1952) with Tim Holt; West of the Brazos (1950) and several other films with James Ellison; Trail of Robin Hood (1950) with Roy Rogers; and Best of the Badmen (1951) with Robert Ryan. Tyler was one of the John Ford Stock Company, appearing in six of the director's films.
Beginning in 1950, Tyler transitioned to television work, finding minor roles on The Lone Ranger (1950), Dick Tracy (1950), The Cisco Kid (1950–1951), The Range Rider (1951–1952), and The Roy Rogers Show (1952). His final television appearances were in four episodes of The Gene Autry Show in 1952 and 1953. The last screen appearance by Tom Tyler was as a "District Marshal" on the television series Steve Donovan, Western Marshal . The episode, called "Comanche Kid," premiered on January 14, 1956, but had been filmed as a pilot in 1950. In it, Tyler had difficulty drawing his gun because of his arthritis.
Tyler married actress Jeanne Martel in September 1937;they met the previous year while filming Santa Fe Bound, in which she was his leading lady. They appeared in two other films together in 1937, Lost Ranch and Orphan of the Pecos . She most likely accompanied him on the road with the Wallace Brothers Circus in 1938. According to a United States census, they were still married in May 1940 but most likely separated and divorced soon after.
Suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis and nearly destitute, Tyler moved back to Hamtramck and lived with his sister, Katherine Slepski, during the last year of his life. He died on May 3, 1954 of heart failure and complications from scleroderma at the age of 50. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit.
Rex Lloyd Lease was an American actor. He appeared in over 300 films, mainly in Poverty Row westerns.
Wardell Edwin Bond was an American film character actor who appeared in more than 200 films and starred in the NBC television series Wagon Train from 1957 to 1960. Among his best-remembered roles are Bert, the cop, in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Captain Clayton in John Ford's The Searchers (1956).
George Glenn Strange was an American actor who mostly appeared in Western films and was billed as Glenn Strange. He is best remembered for playing Frankenstein's monster in three Universal films during the 1940s and for his role as Sam Noonan, the bartender on CBS's Gunsmoke television series.
George Francis "Gabby" Hayes was an American actor. He began as something of a leading man and a character player, but he was best known for his numerous appearances in B-Western film series as the bewhiskered, cantankerous, woman-hating, but ever-loyal and brave comic sidekick of the cowboy stars Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers.
Tom London was an American actor who played frequently in B-Westerns. According to The Guinness Book of Movie Records, London is credited with appearing in the most films in the history of Hollywood, according to the 2001 book Film Facts, which says that the performer who played in the most films was "Tom London, who made his first of over 2,000 appearances in The Great Train Robbery, 1903. He used his birth name in films until 1924.
Kenne Duncan was a Canadian-born American B-movie character actor. Hyped professionally as "The Meanest Man in the Movies," the vast majority of his over 250 appearances on camera were Westerns, but he also did occasional forays into horror, crime drama, and science fiction. He also appeared in over a dozen serials.
Alfred Morton Bridge was an American character actor who played mostly small roles in over 270 films between 1931 and 1954. Bridge's persona was an unpleasant, gravel-voiced man with an untidy moustache. Sometimes credited as Alan Bridge, and frequently not credited onscreen at all, he appeared in many westerns, especially in the Hopalong Cassidy series, where he played crooked sheriffs and henchmen.
Paul Causey Hurst was an American actor and director.
Steve Clemente was a Mexican-American actor known for his many villainous roles. He began acting in his teens, signing up for his first movie, The Secret Man, in 1917. His later roles were usually bit parts.
Richard Alexander was an American film character actor.
Jay Wilsey was an American film actor. He appeared in nearly 100 films between 1924 and 1944. He starred in a series of very low-budget westerns in the 1920s and 1930s, billed as Buffalo Bill Jr.
Harry Lewis Woods was an American film actor.
William Stanley Blystone was an American film actor who made more than 500 films appearances between 1924 and 1956. He was sometimes billed as William Blystone or William Stanley.
John Samuel Ingram was an American film and television actor. He appeared in many serials and Westerns between 1935 and 1966.
Guy Edward Hearn, more usually known as Edward Hearn, was an American actor who, in a forty-year film career, starting in 1915, played hundreds of roles, starting with juvenile leads, then, briefly, as leading man, all during the silent era.
Frank Sidney Hagney was an Australian actor. He is known for his work on It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Ride Him, Cowboy (1932) and The Sea Beast (1926).
Robert Edward Randall was an American film actor known under his stage name, RobertLivingston. He appeared in 136 films between 1921 and 1975. He was one of the original Three Mesquiteers. He had also played The Lone Ranger and Zorro.
Richard Dye, known professionally as Dick Curtis, was an American actor who made over 230 film and television appearances during his career.
Hector William "Harry" Cording was an English-American actor. He is perhaps best remembered for his roles in the films The Black Cat (1934) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
John Hugh Elliott was an American actor who appeared on Broadway and in over 300 films during his career. He worked sporadically during the silent film era, but with the advent of sound his career took off, where he worked constantly for 25 years, finding a particular niche in "B" westerns.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tom Tyler .|