Saturday, December 26, 2015

Arizona remembers silent movie star Tom Mix

Tom Mix's horse, Tony, tops the memorial
Silent movie star Tom Mix was born in Pennsylvania and died in the Arizona desert. His love of fast cars led to his death.

Mix was speeding in his Cord Phaeton on Highway 80 (now Highway 79) between Tucson and Phoenix. He failed to stop for barriers warning of a washed out bridge, and went through them into a ravine. A heavy suitcase came loose, hit him on the head and broke his neck. The ravine is now known as Tom Mix Wash.

Tom Mix memorial
A simple memorial to Mix can be found about 20 miles south of Florence near where he died on October 12, 1940. The memorial features a two-foot high statue of his horse, Tony, that he rode in the movies and his circus acts after he left the film industry. The inscription on the memorial plaque reads, “TOM MIX January 6, 1880 - October 12, 1940 Whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the old west in the minds of living men." He was 60 years old.

Tom Mix worked at a variety of jobs, including bartender and ranch hand, before becoming a megastar during the silent movie era. He was the first cowboy star to achieve this status. He starred in around 370 films from 1905 to 1935; a few of the movies were talkies. Along the way, he served as a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

Mix, who was married five times, was a deserter from the Army in the early 1900s. He kept this a secret, which only came out after he died. He was never court martialed. Because of his immense popularity, the Army did not object to his having a military funeral. Rudy Vallee sang at the services.

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