Saturday, November 15, 2008
TOM MIX INTERESTS HOLLYWOOD
Hope Placed in Cowboy Films to Attract Children to Theaters
Hollywood, Cal. - Feb. 22
Considerable interest is being evinced by the cinema in the outcome of Tom Mix’s return to the screen in his first big talking picture, now being filmed by Universal. The children, a problem to Hollywood as well as to their parents, have not followed the theater with as much avidity since the screen became garrulous as was shown during the days of golden silence.
Tom Mix may be the solution. The producers hope so. Will Hays followed the circus for two days discussing the actor’s return, with the cowboy arguing against it. Now, after considerable story trouble, the shooting of “Destry Rides Again,” is in full swing.
When producers had it forcefully brought to their attention via the box office that the children’s dimes were anything but plentiful, Carl Laemmle, veteran head of Universal, hit on Mix as the answer to Hollywood’s prayer.
“There were several things to actuate me.” Mr. Laemmle said this week. “Theaters needed children. They didn’t go to the ‘kid’ pictures that were made for them. They did go to see the gangster thrillers that were not made for them.” While the public does not generally credit Hollywood with such an attitude, producers are quite conscious of their responsibility and something had to be done to head off this interest in the morbid.
“Pictures have become so definite a part of home life that the industry has a national and public responsibility. So it is up to us to divert juvenile minds from the blood and thunder they naturally seek and interest them in clean wholesome attractions.”
Mix was loath, at first, to return to Hollywood. The town has not been overly kind to him. He was getting $10,000 a week with the circus, with three years of his contract still to run. But under the combined pleading of Mr. Hays and Mr. Laemmle, together with an accident which injured him when his horse fell during a performance in Peru, Ind., he changed his mind. His injury, while not serious, provoked such a deluge of letters from children all over the country that he decided to ride the screen again.
After the contract signing, Mix showed up at the studio ready for action only to find that the character he was to play got drunk and shot a man. Tom Mix has never smoked, taken a drink or shot any one except in self-defense in any character he ever played, and he attributes his popularity with children to this adherence to a definite type. So he refused to play the part, and the story was rewritten with rugged virtue in the saddle.
Mix regards his child-following very seriously. He views acting solely as a business. He came from the ranks of cowboys, he says, and he does not care to change. Hence his boots and two-gallon hat with dinner jacket. He says a cowpuncher would not wear a derby or plug hat, and so he won’t. And his reasons seem convincing.
While “Destry Rides Again” is slated as a juvenile picture, indications are that it will establish an adult following among those who like their virility old-fashioned. It is a story of the West of thirty years ago, and after the epidemic of drawing room dramas, audiences may find it a welcome relief.