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October 12, 2013

Image and Reality

October the 12th marks the 73rd anniversary of the death of cowboy-movie star Tom Mix. He was killed when he lost control of his car and rolled into a dry wash near Florence, Arizona. According to his ‘biography’, he was a genuine cowboy and hero of the Wild West: born in Texas; served in the Spanish-American War, and was a sheriff in Kansas, a U.S. marshal in Oklahoma and a Texas Ranger. The truth was not quite so majestic. The truth was that Mix was born in Driftwood, Pennsylvania; had deserted the Army in 1902; and went off to Hollywood in 1909. Fortunately for Mix, none of these less than stellar facts prevented Mix from becoming one of the greatest silent-film stars in history. Mix’s press agent created an illusion that fans bought into. Be wary of what may be an illusion in front of you. In a previous post I mentioned that some silent stars did not make the transition well into the talkies.  Mix was one of those actors. It was said that the actor's high pitched voice undermined his macho cowboy image and Mix’s movie career as a headliner was over. In the crash, Mix was hit in the head by a heavy aluminum suitcases he was carrying in the convertible's backseat. The impact broke the actor's neck and he died almost instantly.