Tom Mix – The First Western Mega-Film Star. Dewey, Oklahoma

Posted on October 13, 2014

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download (3)The Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma is another one of those fun stops not too far off Route 66.

Close to Bartlesville, it makes for good relief after the overpowering self-promotion of the Philipps 66 Museum.

Mix (his real name) was certainly one of the most productive early film stars, having appeared in 291 films between 1909 and 1935.  All but nine were silent movies, shot on low budgets with no retakes.

He was Hollywood’s first Western megastar and is generally acknowledged as the prototype for all the cowboy actors who followed.

But Tom Mix was more than an actor, he was the real deal.download (2)

Though born in Pennsylvania, he was an experienced cowboy, having worked on the famous 101 Ranch near Ponca, Oklahoma.  Mix was a first-class horseman who performed almost all his own riding stunts in his films. He was a talented roper – maybe not up to Will Rogers standards, but close.  He could train a horse to do almost anything, and did just that for many of his movie action scenes.

He was always the ‘good guy ‘in his films. Though he was married five times, he did not smoke or drink and prided himself as a wholesome role model for children.

download (3)However a heroic figure he may have been on the screen, his death in 1940 wasn’t’ caused by a stunt gone wrong, but by a piece of luggage.

Speeding along on a highway toward Phoenix, he failed to see a road construction site, and quickly swerved his car to avoid a barricade. A metal suitcase in the back seat catapulted forward, hitting his head and killing him instantly.

Every man of a certain age had at least one Tom Mix book as a boy.

Every man of a certain age had at least one Tom Mix book as a boy.

Through the years, Tom Mix accumulated an impressive array of costumes, accouterments and mementos of his long career as a performer.

He kept everything, thinking that his things would someday be important.  Shortly after his death a judge turned over the collection to one of Tom’s friends in California, who kept the collection together.

In 1965 a group of Dewey businessmen were looking for ways to bring tourists to the city. It was known that Tom had lived and worked in Dewey before becoming famous. One of his five wives had been raised in Dewey, and one of his daughters born there.  The city raised the money to purchase the collection, and the Tom Mix Museum was established.

Today, film footage and exhibits bring the early days of the Western film genre alive for the modern audience, and helps connect the movie Western to the real life Oklahoma cowboy.

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