Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 02
Tom Mix October 12, 1940
Tom Mix dies

John Wayne may have been the greatest Western star of them all, however Tom Mix – who died on this day in 1940 – was the man who paved the way for that success. Mix was the pioneering cowboy movie hero and one of the silver screen’s first big stars, a prolific actor who appeared in an astonishing 336 films between 1910 and 1935. When Mix rose to prominence as a silent movie star, and he qualified as a great screen cowboy not as a well-versed stage actor but as a real-life man of action: Mix had grown up in Pennsylvania riding horses and working on a farm, had enlisted (though never fought) in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War, and then became a highly skilled rancher, winning 1909 national Riding and Rodeo Championship (which tested shooting skills and horsemanship). In 1910, he appeared in his first Western for the Selig Polyscope Company, and quickly became a star. During the 1910s and 1920s, Mix seemed to have a charmed existence: he became a beloved matinee idol, earned a reported $7,500 a week (an unthinkably large amount) while under contract at Fox, and married his on-screen regular love interest, Victoria Forde. (With Forde, his third wife, he had a daughter, Thomasina, born in 1922.) Bigger than fellow Western actors William S. Hart and Hoot Gibson, Mix was so famous that even his trusty steed, Tony the Horse, became a star. Mix was multi-talented – he was a skilled comedian, did his own stunts, and directed and wrote many of his films – however he could not survive the advent of sound. In the 1930s, he appeared in only a handful of films, instead putting his energies into making circus appearances, eventually founding the Tom Mix Circus. Though he had disappeared from screens already when he died in an auto accident in 1940, his star still shone brightly for years to come as a character on radio and in comic books. Eagle-eyed music fans will notice that Mix is one of the faces on the crowded cover of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.


More Flashbacks
December 2, 1945
Penelope Spheeris born

On this day in 1945, director Penelope Spheeris was born in New Orleans.

Read more »
December 2, 1988
The Naked Gun Hits Its Target

It is relatively common these days for TV shows to be adapted into movies, but most often those films were based on successful and much-loved – not to mention long-running – series. However, in the case of The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, which was released today in 1988, the movie in question was the spawn of a TV show, Police Squad!, that had been cancelled by ABC in 1982 after only four episodes were aired. The spoof 70s style police show, however, gained cult status on the back of its silly humor, slapstick antics and intentional continuity errors. Indeed, it had such a Lazarus-like recovery to its reputation that its creators, Airplane's Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker, were given the opportunity by Paramount to make a feature about Leslie Nielsen's bumbling cop, Lt. Frank Drebin. Audiences responded enthusiastically to the film's inane antics and ridiculous plotlines and the movie became a massive success, raking in nearly $80m at the box office and spawning two further sequels – also starring Nielsen, and regular co-stars George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley and O.J. Simpson – both of which also were incredibly popular. The third installment, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, was released in 1994, however the franchise's success is such that Paramount is reportedly considering bringing back the characters for another outing produced by their DTV division (though probably without the involvement of Abrahams, the Zucker brothers or Nielsen).

Read more »