Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 28
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
Meet Me In St. Louis November 28, 1944
Meet Me in St. Louis opens in Technicolor

Opening November 28, 1944, Vincente Minelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis was one of the most commercially successful pictures of its day.

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November 28, 1938
Michael Ritchie born

Michael Ritchie, one of the most skilled yet underrated Hollywood directors of the 1970s, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on this day in 1938.

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November 28, 1946
Dante's Divine Comedy of Horrors

In many ways, Joe Dante, born on this day 62 years ago today, is a film director from another age. Dante, a New Jersey native whose parents were golf pros, grew up in 1950s America and continues to embody the ethos of that decade in much of his film work. His influences, for example, include cartoonist Chuck Jones, champion of colorful 50s film comedy Frank Tashlin and B-movie mogul Roger Corman, and it was Corman who first initiated him into the world of movie production after Dante had spent some years as a film critic. Dante first enjoyed success with the Jaws­-inspired creature feature Piranha (1978) which he followed up with the werewolf movie The Howling (1981), another Corman production. Afterwards he graduated to big budget movies, often working for friend Steven Spielberg, and scored with hits like Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987) and also indulged in nostalgic joint exercises like Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) and episodes of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories TV show. His work has always affectionately looked back on a time when cinema was all about tall tales, monsters, aliens and other such fun excesses of the cinema of bygone years, and Dante tapped into this most directly in Matinee (1993), his film about a William Castle-like producer whose productions thrived on gimmicks and shock tactics. Since the early 1990s, though, Dante has worked mostly in television, where he directed the cult series Eerie, Indiana, only occasionally returning to the big screen for movies like the kid-oriented Small Soldiers (1998) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Now, however, Dante looks set to return to the fore with two projects which will that staple of 50s schlock horror, 3-D technology, which is popular once again 50 years on thanks to its revitalization through digital technology.

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