Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tom Mix Goes to the Verge of Death -- March 19, 2019

Moving Picture World, 29-March-1919
100 years ago this month, Tom Mix was ignoring a bear and hugging a lady.

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919

"Picturesque Fox Cowboy Insists on Real Thing in "The Coming of the Law" — First Shot Passes Between Necktie and Throat — Realism Rules in All Pictures

"HOW far should a motion picture star go to attain realism in his pictures? This is a moot point about which rages the debates of those who maintain that there cannot be too much realism and those who assert that the films are too minute in their exposition of action and should leave more to the imagination.

"How far should one go to get realism?

"Tom Mix, the cowboy star, goes to the verge of death — often and deliberately.

"In scenes in which guns are used Mix insists that real bullets be fired; if the script calls for him to jump, on horseback, from the roof of a house, Mix jumps — and does not let anybody jump for him; if the story demands that he ride through a plateglass window, Mix rides — and the window is of real glass, that cuts and lacerates. Mix is acclaimed in publicity copy as "the man who never fakes"; and film folk in Hollywood read the soubriquet and say it is true talk.

"Insists Knot in Tie Be Shot At.

"One of the most recent demonstrations of Mix's scorn for substitutes was given during the filming of "The Coming of the Law," a forthcoming picture. In this production the script demanded that one of a gang of bandits should shoot a bullet through the hero's necktie at the point where it knotted.

"When it came to filming this part of the picture it was suggested that a cut-in could be used and thus obviate the necessity of having Mix used as a target. But Mix would not listen to this proposal. He insisted that a real bullet, from a real rifle, fired by a real marksman, should clip his necktie.

"Accordingly, when the scene was taken Mix stood up in the open so that he would give a clear side view. He selected Pat Chrisman, one of his company, to do the shooting, as Pat is an expert rifleman. The director and the other members of the company stood about in fear that a tragedy would result.

"Indeed it came near to being a tragedy. For the first bullet from Chrisman's rifle passed between Mix's necktie and his throat, close to the skin, and making a hole in his shirt.

"'Try it again,' said Mix imperturbably. 'A little to the right.'

"Chrisman shot again, and this time cut the necktie through the knot.

"Rides Broncho Through Window. 

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919

"In 'Hell Roarin' Reform' Mix had to ride his horse through a plate glass window.

"'We can use a property window for that,' the director said.

"'Property nothing!' exploded Mix. 'What's the matter with a real window?'

"So a real window was smashed for art. And Tom Mix was badly cut about the neck and arm as his horse galloped through the window and the glass showered down in sharp-edged sheets.

"It was in making 'Hell Roarin' Reform,' by the way, that Mix was nearly choked to death. It hapened this way : In this picture bandits are supposed to lasso him and drag him over the ground between two horses. So that Mix, as he was being dragged, could be photographed properly, a compromise was made, and instead of being dragged by horses, Mix was dragged by an automobile, on the rear of which was a platform carrying the cameraman.

"Nearly Choked to Death by Lasso.

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919

"When this stunt was first tried, the noose slipped from Tom's shoulders and went up about his neck. Instantly realizing his peril, Mix braced his head down into his shoulder in such a way that the noose could not slip tight and strangle him. The stunt was then tried over again, and the automobile, with Pat Chrisman at the wheel, started off at a rate that was nearly breakneck — for Mix. For it was only by the greatest of vigilance and agility that he was able to hold his head so that his neck would not be snapped as he was whirled along over the high spots.

"In this scene, too, Mix suffered serious abrasions about the neck and face. But because of his remarkable health his cuts and bruises healed quickly. One day you see him badly cut up; the next day the wound is nearly healed, and the third day it has nearly disappeared.

"Probably one of the most daring stunts Mix ever performed was when he allowed another cowboy to shoot at the sheriff's badge over his heart. In this picture Mix was supposed to be inside a stage-coach that had just rolled down the mountainside. When the coach reached the bottom Mix stepped out — stunned and bewildered by his shaking up. While he stood there, getting his bearings, a Mexican bad man was supposed to shoot at him from a clump of bushes near by, and hit a watch which was in his breast pocket ; the watch, of course, was supposed to save Mix's life.

"Uses Mix's Badge as Aiming Point.

"For this scene Mix wore a sheriff's badge, so that the marksman in the clump of bushes would have a mark to shoot at. Then under his coat he wore a small stove cover, less than six inches in diameter.

"When the director yelled camera, Mix emerged from the smashed stage-coach and stood, as if dazed, a minute. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his watch. After noting the time he put the watch back. An instant later the bad man's rifle spoke from the clump of bushes. Mix clapped his hand to his chest and pulled out his watch, which was badly smashed.

"Had the marksman deviated a few inches to the left Mix would have been shot through the left lung, just above the heart — a wound that undoubtedly would be fatal. If the marksman had shot low Mix also would have been seriously wounded, and if the shot had been high the bullet probably would have smashed his shoulder. The only non-fatal mistake would have been to shoot a little to the right. This would have given Mix merely a flesh wound in the side.

"Now, officials of the Fox Film Corporation state that Mix's insistence that there be no faking in his pictures has this big advantage — the camera can record a continuous action, thus making unnecessary the cut-ins that prove the picture has been faked.

"But at the same time, they point out, it has this grave disadvantage: They never know when a wire is coming from Los Angeles announcing that Tom Mix has been killed in making a picture."

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