Detail. Click to enlarge.
Tom Mix pretty clearly performs his own stunt (inset) in this scene (or at least in this publicity photo, which may have been set up separately) from "3 Jumps Ahead," the 1923 John Ford picture in which Mix supposedly jumps over Beale's Cut. To the best of our knowledge,
the rest of the film was made in the Newhall area, too.
Unfortunately we don't know exactly what is happening in this scene because the film no longer exists. All that remains are publicity materials such as this rare original 8x10 glossy photograph,
numbered "Ford-7-56+" (or "-56t").
This scene was illustrated in advertising copy as seen here.
Detail. Click to enlarge.
Mix, more than most, claimed to have performed all his own stunts. A veteran of the circus, Mix, more than most, performed a lot of them, but not all. Few actors did. Studios didn't want their contract properties getting injured.
The use of stunt performers was not widely known by the public and certainly was not advertised — and thus, stunt performers were not credited — the thought being, audiences would
be disillusioned to find out their Saturday matinee idols weren't quite the daredevils they made themselves out to be on the screen.
Tom Mix "jumps" over Beale's Cut in Newhall in the 1923 John Ford 5-reeler,
"3 Jumps Ahead," from
Fox Film Corp. Mix, whose star rose as Bill Hart's waned, did a lot of filming in the
Newhall area from about 1916 to the early 1920s, and ran one of several "Mixville"
movie towns in downtown Newhall between San Fernando Road and Newhall Avenue, prior to his
establishment of a permanent Mixville in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles.
Mix claimed to have jumped Tony over Beale's Cut himself —
not once but five or six times to get the shot. Mix biographer Robert S. Birchard, author of "King Cowboy: Tom Mix and the Movies" (1993)
tells us he's certain Mix didn't do it. The film itself is lost, but Birchard, who owns seven frames of film showing the jump, insists the stunt was performed by
Earl Simpson, a horse trainer and stuntman with a ranch in Searchlight, Nev. Others who've been credited with the stunt over the years are
Richard Talmadge and Newhall's own Andy Jauregui.
It's possible there is more than one answer. In addition to some crazy-looking cut-and-paste production stills that show the horse and rider
drastically out of proportion to the Cut, there were three trailers for the film for different releases, Birchard says. They may have been shot at different
times using different people.
Back of photo above. Click to enlarge.
As for the loss of this and other early Tom Mix films, Birchard writes (Birchard 1993:133):
In 1937, 20th Century-Fox suffered a major vault fire at its East Coast storage facility, and the original negatives for virtually all of the Fox Film Corporation's silents and early talkies were lost. For years, it was thought that only two of Tom's eighty-five Fox pictures survived, "Sky High" (1922) and "Riders of the Purple Sage" (1925). However, in the late '60s, 20th Century-Fox embarked on a search for its early film heritage and a few more Mix titles turned up, including "The Untamed" (1920), "The Night Horsemen" (1921), "Trailin" and "Just Tony" (both 1922), "Soft Boiled" (1923), "The Rainbow Trail" and "Dick Turpin" (both 1925), "The Great K&A Train Robbery" (1926), and "The Last Trail" (1927). Another dozen or so titles turned up in Czechoslovakia, including "The Road Demon" (1921), "Teeth" (1924), "North of Hudson Bay" (1924), "The Best Bad Man" (1925), and "Oh, You Tony!" (1924). Unfortunately, the Czech versions generally survive in beat up exchange prints, with missing footage, and four-frame Czech flash titles, making them virtually incomprehensible. A print of "The Texan" (1920) is known to survive at the Danish Film Archive, and others may yet surface — although time is running out for any fragile nitrate prints that might rest in a forgotten vault, attic or garage as tantalizing fragments of "Hearts and Saddles" (1917) and "Fighting For Gold" (1919) attest.
Born in Mix Run, Penn., on Jan. 6, 1880, Tom Mix appeared in more than 300 films (counting "shorts")
from 1909 to 1935. He occasionally filmed in Newhall from 1916 to the mid-1920s and set up one of his early "Mixville"
Western movie towns between Spruce Street (now called Main Street) and Newhall Avenue.
A part-time Newhall resident during that period, Mix lived across the street (probably on Walnut Street) from the Thibaudeau home,
which was located at the southwest corner of Market Street and Newhall Avenue. In a televised
interview, lifelong Newhall resident Gladys Thibaudeau Laney (1910-2014) said she observed Tom buying his sidekick "wonder horse" Tony
on her family's property when she was a young girl. The timing works; Tom reportedly purchased Tony for $600 in 1917 from Pat Chrisman (1882-1953), a horse trainer
and actor friend who co-starred in a number of Mix films (Birchard 1993:118).
In the late Teens, Mix established his most famous
"Mixville" on Glendale Boulevard in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.
Prior to his movie career, Mix appeared in a series of Wild West shows where he was noticed by pioneering film producer Col. William N. Selig,
who hired him to handle horses. He worked with Selig, writing, directing and acting, until 1917, when
he signed with Fox to star in moving pictures alongside Tony.
Mix reached the height of his popularity during the 1920s, assuming the mantle of King of the Cowboys from William S. Hart,
who retired from filming in 1925. But Mix did not adapt well to "talkies," and his career waned in the 1930s.
His popularity remained intact, however, as he took his show on the road on the Western performance circuit. It was on the
road that he would perish, when his 1937 Cord sent him to an untimely demise on Oct. 12, 1940, south of Florence, Ariz.
Adding insult to injury and death, most of the 85 films he made with Fox were lost in a 1937 fire at the company's East Coast storage facility.
But Mix was remembered fondly through his radio show and comic books, which outlived him by more than a decade.
HS4416: 9600 dpi jpeg from original 8x10 print, SCV Historical Society collection.