Whether actor Tom Mix actually jumped Beale's Cut for the John Ford film, "3 Jumps Ahead," has been debated almost since the film was released in 1923. The film is lost, so it can't be examined (although Mix biographer Robert S. Birchard, author of "King Cowboy: Tom Mix and the Movies," tells us he has seven frames of film showing the jump). In this September 1923 news article, Mix takes credit for jumping the cut himself — not once but repeating it five times.
Birchard insists the stunt was performed by Earl Simpson, a horse trainer in Searchlight, Nev. Other candidates over the years have been stuntman Richard Talmadge and Newhall's own Andy Jauregui.
It's possible that more than one version of the story is correct. In addition to the doctored production still showing an out-of-proportion horse and rider, Birchard says three trailers for three releases of the film show different versions of the jump. They may have been shot at different times using different people.
One argument in Mix's favor is that the actor was famous for performing all his own daredevil stunts, especially in his early years, which this was. For Mix to have been doubled would have been scandalous. If word got out, it would have tarnished his reputation, injured his career and hurt the producers and distributors at the box office.
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Commerce Journal (Wichita, Texas) | September 21, 1923.
All those insurance agents who are clamoring to write accident insurance for Tom Mix, the premier Western screen star, should heed Tom's lament. It seems that the more daring and hazardous the stunt he does, he never receives more than a scratch, but every time he visits the doctor he comes out a cripple.
During the filming of his latest William Fox picture, "3 jumps Ahead," which comes to the Hippo Theatre Saturday, Mix performed more dangerous stunts than he had attempted before. "One Monday," said Tom, "I drove a stage coach and four horses over a 100 foot cliff. All rolled to the bottom but no one was hurt. Tuesday jumped Tony over a twenty foot chasm that spanned a ninety foot drop. To get the best possible angle the stunt was repeated five times but still there were no injuries. Wednesday I rolled down another cliff with Tony and neither of us were scratched. Thursday being a legal holiday, I stayed home with my family. But listen to the next day's program.
"Friday morning I went to see a doctor to be sure that I was in perfect condition. He told me that I need something to tone me up and he gave me a serum injection. The needle ruptured a large vein in my arm, causing it to swell to twice the normal size and nearly resulting in the amputation of my arm. I didn't sleep for four days and nights, and it was only my strong recuperative powers that pulled me through. Now my arm is better and I have gone back to the less hazardous life of providing thrills for the movies."
News story courtesy of Stan Walker.