Babylon Nights Tidbit #30 ~ Famous Duos

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Babylon Nights Tidbit #30 ~ Famous Duos

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:55 am

pg. 305:

"Just how many people," she said, "do you get to have this kind of banter with?"

"Banter is important," he said.

"You bet your ass it is."

"We're like Nick and Nora Charles," he said, "We're like Burns and Allen. We're like , like Sacco and Vanzetti, like--"

"Oh, shut up," she said. She went over to him and sat in his lap.

"I was going to say Tom Mix and his wonder horse Tony."

Nick and Nora Charles


The Thin Man (1934) is the first installment of a popular series of films casting a sophisticated, glamorous, pleasure-seeking, and urbane husband-wife detective team (William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles). Director W.S. Van Dyke had previously directed Manhattan Melodrama (1934), in which stars Powell and Loy had displayed their unique and charming chemistry in their first of 14 film pairings.

The film's mystery story takes a back seat to the romantic screwball comedy, featuring the splendid, snappy banter between the rich, carefree married couple. They are known for sleuthing, solving murders, wisecracking one-liners, affectionate witticisms, delightful teasing and one-upmanship, alcoholic fun with plenty of martinis, a wire-haired terrier named Asta (actually named Skippy), and a loving relationship - often punctuated with quick kisses and slight hiccups.

The story is taken from Dashiell Hammett's 1934 detective novel of the same name, with a married couple that was supposedly modeled on the author's relationship with longtime love and playwright Lillian Hellman. [This was Hammett's fifth and final novel, written following The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key.] The 'thin man' is actually the murder victim in the novel and film, and only appeared in the initial film. This low-budget MGM film, that was shot in less than three weeks (14 days) and earned over $2 million, is the best of the bunch.

It launched a series of five more Thin Man movies (from 1936 to 1947), some of which had their screenplays also written by Dashiell Hammett. Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich were responsible for co-writing the screenplays for the first three Thin Man films:

• After the Thin Man (1936), d. W.S. Van Dyke - a Best Picture nominee
• Another Thin Man (1939), d. W.S. Van Dyke; introduced a new character, Nicky Charles, Jr.
• Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), d. W.S. Van Dyke
• The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), d. Richard Thorpe
• The Song of the Thin Man (1947), d. Edward Buzzell

The husband and wife team (billed as "the happiest married couple in radio") was also broadcast on radio (by Pabst Blue Ribbon) for many years, with Claudia Morgan in the role of Nora, and a number of actors in Nick's role (Lester Damon, Les Tremayne, Joseph Curtin, and David Gothard). Each radio show ended with Nora's closing: "Good night, Nickeee..." The couple's popularity progressed into television, where Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk portrayed the pair for three seasons on NBC-TV in The Thin Man from 1957-1959, in 72 30-minute episodes. Other husband/wife sleuthing comedies were also inspired, such as the 70s-80s shows McMillan and Wife (1971-1977) on NBC with Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, and Hart to Hart (1979-1984) on ABC with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers. Woody Allen's part-homage film Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) starred its director and Diane Keaton as the Liptons, modeled after the Charles couple. The couple was also memorably spoofed as Mr. and Mrs. Dick and Dora Charleston (cunningly played by David Niven and Maggie Smith) in Murder by Death (1976).

Although it was nominated in four categories for Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Actor (William Powell), Best Director (W. S. "Woody" Van Dyke), and Best Adapted Screenplay (husband-and-wife screenwriting partnership Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, also authors of Naughty Marietta (1935), It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Easter Parade (1948), Father of the Bride (1950), and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)), it was up against stiff competition from the Oscar-sweeping film It Happened One Night (1934), and went away empty-handed. [This film's first sequel, After the Thin Man (1936) was also a Best Picture nominee, and the first sequel ever nominated for Best Picture. The film also featured a surprise ending in which Nora revealed her impending motherhood - the third film in the series Another Thin Man (1939) would feature the debut of Nicky Charles, Jr. (William A. Poulsen).]

Burns and Allen


“For 40 years my act consisted of one joke,” George Burns was fond of saying. “Then she died.” The woman in question, as anyone within earshot of a radio or television in the 1950s would know, was his wife, Gracie Allen–and the female side of a showbiz team whose ditzy banter in an era of idealized domesticity made it one of the most beloved and successful comedy acts in history.

Both onstage and off, as Burns himself was always the first to acknowledge, Gracie, the perfectly honed not-so-Dumb Dora to his long-suffering straight man, was more than half an act. “Next to Gracie, I was wonderful,” he wrote in an affectionate biography, 1988′s Gracie: A Love Story. “All I had to do was stand next to her and imagine some of the applause was for me.”
When Burns first met the 17-year-old daughter of Edward Allen, a San Francisco song-and-dance man, George and Gracie were both aspiring vaudevillians. Glass fragments from an exploding hurricane lamp had left the Irish lass with one eye that appeared green and the other blue; another childhood accident had scalded and permanently scarred her left arm. But Burns, the former Nathan Birnbaum, a New York City clothier’s son who was divorced and 10 years her senior, saw a partnership. “She could sing and she could dance and she was willing to work cheap,” he wrote. “Who cared how old she was?”

Before long, his intrest was more than professional, and he bought her a $20 wedding band–”very special,” he recalled. “The metal band actually changed colors as it aged in my pocket.” The ring, of course, did not do justice to the marriage. The couple stuck together through their steamer-trunk years on the vaudeville circuit, and 17 more on the nation’s most popular radio show before moving to Hollywood in 1950 and brightening television’s nascent horizon with The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. True, their marriage did have its rough spots. One oft-repeated story has it that whenever Gracie suspected George of philandering, he would buy her an expensive gift. “I wish George would find another girlfriend,” she once told a friend. “I could use a silver-fox jacket.”

When The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, aka The Burns and Allen Show, began on CBS television October 12, 1950, it was an immediate success. The show was originally live before a studio audience. Ever the businessman, Burns realized it would be more efficient to do the series on film; the half-hour episodes could then be syndicated. With 291 episodes, the show had a long network run through 1958 and continued in syndicated reruns for years.


In later seasons, George and Gracie would often reappear after the end of the episode, eventually before a curtain decorated with the names and locations of the various theaters they headlined in their vaudeville days, performing one of their patented "double routines," often discussing one of Gracie's fictional relatives {"Death Valley Allen" the prospector; "Florence Allen" the nurse, "Casey Allen" the railroad man, and so on}. Burns would always end the show with "Say goodnight, Gracie," to which Allen simply replied "Goodnight." She never said "Goodnight, Gracie," as legend has it. Burns attempted to continue the show with the same supporting cast but without Gracie. The George Burns Show lasted only one season (1958–59); Burns realized that viewers kept expecting Gracie to enter the scene at any time.

In 1934 they adopted a daughter, Sandra, and the following year, a son, Ronnie. With a family, thriving career and a stream of friends like Jack Benny and Fred Astaire coursing through their comfortable custom-built house at 720 North Maple Drive, Gracie had a mild heart attack, and in 1958, exhausted and suffering from the chest pains that had plagued her ever since, she made good on her threat to retire. On June 4 of that year, George and Gracie filmed their final TV show. Six years later she was dead. When George went into her hospital room for their last goodbye, she was still wearing the $20 wedding band that he had given her 38 years before. “For the first time in 40 years I was alone. So I did the only thing there was to do,” he remembered. “I leaned over and I kissed her on the lips and whispered, ‘I love you, Googie.’”

Burns never made a secret of the tough time he had dealing with his loss. “When I miss her a great deal, I crawl in on her side of the bed, in the middle of the day even,” he told Carol Channing. “I stay there until I feel warm and good, and then I go on about my business.” He also became somewhat of a fixture at Hollywood’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, where every month he would go to the mausoleum to talk to Gracie. “I don’t know if she hears me,” he said. “But after speaking to her, I feel better.”

That their chats should continue beyond the grave didn’t really seem so odd. Throughout his life, whenever people asked Burns how to make a marriage work, he had a standard response: “I tell them the answer’s easy–marry Gracie.” Taking his own advice, he never married again.

After trying another sitcom, Wendy and Me, Burns turned to nightclub work as a solo performer, while Gracie enjoyed a comfortable retirement; she died of heart failure in 1964. Burns continued to work as a singing comedian and enjoyed an Oscar-winning movie resurgence at the age of 80 with The Sunshine Boys. Then director Carl Reiner asked him to play the title role in Larry Gelbart's comedy, Oh, God!, which was so successful it spawned two sequels. He also co-starred with Art Carney and Lee Strasberg as a businesslike bank robber in the Martin Brest senior-citizen caper comedy Going in Style.

George Burns died in 1996 at the age of 100.

Ben and Jerry

Cherry Garcia. Funky Monkey. Phish Food. Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies. Half Baked. Karamel Sutra. Who knew ice cream could be so... cool?


In 1978, childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield took a $5 course on ice-cream making and opened the first Ben & Jerry’s in a converted gas station in the small college town of Burlington, Vermont. Within five years they had opened their first franchise outside of Vermont and were distributing to regional grocers. By 1987, less than 10 years after their humble beginnings, sales were at $32 million.

Their secret? Simply a new twist on an old favorite -- the funky flavors and even funkier names were a smash hit.



Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were childhood friends born four days apart in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951. You could say that ice cream runs in their veins. During his senior year of high school, Ben drove an ice cream truck. After high school, he attended and dropped out of various colleges in the Northeast, eventually leaving his studies altogether to teach pottery on a working farm in New York's Adirondack region, where he also dabbled in ice cream-making.

Jerry started on a more traditional path. After graduating high school, he attended Oberlin College to study medicine. Jerry worked as an ice cream scooper in the school’s cafeteria. Upon graduating, Jerry returned to New York to work as a lab technician, while applying to medical school without success. During his lab tech days, he shared a Manhattan apartment with Ben. After moving to North Carolina for a few years, Jerry reunited with Ben in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and they decided to go into the food business together.

At first the pair thought about making bagels but decided the necessary equipment was too expensive. Instead, they settled on ice cream. They decided Burlington, Vt., was an ideal location for a scoop shop because it was a college town without an ice cream parlor. They took a $5 course on ice-cream making and in 1978 opened the first Ben & Jerry’s in a converted Burlington gas station.



The original scoop shop became a community favorite thanks to its rich ice cream and creative flavors. Ben and Jerry also made it a point to connect with the community, hosting a free film festival and giving away free scoops on the first anniversary of the store, a tradition that still continues. In 1980, the duo began making pints to sell to local grocers. In 1981, they expanded this operation.

Business increased significantly. In 1983, the company opened its first non-Vermont franchise in Maine, and signed a deal with a Boston distribution company. Signature flavors were unveiled during the 1980s – including New York Super Fudge Chunk and Cherry Garcia – and by 1987 sales were at $32 million. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan named Ben and Jerry the U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year, and by the year’s end the company was operating shops in 18 states.

Free Cone Day is an annual event held between late March and early May, in which Ben & Jerry's scoop shops give out free ice cream cones. The 30th annual Free Cone Day took place on Tuesday, April 29, 2008, and the most recent event took place on Tuesday, March 23, 2010.

Over one million free cones are given away each year, prompting the company's ad slogan "Be One In A Million." Charitable organizations are often present at the stores each year and enjoy a significant amount of fundraising success. Oftentimes, local celebrities show up at various stores, promoting the day and the charities there. Sometimes the event is scheduled to coincide with Earth Day and sometimes volunteers are on hand with clipboards and voter registration forms to help those who would like to register to vote.

The first Free Cone Day was held on Saturday, May 5, 1979 by Ben and Jerry as a customer and staff appreciation event for the first anniversary of their store's opening.

Creative Flavors:

One reason for the quick popularity of Ben & Jerry’s was its unique flavor combinations. All new flavors were invented by Jerry, usually without any test marketing. Some 1980s flagship flavors include Chunky Monkey, Rainforest Crunch and Economic Crunch, scoops of which Ben & Jerry’s served up for free on Wall Street following the stock market crash of Oct. 19, 1987.

Growing Pains:

The company’s path hasn’t always been as smooth as its ice cream blends. Ben & Jerry’s faced off with Häagen-Dazs over distribution rights, leading to lawsuits against Häagen-Dazs’ parent, the Pillsbury Company, in the mid-1980s. As the company’s rapid growth continued, it became obvious to the founders that they would need someone with more business acumen to keep the business running. After allowing customers to apply for the job in the “Yo! I’m Your CEO” contest, the company in 1995 selected Robert Holland, a veteran of McKinsey & Co. Ironically, Holland was found by a search firm, not through the contest.

Holland’s hiring brought the company to a crossroads. Ben and Jerry had become the brand’s icons. There was concern that the company would lose its informal hierarchy and unique culture under Holland’s leadership. Ben & Jerry’s had always had a strict pay scale ratio for its management, which it had to break when hiring Holland.

Furthermore, Ben & Jerry’s was going through a trying time in the marketplace. Although the company had made its name with wacky flavors and chunky mix-ins, the most popular ice cream flavor in America was – and remains – plain vanilla. The firm had released a line of “Smooth, No Chunks!” flavors to capture that segment of the market that preferred less funky flavors.

While the super-premium ice cream market was growing, so was the competition. Häagen-Dazs and Dreyer’s were major players. Ben & Jerry’s had outsourced some its production to Dreyer’s in order to reach customers in the western U.S. Now that Dreyer’s was becoming more of a competitor, Ben & Jerry’s had to worry about its dependence on a competitor for manufacturing and distribution.

Holland stepped down in 1996. The following year, Perry Odak became the new CEO, and sales that year were about $174 million. In late 1999, the firm announced it had received notice of interest from other large firms, and in 2000 international food giant Unilever purchased the Ben & Jerry’s brand for $326 million, although the deal called for Ben & Jerry’s to be operated separately from Unilever’s other ice cream brands.

Social Mission:

This unique arrangement allowed Ben & Jerry’s to continue to run its business in a socially conscious manner, which had been a trademark of the brand since its inception. Some examples of this mission include:

• An original scoop shop made of recycled materials
• Creation of a “Green Team” in 1989, focusing on environmental education throughout the company
• A company bus equipped with solar panels
• The use of hormone-free milk in its products
• A commitment to reducing solid and dairy waste, recycling, and water and energy conservation at the company’s facilities


Sacco and Vanzetti

At 3:00 P.M. on April 15,1920, a paymaster and his guard were carrying a factory payroll of $15,776 through the main street of South Braintree, Massachusetts, a small industrial town south of Boston. Two men standing by a fence suddenly pulled out guns and fired on them. The gunmen snatched up the cash boxes dropped by the mortally wounded pair and jumped into a waiting automobile. The bandit gang, numbering four or five in all, sped away, eluding their pursuers. At first this brutal murder and robbery, not uncommon in post-World War I America, aroused only local interest.

Three weeks later, on the evening of May 5, 1920, two Italians, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, fell into a police trap that had been set for a suspect in the Braintree crime. Although originally not under suspicion, both men were carrying guns at the time of their arrest and when questioned by the authorities they lied. As a result they were held and eventually indicted for the South Braintree crimes. Vanzetti was also charged with an earlier holdup attempt that had taken place on December 24, 1919, in the nearby town of Bridgewater. These events were to mark the beginning of twentieth-century America's most notorious political trial.
The arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti had coincided with the period of the most intense political repression in American history, the "Red Scare" 1919-20. The police trap they had fallen into had been set for a comrade of theirs, suspected primarily because he was a foreign-born radical. While neither Sacco nor Vanzetti had any previous criminal record, they were long recognized by the authorities and their communities as anarchist militants who had been extensively involved in labor strikes, political agitation, and antiwar propaganda and who had had several serious confrontations with the law. They were also known to be dedicated supporters of Luigi Galleani's Italian-language journal Cronaca Sovversiva, the most influential anarchist journal in America, feared by the authorities for its militancy and its acceptance of revolutionary violence. Cronaca, because of its uncompromising antiwar stance, had been forced to halt publication immediately upon the entry of the U.S. government into World War I in 1917; its editors were arrested and at war's end deported to Italy, in 1919. During this period the government's acts of repression, often illegal, were met in turn by the anarchists' attempts to incite social revolution, and at times by retal iatory violence; the authorities and Cronaca were pitted against each other in a bitter social struggle just short of open warfare. A former editor of Cronaca was strongly suspected of having blown himself up during an attentat on Attorney General Palmer's home in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 1919, an act that led Congress to vote funds for anti-radical investigations and launch the career of J. Edgar Hoover as the director of the General Intelligence Division in the Department of Justice. The Sacco-Vanzetti case would become one of his first major responsibilities. In 1920, as the Italian anarchist movement was trying to regroup, Andrea Salsedo, a comrade of Sacco and Vanzetti, was detained and, while in custody of the Department of Justice, hurled to his death. On the night of their arrest, authorities found in Sacco's pocket a draft of a handbill for an anarchist meeting that featured Vanzetti as the main speaker. In this treacherous atmosphere, when initial questioning by the police focused on their radical activities and not on the specifics of the Braintree crime, the two men lied in response. These falsehoods created a "consciousness of guilt" in the minds of the authorities, but the implications of that phrase soon became a central issue in the Sacco-Vanzetti case: Did the lies of the two men signify criminal involvement in the Braintree murder and robbery, as the authorities claimed, or did they signify an understandable attempt to conceal their radicalism and protect their friends during a time of national hysteria concerning foreign-born radicals, as their supporters were to claim?

Their new lawyer, Moore, completely changed the nature of the legal strategy. He decided it was no longer possible to defend Sacco and Vanzetti solely against the criminal charges of murder and robbery. Instead he would have them frankly acknowledge their anarchism in court, try to establish that their arrest and prosecution stemmed from their radical activities, and dispute the prosecution's insistence that only hard, nonpolitical evidence had implicated the two men in common crimes. Moore would try to expose the prosecution's hidden motive: its desire to aid the federal and military authorities in suppressing the Italian anarchist movement to which Sacco and Vanzetti belonged.

Moore's defense of the two men soon became so openly and energetically political that its scope quickly transcended its local roots. He organized public meetings, solicited the support of labor unions, contacted international organizations, initiated new investigations, and distributed tens of thousands of defense pamphlets throughout the United States and the world. Much to the chagrin of some anarchist comrades, Moore would even enlist the aid of the Italian government in the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, who were still, nominally at least, Italian citizens. Moore's aggressive strategy transformed a little known case into an international cause celebre.



After a hard-fought trial of six weeks, during which the themes of patriotism and radicalism were often sharply contrasted by the prosecution and the defense, the jury found Sacco and Vanzetti guilty of robbery and murder on July 14,1921. This verdict marked, however, only the beginning of a lengthy legal struggle to save the two men. It extended until 1927, during which time the defense made many separate motions, appeals, and petitions to both state and federal courts in an attempt to gain a new trial.

Presented in these motions were evidence of perjury by prosecution witnesses, of illegal activities by the police and the federal authorities, a confession to the Braintree crimes by convicted bank robber Celestino Madeiros, and powerful evidence that identified the gang involved in the Braintree affair as the notorious Morelli Gang. All were ruled on and rejected by Judge Webster Thayer, the same judge who earlier had so severely sentenced Vanzetti. Judge Thayer would even rule on a motion accusing himself of judicial prejudice. His conduct--or misconduct--during the trials and the appeals became another of the controversial issues surrounding the case, but it, too, would prove insufficient to bring about a new trial.

On April 9, 1927, after all recourse in the Massachusetts courts had failed, Sacco and Vanzetti were sentenced to death. By then the dignity and the words of the two men had turned them into powerful symbols of social justice for many throughout the world. Public agitation on their behalf by radicals, workers, immigrants, and Italians had become international in scope, and many demonstrations in the world's great cities--Paris, London, Mexico City, Buenos Aires--protested the unfairness of their trial. This great public pressure, combined with influential behind-the-scenes interventions, finally persuaded the governor of Massachusetts, Alvan T. Fuller, to consider the question of executive clemency for the two men. He appointed an advisory committee, the "Lowell Committee," so-called because its most prominent member was A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard University. The committee, in a decision that was notorious for its loose thinking, concluded that the trial and judicial process had been just "on the whole" and that clemency was not warranted. It only fueled controversy over the fate of the two men, and Harvard, because of Lowell's role, became stigmatized, in the words of one of its alumni, as "Hangman's House." "Not every wop has the switch to the electric chair thrown by the president of Harvard."

Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on August 23, 1927, a date that became a watershed in twentieth-century American history. It became the last of a long train of events that had driven any sense of utopian vision out of American life. The workings of American democracy now seemed to many Americans as flawed and unjust as many of the older societies of the world, no longer embodying any bright ideal, but once again serving the interests of the rich and the powerful. American intellectuals were powerfully moved by the case.


Tom Mix and his Wonder Horse Tony


Thomas Edwin "Tom" Mix (born Thomas Hezikiah Mix; ( January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies. He made a reported 336 films between 1910 and 1935, all but nine of which were silent features. He was Hollywood’s first Western megastar and is noted as having helped define the genre for all cowboy actors who followed.

Mix was born into a relatively poor logging family in Mix Run, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles (60 km) north of State College, Pennsylvania. He spent his childhood growing up in nearby Dubois, Pennsylvania, learning to ride horses and working on the local farm owned by John Dubois, a lumber businessman.

In April 1898, during the Spanish-American War, he enlisted in the Army under the name Thomas E. (Edwin) Mix. His unit never went overseas, and Mix later failed to return for duty after an extended furlough when he married Grace I. Allin on July 18, 1902. Mix was listed as AWOL on November 4, 1902, but was never court-martialed nor apparently even discharged. His marriage to Allin was annulled after one year. In 1905 Mix married Kitty Jewel Perinne, but this marriage also ended within a year. He next married Olive Stokes on January 10, 1909, in Medora, SD.

In 1905 Mix rode in Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade led by Seth Bullock with a group of 50 horsemen, which included several former Rough Riders (years later, Hollywood publicity handouts would muddle this event to misleadingly imply that Mix had been a Rough Rider himself.) After working a variety of odd jobs in the Oklahoma Territory, Mix found employment at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, reportedly the largest ranching business in the United States and covering 101,000 acres (409 km²), hence its name. He stood out as a skilled horseman and expert shot, winning the 1909 national Riding and Rodeo Championship.

Mix began his film career as a supporting cast member with the Selig Polyscope Company. His first shoot in 1910 at their studio in the Edendale district of Los Angeles (now known as Echo Park) was Ranch Life in the Great Southwest, in which he showed his skills as a cattle wrangler. The film was a success and Mix became an early motion picture star. Olive gave birth to their daughter Ruth on July 13, 1912. Mix performed in more than 100 films for Selig, many of which were filmed in Las Vegas, New Mexico. While with Selig he co-starred in several films with Victoria Forde and they fell in love. He divorced Olive Stokes in 1917. By then Selig Polyscope had encountered severe financial difficulties and Tom Mix and Victoria Forde both subsequently signed with Fox Film Corporation, which had leased the Edendale studio. Mix and Forde married in 1918 and they had a daughter, Thomasina Mix (Tommie), in 1922.

He went on to make more than 160 escapist matinee cowboy films throughout the 1920s. These featured action oriented scripts which contrasted with the documentary style of his work with Selig. Heroes and villains were sharply defined and a clean-cut cowboy always "saved the day." Millions of American children grew up watching his films on Saturday afternoons. His intelligent and handsome horse Tony also became a celebrity. Mix did his own stunts and was frequently injured.

Tony was owned and trained by famous horseman Pat Chrisman and then purchased by Tom Mix for $600. Tony first appeared in the 1917 film "The Heart of Texas Ryan" because of an injury to his mainstay mount "Old Blue." However, with the death of Old Blue in 1919, Tony became his full time mount. Tom Mix did all his own tricks and he and Tony, "The Wonder Horse" and sometimes known as "Tony the Horse," made181 movies together. The Mix films were loaded with fantastic stunts, furious shotouts, romance, set in beautiful, colorful western locations such as Lone Pine, California and always manifested an element of comedy. Tony with his white stocking rear feet, became the most popular, photographed and recognized horse in the world, receiving thousands of fan letters from children around the world. With Tom Mix astride, the action packed duo earned millions.

Tom and Tony traveled around the world promoting their films and making personal appearances. Their travels covered the then 48 states as well as Mexico, Canada and Europe, where he performed for royalty making appearances in 25 major European cities. In 1932, while filming "Hidden Gold" and age creeping up, Tony at age 22, injured his hip and had to be retired. He was put to pasture at the Tom Mix Ranch in the San Franando Valley and was replaced by Tony Jr. who carried the cowboy through the remainder of his career. He was mentioned and provided for in the Tom Mix will. Tony was left to a long time lawyer friend who cared for him until 1942, two years after the death of Tom Mix. The animal had now reached the age of 42, infirmed and unable to eat. On the anniversary of the death day of Tom Mix, Tony was humanely chloroformed by a Veterinarian while he lay in his stall at the Mix Ranch located in what today is known as Universal City. He was buried on the ranch with no marker.

Mix's salary at Fox reached $7,500 a week. His performances weren't noted for their realism but for screen-friendly action stunts and horseback riding, attention-grabbing cowboy costumes and showmanship. At the Edendale lot Mix built a 12-acre shooting set called Mixville. Loaded with western props and furnishings, it has been described as a "complete frontier town, with a dusty street, hitching rails, a saloon, jail, bank, doctor's office, surveyor's office, and the simple frame houses typical of the early Western era." Near the back of the lot an Indian village of lodges was ringed by miniature plaster mountains which on screen were said to be "ferociously convincing." The set also included a simulated desert, large corral and a ranch house with no roof, to facilitate interior shots.

During 1929, Mix's last year in silent pictures, he worked for Film Booking Office of America (FBO), a small movie studio run by Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and soon to be merged into Kennedy's RKO Radio Pictures. Mix was 49 and by most accounts he was ready to retire from the movies. That same year, Mix was a pallbearer at the funeral of Wyatt Earp (during which he reportedly wept).

Mix appeared with the Sells-Floto Circus in 1929, 1930 and 1931 at a reported weekly salary of $20,000. He and Forde were divorced in 1931. Meanwhile the Great Depression (along with the actor's free spending ways and many wives) had reportedly wiped out most of his savings. In 1932 he married his fifth wife, Mabel Hubbard Ward. Universal Pictures approached him that year with an offer to do talkies which included script and cast approval. He did nine pictures for Universal, but because of injuries he received while filming he was reluctant to continue with any more. Mix then appeared with the Sam B. Dill circus, which he reportedly bought two years later (1935).

Mix's last screen appearance was a 15-episode sound Mascot Pictures serial, The Miracle Rider (1935), receiving $40,000 for four weeks of filming. Also that year, Texas governor James Allred named Mix an honorary Texas Ranger. Mix went back to circus performing, this time with his eldest daughter Ruth, who had appeared in some of his films. In 1938, Mix went to Europe on a promotional trip, while his daughter Ruth stayed behind to manage his circus, which soon failed. He later excluded her from his will. He had reportedly made over $6,000,000 (approaching $400 million in early 21st century, inflation-adjusted values) during his 26-year film career.

In 1933 Ralston-Purina obtained his permission to produce a Tom Mix radio series called Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters which, but for one year during World War II, was popular throughout most of the 1930s through the early 1950s. Mix never appeared on these broadcasts and was instead played by radio actors.

On the afternoon of October 12, 1940, Mix was driving his 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton near Florence, Arizona, (between Tucson and Phoenix) on Arizona State Route 79. Mix had been visiting Pima County Sheriff Ed Nichols in Tucson and had stopped at The Oracle Junction Inn, a popular gambling and drinking establishment, where he had called and spoken with his agent, when he came upon construction barriers at a bridge previously washed away by a flash flood. A work crew watched as he was unable to brake in time and his car swerved twice then rolled into a gully, pinning his body beneath. A large polished aluminum suitcase containing a large sum of money, traveler's checks and jewels, which he had placed on the package shelf behind him flew forward and struck Mix in the back of the head, shattering his skull and breaking his neck. The 60-year-old actor was killed almost instantly. Eyewitnesses said Mix was traveling at 80 MPH before the accident.

A small stone memorial marks the site of his death on State Route 79 and the nearby gully is named "Tom Mix Wash". The plaque on the marker contains an inscription: "In memory of Tom Mix whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the old West in the minds of living men." Mix is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Tom Mix was "the King of Cowboys" when Ronald Reagan and John Wayne were youngsters and the influence of his screen persona can be seen in their approach to portraying cowboys. When an injury caused football player John Wayne to drop out of USC, Tom Mix helped him get a job moving props in the back lot of Fox Studios.


By most accounts, Tom Mix made 336 movies throughout his career. As of 2007, only about 10% of these were reportedly available for viewing, although it was unclear how many of these films are now considered lost films.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Tom Mix has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1708 Vine Street. His cowboy boot prints, palm prints and his famous horse Tony's hoof prints are at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. In 1958 he was inducted posthumously into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1959 a 'Monument To The Stars' was erected on Beverly Dr. (where it intersects with Olympic Blvd. & becomes Beverwil) in Beverly Hills. The memorial consists of a bronze-green spiral of sprocketed "camera film" above a multi-sided tower, embossed with full-length likenesses of early stars who appeared in famous silent movies. Those memorialized include Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Will Rogers, Conrad Nagel, Rudolph Valentino, Fred Niblo, Tom Mix, and Harold Lloyd. There is a Tom Mix museum in Dewey, Oklahoma which houses life-size replica of Tony.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Babylon Nights Tidbit #30 ~ Famous Duos

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:35 pm

I remember George and Gracie being on TV in my home when I was a kid. Reading about them reminded me that as a girl I had such a warm spot for Gracie, so cheerful all the time. The clip was wonderful! The jokes are still funny to me - good clean chuckle-inducing humor! :cool:

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Re: Babylon Nights Tidbit #30 ~ Famous Duos

Unread postby fansmom » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:02 am

I'm just trying to figure out which of the first three duos I like the best. :ok:

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Re: Babylon Nights Tidbit #30 ~ Famous Duos

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:17 am

I think I have to go with Gracie and George. Such a wonderful story! :twohearts:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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