American silent motion-picture actor Tom Mix, who is among the most popular cowboy stars of all times, stopped in Havana in the mid-1920s.
American silent motion-picture actor Tom Mix, who is among the most popular cowboy stars of all times, stopped in Havana in the mid-1920s. The National Hotel, the hallmark institution of Cuban hotels, includes Tom Mix among its distinguished guests, but this hotel was not inaugurated until the 1930s. Of course, Tom Mix may have visited the Island a second time and then stayed in the National Hotel.
What is a fact is his photograph (wearing the typical wide-brimmed hat and the handkerchief tied around his neck) that appeared on the cover of Havana’s Carteles magazine dated September 20, 1925, which reads:
“It is indisputable that this time our cover has a family resemblance... Tom Mix is on it, with his blonde wife and his little daughter Tomasina, the way they were photographed after returning from Europe where they recently had a long trip.”
Nothing else can this writer confirm about that forgotten visit, unless I regrettably speculate about the facts. But beyond the concise note in Carteles, Tom Mix remains in the memory of those who admired his extraordinary skills as a horseman. Those skills opened the doors of cinema for him and allowed him to be part of the history of the film industry, as he is considered the first western motion picture megastar.
However, it can be said that “he returned” to Cuba when in 1991 the film My Dear Tom Mix was awarded the Coral Prize at the Havana Festival of New Latin American Cinema. For many it was like meeting again with the mythical figure; for others it was like rediscovering someone who was the idol of our great-grandparents.
BEFORE BELMONDO DID IT…
As regards the actor, he never let stuntmen double for him in the dangerous stunts he executed. That is why he was injured many times. In this, he anticipated another bold movie star who always did his own stunts and gained deserved fame: Frenchman Jean Paul Belmondo.
Tom Mix was born in January, 1880. He learned to ride on horseback while working on a farm. He also worked in the circus, joined the army and finally made it to cinema. He performed in more than 300 movies (some of them talkies) during a 25-year career between 1910 and 1935. He was an excellent horseman and marksman – in 1909 he won the First National Riding and Rodeo Championship. Both skills were enough for him to triumph, at least at the beginning, when action prevailed in films and the plot was quite simple, with an easily predictable end.
In Tom Mix the true individual and the film character overlap, that is to say, they unite, because photographs invariably depict him with his wide-brimmed hat, even when he was far from the set and the stage had nothing to do with cinema. A curious piece of information is that in January 1929, he was among the coffin bearers of Wyatt Earp, one of the most famous and bravest sheriffs in the American West, whose work has inspired many westerns.
Millions of children and adolescents grew up and dreamed watching Tom Mix movies. He charged “skyrocketing” wages for the time, which allowed him to build a ranch resembling a city of the west.
He also worked for the circus and in the 1930s was still popular. The actor died in a traffic accident in 1940, at the age of 60. It is fitting that he has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Likewise, there is also a museum bearing his name. The main thing: his films, even after so many years, preserve the charm of the time and reveal the boldness (without stuntmen, I repeat) of their main character.
Translated by Roberto Espí Valero
Revised by Susana Hurlich