Other Cowboy Stars – Tom Mix
September 25, 2008
In “The Great K & A Train Robbery”, we meet Tom Gordon hanging from a rope, a thousand feet above a gorge. Tom Mix regularly does this sort of thing: he rides a horse at a gallop across a thin railroad tressle, he clings from a mining bucket over a raging river, he leaps from his saddle onto a fast-moving train.
He’s more Indiana Jones than Durango Kid.
Charles Starrett doesn’t do impossible stunts. And that’s not just because of the budget, his are a different sort of films.
In “Great K & A Train Robbery”, Tom Mix has a secret identity and he wears a black mask, which provides a nifty jumping off point to a discussion of the differences between him and Charles.
Charley’s masked man, DK, is intense, deadly-serious and humorless — as Charles put it, he’s a “superhero who puts the fear of God in the hearts of bad men, and everyone else. He was so good, so concise in everything that he did, in his movements, perhaps even in the staccato of his voice.” (see “Charles on Steve” blog entry.) As we’ve discussed before, this secret identity differs so slightly from “Steve” (Charles’ real identity) that it’s often laughable that he bothers putting on the mask.
On the other hand, Mix’s alter-ego is a bon-vivant. He’s a show-off, doing everything he does with a lot of style and wit. From what I understand about Mix, this was very close the man in real life – with his women, his flash, his high-living.
Mix is very light on his feet, very agile, he moves like a dancer. He’s sort of funny-looking, like a cartoon of Barney Miller. He seems shorter than his purported six feet. He’s got dark hair. He might be considered Starrett’s physical opposite in many ways.
Actually, the villain in this piece is the sort of character which Charley used to play in his pre-Western days — dapper, refined, rival to the hero for the gal’s hand, described in the cards here as “if he’s a college man, it’s Vassar.” (Enough of your Vassar bashing, Mr. Mix!)
One last note, since my mind is on horses after my visit to the site of Fat Jones Stable: Tony is a featured character in these films, unlike Charley’s horses. In fact, Tony has twice the personality of Raider and Bullet put together.