Side Trail Article
The Last Shot
Tom Sheehan

Side Trail Article

Tom Mix

The actor who fired a last shot at another old-time cowboy actor lying wounded in the dusty road in front of the saloon, and the pistol had a real bullet in the chamber and killed the old-time actor and Hollywood covered up the whole thing because the star was an untouchable personality. The real Tom Mix tragedy had not yet been revealed, according to Mixmaster.

The Last Shot

Tom Sheehan

*Note: Material has been taken from several sources.

Thomas Edwin "Tom" Mix (born Thomas Hezikiah Mix; January 6, 1880 – and died on October 12, 1940) was an American film actor and the star of early Western movies. He played in or starred in close to 340 films between 1910 and 1935, more than 300 of those films in 26 years of acting the cowboy for thousands of kids learning the western way of life; Good guys live longer than bad guys, heroes don’t come at a dime a dozen, not real cowboy heroes up there on Saturday’s large theater screens for young Americans thirsting for heroes out of the wide-open golden West of such recent times.

Such actors had to ride tall in the saddle, shoot straight as an arrow when it really counted, faster than any bad guys hanging around for a soft gift, fight for all the widows, lonely kids, old men past the skills departing from them so readily in those days of early filmdom.

Over 100 years ago, this Tom Mix of ours, the star of hundreds of cowboy movies, shot and killed, by perpetrated accident it is believed, another actor, and the death was hidden even until much later, 100 years a drop in the bucket as far as old timers are concerned.

Tom Mix’s grandfather called him by his middle name, Hezikiah, because in those olden days of that past century, the olden days were back a half century again before that, Time the speeding bullet behind all events on and off the screen.

It is still said that every time movie star Tom Mix pulled the trigger in one of his 300+ movies, he thought again, instantly, of the actor feigning death in the dusty street of a Hollywood movie set, that underling actor having really died when Mix shot at him with a pistol he thought was loaded with blank cartridges but was not so loaded. Though it was a single round, that round was “live” as well-rounded raconteurs say unto this day via script, screen or written passages, hereby selected.

Tom Mix was born in Texas; did his real fighting in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion and the Boer War; and worked also as a sheriff in Kansas, a U.S. marshal in Oklahoma and in Texas as a Texas Ranger. In fact, Mix was born in Driftwood, Pennsylvania; supposedly deserted the Army in 1902; and was a drum major in the Oklahoma Territorial Cavalry band when he went off to try his luck in Hollywood movies in 1909, a generally new opportunity to utilize his talents on and off a horse, with and without a pistol or rifle at hand.


It was said by many folks associated with the beginning profession that Mix the star was a genuine cowboy and swaggering hero and didn’t have to do much pretending in the roles he portrayed in the new movies.

None of these inconvenient facts prevented Tom Mix, real cowboy, from becoming one of the greatest silent-film stars in all Hollywood history. Along with his famous horse Tony, Mix starred in, at a guess, about 370-375 full-length Westerns. At the peak of his fame, he was the highest-paid actor in all of Hollywood, earning as much as $17,500 a week (today’s corresponding value of about $218,000).  Unfortunately, Mix and Tony had a hard time making the transition to talking pictures. Knowledgeable people, supposedly, argued that his voice was so high-pitched that it undermined his number-one status as the real macho cowboy image, but others believed that sound films simply had too much talking for Mix's taste: on his own, he preferred wild action sequences instead of heartfelt but normal conversation. It is not known how many bones he broke in his approach at these filming commitments.

On the day when death claimed him, Mix was driving in a northly direction from Tucson in his bright-yellow Cord Phaeton sports car. He was driving so fast that he didn't notice--or failed to heed--signs warning that ahead of him one of the bridges was not passable on the road. His Phaeton swung into a gully and Mix was smacked in the back of the head by one of the heavy aluminum suitcases being carried in the car’s backseat. The impact broke the actor's neck and he died almost instantly. Today, the dented "Suitcase of Death" is the number-one featured attraction at the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma.

--Other available data and/or records include the following:

Alternative Title: Thomas Hezikiah Mix

Tom Mix, by name of Thomas Hezikiah Mix, (born Jan. 6, 1880, Mix Run, Pa., U.S.—died Oct. 12, 1940, near Florence, Ariz.), American film actor, a celebrated star of western cowboy films during the silent era.

Mix worked as a cowhand in Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, and Montana and served in the U.S. Army in the Spanish-American War and in the pursuit of Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. He was also a deputy sheriff in Oklahoma and served in the Texas Rangers. In 1906 he joined a Wild West show and, three years later, the Sells-Floto Circus. He began to act in motion pictures in 1910, playing the part of a roughriding hero, defender of right and justice. Over the years his horse “Tony” became almost as famous as Mix himself. Mix appeared in more than 200 one- and two-reelers and feature films, many of which he also produced or directed.

After gaining riches and worldwide fame during the silent era, Mix suffered a decline with the coming of sound, appearing in only a few pictures after 1929. In 1933 he organized Tom Mix’s Circus and Wild West Show, but, by the time of his death in the automobile accident seven years later, his wealth had largely disappeared.


Tom Mix

The 1920’scomprised the golden age of heroes including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Red Grange, Gertrude Erdle and Charles Lindbergh but Tom Mix was the most famous of all.

He was Hollywood’s first super star, the ideal hero for the “Roaring Twenties.” Post-World War I audiences wanted to forget world-wide troubles and escape through these new fantasies of film. His movies were pure frolic and delight. In reality they were more about rodeo-costume flamboyance and Wild West Show acrobatics. He was the main and starring man in the white hat who rode into town and battled the bad guys. The films were loaded with fist fights, slapstick stunts and pretty ladies. To the relief of his many adolescent fans, he seldom rode off into the sunset with any of them. He reserved those conquests for real life.

By the early 1920’s he was Hollywood’s highest-paid star, making $17,500 a week. Mix also led in the silver screen cowboys in marriages too. He was married five times. There wouldn’t have been a fifth had his fourth been a better marksman. She caught him messing around with another woman and took a shot at him but missed, so it is said.

Amazingly, he was in his 40’s when he performed the stunts that made him famous. Many biographers have said every bone in his body had been broken at one time or another.

An advertisement showing Tom’s wounds sustained while rounding up the bad guys claimed he was blown up once, shot twelve times, injured doing stunts forty-seven times and declared his body had sustained twenty-two knife wounds.

Mix was born in Mix Run, Pennsylvania, on January 6th, 1880. Mix seemed destined to become a performer. It’s said his parents caught him practicing knife-throwing stunts by having his little sister stand against a wall acting as his “assistant.”

After an enlistment in the Army Mix gave himself an extended furlough. In 1902 he was working at a variety of jobs in the Indian Territory. He had a couple of brief marriages during those years and by 1909 he was on his third one. Around 1912, while working as a bartender in Guthrie, Oklahoma he hired out for the Miller Brothers famous 101 Ranch. It was his first ranch job and soon he was performing as a trick rider in their Wild West show. It wasn’t long before Hollywood beckoned and before long he was starring in westerns.

The road to riches on horseback. It was a chunk of new America.

In 1917 Mix was hired by Fox Studios for $350 a week and by the 1920s he was making $17,500 a week. It was said he spent eighteen thousand a week having a good time.  He eventually made as many as three hundred silent films and nine talkies.

Mix knew he was no John Barrymore and often made fun of his acting ability, asking a director, “Do you want expression number one, two or three?”

His trusty steed, Tony, leaped steep canyons, swam raging rivers, galloped through fire, walked over to a table, picked up Mix’s six shooter and brought it to him. Tony, like his rider, had lots of flirtation on the screen with comely colts.  When Tony was almost badly injured during an action scene, Mix insisted his horse have a double. It was the only time in movie history the actor did his own stunts but his horse had a double for tough scenes.

In 1922, Tony “The Wonder Horse” became the only horse to star in his own movie. Mix had a supporting role in “Just Tony.”

An overeager agent embellished his biography claiming he was a Texas Ranger; had fought in the Boxer Rebellion in China; the Boer War in South Africa; the Spanish-American War in Cuba; was a U.S. Marshal; and rode with Pancho Villa in Mexico.  Actually, he campaigned in none of these actions.

In 1929 the genre was declared dead. Lindbergh was the new hero in town. Many experts predicted talkies would be the end of cowboy movie stars whose virtuous character was seen as old fashioned. One critic wrote, “Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard had better switch to aeroplanes or retreat to the old-actors home.”

He didn’t care for “Talkies” believing they would be the bane of the action films. Contrary to the myth, his voice was fine for them.  His hard living just caught up with him. By 1940, he was sixty years old.

Mix was killed that fateful day, October 12th, 1940, when his 1937 yellow Cord Phaeton convertible was wrecked outside of Florence, Arizona. He saw too late the barricades on a bridge detour and swerved into a wash, jolting the car, which caused an aluminum suitcase to fly from the back seat, breaking his neck. He got out, took one step, it’s been said, and dropped dead. Tony died two years later.