Written on November 24, 2010 by ken
Late Delivery for Cowboy Tom Mix
What: An autograph book missing for 85 years with hundreds of Western Australians signatures and intended for Hollywood silent film cowboy megastar Tom Mix has been located.
Where: The book was discovered in Busselton.
When: It was uncovered last Thursday.
What is probably the most recent significant find of silent film memorabilia uncovered in W.A. was discovered by accident during a search for historical items to put on display at a forthcoming celebration at the Busselton Drive-in cinema.
Organisers of the event who were preparing an exhibition to commemorate 50 years of the local drive-in and the legacy of pioneer traveling picture show man Allan Jones were searching through old cinema trade magazines from the 1920’s and 30’s when they came across a giant autograph book at the bottom of the pile, signed by hundreds of staff and patrons at many city, suburban and country picture theatres. The book was compiled in 1925 and evidently traveled the State with a copy of one of Tom Mix’s cowboy film to commemorate his 50th film for the Fox Film Corporation. The company was later to merge with 20th Century Films to become 20th Century Fox.
It was intended when the book was completed it would be sent to Tom Mix who reigned Hollywood as the cowboy superstar of the silent film era. It contained the names and addresses of staff and patrons who attended his film when screened at venues such as The Prince of Wales in Perth, The Princess in Fremantle, the Nedlands Pictures, The Midland Junction theatre, the Coliseum Theatre (Regal) in Subiaco, The Star deluxe pictures in Leederville, the Lyceum (Astor) in Mt. Lawley, the Majestic in Kalgoorlie, West’s Theatres and many others. Many of the young patrons went on to become leaders in the local film distribution and exhibition industry fifty years later.
The reason the book was never sent back to Hollywood was possibly due to the practice of Australian film distributors based on the east coast, wringing the last penny out of box office returns from the population centres over that way. When it had been well and truly exhausted, the usually battered film print was sent to the outlying states to try to extract a few more shillings from it. By that time the print was at the end of its useful life, and when it finally succumbed to the rigours of projection, it was not worth sending back over east. It was discarded or more often destroyed, in order it would not fall into the hands of rougue film exhibitors. Promotional materials which usually accompanied these prints had no further use and often met the same fate. Fortunately the Tom Mix album survived.
It is intended to make copies of the pages of the book and offer them to community museums in the suburbs or country regions where the signatures were provided. Depending on time available, it is hoped to have some on display at the special screening on Friday December 3rd at the Drive-in, where two iconic Australian productions will be screened. The film programme has been supplied by the National Film & Sound Archive in Canberra. It includes The Picture Show Man, staring John Meillon and Rod Taylor, a story based in outback N.S.W. This parallels the showmanship life of Allan and Doll Jones from the silent movie days as they provided film entertainment to the tiny timber mill towns in the South-west till they built their own permanent picture theatres and drive-ins throughout the region. The other feature is The Man From Snowy River. The programme will also include a newsreel taken of Allan when he operated a cinema museum in the now re-configured Allan theatre in Busselton.
At the screening the public will be able to purchase car speakers, film spools and other reminders of the days when drive-ins provided a generation of teenagers and others with a regular meeting place and family entertainment. Retired State Film Librarian and cinema historian Jack Honniball has inspected the autograph book and agrees it is one of the more significant finds in recent times of the silent film days. Discussions will be held with both the State and national archives to determine the preservation and future display of the document.
Media release written by AMMPT President Daryl Binning 08 9310 3377, email email@example.comIf you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed