Tom MixWhat on earth could connect our family to a Hollywood cowboy and, by association, to a real-life Wild West gunfighter? Well, here's the story.
Tom Mix was one of the greatest of all Western cowboy film stars. Mix made his first film in 1909 and his last in 1935 - over 300 films in all. Sadly, all but a handful of these films are either lost or unavailable. He was a huge star. When he visited London in the late 1920's he was mobbed by fans in London's Hyde Park. He retired from films in 1935 and bought a circus which he ran with his daughter. In late 1938 Mix, hoping to take his show abroad, undertook a promotional tour of Europe. In January 1939 he was in London and made a personal appearance at Gaumont Cinema (later The Odeon) in Holloway Road, Islington. Before the show Mix was putting his horse through its paces at the back of the cinema. Across the road was No. 11 Tufnell Park Road where Ethel Bayliss (who was Ethel Harris by then) lived. Ethel saw Mix from her kitchen window and excitedly dashed across the road. Mix was alone except for his horse, Tony. This was not the original famous black Tony that he had ridden in his movies but a white horse who was known as Tony II.
Mix chatted amiably to Ethel and even lifted her onto the back of the horse and walked her around the lot.
Wyatt EarpBack in his Hollywood days Tom Mix had become friends with the famous Western lawman, Wyatt Earp.Earp was living with his wife, Josie, in Los Angeles and was often seen around the Hollywood studios where he had many friends - among them the young film director John Ford. A highly inaccurate version of the friendship between Mix and Earp is depicted in the film SUNSET starring Bruce Willis and James Garner.When Wyatt Earp died in 1929 among the pall bearers at his funeral were Tom Mix and fellow Western star William S.Hart. At the end of the Kurt Russell film TOMBSTONE which depicts the famous "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" the narrator informs us "Tom Mix cried". So, if you met my mother, you've met a woman who met a man who knew Wyatt Earp!
In the October following Ethel's encounter with Tom Mix, the actor was killed in an automobile accident.