Tim McCoy — Born to the West — and East, Too (1927) 🇺🇸
Colonel Tim McCoy is the only Western star really of the modern West. And he is the only Western star who doesn't look like one. Most Western stars who stamp around in the regalia of the range hail from New York or, at best, Texas or Oklahoma. McCoy spent his boyhood riding the Wyoming ranges.
Instead of wearing a six-gallon hat and boots and spurs, he is nattily garbed. The "Hey, pardner!" greeting, the brown-paper cigarettes, the tobacco juice — all are missing.
When you see this lithe, muscular athlete, who successfully mingles Western breeding. Eastern education, and army training, all your movie-formed notions of the Western hero are routed.
"I am not a movie cowboy," he insists in crisp, clear-cut words, as if to italicize a self-evident fact.
The series in which he is being starred by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer differs from the usual Westerns in that each chronicles a period in the history of the West, all being based on Peter B. Kyne stories.
"Typical modern Westerns are the bunk," McCoy says decisively. The crinkles of humor are never absent from about his blue eyes, and enthusiasm spreads into a glow over his tanned face.
"The West as it is pictured on the screen is gone — the slouching, rough-garbed cowboys riding the range. The sons of the ranchers have been educated in the East. They come home, take charge of the big ranches — mine's in Wyoming — and work them on modern methods. They are intelligent, well-bred fellows who preserve the best traditions of the West, understand and are liked by their cowhands and Indians, and yet do not forget that they have progressed.
"On my ranch I go down in the corral and work all day with the boys, jaw with them, talk their lingo. I'm one of 'em. But I dress for dinner every evening. And when I come to the cities I wear business suits. I run my ranch much as another would his factory. I'm not strutting around and playing to the gallery. Put this idea on the screen?" He poohpoohed my suggestion. "The public would never accept it. The fans have their movie traditions and you can't shake 'em. That's why we're delving into the past for our story material."
For some time before he became a star at one leap McCoy was well known to Hollywood as an interpreter for the Indians. Much of his life has been spent among them; he "speaks" the wigwag finger-signal language of each tribe. To all he is formally "White Eagle." translated as meaning Big Chief, one of the few white men in whom they fully place their trust. And they are to him simple children to be protected and taught.
When he was mustered out of the service after the war, he assisted Major Hugh L. Scott in an unofficial inspection of the Indian reservations. Retiring then to his ranch, he was often called to direct the Indians for picture troupes on location. One day he received an offer from Sid Grauman to bring to Hollywood some "untamed" Arapahoes for the atmospheric prologue to The Covered Wagon at the Egyptian Theater.
For no one else would the uncivilized Indians have braved the traffic-infested and bewildering streets of the white men's city. He pitched their camp of tepees outside Hollywood, explained to them the importance of the occasion, trained them for their stoic appearance on the stage, made himself up a neat speech for his introduction — and then got stage fright. His only desire at the moment the curtain was raised was to be back on his ranch in Wyoming. However, experience familiarized him with the footlights and he began to enjoy putting on his act.
For seven months McCoy kept his Indians at the Egyptian, taking then another tribe to London and Paris.
This association with the theater amused and interested him highly, though when Hunt Stromberg broached the subject of acting he grinned broadly and said, "I can't act. I'm a modern rancher who understands the Indians, that's all. What have I that would attract the public?"
He had — and has — however, good looks, twinkling blue eyes and a stern jaw, he can ride, and he knows his Indians. Hunt being the sort of fellow whose brain refuses to dislodge an idea once it gets a roost there, he eventually persuaded McCoy to try the movies, in this rather new episodic history of the West.
The first picture of the series, "War Paint," concerned a lieutenant colonel of cavalry who, after being mustered out of the service, investigated Indian life on the reservations. "Winners of the Wilderness," the second, details the adventures of a young man who crosses the plains after the Civil War in search of thrills. Still another will record the early settling of California. The Indians will appear in each, all directed by the sign language of McCoy's articulate fingers.
It's a novel idea, at least. And the young colonel is likable and good-natured of personality. And as he registers these qualities on the screen as agreeably as he does off, he should be able to put over the scheme with great success.
Colonel Tim McCoy's pictures deal with bygone days of the West, because the typical modern Western film is, he says, just bunk.
Photo by: Ruth Harriet Louise (1903–1940)
He spent his boyhood riding the Wyoming ranges — a very good reason for his superb horsemanship to-day.
Collection: Picture Play Magazine, March 1927