Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Captain Marvel of Port Henry

tom tyler as captain marvelOn August 9, 1903, Helen and Frank Markowski had a baby boy in Port Henry they named Vincent. Like many fathers and brothers in the area, Frank and Frank Junior, Vincent’s older brother worked in the mines for the Witherbee Sherman Company.

Around 1924 at the age of 21, Vincent moved to California and changed his name to Tom Tyler. He found work in the film industry as a prop man and an extra. His appearances as an extra lead to his first starring role in “Let’s Go Gallagher” (1925). Tom became the King of B-Westerns during the silent era and into the talkies of the 1930’s. Over his entire career, he acted in more than 180 movies and TV shows from 1924 to 1953.

Tom Tyler of Port Henry as Captain MarvelDuring this period, Republic Pictures, which failed to secure the rights to Superman, purchased the rights to another comic book superhero, Captain Marvel. In his late thirties at the time, Tyler was still in good shape and physique and was offered the title role at $250 per week for four weeks of work. In the title role in “The Adventures of Captain Marvel” (1941), Tyler portrayed the first film adaption of a comic book superhero.

Sadly two years later he was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis. This left him physically limited but he continued occasional supporting roles in movies and ultimately some television. In 1953, nearly destitute, Tyler moved to Hamtramck, Michigan to live with his sister. He died there May 3, 1954 of heart failure.

Photo: Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel.

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Don Seauvageau is a retired chemical engineer living in Blue Mountain Lake. He enjoys photography, flat water paddling, and sailing on Lake Champlain. Don is an avid collector of Adirondack books and antiques and a history enthusiast.

4 Responses

  1. Lohr McKinstry says:

    Tyler also played the villain in “Stagecoach,” with John Wayne, and later the comic strip hero The Phantom in another Republic serial. He was also the Mummy in the Mummy’s Hand.”
    Apparently he had friends in Port Henry, because he came back for an occasional visit in the 1930s and ’40s.
    His last role was an unsold TV pilot in 1953, “Crossroad Avenger,” which would have featured the Tucson Kid. Tyler played a deputy sheriff but found it difficult to draw his gun due to his advanced condition.

  2. Wally Elton says:

    Very interesting stories from both of you. Thanks.

  3. Sharon says:

    Very cool story!

  4. Wonderful actor and human from all accounts, having red his bio by Mike Chapman. Tom had a rare disease called scleroderma, sad to say, there still is no cure but there are treatments for the autoimmune disease now that were not available in the early 1950’s. I have many of his existing films on DVD and hope someday that his silent films produced by FBO that do exist as 35mm prints in European film archives are restored and digitized for DVD consumer purchase.

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