Zane Grey and Tom Mix: Two Egos Collide
In 1917, Tom Mix was a rising movie star though his experience to date had only been in movie “shorts”. He was also a real cowboy, horseman and past sheriff. Zane Grey was a rising star in the literary world, likely viewed by Mix as an upstart from the East whose fiction novels lacked authenticity. Both had huge egos that were destined to clash.
In 1917, The Heart of Texas Ryan was released. It starred Tom Mix and was an adaptation of Grey’s Light of the Western Stars. Zane Grey was so disturbed by the film, and perhaps with Tox Mix as well, that he promptly joined with a group of movie businessmen to form his own film company, Zane Grey Pictures. Their first film was Desert Gold. He wrote a letter the producers expressing his pleasure with the outcome. In that letter perhaps lies seed of the resentment that festered between Tom Mix for the rest of their lives.
“Your elimination of the star system is going to revolutionize the motion picture business. You are making a picture of a story to please and thrill the public--- not destroying the spirt and plot of a good book to cater to the whim and egotism of a star... Stars mar the story and exploit only themselves.”
By 1924, Grey had sold his company to one of his partners, Jesse Lasky. Lasky soon merged the company into what became Paramount Picture Company. Lasky and Paramount chose to promote films about Grey’s works in a way that promoted the story… and Grey… in a way reflecting the author’s desire to de-emphathize stars. This is reflected in the following movie poster of The Light of the Western Stars (1925).
On the other hand, Fox Film Corporation took the opposite role, promoting Tom Mix… and even the actor’s horse, Tony… before acknowledging the story itself and it’s author. Look at how they promoted The Rainbow Trail (1925).
We don't know whether something as simple as billing on movie posters grew into the dislike the two men shared, one for the other. We do know, though, that during the twenties, Mix moved into a home just downhill from Grey, placed glaring red lights on his roof to annoy Grey and tore out the entrance to Grey's new home that encroached on his property.(Thomas Pauly, Zane Grey: His Life, His Adventures, His Woman, p. 227) Egos, big egos.