Photographer Unknown, “Tom Tyron”, Date Unknown, Publicity Photo, Gelatin Silver Print
Born in Hartford, Connecticut in January of 1928, Thomas Lester Tyron was an American actor and novelist. He grew up in Wethersfield and, in 1943 at the age of seventeen, enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he spent three years as a radio operator in the South Pacific. After his discharge from service in 1946, Tyron joined the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts where he was employed as a set designer and assistant stage manager. He also studied at Yale University and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Encouraged by actress Gertrude Lawrence and her husband, producer Richard Aldrich, Tyron entered into acting. His first appearance on New York City’s Broadway was a role in Arthur Kober and Joshua Logan’s 1952 musical “Wish You Were Here”. In 1953, Tyron was in two productions on Broadway, “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Shakespeare’s “Richard III”. His television appearances at this time include an episode of the 1955 daytime drama series “The Way of the World” and the two-part episode “King of the Dakotas” as a guest-star of NBC’s Western series “Frontier”.
Tom Tyron moved to Hollywood in 1955 and was given a contract by Paramount Studios. In his film debut for the studio, he was given second-billing in Michael Curtiz’s 1956 crime drama “The Scarlet Hour” which starred actress Carol Ohmart. Lent to Allied Artists, Tyron was given the lead role as Private Mason in Charles F. Haas’s 1956 World War II film “Screaming Eagles”. In the same year, he appeared in a supporting role acting opposite Charlton Heston and Anne Baxter in Paramount’s Western film “Three Violent People”, directed by Rudolph Maté. In 1958, Tyron had the starring role as husband/alien Bill Farrell in Gene Fowler’s horror science fiction film “I Married a Monster from Outer Space”, now a cult classic.
Most of Tyron’s acting was in the medium of television with appearances in episodes of popular drama and Western series. These included Playhouse 90, Zane Grey Theater, Lux Video Theater, Jane Wyman’s Fireside Theater, Studio 57, Wagon Train, The Big Valley, The Millionaire, and The Twentieth-Century Fox Hour. Tyron’s longest running role in television was as Texas John Slaughter in the Disney series of movies of the same name which ran from 1958 to 1961. The “Jack Slaughter” series was based on the historical American lawman John Horton Slaughter. Born in 1841, Slaughter was a cowboy, poker player and sheriff who earned a reputation fighting outlaws and hostiles in the Arizona and New Mexico territories.
Tom Tyron appeared in several films for Twentieth-Century Fox; the first of which was a starring role as Mahlon, a brother of Ruth, in Henry Koster’s 1960 biblical CinemaScope film “The Story of Ruth”. In 1961, he had a starring role as Private first class Roth in Raoul Walsh’s Korean War film “Marines, Let’s Go”. Tom Tyron appeared in two films in 1962: the Disney space-age satire “Moon Pilot”, in which he starred alongside Brian Keith, Edmond O’Brien and Tommy Kirk, and Fox Studio’s epic black and white war-drama “The Longest Day” which featured a large international ensemble cast.
Tyron’s most notable starring role was as the ambitious Catholic priest, Stephen Fenmoyle, in Otto Preminger’s 1963 drama film “The Cardinal”, based on the 1950 novel of the same name. Shown through a series of memory flashbacks during the Cardinal’s formal ceremony of institution, the film was shot in multiple locations and touched on issues of interfaith marriage, racial bigotry, sex outside of marriage and the rise of fascism. “The Cardinal” was the highest-grossing film of 1963 and won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama. Tom Tyron received a nomination for the Golden Globe Best Actor in a Drama.
Tom Tyron followed this success with appearances in two more films: a supporting role in the 1958 epic war film directed by Preminger “In Harm’s Way” and a leading role in Arnold Levin’s 1965 calvary Western “The Glory Guys”, with a screenplay written by Sam Peckinpah. Tyron appeared in several television performances in the late 1960s including a live television performance of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, the 1967 television movie remake of “Winchester ’73”, and episodes of The Big Valley and Bob Hope’s Chrysler Theater.
Disillusioned with acting, Tyron retired from the profession in 1969 and, inspired after seeing “Rosemary’s Baby” in the theater, began to successfully write mystery and horror novels. His best known work is the 1971 psychological horror novel “The Other”, a story of a boy whose evil twin-brother might be responsible for a 1930s’ series of deaths. Tyron adapted the novel into a film of the same name that was released in 1972. The film was directed by Robert Mulligan and shot entirely on location in California; actor John Ritter made one of his early film appearances in the role of Rider. Tyron’s 1973 folk-horror novel “Harvest Home”, a story of dark pagan rituals in a small New England town, was adapted into a television mini-series “The Dark Secret of Harvest Home” which starred Bette Davis.
Tom Tyron wrote “Crowned Heads”, a collection of novellas inspired by the legends of Hollywood. The first in the series was the novella “Fedora”, a story of the relationship between a reclusive former actress and her plastic surgeon. This tale was adapted by Billy Wilder for his 1978 German-French drama film “Fedora” which starred William Holden and Marthe Keller, best known for her role in “Marathon Man”. Tyron wrote two more novels: the 1989 “The Night of the Moonbow”, the story of a harassed boy at summer camp who turns to violence, and the 1991 “Night Magic”, the story of a NYC street magician who is offered real magic. “Night Magic” was published posthumously in 1995.
Starting in 1955, Tyron was in a brief marriage to Ann L. Noyes, the daughter of a stockbroker; the couple divorced three years later in 1958. During the 1970s, he was in a romantic relationship with Clive Clerk, an interior designer, television actor, and one of the original cast members of the Broadway hit “A Chorus Line”. They lived together in a Tyron’s apartment at Central Park West in New York City. From 1973 to 1977, Tyron was in a relationship with John Calvin Culver, a Broadway revival stage actor. Culver also performed in pornographic films under the name of Casey Donovan. The relationship ended as Tyron was deeply closeted and grew increasingly disturbed by Donovan’s notoriety.
An actor with appearances in eighteen films and numerous television series, Tom Tyron passed away in September of 1991 at the age of sixty-five in Los Angeles, California. The announced cause of death was stomach cancer; however, Tyron’s literary agent, G. Thomas Holloway, later stated the stomach cancer was related to Tyron’s HIV-positive status. At the time of his death, Tyron had asked to keep this information private as he did not want his readers or relatives to know.
Second Insert Image: Arthur E. Arling, “Tom Tyron and Elana Eden”, 1960, Publicity Shot for “The Story of Ruth”, Director Henry Koster, Gelatin Silver Print
Third Insert Image: NBCU Photo Bank, “Tom Tyron as Lin McAdam”, “Winchester ’73”, 1967, Publicity Film Shot, Gelatin Silver Print
Fourth Insert Image: Jean Bourgoin and Walter Wottitz, “Tom Tyron”, 1962, Film Shot “The Longest Day”, Directors ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki