The Day Tom Mix Didn't Die

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An 85-Year Old Scoop For Handgunner!

In happier times, Tom Mix and his wife, Victoria Forde, pose for a promotional photo.

They say there’s nothing new under the sun and “cover-ups” are a good example. Western Movie icon Tom Mix began his career in 1906, with Victoria Forde becoming his cowgirl co-star about 10 years later — and she knew how to handle a gun.

Sometime ago, probably during the 1980s, an auction was held at the famous Beaumont Hotel, in Ouray, Colorado. The hotel had been closed for many years. Noted artist, the late Wayne Mayfield, was there to bid on the hotel safe and won it. After the safe was delivered to Mayfield’s home he had it opened to find a few dozen unused hotel receipt books and a large old manila envelope. Hand-written on the envelope was “Tom Mix” and inside were four heavy 93/4" x 71/2" negatives, three of which were photographs of a man, and another of some sort of document.

Wayne Mayfield had the negatives sent to a lab to have prints made and found three to be of Hollywood Cowboy Star, Tom Mix, and the fourth to be a copy of his unsigned death certificate. The three photos were of a shirtless Tom Mix with two bandages partly removed to show what was apparently a bullet wound in his back and another in his upper left arm. After Mayfield showed these to me I bought the negatives and prints from him for $100.

A shirtless Tom Mix poses with bandages partially removed to display bullet holes in his arm and back
after being shot by his wife, Victoria.

The Plot Thickens

Our good friend, (the late) actor, Harry “Dobe” Carey, Jr., was still living in Durango at the time and I showed him the photographs. Dobe burst out laughing and said, “Oh, that was when Victoria found him with two black prostitutes. God, I hope they were good lookin’.” When I asked why, he said, “Because the divorce cost him a mint!”

Carey went on to say he was about 10 years old when Mix was shot by Victoria (Tom’s wife then). She was so enraged she took a pair of .38 Colt revolvers and began shooting Mix’s Duesenberg. Mix owned a 1929 Duesenberg at the time. He said when Mix ran outside to stop Victoria she turned the guns on him hitting him twice.

When I asked Dobe if the incident was in the papers he said it wasn’t, but his dad, actor Harry Carey, Sr., told his wife, Olive, and Dobe all about it, since the senior Carey knew everything going on in Hollywood in those days.

After filing the photos away for 15 years I came across them and decided to research the incident on the Internet, initially with no luck. Finally I came across a copy of a newspaper account, which reported Mix had gotten mad about some guests Victoria had invited over, and she had fired two shots inside the house, one lodging in a couch and the other one not located. It also mentioned Victoria was arrested, but not prosecuted.

Did It Happen?

More research located a mention of the incident in the book, The Great Tom Mix, by Richard D. Jensen. Jensen relates, following a series of arguments, Victoria claimed Mix had held a loaded gun on her, had struck her, and she shot him in self-defense, all of which Mix vehemently denied. Victoria was arrested, but never prosecuted because it was “hushed up by Fox Studio brass.” The two were reported to have divorced in 1932.

So, the shooting was truly the day Tom Mix didn’t die. But what about the death certificate? Richard Jensen also mentions Tom Mix suffered a ruptured appendix around the time of the shooting and almost died. This is backed up by the copy of the death certificate, which was from the Hollywood Clara Barton Memorial Hospital. The typed name on the certificate was Thomas Edwin Mix with Drs. Seroggy, Smith and Dennis. It was dated November 23, 1931, 8 P.M., Diagnosis: Ruptured Gangrenous Appendix, and Immediate Cause of Death: Peritonitis.

The death certificate, however, was never signed, because Mix survived. Ten years later the great Tom Mix died in a freak auto accident in Arizona, the final end of an icon of entertainment. Now details of another long hidden segment of Tom Mix’s life have seen the light of day.

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