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Silent  Movie  Cowboy  Star
Fred  Thomson

[1890-1928]

silent movie cowboy star Fred C. Thomson [1890-1928]            short profile

books & memorabilia

early films
cowboy features

wife Frances Marion

links

Silent movie cowboy actor Fred Thomson was billed as
'The World's Greatest Western Star'
and rivaled Tom Mix in popularity,
but Thomson died tragically at the age of 38 just before the Talkies arrived.

"The most effective idealist is one who is nine-tenths entertainer."
— Fred C. Thomson

        Frederick Clifton Thomson [not to be confused with silent movie director Frederick A. Thomson] was born in Pasadena, California in February 1890. He was a superb athlete, playing football at Occidental College in Los Angeles and at Princeton Theological Seminary, and setting national records in the All-Around meets. He served as a pastor in Washington, D.C. and in Los Angeles; after marrying his college sweetheart Gail Jepson, he was re-assigned to Goldfield, Nevada. Gail died of tuberculosis in 1916, and Fred enlisted in the Army, becoming a lieutenant.

        Fred was assigned as technical advisor for a Mary Pickford war movie, "Johanna Enlists", and Mary made a point of introducing the handsome Fred to her best friend, screenwriter Frances Marion. Romance ensued, but the United States entered the World War and Fred was shipped overseas. Frances was sent to Europe as a government correspondent, and they met several times before and after the Armistice, including Christmas in Paris in 1918.

        Fred and Frances were married in November of 1919 in New York City, with screen star Mary Pickford as maid of honor. Fred & Frances honeymooned in Europe, and were joined later by Mary and her new husband, Douglas Fairbanks. Returning from Europe, they lived in rural New York, and Fred found the horse Silver King, a large (17 hands high) dapple-gray hunter, at a riding stable in New York City.
        Fred decided to become a Western director, to provide an example of the value of 'clean living' for boys across America and around the world. Back in Hollywood, Fred studied the cinema business while he trained Silver King. Per Hollywood tradition, a bit player failed to show for Frances's "Just Around The Corner", which she wrote and was directing, and Fred was asked to step in; he was a smash. Westerns were growing in popularity, and soon Fred was signed to contracts with Harry Joe Brown and then Joseph P. Kennedy.
        Fred was ranked the number two box office star in 1926 & 1927.

        But tragedy struck: Fred apparently scratched his foot on a nail while working at his stables and contracted tetanus, which the doctors mis-diagnosed. He died on Christmas Day of 1928. Pallbearers at Fred's funeral included Harold Lloyd, Charles Farrell, Douglas Fairbanks, and George W. Hill; honorary pallbearers included Buster Keaton, movie mogul Joseph M. Schenk, and Harry Chandler (of the Los Angeles Times).
        Memories of Frances' life with Fred at 'Enchanted Hill', their 160-acre estate in Beverly Hills, made living there without him unbearable, so she sold the property, including the stables and Fred's co-star, the horse Silver King; Silver King had a subsequent career as a movie horse on his own.
        Only one of Fred's 24 feature films is today available to the public.


Fred Thomson entry at Wikipedia
Fred Thomson's movie credits [1918-1928] at Internet Movie Database

Frances Marion entry at Wikipedia
Frances Marion's 160+ movie credits [1912-1989] at Internet Movie Database


Books & Memorabilia

Silents Majority Media Mart [repro Fred Thomson lobby cards]

The Life & Films of Fred Thomson & Silver King book by Edgar M. Wyatt  
"More Than a Cowboy: The Life & Films of Fred Thomson
& Silver King" [1988]
by Edgar M. Wyatt

Wyatt Classics, Raleigh NC hardcover [1988] out of print/scarce

Fred Thomson sepia photo - plaid shirt             Fred Thomson smiling photo - autographed

American Classic Screen Profiles book edited by  John C. Tibbetts & James M. Welsh  "American Classic Screen: Profiles" [2010]
Edited by John C. Tibbetts & James M. Welsh, Preface by Ray Bradbury

Scarecrow Press 8¾x6 pb [9/2010] for $40.00
American Classic Screen Magazine [1976-86] was published by The National Film Society; these exclusive profiles have long been difficult or impossible to access, but are now collected by editors Tibbetts & Welsh; the Profiles include: James Cagney and Mae Clarke; George Cukor and Kate Hepburn; Bette Davis and Claude Rains; Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, George Bancroft, Charles T. Barton, Warner Baxter, Ralph Bellamy, Beulah Bondi, George M. Cohan, Cecil B. DeMille, Charlotte 'Alice' Henry, Orval Hixon, Boris Karloff, Barbara La Marr, Elissa Landi, Joseph H. Lewis, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, child star 'Baby Peggy' Montgomery, Walter Plunkett, Eleanor Powell, Robert Redford, Mickey Rooney, Victor Sjöström, Kenneth Strickfaden, Fred Thomson, Cornel Wilde & Natalie Wood


Fred's Early Films

"Just Around The Corner"
[silent filmed in 1920, released Dec 1921]
Scenario & direction by Frances Marion
video/DVD not available; full credits from IMDb

Love Light  "The Love Light" [United Artists Jan 1921 silent]
Written & directed by Frances Marion;
starring Mary Pickford & Fred Thomson
Tapeworm b&w VHS [9/2000] for $29.95
Image Ent b&w DVD [8/2001] for $26.99
full credits from IMDb

"Penrod" [Feb 1922]: directed by Mickey Neilan
"Oath-Bound" [Aug 1922]: starring Dustin Farnum

"The Eagle's Talons" 15-episode silent serial [Universal 1923] /tt0014011/
starring Fred Thomson; Chapter Titles: 1. House of Mystery, 2. Edge of Eternity, 3. Hulk of Horror, 4. Daring Hearts,
5. A Deal In Diplomacy, 6. The Flood of Fury, 7. The Road To Doom, 8. Against Odds, 9. A Fighting Chance, 10. Into
The Chasm, 11. The Betrayal, 12. The Sacrifice, 13. Dodging The Conspirators, 14. The Inferno & 15. The Eagle Foiled

more serials on the Silent & Sound Movie Serials Pages at Magic Lantern Video & Book Store

"A Chapter In Her Life" [Sept 1923]: directed by Lois Weber




Fred Thomson's complete movie credits [1918-1928] from IMDb

Fred's Monogram/F.B.O. Westerns
§ = uncredited script work by FM    §§ = script by FM as 'Frank M. Clifton'

"The Mask of Lopez" [Jan 1924] §
"North of Nevada" [Feb 1924] §
"Galloping Gallagher" [filmed 1923, released March 1924] §
"The Silent Stranger" [April 1924]
"Dangerous Coward" [May 1924]
"The Fighting Sap" [June 1924]

Fred's Robertson-Cole/F.B.O. Westerns
§ = uncredited script work by FM    §§ = script by FM as 'Frank M. Clifton'

"Thundering Hoofs" (Oct 1924)
available on video (source not confirmed); full credits from IMDb

"That Devil Quemado" [April 1925]
"The Bandit's Baby" [May 1925]
"The Wild Bull's Lair" [June 1925] §§
"Ridin' The Wind" [Sept 1925] §§
"All Around Frying Pan" [Nov 1925]
"The Tough Guy" [Feb 1926] §§
"Hands Across The Border" [May 1926] §§
"The Two-Gun Man" [June 1926]
"Lone Hand Saunders" [Sept 1926] §§
"A Regular Scout" [Nov 1926]
"Don Mike" [Feb 1927] §§
"Silver {King} Comes Through" [May 1927] §§
"Arizona Nights" [Aug 1927]

Fred's Paramount-Lasky Westerns
§ = uncredited script work by FM    §§ = script by FM as 'Frank M. Clifton'

"Jesse James" [Oct 1927] §§
"Pioneer Scout" [Jan 1928] §§
"The Sunset Legion" [April 1928] §§

"Kit Carson" silent feature
[Paramount-Famous-Lasky June 1928]
promo poster for Fred Thomson's 1928 "Kit Carson" silent feature film   Plots details uncertain, but seems to be of the romance genre, since prominently-billed Nora Lane portrays Kit Carson's third wife Josefa Directed by Lloyd Ingraham & Alfred L. Werker; co-written by Frances Marion as 'Frank M. Clifton'; starring {her husband} Fred Thomson; also starring Nora Lane, Dorothy Janis, Raoul Paoli, William Courtright, Nelson McDowell & Ray Turner
DVD/Blu-ray not available • credits at IMDb


won Oscar for writing "The Big House" [1930]  won Oscar for writing "The Champ" [1931]     Frances Marion

        Frances Marion Owens was born in San Francisco, California in November of 1886. After a career as an artist and model and writer, she began writing scenarios for Hollywood movies in 1912, where she became fast friends with star Mary Pickford. Frances married Fred Thomson in November of 1919, writing all or part of many of his subsequent silent Western features, mostly under the pseudonym 'Frank M. Clifton'.
        After Fred's tragic death in 1928, Frances continued writing movies and won Oscars for writing in 1930 ("The Big House") and in 1931 ("The Champ"). In 1930, she married George W. Hill, director of "The Big House"; they divorced in 1933; he committed suicide in 1934.
        Mary Pickford stopped making movies at about that time, and Frances's mentor, studio head Irving Thalberg died in 1936, so Frances's Hollywood career waned and she wrote mostly plays and novels from that time.
        Frances died in Los Angeles in May 1973, still a most-respected female writer and director.
        Only eighteen of her 160+ movies are available on video.

Frances Marion entry at Wikipedia
Frances Marion's 160+ movie credits [1912-1989] at Internet Movie Database

"The New York Hat" [co-writer; 1912 silent]
Directed by D.W. Griffith [1875-1948];
starring Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, and Dorothy & Lillian Gish

VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley" [script/adaptation; 1918 silent]
Directed by Marshall Neilan; starring Mary Pickford
VHS available | DVD available | full credits from IMDb

"Stella Maris" [script/adaptation; 1918 silent]
Directed by Marshall Neilan; starring Mary Pickford
VHS available | DVD available | full credits from IMDb

Love Light  "The Love Light" [Jan 1921 silent]
Written & directed by Frances Marion;
starring Mary Pickford & Fred Thomson
Tapeworm b&w VHS [9/2000] for $29.95
Image Ent b&w DVD [8/2001] for $26.99
full credits from IMDb

"The Primitive Lover" [script; 1922 silent]
Starring Constance Talmadge
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"The Son of the Sheik" [co-writer; 1926 silent]
Starring Rudolph Valentino & Vilma Bánky
VHS available | DVD available | full credits from IMDb

"Love" [continuity; 1927 silent]
based on Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"; starring Greta Garbo & John Gilbert
Two endings were filmed, one happy and one sad.

video not available | full credits from IMDb

"The Wind" [script/adaptation; 1928 silent]
Directed by Victor Sjöström; starring Lillian Gish

VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Min and Bill" [1930 Oscar-winner]
Directed by George W. Hill; script by Frances Marion & Marion Jackson,
based on Lorna Moon's novel "Dark Star"; starring Marie Dressler & Wallace Beery
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"The Big House" [Oscar-winning script; 1930]
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Anna Christie" [script/adaptation; 1930 Oscar-winner]
based on the play by Eugene O'Neill; starring Greta Garbo
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"The Secret Six" [screenplay 1931] /tt0022357/ + 1931 hardcover

"The Champ" [Oscar-winning script; 1931]
Directed by King Vidor [1894-1982]; starring Wallace Beery & Jackie Cooper

VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Dinner At Eight" [co-writer; 1933]
based on the hit play; starring John & Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Marie Dressler & Jean Harlow
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Valley People" [stories 1935] by Frances Marion
Ayer hardcover [6/77] for $22.94

"Riffraff" [co-writer; 1936]
starring Jean Harlow & Spencer Tracy
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Poor Little Rich Girl" [co-writer; 1936]; starring Shirley Temple
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Camille" [co-writer; 1937]
Directed by George Cukor; starring Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor & Lionel Barrymore
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"Love From A Stranger" [script/adaptation; 1937]
based on a story by Agatha Christie [1890-1976]
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"The Good Earth" [uncredited script work; 1937]
based on the novel by Pearl S. Buck
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"The Clown" [story; 1952]; starring Red Skelton & Jane Greer
VHS available | full credits from IMDb

"The Powder Keg: A Story of A Women's Prison" [1953] by Frances Marion

Off With Their Heads, Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood novel by Frances Marion  "Off With Their Heads: A Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood"
[1972 novel] by Frances Marion

Macmillan hardcover [1972] out of print/used
Women Who Write The Movies book by Marsha McCreadie  "The Women Who Write The Movies: From Frances Marion
To Nora Ephron" [1994]
by Marsha McCreadie

Birch Lane Press 9½x6¼ hardcover [10/94] out of print/used
Without Lying Down  "Without Lying Down: Frances Marion & The Powerful
Women of Early Hollywood" [1997] by Cari Beauchamp

Univ California Press 9x6 pb [5/98] for $13.97
Scribner 9½x6½ hardcover [3/97] out of print/used
TV movie [Chaise Lounge/UCLA 2000]
Image Ent. b&w/color DVD [3/2003] for $26.99
Milestone color/b&w VHS [11/2001] out of prodn/used
full credits from IMDb


Online sales in association with  silent Westerns on DVD at Amazon

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