Mix loves an actress, and when she comes to shoot on location in his town, he is ready to try anything to approach her: even looking like Ben Hur. But all to no avail. This short subject from the Selig Company and its days shooting out West is actually quite refreshing. The play on the cowboy's inadequate talents as far as movie-making is concerned (and the cowboy's ridicule) shows that Mix seemed to play cowboy from an Eastern perspective, and not really as man of the West (as his wife Olive Stokes suggests in her biography of Tom) -- at least at this early date in his career. In this short, the laugh is on him and on all westerners, identified as backwoods bumpkins ill-equipped to deal with city refinements and city types. But at the same time the film manages to draw a fine line between the nascent realism of western Tom Mix films, and the older, more theatrical, more established type of film-making. The moment when Mix dons a Ben Hur costume and wrestles a cow like an Italian Maciste is thus doubly funny: to make fun of the cowboy the film here uses an image from films with a stronger theatrical tradition, thus making the point that Mix, and the cowboy, is too natural, too real to be an adequate Maciste. Who's laughing now ? The city actors, smart, fast, always ready to pull a good joke on those unsuspecting western boors, play artificial characters in artificial plays that someone as real as Mix will show for what it is -- just cardboard drama.
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