Tryon in The Unholy Wife (1957)
January 14, 1926
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||September 4, 1991 (aged 65)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Ann Noyes (1955–1958, divorced)|
Thomas "Tom" Tryon (January 14, 1926 – September 4, 1991) was an American film and television actor as well as a novelist. He is best known for playing the title role in the film The Cardinal (1963), featured roles in the war films The Longest Day (1962) and In Harm's Way (1965) with John Wayne, and especially the Walt Disney television character Texas John Slaughter (1958–1961). He later turned to the writing of prose fiction and screenplays, and wrote several science fiction, horror and mystery novels.
Thomas Tryon was born on January 14, 1926, in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Arthur Lane Tryon, a clothier and owner of Stackpole, Moore & Tryon. (He is often erroneously identified as the son of silent screen actor Glenn Tryon.) He served in the United States Navy in the Pacific from 1943–1946 during and after World War II. Upon return from the U.S. Navy he attended and graduated from Yale.
Tryon studied acting at NYC's Neighborhood Playhouse under the tutelage of Sanford Meisner.
Tryon was signed to a long term contract to Paramount. His film debut was in The Scarlet Hour (1956) at Paramount, directed by Michael Curtiz. It was a crime drama about a man whose married lover persuades him to commit a robbery; Tryon was second billed. He was top billed in a low budget war film at Allied Artists, Screaming Eagles (1956), then supported Charlton Heston and Anne Baxter in Three Violent People (1956) at Paramount. He was announced for, but did not end up appearing in,Short Cut to Hell.
Tryon's work was mostly in TV though, appearing in Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, The 20th Century-Fox Hour, Playhouse 90 (an adaptation of Charley's Aunt), Zane Grey Theater, Studio 57, Matinee Theatre, and Lux Video Theatre. He had a support role in RKO's The Unholy Wife (1957) billed after Rod Steiger and Diana Dors. He had the lead in a low budget science fiction film at Paramount, I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958). Tryon appeared in the lead in "The Mark Hanford Story" (February 26, 1958) on NBC's Wagon Train. He portrayed an educated half-breed outraged at his father, Jack Hanford (played by Onslow Stevens), for having mistreated Mark's Cheyenne mother. Kathleen Crowley portrayed Ann Jamison, a young woman that the senior Hanford plans to marry after the self-banishment and then suicide of Mark's mother. His other television roles included The Restless Gun, General Electric Theater, The Millionaire, The Big Valley, and The Joseph Cotten Show: On Trial.
Tryon played Texas John Slaughter for Disney in a series of TV movies for Disney which ran from 1958 to 1961. The role was based on actual historical figure John Slaughter. He was considered but eventually passed over for the role of Janet Leigh's lover, Sam Loomis, in the classic thriller, Psycho (1960); the role went to John Gavin.
Tryon starred in The Story of Ruth (1960) at 20th Century Fox. For that studio he appeared in Marines, Let's Go (1961). Disney borrowed him to star in a satire about the space age, Moon Pilot (1962). He was one of many names in The Longest Day (1962) at Fox. In 1962, Tryon was cast to play the role of Stephen Burkett ("Adam") in the unfinished Marilyn Monroe-Dean Martin comedy film, Something's Got to Give, directed by George Cukor, but lost that role after Monroe was fired from the movie. He guest starred on Dr. Kildare and The Virginian.
Tryon's greatest role was as an ambitious Catholic priest in The Cardinal (1963). The film was a box office hit and Tryon received a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama. However, that honor barely compensated for the trauma and abuse he suffered at the hands of director Otto Preminger. At one point during filming, Preminger fired Tryon in front of his parents when they visited the set, then rehired him after being satisfied that Tryon had been sufficiently humiliated.
"Finally, I was in a position of being able to pick my roles," said Tryon in 1986. "But I didn't like the movie. I didn't like me in the movie. To this day, I cannot look at that film. It's because of Preminger. He was a tyrant who ruled by terror. He tied me up in knots. He screamed at me. He called me names. He said I was lazy. He said I was a fool. He never cursed me. His insults were far more personal."
He had the lead in The Glory Guys (1965).
He was part of a live television performance of The Fall of the House of Usher. He also co-wrote a song, "I Wish I Was," which appeared on an obscure record by Dick Kallman, star of the short-lived and now largely forgotten 1965 television sitcom, Hank. He guest starred on The Big Valley and Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre and appeared in the 1967 episode "Charade of Justice" of NBC's western series The Road West starring Barry Sullivan. He starred in a TV movie remake of Winchester 73 (1967). Tryon went to Europe to star in Persecución hasta Valencia (1968) and to Australia to make Color Me Dead (1969).
Disillusioned with acting, Tryon retired from the profession in 1969 and began writing horror and mystery novels. He was successful, overcoming skepticism about a classically handsome movie star suddenly turning novelist. He also moved into film financing, being executive producer on Johnny Got His Gun (1971).
His best-known work is The Other (1971), about a boy whose evil twin brother may or may not be responsible for a series of deaths in a small rural community in the 1930s. He adapted his novel into a film released the following year, which starred Diana Muldaur, Uta Hagen, and John Ritter. Harvest Home (1973), about the dark pagan rituals being practiced in a small New England town, was adapted as The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978), a television mini-series starring Bette Davis.
An extensive critical analysis of Tryon's horror novels can be found in S. T. Joshi's book The Modern Weird Tale (2001). His other books include Crowned Heads, a collection of novellas inspired by the legends of Hollywood. Tryon sold the film rights to Universal to make four films based on the novellas. The first of these novellas, Fedora, about a reclusive former film actress whose relationship with her plastic surgeon is similar to that between a drug addict and her pusher, was later converted to a feature film directed by Billy Wilder.
Other novellas in the collection were based on the murder of former silent screen star Ramón Novarro, and the quasi-Oedipal relationship between actor Clifton Webb and his mother. Lady (1974) concerns the friendship between an eight-year-old boy and a charming widow in 1930s New England and the secret he discovers about her. His novel The Night of the Moonbow (1989) tells the story of a boy driven to violent means by the constant harassment he receives at a summer boys camp. Night Magic, written in 1991, was posthumously published in 1995.
In 1955, Tryon married Ann L. Noyes, the daughter of stockbroker Joseph Leo Lilienthal and his wife, the former Edna Arnstein. She was the former wife of Thomas Ewing Noyes, with whom she had been a theatrical producer. The Tryons divorced in 1958, and Ann Tryon resumed her previous married name. She died in 1966.
During the 1970s, he was in a romantic relationship with Clive Clerk, one of the original cast members of A Chorus Line and an interior designer who decorated Tryon's apartment on Central Park West in New York City, which was featured in Architectural Digest. From 1973 to 1977, Tryon was in a relationship with Calvin Culver, also known as Casey Donovan, a gay porn star.
Tryon died of stomach cancer on September 4, 1991 at the age of 65 in Los Angeles, California.
Short stories and novellas