Believe it or not, Tom Tyler portrayed one of the most famous movie monsters on the silver screen in the 1940's: the mummy in “The Mummy's Hand” which also starred George Zucco, Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, and Wallace Ford. Released by Universal Pictures, this movie was the perfect follow-up to their first mummy film starring Boris Karloff as the Pharaoh Imhotep back in 1932. Tom was selected for the role of the Pharaoh Kharis for his similar profile, which, when swathed in bandages and makeup, made him look very intimidating. Combine the bandages with Tom's powerful physique, and you have one intimidating movie monster.
Unlike previous film roles for Tom, to prepare for “The Mummy's Hand” he had to sit in the dressing chair and patiently allow his makeup artist Jack Pierce to apply the bandages and actor's makeup in Lon Chaney Sr fashion. It also took six hours for the entire makeup process, and once completed, Tom was only able to work three hours in front of the camera. This was due to the discomfort of the bandages and everything else which restricted his movements, no doubt. It must have been a great relief for Tom to have all the makeup and bandages removed before he could go home for the day.
One of the most compelling things about the “final look” for Tom's mummy in the movie was the glittering “blacked out” eyes, a special effect used with the camera. Naturally this effect made his face truly frightening, and every measure had to be taken to make Tom Tyler seem as scary as possible, since his real face and eyes were anything but scary. Most importantly, Tom had no spoken lines in this movie, once again drawing upon his silent film experience in order to turn in a top performance – which he did.
Shortly after “The Mummy's Hand” was released, Universal churned out several more mummy-themed films, one with Lon Chaney Jr in the title role, another with Abbott and Costello. Being sandwiched between two famous actors well-known for their movie monster portrayals must have been quite an honor for Tom. As to how Tom snagged the role of the mummy – well, this was not his first stint with Universal, having made a number of film serials for them before in the 1930's. Chances are he was personally recommended by someone who knew him, and it was a pleasant diversion from his usual slew of cowboy hero portrayals. Most importantly, Tom Tyler had no spoken dialogue in “The Mummy's Hand”, a mark of a truly fine actor.
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