Silent Film Actors were Tough

photo of Art Acord

No matter how farfetched those silent movies featuring those hard riders of the silver screen; many of the actors including Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones and Yakima Canutt had been rodeo champions; others had been working cowboys earning $30 dollars a month and found themselves earning that much in a day in Hollywood. Of those, Art Acord was one of the best and most daring.

He won the Steer Wrestling Championship in the Pendleton Roundup in 1912 and 1916. He’s also one of the few cowboys to have ridden Steamboat, the famous bucking bronc featured on the Wyoming license plate. He performed with Tom Mix in the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show and became both a stunt man and actor in silent movies. He served in the Army during WWI and was awarded a medal for bravery.

His career declined with the advent of talking movies because his penchant for alcohol caused problems with slurring his words.

He was also one of the toughest of the silent screen stars with a special fondness for off-screen fighting. He told a reporter one time “Well, a good fight pleases me as much as anything. In fact, it is my hobby. I don’t mean I want to pick a fight with everyone, far from it, but a good hard, fair, clean fight is one of the best hobbies I know of and one that I’ve been indulging in for a long time.”

They say his fist fights with Tom Mix were the stuff of legend and Art won most if not all of ‘em. Producer Kevin Brownlow interviewed Yakima Canutt about his bouts with Acord.

Yak told him that Art had a mean streak when he was drinking, however you couldn’t help but like the guy. He recalled they fought three times in one day, until both were pretty beat up. Yak went back to his apartment to nurse his wounds. The next day, he received a phone call from Art who wanted to know if he had anything to drink. Yak told him to stay the hell away.

Minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Yak opened it slowly. There was Art, his face swollen with one eye completely shut…Yak appeared about the same. Yak invited him in for a snort!

Art Acord burned out on booze and drugs. He died in Mexico in 1931. Some stories say it was suicide by poison while another says he died of alcohol, while others say he was shot by a jealous husband. Take your pick.

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