6/2/10

Actor, Author, Monster, Gay Icon: Thomas Tryon

Actor, author, bon vivant ; Thomas Tryon lived the kind of life most have only dreamed of.

After a stint in the armed services , Tryon entered Yale University where he studied art history.  Shortly thereafter, he switched his major to acting and eventually found his way to the stage.  In a few short years, Tryon lucked out and made his way to films.  In spite of his good looks, and decent acting abilities, Tryon had to muddle through taking roles in several horror / sci-fi / b-films.

One of Tryon's most infamous roles was that of Bill Farell, an alien passing as a red blooded All American Male in I Married A Monster From Outer Space.

Bill's wife (Gloria Talbot) realizes rather quickly, that her hunky hubby might have a secret.  He does not drink, smoke, or like sports - he's just not like the husbands of her friends...and since this was the 50's there could only be two reasons for a man  acting this way, he's either a commie or a monster! 


Considering the theme of this film, and the fact that Tryon was a gay man, he probably incorporated his real life dilemma (trying to pass as a straight man) into the way he played Bill Farell, who, after all, was trying to pass himself off as something he really was not.

After Monster..., Tryon landed  less flamboyant roles in  more mainstream films.  Two roles that brought him a lot of notoriety were in the World War II themed films, In Harm's Way and The Longest Day.

Tyron almost ended up making  a film with Marilyn Monroe when he was cast with her in the film, Something's Got to Give, however, when Monroe dropped out of the film, it was recast and Tryon was dropped.

Tryon's swan song in cinema came after he was constantly humiliated by Director (and noted son of a bitch) Otto Preminger on the set of the film, The Cardinal.  Even though he garnered a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in this film, Tryon, thanks to the bullying of his director, soured on acting and turned to writing.

In 1971, Tryon published, The Other, a terrifying tale of a little boy and his "twin" brother who wreak havoc on a small farm in rural Minnesota in 1935. The book was later made into a film (with Tryon penning the screen play).

The follow up to The Other was Harvest Home, a phenomenally disturbing tale about a New York City couple and their young daughter who pull up stakes and settle down in the bucolic hamlet of Cornwall Coombe Connecticut only to discover that the quaint village has a deep dark, pagan secret.

Over the years, Thomas Tryon moved on from the macabre and started publishing more mainstream novels including the celebrated collection of novella's Crowned Heads,  and Lady.

Writing proved to be a perfect fit for Tryon, who, as the 70's progressed, became more comfortable in his skin, and while he never openly proclaimed his sexuality, he seemed to be coming to terms with who he really was...to a point.

Always seen at the best clubs, discos and art openings in Gotham, Tryon began dating men in the arts - a long term relationship occurred when he met, Cal Culver (who was known to gay porn fans as Casey Donovan) - the duo continued a high profile relationship for several years, until Tryon grew  weary of his partner's notoriety , and how it might hurt his career as a mainstream novelist.   The monster was still not strong enough to break out of the closet, it seemed.

Thomas Tryon continued writing up until his death in 1991 from Cancer, he was 61 when he died.

At the time of his death, Tryon had just finished, Night Magic, a modern re-telling of The Sorcerer's Apprentice with a much darker undertone as the book's hero not only must choose between fame and his immortal soul, he must also choose between a malevolent but fascinating older man, or the love of a decent girlfriend.   It would seem that even in his twilight years, Tryon was still struggling with that same monster he had confronted many years earlier.

6 comments:

Tower Farm said...

Wow...I feel like such a bad gay. I know of Tryon, but did not know any of this. Had no idea he was gay, nor did I know he was an author later in life. Now I kinda want to read his stuff. Thanks for the history lesson!
-Billy

Will Errickson said...

Cool post. I knew some of this, and recall when he died, because I'd enjoyed The Other and Harvest Home as a teen. Sadly I believe they're out of print, but they are wonderful examples of chilly, quiet, pre-Stephen King bestseller horror novels.

Pax Romano said...

Billy, glad I could bring his story to light for you!

Will, exactly - his horror books did have a "Stephen King quality" to them.

Thanks for the kind words, guys!

J.T. said...

Shame that Tryon seems to have been forgotten by most people. This was a great write up Pax....

First time I saw The Other it completely knocked me out and I went out and found the novel. I was a fan from then on...

I like to think of Harvest Home as the American version of "The Wicker Man", its such an amazing novel.

The mini-series with Bette Davis is also one of my all time favorite things ever. I try to watch it at least a couple times a year.

Pax Romano said...

JT, thanks! I have not seen "The Dark Secret of Harvest Home" in decades. Is it available anywhere?

iain said...

I Married A Monster... etc is a wonderful movie, in which the aliens are distinguished (if that's the word) by their inability to father children, unlike "real men" (!??!!) There is no doubt in my mind that Tryon's conflicted, agonised performance (as a monster touched by an unexpected humanity he learns from his involvement with the human race) is informed by his conflicted soul-searching and soul-shredding experience as a gay man in Hollywood -where things are not all that different, not if we look at the big picture. I live and work in Hollywood with my partner pf 25 years and believe me, it still affects your hireability to be Out. The Other is available on DVD and the good news is that the novel has just been re-published by New York Review Books in a lovely, quality paperback edition featuring superb cover art/photgraphy. Do what I just did and order a copy at once! But avoid the tv re-make of IMAMFOS with Richard Burgi. It just doesn't have the original's noirish flavor, notwithstanding the presence of Richard Burgi, an actor who always seemed to me to have Gay to spare. But what do I know? ;-)