Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Cisco Kid Was a Friend of Mine

Gilbert Roland as The Cisco Kid
The sad fact is that Hollywood has not always been kind to characters of Latin descent. In particular, during the Golden Age of Hollywood there was a succession of Mexican bandidos, Latin lovers, lazy Mexicans, fiery Latinas, and other similar, negative stereotypes in American films. Positive images of Hispanics were rare in American films from the Silent Era well into the Sixties. One exception to this rule was a character that was popular for much of the 20th Century, The Cisco Kid. While certain aspects of The Cisco Kid's character might be considered stereotypical, he had more in common with The Lone Ranger or Hopalong Cassidy than he did the many Mexican bandidos that appeared in American Westerns of the era. In most of his appearances in film and all of his appearances on television, The Cisco Kid was honest, upright, honourable, and clean living. What is more, he was one of the few Latin characters to actually be played by Latin actors from time to time.

The Cisco Kid originated in the short story "The Caballero's Way" by O. Henry. The Cisco Kid in the short story is very different from The Cisco Kid with whom viewers are familiar from movies and television. Indeed, he murders men for the sheer enjoyment of it. What is more, it would appear that The Cisco Kid in "The Caballero's Way" isn't even Mexican or Hispanic at all. When Texas Ranger Sandridge questions the shopkeeper Fink as to the location of the Kid, Fink remarks, "Goodall is his name, ain't it?" The only thing that The Cisco Kid of "The Caballero Way" has in common with The Cisco Kid of later films and movies is a a degree of gallantry towards women. O. Henry wrote of the Kid with regards to women, "For them he had always gentle words and consideration. He could not have spoken a harsh word to a woman. He might ruthlessly slay their husbands and brothers, but he could not have laid the weight of a finger in anger upon a woman." "The Cabellero's Way" was published in Everybody's Magazine, v17 (July 1907)  and the collection of O. Henry's Western short stories Heart of the West (also published in 1907).

It would only be seven years before The Cisco Kid would make his first appearance on film. The Caballero's Way (1914) was a three-reeler based on O. Henry's short story. Just as in the short story, The Cisco Kid is a brutal killer. That having been said, it departed from the story in one respect--for the first time The Cisco Kid is portrayed as Mexican. The very first man to play The Cisco Kid was Herbert Stanley Dunn, who appeared in a few silent films in the 1910s (here it must be noted that IMDB incorrectly credits William R. Dunn for the role).

It would only be a few years before The Cisco Kid would appear on screen again. The Border Terror (1919) was the second film based on "The Caballero's Way" by O. Henry. Vester Pegg became the second man to play The Cisco Kid. Just as in the first film, The Cisco Kid was portrayed as a ruthless killer rather than the noble Robin Hood of the Old West of later films and television.

It would be with the first sound film featuring The Cisco Kid that the character began to take shape as something other than a ruthless outlaw. Seen today In Old Arizona (1929) can sometimes be difficult to watch. It includes more than its share of ethnic stereotypes. That having been said, In Old Arizona was a revolutionary motion picture. Not only was it the first sound Western released by a major studio, but it also broke new ground in being the first talkie to be filmed outdoors. Much of the film was shot on location. In Old Arizona may have also pioneered the idea of the singing cowboy. In a few scenes Warner Baxter, as The Cisco Kid, sings (in O. Henry's "The Caballero's Way" The Kid sings, but does so unmelodiously).

In Old Arizona was very loosely based on "The Caballero's Way". While the original short story would appear to take place in Texas, the film is set in Arizona in the 1890s. In Old Arizona has a wholly different protagonist, replacing stalwart ranger  Lieutenant Sandridge with cavalry officer Sergeant Mickey Dunn. Perhaps the biggest change from the short story was in the character of The Cisco Kid. The Cisco Kid is not the brutal killer of "The Caballero's Way". Instead he is a bandit with his own code of honour In In Old Arizona The Cisco Kid does not steal from individuals. He is also not overly fond of killing and, in fact, the only time he kills anyone by his own hand it is in self defence. He even likes children. Strangely enough, in the film The Cisco Kid is not Mexican, but claims to have been born in Portugal. Ultimately, the only thing The Cisco Kid of In Old Arizona would seem to have in common with The Cisco Kid of "The Caballero's Way" is his chivalrous attitude towards women. If The Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona was not quite yet the heroic figure of later movies and television, he was a far cry from the brutal outlaw created by O. Henry.

Warner Baxter would win the first ever Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as The Cisco Kid. In Old Arizona was also nominated for Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Writing, Best Cinematography, and Best Picture.

Warner Baxter as The Cisco Kid would prove to be a sensation, so much so that inevitably there would be sequels to In Old Arizona. That having been said, the first "sequel" was not quite a sequel. In The Arizona Kid (1930) Warner Baxter played the Robin Hood-type bandit of the same name, essentially a very thinly veiled Cisco Kid. Aside from Warner Baxter playing a role all too suspiciously similar to The Cisco Kid, The Arizona Kid is notable primarily for an early starring role for Carole Lombard.

While it is debatable if The Arizona Kid was a sequel to In Old Arizona, The Cisco Kid (1931) was most certainly a sequel. Warner Baxter returned as The Cisco Kid, while Edmund Lowe returned as Sergeant Mickey Dunn. The Cisco Kid would further establish The Kid as a Robin Hood-type figure. It would also give him something he did not have before--sidekicks. From O. Henry's original short story to In Old Arizona, The Cisco Kid had always ridden alone. In The Cisco Kid he was accompanied by Lopez (played by Charles Stevens), a somewhat competent outlaw, and Gordito (played by Chris Martin), who was essentially comedy relief, not to mention a racist stereotype ("Gordito" would translate to "Fatso" or "Fatty" in English).

For the next many years, The Cisco Kid would be absent from the big screen. Warner Baxter would return to the role in the fittingly titled The Return of The Cisco Kid in 1939. Chris Martin once more returned as Gordito, but Lopez would be played by a new actor, Cesar Romero. The Return of The Cisco Kid would see Cisco firmly established as a hero as he seeks to help a colonel and his daughter. It also marked the official beginning of a series of Cisco Kid movies released by 20th Century Fox.

Marjorie Weaver, Cesar Romero, and Virginia Field
in a promotional photo for The Cisco Kid and the Lady
Warner Baxter would not remain in the role of The Cisco Kid for long. Cesar Romero took over the role with The Cisco Kid and the Lady (1939), making Mr. Romero the first Latin actor to ever play The Cisco Kid. It is also with Cesar Romero that The Cisco Kid began to move even further from the bandit that he originally was. While The Cisco Kid and his compatriots often plan to rob banks in the Cisco Kid movies starring Cesar Romero, it seems as if they never do. Instead they find themselves helping someone in need. Cesar Romero appeared in five more Cisco Kid movies before 20th Century Fox suspended the series in the wake of World War II.

That is not to say that The Cisco Kid would be gone from the public eye. On October 2 1942 the radio show The Cisco Kid debuted with Jackson Beck in the title role. The radio show would be historic for introducing Cisco's best known sidekick, Pancho (initially played by Louis Sorin). The Cisco Kid aired on Mutual until  February 14 1945. In 1946 The Cisco Kid returned as a thrice weekly show to the airwaves on a a Mutual-Don Lee regional network  After its brief run in 1946, The Cisco Kid returned in 1947 as a syndicated radio show that continued until 1956. In winter 1944 Baily Publishing published a one-shot comic book, Cisco Kid Comics.

Of course, The Cisco Kid would return to film soon enough. In 1945 The Cisco Kid Returns was released. It was not only the first movie in a new Cisco Kid series released by Monogram Pictures, but it was also the first time that Duncan Renaldo played the role. He would later star in the TV series The Cisco Kid and as a result become the actor most identified with the role. The Cisco Kid was also historic as the first film to feature Pancho (played by Martin Garralaga in the film) as Cisco's sidekick. Pancho had originated on the radio show and would later be the Kid's sidekick on the TV series.

Duncan Renaldo would only star in three Cisco Kid movies before he was called up for military service. Gilbert Roland then took over the role of Cisco. Gilbert Roland would be the second actor of Latin descent to ever play the role (despite his name, Duncan Renaldo was actually Romanian). Gilbert Roland played Cisco in the remainder of Cisco Kid films produced by Monogram.

Monogram ended their series of Cisco Kid movies with King of the Bandits in 1947. The Cisco Kid would not remain off the screen for long. Producer and attorney Phillip Krasne acquired the rights to The Cisco Kid and produced a new series of films through Inter-American Productions. These new movies were distributed by United Artists. The first film in the Inter-American Productions series of Cisco Kid movies was The Valiant Hombre in 1948. Duncan Renaldo returned to the role of The Cisco Kid. The film was also the first to feature Leo Carrillo as Pancho. Mr. Carrillo would later play Pancho on the TV series. This new series of Cisco Kid movies would end in 1950, although it was not exactly because of a lack of success. Quite simply, Cisco had found a new medium to conquer.

Duncan Renaldo as The Cisco Kid
Among Phillip Krasne's friends was Frederick Ziv, Mr Ziv produced radio shows for syndication, including The Cisco Kid. Mr. Ziv wanted to break into television, but was looking for a property that he thought would be successful. Quite naturally, Mr. Krasne suggested The Cisco Kid to him. Frederick Ziv proved to be a man of considerable foresight. Not only did he realise that there was money to be had in television syndication before television syndication was really an ongoing concern, but he also realised that television would eventually make the switch from black-and-white to colour. For that reason, then, The Cisco Kid was shot in colour from the beginning, even though colour television was still very much in the experimental stages in 1950.

The Cisco Kid would then be historic for multiple reasons. It would be one of the first successful syndicated television series. It would also be the first series filmed entirely in colour. Debuting a little over a year before I Love Lucy, it would also be the first American TV show to feature a Hispanic lead character. The Cisco Kid featured only two regular characters, Duncan Renaldo as Cisco and Leo Carrillo as Pancho. The two were wanted for some unspecified crime and The Kid behaved as Robin Hood in the old West. Every episode saw them coming to the aid of some hapless individuals. It proved to be extremely successful. It ran for six seasons and 156 episodes. It also proved to be very successful as a syndicated rerun. Shot in colour, it ran well into the Eighties. It is still being aired on various cable channels to this day and is even available on Hulu.

Perhaps because of the television series, The Cisco Kid would appear in other media during the Fifties. Dell Comics published the comic book The Cisco Kid. The first issue was cover dated January 1951. It ran for 40 issues, ending with the October 1958 issue. In January 1951 the newspaper comic strip The Cisco Kid began. It was written by Rod Reed and illustrated by  José-Luis Salinas. The newspaper comic strip would prove somewhat successful, lasting until August 1968.

Since then The Cisco Kid has never been out of the public eye for long. Mark Lindsay's 1970 song "Arizona" references Cisco and Pancho. War's 1972 song "The Cisco Kid"  was about the character and mentions Pancho as well. In 1994 Sublime released a song titled "Cisco Kid" on their album Robbin' the Hood, although it would seem to have very little to do with the character. Country singer Don Williams's 1998 song "Pancho" is sung from the point of view of The Cisco Kid, lamenting that his friendship with Pancho has ended.

Jimmy Smits as The Cisco Kid
Not only was The Cisco Kid referenced in songs in the Nineties, he appeared once more on the small screen. The Cisco Kid was a TV movie produced by Turner Pictures and aired on the cable channel TNT. It starred Jimmy Smits as The Cisco Kid and Cheech Marin as Pancho (Jimmy Smits would be the third Latino to play Cisco, after Cesar Romero and Gilbert Roland). The movie was set during the French occupation of Mexico, with The Cisco Kid and Pancho battling the forces of the Second French Empire. The TV movie received positive reviews for the most part, including ones from Variety and The Los Angeles Times.

Beginning in 2004 Moonstone Books began publishing graphic novels starring The Cisco Kid. Moonstone's take on The Kid is somewhat darker than many of the movies or the TV series, but still far from the hardened killer of O. Henry's original short story.

Arguably The Cisco Kid was one of the first Hispanic characters (alongside Zorro) to achieve widespread success in the United States. He is also a character with a very complicated history. In his first appearance in the short story "The Caballero's Way" by O. Henry not only was he was ruthless killer, but he was not even Hispanic. In the movie In Old Arizona as played by Warner Baxter, The Cisco Kid was somewhat of a stereotype, sometimes speaking in broken English and with an exaggerated Mexican accent (even though according to the film he was from Portugal...). Fortunately, The Cisco Kid would not only move away from being purely an outlaw, but he would also move away from being purely a stereotype. In most of the films and the television series, "the Robin Hood of the Old West" spoke perfect English and was more likely to fight outlaws than join them. At worst, The Cisco Kid could be considered a manifestation of the Latin Lover stereotype. Of course, here it must be pointed out that The Cisco Kid's gallantry towards women was already present in O. Henry's short story, when The Kid was an Anglo named Goodall. Regardless, The Cisco Kid of the TV series would seem less a stereotype than Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy.

Sadly, while The Cisco Kid would move away from being purely a stereotype, his sidekicks would not. Gordito was not only a manifestation of the Mexican Buffoon stereotype, but also fit the stereotype of the fat, lazy Mexican so often seen in films during the Studio Era. While Cisco's best known sidekick, Pancho, was certainly not lazy, he also conformed to the Mexican Buffoon stereotype to a large degree. Pancho was clumsy, spoke with an exaggerated accent, and often mangled the English language (the most frequent example being "Let's went, Cisco!").  About the only defence that could possibly be made for Pancho was that the sidekicks of most cowboy heroes, from Andy Devine to Smiley Burnette, were not terribly bright and often clumsy. Beyond his sidekicks, various media featuring The Cisco Kid would include other stereotypes from time to time. At times The Cisco Kid would find himself facing stereotypical Mexican bandidos.

While various stereotypes appeared in the Cisco Kid movies and television series, an argument can be made that The Cisco Kid was over all an exception to the sort of Hispanic characters that appeared in films during the Studio Era. He was not a buffoon. He was not fiery and temperamental. He was not a Mexican bandido. In many respects The Cisco Kid was much closer to such cowboy heroes as Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry than he was various other Latin characters appearing at the time. What is more, unlike many Hispanic characters over the years, The Cisco Kid was sometimes played by Hispanic actors. Cesar Romero, Gilbert Roland, and Jimmy Smits all played The Cisco Kid.

As to the lasting appeal of The Cisco Kid, it can perhaps be summed up by the tagline most associated with the character, "the Robin Hood of the Old West." The Cisco Kid always came down on the side of the underdog, whether it was fighting corrupt officials, evil military officers, unscrupulous millionaires, and others in power who insisted on abusing it. In a Cisco Kid movie, no matter how downtrodden or oppressed people may be, they were guaranteed to receive help from Cisco and his sidekicks of the moment. In many respects, the tagline "the Robin Hood of the Old West" was more than fitting for The Cisco Kid. The Cisco Kid began life as an Anglo outlaw in an O. Henry short story. In the end he would become one of the earliest, fictional Hispanic heroes.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Jennifer Daniel R.I.P.

Welsh actress Jennifer Daniel, who appeared frequently on British television and in the Hammer Films The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and The Reptile (1966), died on August 16 2017 at the age of 81.

Jennifer Daniel was born Jennifer Williams in Pontypool, Wales. When she was young she had an interest in music. She was even a a clarinettist in the Welsh National Youth Orchestra. That having been said, her interests eventually turned to acting. She studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She was in a repertory company before making her television debut in an episode of Leave It to Todhunter in 1958. She made her film debut in Marriage of Convenience in 1960. In the late Fifties she appeared in the mini-series adaptation of Charles Dickens's Barnaby Rudge. She guest starred on BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Theatre Night, and Armchair Theatre. She also appeared in an episode of the 1959 mini-series adaptation of Great Expectations.

In the Sixties Miss Daniel appeared in the feature films Return to Sender (1963), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), and The Reptile (1966). She had recurring roles on the programmes (both mini-series and regular series) Beauty and the Beast, Hamlet, Richard the Lionheart, The Spread of the Eagle, The Sleeper, and A Man Called Harry Brent. She guest starred on such shows as One Step Beyond, Maigret, ITV Television Playhouse, Suspense, No Hiding Place, Ghost Squad, Gideon C.I.D., Sergeant Cork, Adam Adamant Lives!, Love Story, and Doomwatch.

In the Seventies she had a recurring role on the ITV drama General Hospital (not to be confused with the American soap opera of the same name).  She appeared on the series Rooms and in the mini-series People Like Us. She guest starred on such shows as Barlow at Large, Thriller, Public Eye, and The Boy Merlin.

In the Eighties she had a recurring role on The Collectors. She guest starred on Barriers, I'll Take Manhattan, Rumpole of the Bailey, and Capital City. In the Nineties she appeared in the feature films Wuthering Heights (1992) and Love Is All There Is (1996). She guest starred on Keeping Up Appearances. In the Teens she appeared in the films Run for Your Wife (2012)  and Christmas with the Dead (2012).

Jennifer Daniel certainly stood out from other blonde ingénues of her era, and even other Hammer actresses. While many of the female leads of the Hammer Horrors were overtly sexy, in her two roles for Hammer, Miss Daniel was much more subtle. This was perhaps because her stock-in-trade was playing serious young women confronted with unusual situations. Jennifer Daniel wasn't playing simple romantic interests or window dressing, then, but characters that required a certain amount of intensity in her performance. What is more, she played them very well. It should be little wonder that she appeared so often on British television.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Monty Hall Passes On

Monty Hall, best known as the long time host of the game show Let's Make a Deal, died on September 30 2017 at the age of 96.

Monty Hall was born Monte Halparin on August 25 1921 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He attended the University of Manitoba. While there he appeared in the college's musicals. He also worked at Winnipeg radio station CKRC. It was at that station that he shortened his last name to "Hall" and began spelling his first name as "Monty". He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science degree. He majored in chemistry and zoology.

In 1946 Mr. Hall moved to Toronto where he got a job at radio station CHUM. He would remain in Toronto for many years. He both produced and hosted programmes for various radio stations in Toronto. He was the host of Who Am I? on CFRB, which would be syndicated throughout Canada. He also produced TV shows for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. On CBC Television he was the host of The Little Revue, Floor Show, and Matinee Party.

It was in 1955 that Monty Hall moved to New York City. He was a regular on the NBC Radio programme Monitor. In 1960 he was the host of the CBS game show Video Village. It was after the cancellation of Video Village in 1962 that Monty Hall and writer Stefan Hatos created Let's Make a Deal. The show debuted on NBC on December 30 1963. Unlike many game shows of the time, Let's Make a Deal had a somewhat fluid structure, with selected audience members making deals with the host. Accounts vary as to how it happened, but audience members soon began wearing bizarre costumes in hopes of being selected to make deals on the show. Let's Make a Deal proved very successful. It rain on NBC until 1968, whereupon it moved to ABC where it ran until 1976. A syndicated, evening version also ran from 1971 to 1977. Let's Make a Deal has been revived several times. During the 1980-1981 season Monty Hall hosted a syndicated, evening version. He would also host the Let's Make a Deal revival of the 1990-1991 season.

In the Sixties Monty Hall was also a panellist on Hollywood Squares and a guest host on The Joey Bishop Show. In the Seventies he guest starred as himself on such shows as Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Flip Wilson Show, Wait Til Your Father Gets Home, The Dean Martin Show, That Girl, The Odd Couple, Dinah, and The Tonight Show. He actually acted in guest appearances on Love, American Style and The Love Boat. Monty Hall hosted the TV specials The Monty Hall Smokin-Stokin' Fire Brigade and Monty Hall's Variety Hour. He was a guest on Mitzi Gaynor's Mitzi and a Hundred Guys. He hosted the short-lived show It's Anybody's Guess.

In the Eighties Monty Hall hosted the shows The Joke's On Us, Split Second, and Star's Table. He regularly appeared in the Variety Club's series of All-Star Party... specials. In the Nineties Mr. Hall guest starred on The Wonder Years; Love & War; Newton's Apple; and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. In the Naughts he was a regular on The Surreal Live and Hollywood Squares. He appeared on Providence, That 70s Show, and The Florence Henderson Show. He also appeared in the new version of Let's Make a Deal. He appeared in the film When the World Breaks (2010). In the Teens he appeared in the documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood (2014). 

There can be no doubt that Monty Hall was among the greatest game show hosts of all time, and certainly among the most famous. He was both genial and likeable, and he was able to extemporise with ease. He was remarkable in dealing with contestants, easily able to coax contestants into giving up what they already have and to nudge them along when they were taking a bit too long in making a decision. Since Monty Hall there have been other hosts of Let's Make a Deal, but none have been quite so entertaining.

Of course, it must be kept in mind that Monty Hall was not only the host of Let's Make a Deal, but its co-creator and one of its producers as well. In 1963 Let's Make a Deal was revolutionary, quite unlike any game show on at the time. It would also prove to have lasting success. It has aired on and off for the past 53 years. There should be little wonder it should have an impact on American popular culture. There is even a probability puzzled inspired by the game, the Monty Hall Problem. Monty Hall was a great game show host, but he also created a show that would prove to be incredibly popular and would have a lasting impact on pop culture. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Late Great Tom Petty

There are those music artists whose songs provide the soundtracks to our lives. We first hear them when we are very young. We enjoy their music and may even identify with some of their songs. In some cases their careers will have lasted as long as we have lived. Tom Petty was one of those music artists for me. I was somewhat aware of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers when their first album came out in 1976 (I was 13 at the time), but I would really become a full-fledged fan until I first heard their song "Refugee" in 1980. Their music was straightforward and basic. There were no synthesisers and no frills. It fit no subgenre of rock music. It wasn't power pop, punk rock, or heavy metal. It was just rock 'n' roll. In many ways, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers was much more about "back to basics" than any of the concurrent punk bands (even The Ramones, as much as I love them). It was an approach that appealed to me and to a legion of other fans. It was an approach that would give Tom Petty a career that lasted forty years, produced several hits, and left a lasting impression on rock music.

Sadly, Tom Petty was hospitalised Sunday night after being found unconscious and in the midst of full cardiac arrest. He died last night at 8:40 Pacific Time. He was 66 years old.

Tom Petty was born on October 20 1950 in Gainesville, Florida. He became interested in rock music upon meeting Elvis Presley when he was ten years old. His uncle was working on the set of Follow That Dream (1962), which was shooting in Ocala, Florida. Tom Petty's uncle took him to the set where he met Elvis. Afterwards he was a staunch fan of Mr. Presley. In addition to Elvis, The Beatles would also have an impact on him. In an interview with NPR in 2006, Mr. Petty said that he knew he wanted to be in a band the moment he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Among Tom Petty's other influences were The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.

Tom Petty dropped of school when he was 17 to join the band The Sundowners. He later became a member of The Epics, which evolved into the band Mudcrutch. Future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench were also members of Mudcrutch. Formed in 1970, the band signed with Shelter Records in 1974. Their only single, "Depot Street" was released in 1975. It failed to chart. Mudcrutch then lost its recording contract, although they kept Tom Petty under contract. Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, and Benmont Tench then formed Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' self-titled debut album was released in December 1976. It peaked at no. 55 on the Billboard album chart and at no. 24 on the British album chart. Their first single, "Breakdown", failed to chart, although their second single, "Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll", peaked at no. 36 in the United Kingdom. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' second album, You're Gonna Get It!, saw the band's performance improve on the charts. The album peaked at no. 23 on the Billboard album chart and no. 33 in the United Kingdom. "I Need to Know", the first single from You're Gonna Get It!, nearly made the top forty, peaking at no. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers would see their first major success with the album Damn the Torpedoes in 1979. The album peaked at no. 2 and went platinum. The first single from the album, "Don't Do Me Like That", peaked at no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was followed by "Refugee", which peaked at no. 15 on the singles chart.

After Damn the Torpedoes, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers would remain a major band for the rest of their career. Their albums Hard Promises, Long After Dark, and Southern Accents all went to the top ten on the Billboard album chart. The late Eighties and the Nineties would see the band with less success, although their albums still hit the top twenty. In fact, the lowest placed album following the release of Damn the Torpedoes was 1987's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), which peaked at no. 20 on the Billboard album chart. The band rebounded in the Naughts with their albums once more reaching in the top ten. In fact, their last two albums would perform better than nearly any of their albums before. Mojo, released in 2010, peaked at no. 2. Hypnotic Eye became the first and only Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers album to reach no. 1.

The band also had a slough of hit singles.  "You Got Lucky", from Long After Dark, peaked at no. 20. "Don't Come Around Here No More" reached no. 13. Several other singles reached the top forty or, at least, the Hot 100. In 2008 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers played the Super Bowl Half Time show.

Tom Petty also had projects beyond his work with The Heartbreakers. He was one of the supergroup known as The Travelling Wilburys, which also included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison. They released their debut album in 1988. The album peaked at no. 3 on the Billboard album chart and produced the hit single "Handle with Care".  Their second album (titled Travelling Wilburys Vol. 3) peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard album chart.

Tom Petty also released three solo albums. The first, Full Moon Fever, was released in 1989.  It produced the hit singles "I Won't Back Down", "Runnin' Down a Dream", and "Free Fallin'". The album itself went to no. 2 on the Billboard album chart. A second solo album, Wildflowers, was released in 1994. The album went to no. 8 on the Billboard album chart and produced the hit single "You Don't Know How It Feels". A third and final solo album, Highway Companion, was released in 2006. It peaked at no. 4 on the album chart.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were also guests on Stevie Nicks's 1981 single "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", her 1983 single "I Will Run to You", and Bob Dylan's 1986 single "Band of the Hand". Tom Petty was a guest on Hank Williams Jr.'s 1987 single "Mind Your Own Business" and Roger McGuinn's 1991 single "King of the Hill."

 Tom Petty once said of The Heartbreakers, "We ain't no punk band, we ain't folk rock, jazz rock, or any of that bull****. Just rock, and we don't put no other name on it than that. We'd be stupid if we did."  And there can be no doubt that his quote was accurate. As mentioned earlier, Tom Petty & The Hearbreakers offered up no frills rock 'n' roll. At most there might be a slight psychedelic tinge to some songs, but nothing more. This essentially made their songs timeless. I rather suspect someone who was wholly unfamiliar with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers probably wouldn't be able to identify the decade, let alone the year, many of their songs were released.

Beyond writing very basic, no frills rock songs, Tom Petty was also a great lyricist. His lyrics were as down-to-earth as he seemed to be in real life, and were often sung from the point of view of the underdog. He was one of rock's great storytellers, writing about American girls and their dreams, individuals facing obstacles, men who have lost the women they love, and much more.

In real life Tom Petty seemed as down to earth as the lyrics he wrote. When MCA tried to raise the price of his albums to $9.98 (about $28.16 in today's money) from $8.98, he threatened to titled his next album (which would be titled Hard Promises) The $8.98 Album.

In the many obituaries and tributes to Tom Petty he has been described as a rock legend. There can be no doubt that the description is accurate. Tom Petty's career spanned 40 years. What is more, while other artists' careers might fade after a time, Tom Petty continued to have hit records and sold-out tours to the very end. His influence on rock music was considerable and lasts to this day.