What follows is an array of photos from his life, with accompanying verbiage.
Tom with his mother, Addie Miller. 1935. Tom was 13. She died a few months thereafter, the great tragedy of his younger years. He had refused to kiss her before she was driven from home to the hospital. After her death he wrote a letter to her and burned it, thinking the smoke would take his message to her in Heaven.
Tom with his father, Clyde Miller, possibly 1936. The family was living on Water Street in Las Cruces, NM at the time, and I believe that Clyde had remarried by then, Leanah, a good friend and fellow schoolteacher of Tom's older sister Norma.
Tom had been born in Carier Mills, Illinois, a coal mining town, but his family moved to Las Cruces when he was a child because of spots on his lungs. They joined Norma there: she had already moved to Las Cruces to teach.
Tom's sister Norma, 17 years his senior and a rock of stability in the Miller family. Here she is in 1937 at the age of 31 and in 1999 at the age of 93, a year before her death. She spent the last 6 years of her life in a retirement complex in Tuscaloosa under our care and died in September 2000 surrounded by family: her brother, the 2 younger sisters, and several nieces and nephews.
Las Cruces, 1940 (?), with his dog Toady. A couple of years later he joined the U.S. Coat Guard. He had seen all those WW1 war in the trenches movies and knew that wasn't for him. Coast Guard: they'll be hugging the coast? No, they were all over the Pacific as well.
Tom's father died while he was in the Coast Guard. He was granted compassionate leave, but Clyde died just before he arrived home.
Signalman 2d Class Tom Miller. During his war years he wrote lots of letters home from various locations on the Atlantic and Pacif coasts and the wider Pacific, where his ship was involved with supplying the troops. His sister Norma kept all of these letters and arranged them chronolcally into a couple of scrapbooks. That archive formed the timeline and aide-mémoire for his book "Boy at Sea," written as a memoir but later published as a novel with all names of persons and ships changed because he discovered that a central character was still alive and might kick. After his death I donated those scrapbooks and the memoir/novel to the Veterans Memoirs collection at the Library of Congress.
I met Tom in 1967, introduced to him at a party thrown by Walter Brown McCord, also a refugee from my home county, who worked with Tom at MGM. Tom and I remained a team for the next 40 years, and when he died I was holding his hand.
Tom decided to branch out from being a staff publicist to become a unit publicist, working on movies while they were in production. His idea was that such a career would give him more down time for his writing. There follows a selection of shots from his unit publicity career:
That's Tom in dark glasses just above Jeanne Moreau's head. Back to camera and talking with Moreau is Donald Sutherland. This was his first unit job. Sutherland almost got Tom fired in a kerfluffle started when Tom compared the movie ("Alex in Wonderland)" to Disneyland, of which Sutherland disapproved. Featured in the cast was Ellen Burstein in one of her first major movie roles, and they got along great. The movie is (possibly justifiably) forgotten now, but I'd like to take a fresh look at it.
"Boardwalk." Also forgotte;n. But Tom loved the experience of working tith Lee Strasberg, Ruth Gordon, Janet Leigh, and others. He wrote a title song for the movie's end credits, but the director insisted on a total rock score (the grandson was trying to become a rockstgar).
Below, "The Chosen." Tom loved working with Barry Miller, Robby Benson, Rod Steiger, and Maximilian Schell.
I have always loved this shot of Tom on location at La Luz, Mexico, out from Guanajuato. I spent 3 weeks with Tom in Mexico at the tim, half in Guanajuato and the rest in Mexico City. I loved the La Luz location. We spent a good bit of time with Hayworth, and we (like all the rest) wrote off early signs of her Alzheiner's as a result of overindulgence in drink.
And of course he had worked with Robert De Niro on "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straigt." Tom had been friends with De Niro ever since he worked on the New York release of "Bloody Mana," one of De Niro's early notalble efforts. Below: De Nioro in the middle, Jerry Orbach on the left, Tom on the right.
Other movies Tom worked on include "Shaft," "Blow Out," "Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon," "A Gatheriong of Old Men" (his last), and Elaine May's "Mikey and Nicky" and Francis Coppola's's "The Cotton Club." His experiences on those last 2 are described in his movie memoir "A Fever of the Mad." A full listing of his movies is found here: Tom Miller - IMDb
(You will note that on his earlier movies he is listed as "uncredited." At that time producers were not required to give the unit publicist screen credit. That changed.)
Tom Canford: that was the name he used for his published works, which include the family memoir "Baker's Daughter, Miller's Son" and the novels "The Curse of Vilma Valentine" and "Ghost Guitars."
Huckleberry (1989-1999) Roscoe (1999-2010)
I remain grateful for our 22 years together in New York and our 18 in Alabama. I believe Tom was too.