Napoleon Blackstone “Nip” Vann had a dramatic life both on and off screen. He worked in traveling Wild West shows and early Western silent films, along with Tom Mix and other notables. But something went wrong during a night of drinking in 1913 and Marshal John McInroy of Caney, Kansas, was shot dead. Vann fled the scene, and McInroy’s cousin and fellow law enforcement officer Bert Ziegenfuss vowed to catch Vann and bring him to justice. It took 24 years for him to do so.
During the course of Vann being a fugitive from justice, he changed his name almost a dozen times. His confirmed whereabouts included Naples, Italy; Athens, Greece; Richmond, Virginia; Helena, Montana; and even Hollywood, California.
Then, one day in 1935, Ziegenfuss was sitting in a movie theater in Coffeyville, Kansas. He stared up at the screen while Nip Vann stared down at him. Vann had found his way back into the movie business, surrounded by the very men—like Tom Mix—who had ushered his career some two decades earlier.