(From Old Corral collection)
THE LAW RIDES AGAIN (Monogram, 1943) was the second of the Monogram Trail Blazers series, and starred Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson. Kenneth Harlan portrays a crooked Indian Agent who is keeping promised cattle shipments from the Indians. And he is assisted by B-movie vet Jack La Rue (as an escaped convict) and other Harlan henchies were Hank Bell, John Merton and Chief Thunder Cloud. In the above lobby card and crop/blowup, Artie Ortego is top center wearing the full headdress and has his bow and arrow at rest. Chief Many Treaties (Bill Hazlett) as 'Chief Barking Fox' is wearing the full headdress and is on the right. At the bottom center of this lobby card - and aiming the rifle - is Augie Gomez. The other players are unidentified.
Perhaps the worse of the stereotypes was the "half-breed". The Hollywood myth makers decided that no half-breed was ever good, and a casting call went out to Charlie Stevens, who played that role in dozens of oaters and chapterplays.
With few exceptions, the biggest injustice was that most of the B-western Indians who had pivotal or extensive speaking roles were not played by Native Americans. Male roles were given to performers such as stuntman Yakima Canutt, Bob Kortman, Frank Lackteen, George J. Lewis, Nick Thompson and Rick Vallin, or black actor Noble Johnson. Occasionally, the heroine/leading lady portrayed a Native American. But that work was generally handled by established actresses, not Native Americans. There's an example below with Ruth Mix as the daughter of 'Chief Black Hawk'. In one of the other pages, you'll see Joan Gale, one of the four Gale sisters, who portrays a Native American and the female lead to Tom Mix in THE MIRACLE RIDER chapterplay.
This occurred in higher budgeted films also - an example is Cecil B. deMille's UNCONQUERED (1947) which starred Gary Cooper and featured many Native American performers. But the Indians with dialog and screen time were Boris Karloff (as 'Chief Guyasuta') and Marc Lawrence (as medicine man 'Sioto'). Recall the scene in the village with Coop trying to rescue Paulette Goddard - and using his compass (and the compass arrow) to fool the superstitious Indian chief (Karloff) into releasing her. Other examples: Anthony Quinn was 'Chief Crazy Horse' in the Errol Flynn THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (Warners, 1941), and he was 'Yellow Hand' in BUFFALO BILL (20th Century Fox, 1944) which starred Joel McCrea. In the 1936 Randolph Scott version of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, Bruce Cabot portrayed 'Magua'. Columbia also did a Mohicans film but titled it LAST OF THE REDMEN (Columbia, 1947). The star was Jon Hall and 'Magua' was played by Buster Crabbe.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is Tom Mix's daughter Ruth Mix (as 'Wa-No-Na'), and on the right is Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) in FIGHTING PIONEERS (Resolute, 1935), one of a quartet of sagebrush adventures starring Rex Bell, Ruth Mix and Buzz Barton. On the left edge is Chief Standing Bear (1868-1939) (as 'Black Hawk') and on the far right is Guate Mozin (as 'Crazy Horse').
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Bob Kortman in Indian guise and carrying a tomahawk as 'Magua', the scowling, vicious Indian war chief in the cliffhanger THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (Mascot, 1932). Kortman was in his mid-forties when he did this early sound serial. Star Harry Carey is wearing the coonskin cap and buckskins. On the far left with the 'X straps' is Hobart Bosworth (as The Sagamore / Chingachgook), and on the far right is Walter McGrail (as 'Dulac'). Other players are unidentified.
The sterotyping carried over into all kinds of films, not just the western. Many writers and critics of the film industry argue that Hollywood had (and still has) a significant impact on the views and perceptions of generations of filmgoers. I wasn't around during the silent days and 1930s-early 1940s. I tend to agree that a constant bombardment of misleading, unflattering and untrue screen images and portrayals caused the film-going public to perceive that Hollywood's version of history and life to be accurate and true.
Our discussion on stereotyping and the Hollywood film is now over. There are a variety of books and papers on this subject, authored by people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than I.
Several of the performers who are profiled in this section are among my B western and serial favorites. Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) is one - and I'm still investigating his life. Another fav is Charles 'Charlie' Stevens - small in stature, he was always shifty, untrustworthy. I always smile when I see Chief John Big Tree - that kindly and weathered face full of wrinkles. Two of his performances are etched in my brain. Remember the ending of DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939), where Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert and the settlers are celebrating the defeat of John Carradine and the British soldiers? In the church, John Big Tree as 'Blue Back' appears at the pulpit, smiling, and wearing the eye patch that belonged to the defeated (and dead) Carradine ... all in glorious Technicolor. And as Chief 'Pony That Walks', Chief Big Tree has a great palaver with John Wayne (as Captain Nathan Brittles) in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), and that John Ford directed movie happens to be one of Chief Big Tree's last roles.
This section on the Old Corral is simply a tribute to the many Native Americans who toiled in the B-western and serial, circa 1929-1954 ... give or take a year or two. As we find new images and locate biographical information, we'll add to this section.
Some of the performers made a significant quantity of sound era films. The following names and "in at least this many" film counts are from Les Adams' Prolific Performers page on the Old Corral. The film quantities shown are sound era appearances - work in silent films is not included in the film counts.
|ARTIE ORTEGO (Art Ardigan)||179||12||3||2||196|
|CARL MATHEWS (Cherokee Mathews)||161||7||1||0||169|
|IRON EYES CODY||102||26||10||0||138|
|CHIEF THUNDER CLOUD (Victor Daniels)||52||13||14||0||79|
|JAY SILVERHEELS (Harry Smith/Silverheels Smith)||44||4||8||0||56|
|CHIEF BIG TREE (John Big Tree)||29||8||5||0||42|
|JOHN WAR EAGLE||25||1||5||0||31|
|BILLY WILKERSON (sometimes billed as W. C. Wilkerson)||20||3||17||2||42|
|BILL HAZELETT (Chief Many Treaties)||15||7||0||0||22|
|CHIEF STANDING BEAR||6||1||0||0||7|
The Native American Actors / American Indian Actors Directory website has information on various Native American film performers: http://www.nativecelebs.com/actors
There's a variety of capsule reviews on films involving Native American actors in the Movies, Race and Ethnicity: Native Americans at UC Berkeley's website: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/imagesnatives.html
Barbara Landis has a large website on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) which existed from 1879 - 1918: http://home.epix.net/~landis/
Info on the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Show can be found at:
The Library of Congress has lots of info on the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show: https://www.loc.gov/search?new=true&q=Buffalo+Bill+Wild+West+Show
The Fort Lee (New Jersey) Film Commission website has writeups on various film production companies that did silent films in and around Fort Lee, New Jersey. This was the film making "hub" before the studios migrated to Hollywood:
Studios and production companies: http://www.fortleefilm.org/studios.html
Fort Lee film history: http://www.fortleefilm.org/history.html