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Ray Mala

1906 - 1952

touted as:

"Alaska's first movie star"

"Eskimo Clark Gable"

(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)

Above is the title lobby card from Chapter 4 of ROBINSON CRUSOE OF CLIPPER ISLAND (Republic, 1936; 14 chapters). On the left are Mala and leading lady Mamo Clark (1914 - 1986) as 'Princess Melani'.

Mala was born Ray Wise in Candle, Alaska Territory in 1906.

According to Ray Mala biographer Lael Morgan, there were family issues and Ray was raised by his grandmother, Nancy Armstrong. Excerpt from Morgan's book Eskimo Star - From the Tundra to Tinseltown: the Ray Mala Story (Epicenter Press, 2011):

"His father was a Jewish trader from Russia who wouldn't show any interest in his son until the boy started making big bucks in the movies. His mother was an Inupiaq who left the child with her mother and married a Swedish bar owner."

Mala's early and later years in Hollywood were working as a cameraman / cinematographer. In between, he played hero and character parts in a couple dozen films. He was a good looking gent with a mop of curly hair. And his World War II draft registration has him as 6 feet tall and 170 pounds.

To fans of the western and serial, Mala is remembered for his roles in cliffhangers:

  • he starred as 'Agent Ray Mala' in ROBINSON CRUSOE OF CLIPPER ISLAND (Republic, 1936). His helpers were Buck the dog and Rex, the Wonder Horse.
  • he assisted Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett) in HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (Republic, 1938).
  • he had a featured role as 'Little Elk' in THE GREAT ADVENTURES OF WILD BILL HICKOK (Columbia, 1938) which starred Bill Elliott.
  • and he was unbilled as one of the 'Rock People' in FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE (Universal, 1940).

July 31, 1935 issue of Variety noted that "Ray Wise, Mala of pictures, petitioned court to change his name to Ray Mala."

In May, 1937, Mala married 24 year old Russian actress Galina Kropotkin in Tijuana, Mexico. Her screen name was Galina Liss. This was his second marriage. Son Theodore Anthony Mala was born February 3, 1946 in Los Angeles.

Ray Mala died on September 23, 1952 in Los Angeles. Wife Galina passed July 2, 1953.

October 1, 1952 Variety had a death announcement - excerpts: "Ray Mala, 46, screen actor, died of a heart attack Sept. 23 (1952) in Hollywood. Born in Alaska of an American trader father and an Eskimo, Mala made his screen bow in Ewing Scott's 'Igloo' in 1932, and two years later starred in Metro's 'Eskimo'." ; "His last appearance was in 'Red Snow.'" ; "In between pictures he had worked as an assistant cameraman at 20th Fox."

According to his death certificate, 45 year old Ray Mala was born December 27, 1906 in Alaska. He was hospitalized at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, Los Angeles for about three weeks and passed away there on September 23, 1952 from a pulmonary embolism. He and wife Galina lived in West Hollywood; his occupation was "Cameraman - Motion Picture Studio"; death certificate informant was 20th Century Fox; Utter McKinley was the funeral director and burial at Valhalla Memorial Park.

Ray and wife Galina (1909 - 1953) were originally interred at Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California. Decades after their death, their son, Dr. Ted Mala, arranged for their remains to be returned to Alaska and a reburial ceremony was held in 2018 at Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, Anchorage, Alaska.


  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Mala:

Death notice for Mala in the December 12, 1952 Nome, Alaska Nugget newspaper. Survivors were wife Galena [sic], six year old son Theodore, his father, and two sisters:

Find A Grave has a photo of the marker for Ray Mala (1906 - 1952) and wife Galina Liss Mala (1909 - 1953) who are interred at Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, Anchorage, Alaska:

June 2, 1937 Los Angeles Times reported that actor Ray Mala married 24 year old Russian actress Galina Kropotkin in Tijuana, Mexico. This was his second marriage. 24 year old Galina was a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. In the article, Galina's screen name is incorrectly reported as "Gadya Liss" - should be Galina Liss. had the 1933 Yearbook for the University of California, Berkeley, and Galina T. Liss was a student:

UCLA Digital Collections has a photo of "Hollywood Studio Club members Princess Galina Liss, Gwenn Mannering, Charlotte Olston, and Valusta Andrick gather for lunch, Hollywood, 1936." Galina is on the left with a cat in her lap:

Article on the re-burial of Ray and Galina in Alaska:

Article on Mala, his early life ... and his biography From the Tundra to Tinseltown: the Ray Mala Story by Lael Morgan and published in 2011. Article is titled "Book recounts career of The 'Eskimo Clark Gable'" and is available from the Internet Archive Wayback Machine:

3 minute video of author Lael Morgan talking about Ray Mala, his career, and efforts to get a star for him on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame:

The Internet Archive has the December, 1945 Action magazine with article and photo of 20th Century Fox cameraman / cinematographer Ray Mala:

The Internet Archive has the November, 1948 issue of American Cinematographer with an article and photo of assistant cameraman Ray Mala working for cinematographer Joseph LaShelle at 20th Century Fox:

Large biography of Mala in a 2020 issue of Alaskan History magazine. When the page opens, go down to the bottom right corner and the Find button. Then do a search for Mala:

Facebook page on Ray Mala ... appears to be run by a family member:

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