December 10, 2011

Walk of Fame star for Mala?

Alaska's fight for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

By Alex DeMarbanSupporters of an Alaska Native movie star who became a sensation during Hollywood's Golden Age are hatching plans to get the Inupiat actor his own star on the Walk of Fame.

It won't happen easily for the late Ray Mala, the tall, chiseled performer from the Northwest Alaska village of Candle who died in 1952 at the age of 46.
And:There just aren't many Native Americans, if any. Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto in the Lone Ranger, was the closest Martinez could find on Friday. He's listed as Mohawk Indian, but he's from Canada. One reason for the lack of Native Americans? "There's not a lot of Native American actors out there, but we're happy to consider them if people apply," Martinez said.

That's exactly what author Lael Morgan's doing. She learned about Ray Mala in the early 1970s as she traveled to more than 200 villages writing articles for Alaska magazine. In Northwest Alaska homes, she kept seeing his handsome black-and-white mug on the walls. "I thought, 'Boy, I have to meet him. Then they said, 'That's Cousin Ray.' I out found he'd been dead since 1952," she said.

She learned that Mala became a big movie star and cameraman beginning in the 1920s after leaving Candle at the age of 13. He was known as Ray Wise in his youth, but eventually changed his last name. After meeting moviemakers in Nome, he filmed the last musher coming into that community during the famous serum run to stop a diphtheria epidemic. He sent the work to filmmakers and that helped launch his movie career, said his grandson, Ted Mala Jr., who's working with Morgan on the effort to get his grandfather a Hollywood star.

After making his way to Hollywood, Ray Mala became the first non-White leading actor. He was the real deal, an Eskimo who spoke Inupiaq and knew how to hunt. In 1933 at the age of 27, he appeared in Eskimo, shot by MGM in the Alaska village of Teller and dubbed "the biggest picture ever made." The movie won the first Oscar for film editing and even made waves in Europe, where it was dubbed Mala the Magnificent.
And:The effort to get a star for Mala fizzled in Round I this summer. Morgan, Mala Jr. and others had applied to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. But the chamber's Walk of Fame Committee turned down the application.

Winning a posthumous star is difficult, said Martinez. An average of 24 stars are added each year to the Walk of Fame, but only one or two are given posthumously.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Eskimo Clark Gable and Publicity Pix of Eskimo.


Anonymous said...

"But he was from Canada"? Wait, since when has being Canadian been an issue. You kids today. In my day, we crossed the 49th parallel both ways with only moderate harassment from Customs, and that's how we liked it!

(And I'm likely younger than you.)

There's a much bigger issue in Hollywood. I mean, sure, Indians are rare, but other ethnicities, like, say, Japanese, are more common. Now, one word: Akira.

Rob said...

I didn't mention it, but yes, I thought that was strange. Since when does Hollywood care if an actor was born in Canada, Great Britain, or elsewhere? Why single out Jay Silverheels as if he's different from other stars on the Walk of Fame?

For more on Ray Mala, see:

An Alaska tinseltown star's unlikely role in mushing history