September 14, 2011

Thousands of Indian movies and TV shows

Indian Country Diaries--StereotypesFilm and television are visual media that can evoke huge emotional power. So, it's not surprising that the most long-lasting stereotypes have come from Hollywood. There is also the sheer volume of depictions of Indians. Since movies were invented, there have been something like 2,000 theatrical films produced dealing with "Indian themes." Another 2,500 or so TV Indian program segments were made between 1950 and 1970.

There is a direct line between the early American novels and the films. James Fennimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans has been made into a Hollywood movie five times.

Between roughly 1920 and 1970, there were more than 350 Euro-American actors who portrayed Native Americans—including Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Debra Paget, Donna Reed, Jennifer Jones, Julie Newmar, Jeff Chandler, Rock Hudson, Delores Del Rio, Linda Darnel, Sal Mineo, Anthony Quinn, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Chuck Connors and Ricardo Montalban.

But it was not until 1970 that the first actual Indian tribal member appeared in a lead role in a motion picture. That actor was Chief Dan George cast as Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man.
Comment:  I guess they're not counting Jay Silverheels playing Tonto in feature films. And I think Indians played some lead roles in silent movies made before 1920.

For more on the influence of movies, see Why Pop Culture Matters and Valenti:  Movies Are Merely Movies. For more on the subject in general, see The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  Iron Eyes Cody, one of the fake Indians.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Indians went from trendy to Camp Werthefukahwee kitsch some time in the 70s or 80s. Sort of. White people still claim Indian ancestry as a trend, or (in Hollywood at least) practice Indian traditions whenever Scientology or Kabbalah is no longer trendy.