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JAY SILVERHEELS
Canadian Actor

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Silverheels
HARRY J. SMITH
He was born
Harold Jay Smith.
On the Six Nations
of the Grand River
Indian Reserve near
Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
His birth date has been debatable.
The Screen Actors Guild {SAG},
has it listed as
May 26, 1919.
But Government and
family records confirm
the date of
May 26, 1912.
He was one of
10 brothers and 2 sisters.
His father was George Alexander Smith.
He developed his talents as a wrestler,
boxer and lacrosse player.
He won two wrestling championships.
He finished second in the Eastern Square finals
of the Golden Gloves boxing championship
in Madison Square Garden.
He also became a very successful member
of Canada's National Lacrosse Team.
It was with this team that
Mr Silverheels came to the U.S. in 1933.
While in Hollywood performing with the team.
He was noticed by actor/comedian

Joe E. Brown,

who felt he could make a career of acting.
He supported himself as a busboy and waiter
until the bits parts started in 1938.
Mostly as an 'Indian'.
Parts like an native american scout in
THE SEAHAWK {1940} with
Errol Flynn.
A local native american in
'TO MANY GIRLS' {1940} with
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
But don't blink while watching
this one or You'll miss Him.

He was given noticable acclaim
for his part as John Oscelo in
KEY LARGO {1948} with
Humprey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

His first credible speaking part.
But it was not until 1949
when He accepted the character
in the first made for television western,
did he become known thoughout the world as

TONTO

The Lone Ranger's friend and companion.


Silverheels
GERONIMO

Jeff Chandler
was a very fine actor in his own right.
He played the native american chief

Cochise

on more than one occasion.
Including 'Broken Arrow' {50}
with Jay Silverheels as

Geronimo.

But he wore heavy brown grease paint.
A white man playing an native american.
Once Mr Silverheels established the respectful position
in Hollywood that He so rightly deserved.
He voiced his opposition to such practices.
His feelings were strong with the ideal
that only native americans
should play themselves in the movies.
He felt that only a native american
could offer a more credible
performance of such historical figures
as Cochise, and Geronimo.
Dirctor John Ford
had already validated that theory
in his western movies.
Mr Silverheels
felt so adamant about the subject.
That in the early 1960's.
He joined together with friends
Workshop
1969 - JAY SIVERHEELS AT THE
INDIAN ACTORS WORKSHOP

and established the
American Indian Actors Work Shop
in Echo Park, Ca.
His goal was to provide a means
for native american actors to
study, practice, and perfect
their talents in acting.
The workshop is still in existence today
with a impressive alumni.
He fufilled his dream and
He would be very pleased to know
that it is now common practice
to hire native americans to play themselves.


Jay Silverheels
TONTO
I had the profound pleasure of meeting
Mr Silverheels on two ocassions.
I was 6+ the first time and 8+ the second.
Ironically both times were when
Uncle Clayton and Mr Silverheels
were about to shoot their two full length motion pictures,
The Lone Ranger, and
The Lone Ranger and The Lost City of Gold.
On each occassion they were going over details of the movies
when my parents and I arrived at the house.
My memory recalls that Mr Silverheels
was just like Uncle Clayton,
very tall, with a deep commanding voice, and a captivating smile.
The handshake was firm, but gentle.
The first time is not so clear.
That is to say, I was fasinated but scared
of these two giant figures standing before me.
By the second encounter.
I was very much aware of my surroundings,
but still very much naive.
Being so young I didn't understand why
He didn't sound anything like 'TONTO'.
He wasn't saying things like,
'Me Do!' or 'Hmm, You right Kemo Sabe'.
He was instead very eloquent and intelligent.
I didn't mention it to Dad and Uncle Clayton
until after Mr Silverheels had departed.
They just simply smiled and proceeded
to give me my first lesson on what it means
to be a character actor.
I however was fortunate enough
to have been in the same room
with these two special gentlemen
who had influenced so many young lives.
I really felt safe in the house that day.
After all, I had both
'The Lone Ranger'and 'Tonto' to protect me.
A very special memory.


Tonto
JAY SILVERHEELS
Mr Silverheels
left us on March 5, 1980
at the Motion Picture Country
Home and Hospital
in Calabassas, Ca.
He was just 60 years young.

But in that short time.
He left us with a legacy of
Pride, Integrity, Decency, and Respect.
He helped shape the moral
values of so many lives.
While also giving of his time
to help those that
could not always help themselves.
He certainly gave more
than He ever received.
May His memory carry over
to future generations.
They can do well
by learning from a man like
Mr. Jay Silverheels.

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TONTO PAGE '2' Click Here

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