Amoeblog

Red Wing and Young Deer, the First Couple of Native American Silent Film

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 20, 2010 04:00pm | Post a Comment

Cast and Crew Members at Inceville in Santa Monica, circa 1915

Before the emergence of Hollywood and the studio system, moviemaking was something of a free-for-all, open to anyone that could afford it. In the US, that privileged group was almost exclusively white and male. Roles for minorities were usually crudely stereotypical, minor, and liable to be played by a white actor in yellowface, brownface, blackface or redface. As a result, some minority figures attempted to start their own alternatives. In 1916, Oakland resident Marion Wong made the first example of Asian-American Cinema with The Curse of Quon Gwon. A few years later, Anna Mae Wong and Sessue Hayakawa began making films. In 1918, John Noble invented Black Cinema with Birth of a Race. He was soon joined in his endeavor by Oscar Mischeaux.

In the Land of the Head Hunters movie poster 

True Native American cinema beat them both by almost a decade. The mainstream view of Natives at the time was generally less murderously hateful than those of contemporary Asians and blacks (or the Natives' ancestors). In fact, Natives were widely adored and fetishized, what Frank Chin would later term “love racism." Natives, regardless of reality, were reduced to mere metaphors and symbols… for stoicism, honor, strength, &c. Edward S. Curtis's 1914 In the Land of the Headhunters and Robert Flaherty's 1922 Nanook of the North have little to do with reality, but did reflect well-meaning white men’s attempts to portray their subjects with some respect, even if it meant they had to fictionalize and stage everything.


Red Wing, Young Deer and cast members

However, beating them to the punch was a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, James Young Deer. Red Deer was born in Dakota City, Nebraska in an unknown year. He was already a showbiz veteran by the time he got into film, having previously performed with the Barnum and Bailey circus and the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West Show. In 1909, the New York Picture Company established their western imprint, Bison Motion Pictures, in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Edendale, then the center of west coast film production. Fred J. Balshofer was put in charge and Young Deer directed the first Native American film with 1909’s The Falling Arrow. Young Deer also co-starred in the picture, along with his wife, Red Wing.

  

Red Wing was born Lillian St. Cyr on February 13th, 1883 on Nebraska's Ho-Chunk Reservation to a white father and a Ho-Chunk mother. When Lillian was four years old, her mother died. Red Wing and two of her siblings were sent off to pro-assimilation schools. Red Wing went to Carlisle Indian Industrial School; her siblings Julia and David attended Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. On April 9th, 1906 she married James Young Deer. Working together behind and in front of the camera, the couple began working on films that addressed racism, assimilation, miscegenation and cultural clashes between whites and reds. That year, they also worked on For Her Sale; or, Two Sailors and a Girl and Red Wing's Gratitude (both 1909). 

France’s Pathé Frères, in a bid for greater authenticity, hired Red Wing and Young Deer in 1910. They worked primarily in New Jersey until Red Deer became head of Pathe's West Coast studios. In Los Angeles, they were also in demand as actors. Cecil B. DeMille chose Red Wing to star in 1914’s The Squaw Man, the first feature-length picture shot in LA. 

In the 1910s, the moviemaking landscape was changing. William Selig moved from Edendale to Lincoln Heights and opened a zoo. Nestor Studio opened in Hollywood. Over the next two years, so did more than a dozen other studios. Red Wing continued acting, appearing in over 35 films between 1909 and 1921. 

Young Deer continued to direct and act. He directed White Fawn's Devotion: A Play Acted by a Tribe of Red Indians in America Under Both Flags, The Red Girl and the Child, A Cheyenne Brave, An Indian's Gratitude, Cowboy Justice and The Yaqui Girl (all 1910); Red Deer's Devotion (1911); The Squaw Man's Sweetheart and The Unwilling Bride (both 1912); The Savage (1913); Who Laughs Last and The Stranger (both 1920); and Lieutenant Daring RN and the Water Rats (1924).


He acted (often for Balshofer) in The True Heart of an Indian, The Mended Lute, Red Wing's Gratitude and Young Deer's Bravery (all 1909); The Ten of Spades; or, A Western Raffle, Young Deer's Gratitude, The Cowboy and the Schoolmarm, The Indian and the Cowgirl, The Red Girl and the Child and Young Deer's Return (all 1910); Red Deer's Devotion and Little Dove's Romance (both 1911); The Unwilling Bride (1912); Against Heavy Odds (1914); Under Handicap (1917); and Man of Courage (1922).

Red Wing and Young Deer's film careers were mostly over by the 1920s. Young Deer worked in France, making documentaries between 1913 and 1919. Red Wing worked as a college lecturer and civil rights activist. During the 1930s, Young Deer worked occasionally as a second-unit director on B-movies and serials. He died in New York City in April 1946. Red Wing died on March 13th, 1974.
  
Of the young, minority cinemas, only Black Cinema continued to prosper through the rise and fall of Hollywood, in part because there was a large black film-going audience who craved an alternative to Hollywood’s viciously demeaning portrayal of their people. With much smaller audiences, depictions and roles for Native Americans, like Asians, were completely co-opted by Hollywood for the next 50 or so years. For half a century, Natives in Hollywood existed almost exclusively within westerns, with rare exceptions like The Exiles (1961) and Through Navajo Eyes (1972).


Become a fan of Eric's Blog on Facebook!

Branchage Film Festival Review & Interview with the UK Festival's Philip Ilson & Xanthe Hamilton

Posted by Billyjam, October 13, 2010 06:25pm | Post a Comment

It may only be in its third year but the UK's small and fast growing Branchage Film Festival has already become a guaranteed fun four days that's unlike most other film festivals out there. With an idyllic location in the quaint town of St. Helier on the small island of Jersey in the UK's Channel Islands (off the coast of France), this year's Branchage Film Festival (September 23-26th) offered a richly diverse program that included documentaries, features, animation, and shorts, plus some classic films presented in entirely new ways. In addition to its picture-perfect & historic location, what sets Branchage apart from most other festivals is how it nicely weaves a wealth of live music (as both opening acts to films and/or its soundtrack) into its program. Equally important is how it magically transformed so many of its film screenings by taking them out of the stereotypical cinemas & screening rooms and onto screens in site specific locations in St Helier and around the historic island.

At last year's festival, which was the first time I attended, unique screening locations included Castle at Gorey (picture above) and the German War Tunnels (closer to France than England, the Channel Islands, including neighboring Guernsey, were the only parts of Britain occupied by the Nazis). There were also screenings in churches, something that was repeated this year with such films as Tatsuo Sato's Japanese anime Cat Soup, which was screened in All Saints Church (a functional church on loan at no coast from the Methodists). Japanese psych-metal group Bo Ningen replaced the original score of this gory 2001 animation with an amazing new score that went from quiet, soothing hushes to crazy wild n'loud screeching guitar and vocals. This year's other novel locations included the screening of Superman at a dam and The Battleship Potemkin on the deck of a tugboat in the St. Helier Harbour with an ever engaging live soundtrack provided by French electronic duo Zombie Zombie, who, as Branchage creative director Xanthe Hamilton told me with a delighted chuckle,"had sailed in from France to do their set." Truly this is a special kind of film festival.

Continue reading...

John Woo's Well Deserved Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at Venice Film Festival + New Reign of Assassins Trailer

Posted by Billyjam, September 6, 2010 05:47am | Post a Comment

John Woo
, the director of both Hollywood blockbusters (Mission Impossible II, Face/Off, etc) and Hong Kong action films (Hard Boiled, The Killer, etc), was honored at the Venice Film Festival the other day when the 64 year old Chinese film director was given a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. The festival also screened Woo's new martial arts tour de force, Reign of Assassins.

Reign of Assassins (see trailer below), which was filmed in China and is set during the Ming Dynasty, is unique in that it is the first time that Woo has had a woman as a protagonist and it is also the first time that a Chinese film has had a real female hero. Michelle Yeoh plays the martial arts expert who is an assassin falling in love with the son of a man killed by her gang.

At the Venice Film Festival on Friday, the clearly pleased Woo told the press, "I want to make movies that will incorporate the good things from the West and the East." Reign of Assassins is the 35th film that Woo has directed in an impressive career that began back in 1968. Check out the DVD section of Amoeba for Woo's work and also check out these websites: God Among Directors.com, Media Circus, YahooMovies/JohnWoo, IMDb and Cinema of China.

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Eagle Rock

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 9, 2010 03:21pm | Post a Comment

This entry of the Los Angeles neighborhood blog series is about Eagle Rock. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be featured in the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here.  To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.





Eagle Rock is a neighborhood situated in Northeast Los Angeles whose neighbors are Pasadena to the east, Garvanza to the southeast, Highland Park and Mount Washington to the south, Glassell Park to the southwest and Glendale to the West.

Continue reading...

The Mezzanine Shuffle - Turn and face the strange

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 25, 2010 02:55pm | Post a Comment

Do this don't do that can't you read the sign?

As some of those who know me know, I used to work in the movie department here at Amoeba Hollywood. I was assigned to Black Cinema and Latino Cinema. You could say they were my beat. But I was a bit of a lone wolf who played by my own rules. But after one too many high-profile disasters, the sarge stuck me with a desk job, writing this blog. But I still take interest in my old neighborhood and some (OK one) of the customers still tell me to come back... he also gave me a couple of candy canes for Christmas which (since I don't much like sweets) sit in the guampa on my desk. They're yours if you want 'em. ,

Anyway, so the mezzanine just went through a major overhaul, which I had/got to be a part of...

 
The Mezzanine - Officially the largest selection of movies in the universe

Occasionally, when something big like this goes down, the powers that be will promise me some nice change if I bust the right brains. Or, to paraphrase Sean P, "They callin' me to come back to the streets, Eric B, a.k.a 'Sharp Crease'/Said it was necessary, these sucka weddoz out here very scary/They comin' whole they livin' in the month of February" to which I replied, "OK den." Also I was promised pizza. More about that later.

Continue reading...
BACK  <<  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  >>  NEXT