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 Jay Silverheels

Jay Silverheels

Original Name Harold J. Smith
Birth
Ontario, Canada
Death 5 Mar 1980 (aged 67)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered, Specifically: Ashes Spread On Homestead on Six Nations Indian Reserve
Memorial ID 4407 · View Source
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Actor. He is best remembered for his role of 'Tonto', the faithful Indian companion of the 'Lone Ranger'. Born Harold J. Smith, at the Six Nations Indian Reservation in Ontario, Canada, to a Mohawk Chief, he excelled in sports during high school, and became a noted Lacrosse player, before entering films as a stuntman in 1938. After military service in World War II, he returned to films, landing small roles, usually as stereotyped Indians, in such films as "Canyon Passage" (1946), "Northwest Outpost" (1947), "The Last Roundup" (1947), "Captain from Castile" (1947), "The Prairie" (1947), "Yellow Sky" (1949), and many other B-movies. In 1949, he played in the movie "The Cowboy and the Indians" with actor Clayton Moore, and together, they were both hired to play the roles of the Lone Ranger and his Indian friend, Tonto, in the television series, "The Lone Ranger." Silverheels played the role during the entire period from 1949 to 1957, even when Clayton Moore was replaced one season by John Hart (1952 to 1953), winning respectability for Indians at a time when most Hollywood movies and television portrayed them as the bad guys. He reprised the role of Tonto for the two Lone Ranger movies, "The Lone Ranger" (1955) and "The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold" (1958). When the series ended in 1957, Silverheels found his fame as Tonto overshadowed everything else he did, and he continued to reprise the role in commercials, guest spots, and small bit parts. Later films include "True Grit" (1969), "Cat Ballou" (1965), "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing" (1973), and "One Little Indian" (1973). In later years, he became a spokesman for Indian rights and a respected teacher within the Indian acting community, appearing on talk shows and variety shows. In his late years, he became a harness racer, giving it up only as his health began to fail, in the mid-1970s. He died of a stroke in 1980 in Woodland Hills, California. His son, Jay Silverheels, Jr, has become a television actor in his father's footsteps. In 1993, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 27 Jan 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4407
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Jay Silverheels (26 May 1912–5 Mar 1980), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4407, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered, who reports a Ashes Spread On Homestead on Six Nations Indian Reserve.