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Reply #29: Well at least they had a Native American in the role of Tonto [View All]

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RamboLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:06 PM
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29. Well at least they had a Native American in the role of Tonto
Jay Silverheels played Tonto through the entire series with 2 different Lone Rangers. The most famous of course being Clayton Moore. But John Hart played the part for 2 seasons while there was either a pay dispute or the dummy in charge had fired Moore.

As to the name Tonto.

Isn't it true that Tonto means "fool" in Spanish?

This *is* true, but it was not that meaning that was intended by the producers of the show.

There are two versions of the story.

Fran Striker told the Saturday Evening Post that he invented Tonto's name and that it was picked by merely alterring the consanants in the name Bobo. (This was a caveman character Striker had created in another radio program.)

Jim Jewell says that Striker was remembering wrong. Tonto, he said, is another Potowatomie word.

There were a few Indians who would come to the camp to tell stories to the children.

One of the Indians apparently had a penchant for drinking after the children had gone to sleep. Sometimes he would get rowdy and the other Indians would call him "tonto." This meant "wild one."

Jewell remembered the word, liked it, and gave the name to the Lone Ranger's Indian companion.

Getting back to casting, as I said at least they cast a Native American. In Hollywood at the time Indian parts (as well as Oriental characters) were usually played by whites.

Jay Silverheels (May 26, 1912 March 5, 1980) was a Canadian Mohawk actor. He was best known as Tonto, the faithful Native American companion of The Lone Ranger in a long-running American television series.

Silverheels achieved his greatest fame as the Lone Ranger's friend Tonto. In addition to starring in the Lone Ranger television series from 1949 to 1957, Silverheels appeared in the films The Lone Ranger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958).

Following the end of the Lone Ranger television series, Silverheels found himself typecast as Tonto and had trouble finding further acting work. Silverheels was also hindered by a changing attitude, as some felt that the Tonto character was equivalent to a Native American Uncle Tom. Subsequently, Silverheels was forced to work as a salesman to supplement his acting income. He also began to concentrate on writing poetry influenced by his youth on the Six Nations Indian Reserve and appeared on television reciting his poetry. In 1966, he guest-starred as John Tallgrass in the short-lived ABC comedy/western series The Rounders, with Ron Hayes, Patrick Wayne, and Chill Wills.

Despite the typecasting, Silverheels often poked fun at his character in later years. In 1969, he appeared as Tonto in a comedy sketch on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, seeking new employment away from the Lone Ranger. The sketch was featured on the 1973 record album Here's Johnny: Magic Moments From The Tonight Show.

Among his later appearances were an episode of The Brady Bunch, as a Native chief who befriends the Bradys in the Grand Canyon, and an episode of the short-lived Dusty's Trail, starring Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island fame. During the "Brady Bunch" Grand Canyon episodes, the character Alice makes a tongue-in-cheek remark about meeting "Tonto" in the episode before the character meets Silverheels' character.

In the early 1960s, Silverheels helped to establish the Indian Actors Workshop in Echo Park, California as a place where Native American actors could develop their acting skills. The workshop is still active.

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  -Was the Lone Ranger a Racist? TWiley  Mar-18-09 05:41 PM   #0 
  - I can only imagine what kimosabe meant.  MrPerson   Mar-18-09 05:43 PM   #1 
  - LMAO ,,,,, I will have to look that one up  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:44 PM   #3 
  - qui no sabe - Spanish for "clueless."  wyldwolf   Mar-18-09 05:48 PM   #11 
  - I guess Kimosabe typically means "Faithful Friend" in some Native American Languages  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:47 PM   #8 
  - kemosabe - Que no sabe (he who knows nothing) n/t  Xipe Totec   Mar-18-09 05:49 PM   #15 
     - Now that is interesting.  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:55 PM   #24 
  - Gary Larson figured it out years ago...  3waygeek   Mar-18-09 06:00 PM   #27 
  - I caught that too when I took Spanish 101  sasquatch   Mar-18-09 05:44 PM   #2 
  - I think kemosabe means chickenshit n/t  Xipe Totec   Mar-18-09 05:44 PM   #4 
  - I thought it meant "my ride in Hollywood".  EFerrari   Mar-18-09 05:47 PM   #9 
  - Maybe kimosabe means.... one who ducks thrown guns on horseback  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:48 PM   #10 
  - I thought the name "Tonto" was made up to be like "Squanto"  Dogmudgeon   Mar-18-09 05:45 PM   #5 
  - Tonto does mean stupid. n/t  EFerrari   Mar-18-09 05:46 PM   #7 
  - I think you are probably right -  tbyg52   Mar-18-09 05:51 PM   #17 
  - Of couse he was. And he fit in perfectly with what the rest of pop culture at the time.  EFerrari   Mar-18-09 05:46 PM   #6 
  - I like Fred Astaire ...  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:50 PM   #16 
  - Wasn't the whole character a dumb, racist stereotype?  HiFructosePronSyrup   Mar-18-09 05:49 PM   #12 
  - I think it was .... but I thought it was normal at the time.  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:52 PM   #19 
  - Yeah, well, so was racism.  HiFructosePronSyrup   Mar-18-09 05:52 PM   #20 
     - Yes, that is the insideous power of racism  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:57 PM   #25 
  - He was definitely  customerserviceguy   Mar-18-09 06:15 PM   #34 
  - In spanish (they dub tv programs in other countries)  lunatica   Mar-18-09 05:49 PM   #13 
  - Was Amos and Andy racist?  Stinky The Clown   Mar-18-09 05:49 PM   #14 
  - Why Amos and Andy?  TWiley   Mar-18-09 05:51 PM   #18 
     - Pop culture contemporaries  Stinky The Clown   Mar-18-09 06:13 PM   #32 
  - Um, the Lone Ranger was a fictitious character  tularetom   Mar-18-09 05:52 PM   #21 
  - I thought it was supposed to mean "scout"  nxylas   Mar-18-09 05:53 PM   #22 
  - and one day Tonto said  onethatcares   Mar-18-09 05:53 PM   #23 
  - The Straight Dope  Dogmudgeon   Mar-18-09 05:59 PM   #26 
  - That was interesing reading .... thanks.  TWiley   Mar-18-09 06:07 PM   #30 
  - On the radio, the Lone Ranger and Tonto both rode on Silver. Together.  TahitiNut   Mar-18-09 06:03 PM   #28 
  - LOL!!!! I'd love to see a remake with the horse-sharing. nt  valerief   Mar-18-09 06:13 PM   #33 
     - I'm an 'expert' on them ... listened religiously on my little radio as a kid in the 40s.  TahitiNut   Mar-18-09 06:24 PM   #35 
        - I was a kid in the 50s and remember the teevee show. I didn't like that much  valerief   Mar-18-09 06:56 PM   #38 
  - Well at least they had a Native American in the role of Tonto  RamboLiberal   Mar-18-09 06:06 PM   #29 
  - It seems like a pretty covert way to be a racist  petronius   Mar-18-09 06:11 PM   #31 
  - I think sometimes DU'ers see a conspiracy in everything  RamboLiberal   Mar-18-09 06:24 PM   #36 
  - You didn't know that? Heh.  BlooInBloo   Mar-18-09 06:27 PM   #37 

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