Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies

Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies

Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies

Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies

Synopsis

"In this new study, author Angela Aleiss traces the history of Native Americans on the silver screen, and breaks new ground by drawing on primary sources such as studio correspondence, script treatments, trade newspapers, industry censorship files, and filmmakers' interviews to reveal how and why Hollywood created its Indian characters. Behind-the-scenes anecdotes of filmmakers and Native Americans, as well as rare archival photographs, supplement the discussion, which often shows a stark contrast between depiction and reality." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Redskin Raiders was one of the first films I bought as a schoolboy film collector. The title was irresistible. Indians attack a wagon train, the wagons form a circle, and soldiers and settlers wipe out the Sioux. The film only lasted two minutes, but all my friends wanted to see it, and I ran it to death. It turned out to be an extract from a 1936 picture called The Glory Trail. (In those days, studios duplicated short scenes from feature films and sold them to individual collectors.) When I acquired Westerns from a decade earlier, I saw where the makers had got their history from. They took it not so much from the record as from other films. We are now told that only one wagon train ever formed that classic circle under an Indian attack.

History was at the heart of these films, however, and similar events were within living memory. In the 1930s, you could still have met people who had crossed the continent in covered wagons who might have told you terrifying tales of Indian attacks.

And there were Native Americans who had risked their lives to defend their land, just as the Founding Fathers had fought, a century before, for theirs. The advance of the white race must have seemed as threatening to the Indians as that of the Panzers to Russian peasants in World War II. The settlers may have been less heavily armed, but behind them came the cavalry and the unstoppable march of progress, with the McCormick Reaper in the van!

In the early days of cinema, attitudes towards Indians were sharply divided between hostility and admiration. Theodore . . .

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