67 (passed away Mar. 5th, 1980)
May. 26th, 1912
Six Nations Reservation, Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Jay Silverheels' Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles1973 - The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing
1969 - True Grit
1959 - Alias Jesse James
1953 - Last of the Comanches
1950 - Broken Arrow
1948 - Yellow Sky
1948 - Key Largo
1946 - Canyon Passage
1944 - Passage to Marseille
1941 - Western Union
1940 - The Sea Hawk
Guest TV Roles
Charley Red Cloud
Jimmy One Eye
Chief Eagle Cloud
Chief Red Cloud
Jay Silverheels was born on a reservation in Canada to a Mohawk chief. He was a star lacrosse player and a boxer before he entered films as a stuntman in 1938. He worked in a number of films though the 1940s before he gained some notice as the Osceola brother in Humphrey Bogart's film Key Largo (1948). Most of his roles consisted of bit parts as "Indian." In 1949, he would work in a movie called The Cowboy and the Indians (1949) with another "B movie" actor named Clayton Moore (I). It was later that same year that Jay would he hired to play the faithful Indian companion, Tonto, in the television series "The Lone Ranger" (1949). This role, while still playing the "Indian," would bring Jay the fame that his motion picture career never did. As Tonto, on his horse Scout, Jay could show up where the Ranger could not and some of the time he would be shot at or beat up for his trouble. Jay would play Tonto in all the episodes except for those that he missed when he had his heart attack. In those episodes, he was replaced by the Ranger's nephew, Dan. However, Clayton Moore (I) would miss the third season when he was replaced by John Hart (I). Jay would reprise the role of Tonto in two big-screen color movies with Moore, The Lone Ranger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958). After the series ended in 1957, Jay could not escape the typecasting of Tonto. He would continue to appear in an occasional film and television show, but he would become a spokesman to improve the portrayal of Indians on TV.
- Father of 'Jay Silverheels Jr.' (qv)
- Of the near 200 joint ventures Silverheels made with 'Clayton Moore (I)' (qv), the actors co-starred in just 4 features where they did NOT play Tonto and The Lone Ranger: _Perils of Nyoka (1942)_ (qv), _The Cowboy and the Indians (1949)_ (qv), _Cyclone Fury (1951)_ (qv) and _The Black Dakotas (1954)_ (qv).
- Was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian, the son of a chief.
- U.S. government records give Silverheels' birthdate as 26 June 1912, though virtually all cinema reference works disagree, giving instead the 1919 date listed here.
- Was an avid horse-racer when not acting. When asked if he ever thought about running Silver or Scout (who portrayed the steeds of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, respectively) in a race, Silverheels laughed: "Heck, *I* can beat Scout."
- On _"The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962)_ (qv), Silverheels told 'Johnny Carson (I)' (qv) that he had married his Italian wife to "get back at Christopher Columbus". They called their children "Indalions".
- Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1993.
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