Jay Silverheels as:
Tonto, the Lone Ranger's faithful indian companion was portrayed by the late Jay Silverheels. Silverheels was the first Indian to star in a TV series and served to symbolize the red race and to become a permanent part of American Indian history.
He was born Harry J. Smith, on the Six Nations of the Grand River Indian Reserve in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, on May 26, 1912. His father George Alexander Smith was a Mohawk Chief. As a young man he won two wrestling titles, finished second in the Eastern finals of the Golden Gloves boxing championship, and became a very successful member of Canada's National Lacrosse Team. It was with this team that Mr Silverheels came to the U.S. in 1933. While in Hollywood performing with the team he was noticed by actor/comedian Joe E. Brown, who felt he could make a career of acting. Taking Mr. Brown's advise Jay left the team and settled into Hollywood. He supported himself as a busboy,waiter and a stuntman until the bits parts started in 1938. Mostly as an 'Indian'.
In 1948 he was given noticable acclaim for his first credible speaking part as John Oscelo in KEY LARGO with Humprey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
In 1949, Jay would work in a movie called
'The Cowboy and the Indians' with another 'B' actor named Clayton Moore. It was later that same year that Jay would be hired to play the faithful Indian companion, Tonto, in the first made for television series "The Lone Ranger". On September 15, 1949, the program took to the TV screen. Jay Silverheels played Tonto for 169 episodes until the series ended in 1957 .
Then together with Clayton Moore, he made two big screen color movies: "The Lone Ranger" in 1955; and "The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold" in 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 later become a spokesman to improve the portrayal of Indians on TV.
Mr Silverheels left us on March 5, 1980, at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital
in Calabassas, Ca. He was just 60 years young, but in that short time he left us with a legacy of pride, integrity, decency, and respect.
The origin and meaning of the words "kemo sabe"
The first use of the words apparently occurred in an episode in which Tonto is helping a severely wounded Texas Ranger recover from injuries inflicted by The Cavendish Gang. Tonto and the Ranger recognize each other as childhood friends, when they called each other "kemo sabe" faithful friend
JAY SILVERHEELS / TONTO ON E-BAY
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