Rock Hudson, Winchester ‘73 (1950): For longer than anyone would think tasteful, Native American characters in Hollywood—be they portrayed as noble savages or just plain savages—were played by whitey. Not many were passably “injun,” but few were less “injun” than Rock Hudson who popped up as a stern but decent leader in this Jimmy Stewart-as-a-dick Western from Anthony Mann.
Victor Mature, Chief Crazy Horse (1955): The Custer-Crazy Horse story is usually told from the hubristic side of the former, but here the filmmakers at least had the good sense to cast matinee idol Victor Mature, he of noticeably Swedish descent.
Audrey Hepburn, The Unforgiven (1960): In John Huston’s film, a thriving frontier family discovers their daughter, played by Hepburn, was originally stolen from a Kiowan tribe. I mean, who could tell?
Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles (1974): During Religulous Bill Maher finds someone who mentions that Mormons believe that Native Americans are a lost, cursed tribe of Judaism. Cut to Mel Brooks as a Yiddish-speaking injun chief in his Western parody.
Johnny Depp, The Brave (1997): Depp forbade U.S. distribution of his sole directorial effort, about a modern-day Native American who agrees to be killed to support his family. Depp decided to play the lead himself—just the start of the film’s problems.
Mickey Rourke, Killshot (2008): Rourke gives the most credible performance in this long-shelved Elmore Leonard take, and yet he’s apparently playing a Native American by way of Schenectady. Diane Lane’s character talks of not being able “to get that Indian’s face out of my mind.” Does she mean Mickey Rourke ?
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