Jay Silverheels (born Harold Jay Smith, May 26, 1912 – March 5, 1980) was an Indigenous Canadian actor and athlete. He was well known for his role as Tonto, the Native American companion of the Lone Ranger in the American Western television series The Lone Ranger.
Jay Silverheels was born on Canada's Six Nation's Reserve and was one of 10 children. 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 through the 1940s before gaining notice as the Osceola brother in a Humphrey Bogart film Key Largo (1948).
- March 5, 1980
- May 26, 1912
- Early life and career
- Later career
- Notable residents
- Acting career
- Later life
Jay Silverheels was born on Canada's Six Nation's Reserve and was one of 10 children. 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 through the 1940s before gaining notice as the Osceola brother in a Humphrey Bogart film Key Largo (1948). Most of Silverheels' roles consisted of bit parts as an Indian character. In 1949, he worked in the movie The Cowboy and the Indians (1949) with another \\"B movie\\" actor Clayton Moore. Later that year, Silverheels was hired to play the faithful Indian companion, Tonto, in the TV series The Lone Ranger (1949) series, which brought him the fame that his motion picture career never did.
Silverheels recreated 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 TV series ended in 1957, Silverheels could not escape the typecasting of Tonto. He would continue to appear in an occasional film and television show but became a spokesperson to improve the portrayal of Indians in the media.
Familiar Canadian Indian actor who shot to fame as Tonto, the faithful Indian companion of the masked man on the US television series The Lone Ranger (1949). A member of the Mohawk tribe of Canada's Six Nations Reserve, Silverheels excelled at wrestling, horse racing, football, boxing, and hockey, and became a renowned lacrosse player.
With the help of actor Joe E. Brown,Silverheels obtained work as a stuntman and extra in Hollywood films. Following military service in World War II, Silverheels returned to film and landed small, often stereotypical roles as Indian warriors in Westerns. John Huston cast him as one of the fugitive Osceola brothers in Key Largo (1948), and Silverheels followed with the two roles that would define his career, Tonto and the Apache leader Geronimo, whom he would play several times beginning with the Western classic Broken Arrow (1950). Silverheels' enormous fame as Tonto overshadowed everything else, although it did not prevent him from playing other prominent roles. Even after completing The Lone Ranger (1949)series, Silverheels continued to reprise Tonto for commercials, comic guest spots, and spoofs.
Silverheels became an outspoken activist for Indian rights and a respected teacher within the Indian acting community. He appeared on talk and variety shows performing his own poetry. In later years, he began a second career as a harness racer. His health failed in the 1970s, and he died of a stroke in 1980, a beloved figure to the Baby Boom generation America. His son, Jay Silverheels Jr. has acted in television as well.
He died of a stroke in 1980 in Woodland Hills, California. His son, Jay Silverheels, Jr, has become a television actor in his father's footsteps. In 1993, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Actor. He is best remembered for his role of 'Tonto', the faithful Indian ...
- 26 May 1912, Ontario, Canada
- 5 Mar 1980 (aged 67), Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
- Cremated, Ashes scattered, Specifically: Ashes Spread On Homestead on Six Nations Indian Reserve
- Harold J. Smith
Jay Silverheels was born under the name Harold John Smith in 1912 on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, located in Ontario, Canada. His father was a First Nations chief of the Mohawk...
Jul 21, 2019 · Jay Silverheels was a Mohawk athlete turned actor, best known as a Tonto for the role he played in the 1950s hit western TV series ' The Lone Ranger '. He was born on May 26, 1912, in Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada.
Jay Silverheels was an American-Canadian actor and athlete. He is best remembered for his character ‘Tonto’ in the TV series ‘The Lone Ranger.’ Since Silverheels was born into a family of indigenous Americans, he excelled in the portrayal of ‘Tonto’ who was also a Native American. Silverheels led a life of poverty in his childhood.
Mar 06, 1980 · Jay Silverheels, 62, who costarred in the long-running "Lone Ranger" television series as the faithful Indian Tonto, died Wednesday at the Motion Picture and Television Country House. A spokesman...
May 12, 2020 · Jay Silverheels is pure Mohwak / Canadian belonging to the Six Nations who is best known for playing the role of Tonto in The Lone Ranger TV Series. He started as an athlete playing lacrosse before making it in Hollywood. Jay Silverheels was the very first Native Canadian / American to play an Indian American in a major role.
- Jay Silverheels
- Harold Jay Smith
- 26 May 1912
- Harold Jay Smith