Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Born Today September 20: Dark Cloud


Silent First Nations (that is Native American here in the US) actor Chief Dark Cloud was born Elijah Tahamont in the St. Francis Indian Village, (which is located near the Abenaki stronghold of Odanak in Quebec, Canada) on this day.  His "Christian name" was inherited from his father.  He was a member of and chief of the Canadian Abenaki's, and one of the first Native actors to decry stereotypes of American Aboriginals in films.  Like many natives of his time that wished to "better" themselves, he attended the Native founded Dartmouth and eventually became a lecturer of some popularity.  He also became a model for the western artist Frederic Remington.  He went to work for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Co. in 1910 and made his first film appearance that same year reportedly in D. W. Griffith's The Broken Doll.  His first credited role also came that year The Song Of The Wildwood a film more or less about a native custom dance in which he is definitely the only Native actor, starring along side of Mary Pickford (the film also features the likes of Dell Henderson and Mack Sennett). In 1911 he had the chance to play a part that actually was based on Natives from the east when he played the father of Uncas in the second production that year of The Last Of The Mohicans  (1911/II), which was filmed at Lake George, New York.  When Griffith's company moved westward in 1912, Dark Cloud was one of the actors to follow him there. For the most part during his rather brief acting career he played strictly Native American parts, most often in full plains gear that never had any association with the Band of Abenaki that he came from back east. The exception to this was when he appeared in a film about "the other Indians" in 1914--The Mystery Of The Hindu Image (a copy of the film has been restored by the George Eastman House).  He had a bit part as a general in Griffith's shameful epic The Birth Of A Nation (1915), being one of only three cast member that were actually alive during the Civil War.  Though many fanciful rumors abounded concerning his untimely death at the age of 62 on October 17, including that he had accidentally drown; and, more dramatically, that he was killed by a jealous husband--he turned out to be just another tragic statistic of the so-called "Spanish Flu" of 1918.  Several films that he appeared in were released in the next two years after his death; the last of which was The Woman Untamed (1920) in which he plays a South Seas Islander "witch doctor."  He is proudly buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  Tahamont was married to Margaret Camp who appeared in some of his films billed as Dove Eye, though it is far from clear if she was actually of Native ancestry.  One of their daughters, Beulah, also became and actress of the stage and screen.  One of her daughters was at one point in her life married to Espera Oscar de Corti, better known as Iron Eyes Cody or "The Crying Indian"--though he was actually Italian/Sicilian.

IMDb (note that his birth year if wrongly given here)


Leave Virtual Flower @ Find A Grave

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