Native American actors in Hollywood have made an impact on the film culture of the United States since the early 20th century. The involvement of Native American actors in Hollywood ranges from the vaudevillian acts of Will Rogers in the 1920s and '30s to the Old West epics, including "Dances With Wolves" and "Last of the Mohicans." Some of these actors are household names and have offered Academy Award-nominated performances.
Will Rogers was one of the most popular comedian actors in the Golden Age of Hollywood; he was part Cherokee. Rogers was born in modern-day Oklahoma in the late 1870s. Before becoming an actor, Will Rogers was a cowboy. He often performed in Wild West rodeo shows. This early Hollywood-era actor gained notoriety for his vaudevillian performances with lasso tricks and stand-up comedy. Some of Rogers most well-known films were in the 1930s, including "Judge Priest" and "Doctor Bull."
Born in Lansing, Mich., Burt Reynolds has acted in more than 50 motion pictures since his career began in the mid-1950s. Reynolds' Native American ancestry traces back to his father's family; this paternal grandfather was full-blooded Cherokee. Some of Burt Reynolds' most notable movies were in the 1970s. They include "Smokey and the Bandit," "Deliverance," "The Longest Yard" and "The Cannonball Run." Reynolds also starred in movies in which he played a Native American, such as "100 Rifles" and "Navajo Joe."
Canadian-born actor Graham Greene was born in 1952 in Ontario, Canada at Six Nations Reserve. He is a full-blooded Oneida Native American. Greene was One of Greene's most notable films, "Dances with Wolves," allowed the Native American actor to play the role Kicking Bird, a Sioux medicine man. Greene's performance in "Dances With Wolves" earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Other movies with Greene include "The Green Mile," "Diehard With a Vengeance" and "Powwow Highway."
James Garner was born in Norman, Okla., in 1928. His mother was one-half Cherokee Native American. Before embarking on an acting career, Garner was a member of the U.S. Merchant Marines and a soldier in the Korean War. Garner's primary role in Hollywood has been starring in popular television shows. During the 1950s, Garner starred in the show "Maverick" as the title role, Brett Maverick. Other shows starring Garner include the "Rockford Files" and "8 Simple Rules."
Born in 1947, Wes Studi is a full-blooded Cherokee Native American actor from Oklahoma. Throughout his acting career, Studi has played the role of Native Americans in multiple films, including "Last of the Mohicans," "Dances With Wolves," "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" and "Geronimo: An American Legend" in which Studi played the title role, Geronimo. In spite of his successful movie career, Studi never moved to California. T the Native American actor currently lives in Santa Fe, N.M.
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