Chief Thundercloud

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Chief Thundercloud
File:Chief Thundercloud as Chief Whitecloud in Renegade Girl.png
Thundercloud as Chief Whitecloud in Renegade Girl (1946)
Born Victor Daniels
(1899-04-12)April 12, 1899
Muskogee, Indian Territory, U.S.
Died December 1, 1955(1955-12-01) (aged 56)
Ventura, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Occupation Actor
Years active 1935–1955
Spouse(s) Frances Delmar

Chief Thundercloud, (born Victor Daniels, April 12, 1899 – December 1, 1955) was an American character actor in Westerns. He is noted for being the first actor to play the role of Tonto, the Lone Ranger's Native-American companion, on the screen.

Early life and career

Information about Thundercloud is vague. His application for a Social Security number lists his birth date as April 12, 1899, and his birthplace as Arizona. Most biographies state that he was a full-blooded Cherokee (or Muskogee), but others state that he had some German, Scottish or Irish ancestry. Thundercloud was the first of nine children born to Jesus Daniels and Tomaca Daniels (as indicated on his Social Security application), though the pressbook for The Lone Ranger Rides Again announced his parents as "Dark Cloud and Morning Star, aristocrats of the Muskogee tribe"[1] and his death certificate lists his father as Joseph Mahawa.[2]

Raised on a ranch in Arizona, he was educated at the University of Arizona at Tucson, where he excelled scholastically and in athletics (football, boxing), although no record exists of his enrollment.[2]

As a character actor

Daniels worked many jobs before becoming a stuntman, as a cowboy on cattle ranches, as a miner, a rodeo performer, and tour guide, before he went to Hollywood to try his luck in acting. From there he graduated to character actor status. His title "Chief" was a Hollywood invention. He had the title role in Geronimo (1939) and played Tonto in both Republic Lone Ranger serials, The Lone Ranger (1938) and The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939).

Throughout the 1940s Chief Thundercloud continued to work as a character actor. In most of the films in which he was featured, he played an antagonist opposing the white protagonist. For example, in the 1940 film "Young Buffalo Bill" he played Akuna, a renegade Native American chief who commits murder while working as a hired hand. In 1946 he played the main villain in the western film Renegade Girl, playing Chief Whitecloud, a vengeful antagonist.

Although featured in a number of films, Chief Thundercloud went uncredited in some films, such as Gun Smoke (1935), a film about a ranch defending itself from a flood of sheep. He also appeared in the first two parts of the serial Custer's Last Stand (1936), again he went uncredited.

He had a short appearance on 1950s television, on The Gene Autry Show (1950), One of his last appearances was on March 1, 1955, as the Apache Geronimo in the premiere episode of the syndicated television series Buffalo Bill, Jr., starring Dick Jones in the fictional title role of a young Texas frontier marshal.[3]

Legal problems and later years

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, he was fined $200 and sentenced to fours years of probation in 1951 after he pleaded guilty to violating the Corporate Security Act. Daniels was told to make restitution of $5625 to his victims after he had sold them shares in films without a permit. During his final years, he worked with other western actors, performing in live shows at the Corriganville Movie Ranch, now the Corriganville Regional Park, near Simi Valley, California.

Death

Thundercloud died at age 56 following surgery for stomach cancer, in Ventura County, California, on November 30, 1955. He was survived by his wife, Frances Delmar, a former singer, and their two children. His last film role was in the John Wayne film "The Searchers" (1956), which was released after his death.

The Lone Ranger and legacy

After working for some time as a stuntman and in bit parts, it was Thundercloud's portrayal of the character Tonto in the 1938 serial The Lone Ranger that was to be his legacy. This is perhaps where Thundercloud gained the most recognition as a character actor."[2] The same year he had a small villain-like role in the first part of Flaming Frontiers, a 15-part cliffhanger about murder and double cross. The following year Thundercloud reprised his role as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick in The Lone Ranger Rides Again. In the years since the Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver first appeared, they have become a part of America's cultural tapestry.

Selected Filmography

References

  1. The Lone Ranger Rides Again pressbook, via B-Westerns, retrieved 11 August 2007
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 B-Westerns, retrieved 11 August 2007
  3. Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), p. 114

External links