Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mona Darkfeather

In the annals of non-Indian actors portraying native American Indians in early silent films, Mona Darkfeather (born Josephine Workman) was among the most successful. She appeared in 110 films between 1910 and 1917, nearly always as an "Indian Maiden" figure. The studios she worked with -- Bison, Selig Polyscope, Nestor, Kalem, Universal -- were a who's who of early silent film, and her name and face were advertised with no irony whatsoever as though she were unquestionably authentic, following the claim -- perhaps her own -- that she was a full-blooded Seminole. White men were often called upon to throw themselves on her mercy, lest some fearsome "chief" demand their death -- or, alternately, she would form a romantic attachment with a trader and run off with her beau. She had her own, impressive stationery, and succeeded consistently until the late 'teens, when -- for whatever reason -- the demand for her kind of role dried up. She did a few stage plays, divorced (and later remarried) her husband-manager Frank Montgomery, and lived to the ripe old age of 95. Her grave in Culver City is said to be unmarked.

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