To Be Released June 1, 2011. The biography of a traditionally raised Inupiat Eskimo who became the first and only Native American to attain international movie star status, and also pioneered the film industry as a cinematographer.
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The blazing marquee of the plush Astor Theater in New York City billed the 1933 premier of Eskimo as "THE BIGGEST PICTURE EVER MADE," propelling a 27-year-old Inupiat Eskimo from Candle, Alaska, to overnight stardom. The handsome actor was not only the first Alaskan to become a Hollywood movie star but also the first non-white actor to play a leading role.
This is the story of Ray Wise Mala, the talented and enterprising son of an itinerant Russian trader and an Eskimo mother. Mala became part of the white man's world but most of his life struggled to find a place in it, discriminated against because of his mixed race and his father's Jewish faith.
At age l6 Mala got his break in Alaska in 1921 when hired to help film Primitive Love in which he was given the leading role. Mala appeared in more than 25 films over the next three decades, playing Hawaiians, South Sea Islanders, American Indians, and other "exotics."
Mala was a generous, sophisticated, self-made man from humble origins who straddled the gap between two cultures, never forgetting the debt he owed his own. ESKIMO STAR includes many historic photos and colorful movie posters.
Finally, well before spring, Hilda ordered Ray gone. Herbert protested that his stepson was only fourteen and the winter was still severe, but Ray Wise went to get his snowshoes. Without family support, he knew he would not survive where he was, or even in the Eskimo culture of his aging grandmother where close ties with relatives insured success. Embarrassed, Herbert slipped the boy $15, and Ray set out alone for Nome, the largest settlement in the Far North and its major port which lay more than 100 miles away over rugged mountain country and down a frozen, rocky coast. He had sailed there once during his earlier travels and knew the ice of that Bering Sea road-stead would break well before it went out in Kotzebue Sound. He was a good cook, a pretty good sailor, and he knew something about engines, too. His plan was to hit the beach early, so maybe someone would hire him.