World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Jay Silverheels


Jay Silverheels

Jay Silverheels at Meadows racetrack Pennsylvania in the 1970s
Jay Silverheels at Meadows racetrack Pennsylvania in the 1970s

Jay Silverheels (born Harold John Smith, May 26, 1912 – March 5, 1980)[1] was a First Nations actor. He was well known for his role as Tonto, the faithful American Indian companion of the character The Lone Ranger[2][3] in a long-running American western television series.[4]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Films 2.1
    • Television 2.2
  • Personal life 3
  • Death 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Selected filmography 6
  • Television 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Silverheels was born Harold John Smith on the

  • The Rise and Fall of Jay Silverheels @WFMU
  • Jay Silverheels tribute site
  • Jay Silverheels at the Internet Movie Database
  • Biographical Information
  • Screen Legends
  • Jay Silverheels at Find a Grave
  • Western Stars Quick Quiz on Jay Silverheels
  • article on Silverheels and Western Sidekicks
  • Jay Silverheels Biography;Tonto: The Man in Front of the Mask

External links

  • Lamparski, Richard (1970). Whatever Became Of...? 3. New York: Ace Book.  
  • Misiak, Zig (2013). Tonto: The Man in Front of the Mask (Biography). self published. p. 128.  


  1. ^ "Official website, Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Canadian First Nations League of Nations". Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  2. ^ [2] Archived September 7, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "His job in Hollywood was to help his partner, "The Lone Ranger" stop the devious plots of hardened outlaws." (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  4. ^ "Silverheels played the role during the entire period from 1949 to 1957, even when Clayton Moore was replaced one season by John Hart". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  5. ^ Klein, Jeff Z. (31 August 2013). "A Sidekick’s Little-Known Leading Role in Lacrosse". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "His father, Major George Smith, was the most decorated Native Canadian soldier in World War I.". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  7. ^ a b  
  8. ^ "Jay Silverheels Biography (c. 1918-1980)". Retrieved 2015-03-08. 
  9. ^ "In the 1930s he played lacrosse with the Rochester, NY "Iroquois" of the North American Amateur Lacrosse Association". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  10. ^ "He finished second in the Eastern Square finals of the Golden Gloves boxing championshipin Madison Square Garden.". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  11. ^ Klein, Jeff Z. (2013-08-31). "A Sidekick's Little-Known Leading Role in Lacrosse". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ "Silverheels, an accomplished boxer, wrestler and lacrosse player, capitalized on this athletic prowess to break into the movie business, starting as a stuntman and extra". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  13. ^ "He worked as a stuntman and extra before landing bit parts in the early 1940s, almost always credited as simply "Indian" or "Indian Brave".". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  14. ^ "he was in four serials at Republic when he was still going by Harry Smith, before he changed his name". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  15. ^ "Changing his name to Jay Smith Silverheels, a nickname from his uncle due to his running style". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  16. ^ "he became noted for the white running shoes he wore. He was so swift that his feet were streaks". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  17. ^ "Tonto via Toronto: The Rise and Fall of Jay Silverheels by Kliph Nesteroff - WFMU's Beware of the Blog". 2009-03-15. Retrieved 2015-03-08. 
  18. ^ The 16 minute film, I Am an American, was featured in American theaters as a short feature in connection with "I Am an American Day" (now called Knute Rockne, and Jay Silverheels. See: I Am An American at the TCM Movie Database and I Am an American at the Internet Movie Database.
  19. ^ 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. 103
  20. ^ ."The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Lone Ranger television series from 1949 to 1957, Silverheels appeared in the films The Lone Ranger"In addition to starring in . Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  21. ^ , January 6, 1960"Rescue 8"Leap of Life, .  
  22. ^ "with his career no longer sufficient to support his family, he began working as a salesman.". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  23. ^ "Silverheels as "Tonto" in Jimmy Carson's Late Night Show (film)". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  24. ^ "Silverheels was a spokesperson for Indian actors and in 1963 founded the Indian Actors Workshop.". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  25. ^ "He founded the Indian Actors' Workshop in 1966 with Will Sampson and offered free classes for Native Americans". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  26. ^ "He formed the Indian Actors Workshop in Echo Park in the late 1960s". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  27. ^ "He later founded the Indian Actors Workshop, which he devoted enormous amounts of time and resources to. It still exists today.". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  28. ^ "In the 70's he became a harness racing driver and bred horses.". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  29. ^ "married, wife's name: Mary; children: Marilyn, Pamela, Karen, Jay Anthony". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  30. ^ a b Cheryl Petten. "Jay Silverheels: TV star paves way for Indian actors". Archived from the original on 2015-03-08. Retrieved 2015-03-08. 
  31. ^ "Jay Silverheels suffered a stroke in 1974 and passed away on March 5, 1980 after several years of ill health". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 



See also

  • The Lone Ranger - 217 episodes - Tonto (1949-1957)
  • Wide Wide World - episode - The Western - Himself (1958)
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive - episode - Man on Horseback - Charley Red Cloud (1959)
  • Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color - episode - Texas John Slaughter: Apache Friendship & Texas John Slaughter: Geronimo's Revenge - Natchez (1960)
  • Gunslinger - episode - The Recruit - Hopi Indian (1961)
  • Wagon Train - episode - Path of the Serpent - The Serpent (1961)
  • Rawhide - episode - The Gentleman's Gentleman - Pawnee Joe (1961)
  • Laramie - episode - The Day of the Savage - Toma (1962)
  • Daniel Boone - episode - Mountain of the Dead - Chenrogan (1964)
  • Daniel Boone - episode - The Quietists - Latawa (1965)
  • Branded - episode - The Test - Wild Horse (1965)
  • Daniel Boone - episode - The Christmas Story - Sashona (1965)
  • Gentle Ben - episode - Invasion of Willie Sam Gopher - Willie Sam Gopher (1967)
  • The Virginian - episode - The Heritage - Den'Gwatzi (1968)
  • The Brady Bunch - episode - The Brady Braves - Chief Eagle Cloud (1971)
  • The Virginian - episode - The Animal - Spotted Hand (1971)
  • Cannon - episode - Valley of the Damned - Jimmy One Eye (1973)
  • CHiPs-episode-Poachers (1980)


Selected filmography

In 1997, Silverheels was inducted, under the name Harry "Tonto" Smith, into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in the Veteran Player category in recognition of his lacrosse career during the 1930s.

In 1993, Silverheels was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was named to the Western New York Entertainment Hall of Fame, and his portrait hangs in Buffalo, New York's Shea's Buffalo Theatre. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6538 Hollywood Boulevard. First Americans in the Arts honored Jay Silverheels with their Life Achievement Award.


Jay Silverheels died on March 5, 1980 from complications of a stroke at age sixty-seven in Calabasas, California.[31] He was cremated at Chapel of the Pines Crematory, and his ashes were returned to the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario.[30]

Silverheels suffered a stroke in 1976.[30] The following year Moore rode a paint horse in Silverheels' honour.


Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6538 Hollywood Blvd.

Married in 1945, Silverheels was the father of three girls and a boy.[29]

Silverheels raised, bred and raced Standardbred horses in his spare time. Once, when asked about possibly running Tonto's famous Paint horse Scout in a race, Jay laughed off the idea: "Heck, I can outrun Scout!"[28]

Personal life

In the early 1960s, Silverheels supported the Indian Actors Workshop,[24] where American Indian actors refined their skills[25] in Echo Park, California.[26] Today the workshop is firmly established.[27]

His later appearances included an episode of ABC's The Brady Bunch, as an Indian who befriends the Bradys in the Grand Canyon, and in an episode of the short-lived Dusty's Trail, starring Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island.

He appeared in three episodes of NBC's Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker as the real life frontiersman.

Silverheels hilariously spoofed his Tonto character in a famous Stan Freberg Jeno's Pizza Rolls TV commercial opposite Clayton Moore, and in The Phynx, opposite John Hart, both having played The Lone Ranger in the original television series.

Despite the typecasting, Silverheels in later years often poked fun at his character. In 1969, he appeared as Tonto without The Lone Ranger in a comedy sketch on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[23] The sketch was featured on the 1973 record album Here's Johnny: Magic Moments From The Tonight Show. "My name is Tonto. I hail from Toronto and I speak Esperanto." In 1970, he appeared in a commercial for Chevrolet as an Indian chief who rescues two lost hunters who ignored his advice in that year's Chevy Blazer. The William Tell Overture is heard in the background.

Eventually, he went to work as a salesman to supplement his acting income.[22] He also began to publish poetry inspired by his youth on the Six Nations Indian Reserve and recited his work on television. In 1966, he guest-starred as John Tallgrass in the short-lived ABC comedy/western series The Rounders, with Ron Hayes, Patrick Wayne, and Chill Wills.

When The Lone Ranger television series ended, Silverheels found himself firmly typecast as an American Indian. On January 6, 1960, he portrayed an Indian fireman trying to extinguish a forest fire in the episode "Leap of Life" in the syndicated series, Rescue 8, starring Jim Davis and Lang Jeffries.[21]

Silverheels achieved his greatest fame as Tonto on The Lone Ranger. The fictional story line maintains that a small group of Texas Rangers, except for The Lone Ranger, were massacred. The Lone Ranger and Tonto then ride throughout the West to assist those challenged by the lawless element. Their expenses and bullets are provided through a silver mine owned by The Lone Ranger, who also names his horse "Silver".[19] Being irreplaceable in his role, Silverheels appeared in film sequels: The Lone Ranger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958).[20]

 Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto.
Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. Moore is riding Silver, while Silverheels is riding Scout.


While playing in Los Angeles on a touring box lacrosse team in 1937, he impressed Joe E. Brown with his athleticism. Brown encouraged Silverheels to do a screen test, which led to his acting career.[11] Silverheels began working in motion pictures as an extra and stunt man[12][13] in 1937.[7] He was billed variously as Harold Smith and Harry Smith, and appeared in low-budget features, westerns, and serials.[14] He adopted his screen name from the nickname he had as a lacrosse player.[15][16][17] From the late 1940s, he played in major films, including Captain from Castile starring Tyrone Power, I Am an American (1944),[18] Key Largo with Humphrey Bogart (1948), Lust for Gold with Glenn Ford (1949), Broken Arrow (1950) with James Stewart, War Arrow (1953) with Maureen O'Hara, Jeff Chandler and Noah Beery, Jr., The Black Dakotas (1954) as Black Buffalo, Drums Across the River (1954), Walk the Proud Land (1956) with Audie Murphy and Anne Bancroft, Alias Jesse James (1959) with Bob Hope, and Indian Paint (1964) with Johnny Crawford. He made a brief appearance in True Grit (1969) as a condemned criminal about to be executed. He played a substantial role as John Crow in Santee (1973), starring Glenn Ford. One of his last roles was a wise white-haired chief in The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973).



[10] tournament.Golden Gloves, New York, and in 1938 placed second in the Middleweight class of the Buffalo He lived for a time in [9] in the North American Amateur Lacrosse Association.New York, Rochester with the "Iroquois" of Harry Smith before leaving home to travel around North America. In the 1930s, he played indoor lacrosse as lacrosse Silverheels excelled in athletics and [8][7]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from School eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.