Sunday, 24 July 2011

Chief Dan George

Clint Eastwood and Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josey Wales

Even if you visit here only occasionally, you'll know that I'm into the Old West, the Southwest and the celluloid west.

One of my favourite westerns is the revisionist The Outlaw Josey Wales, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. The movie is based on the book by Forrest Carter, who (perhaps) coincidentally wrote another of my favourite stories, The Education Of Little Tree. Carter was an enigmatic, and possibly deeply flawed character, and that deserves a separate post - but he could write.

Eastwood's co-stars in Josey Wales were Sondra Locke, and the subject of this post - the wonderful Chief Dan George. As so often in his fairly short acting career (he didn't get his first acting job till he was sixty), he stole the show - and many of the best lines, including this:

'I didn't surrender neither. But they took my horse and made him surrender.'

He was indeed a chief - of the Tsleil-Waututh nation in North Vancouver, British Columbia - and as well as being an Academy Award-nominated actor he was a gifted author and poet. When another Canadian, Donald Sutherland, opened the 2010 Winter Olympics, he quoted from one of Chief Dan George's poems:

'The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
And my heart soars.'

Chief Dan George, or Geswanouth Slahoot, was born on this day in 1899.
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