Friday, 24 August 2012 11:44
by The Independent Staff
This Week in Random: The Crying, um, Italian from Kaplan?
Special shout out to graphic designer Lindsay Dreher of Archpoint Consulting for today’s totally random and useless fun fact:
Who doesn’t remember “the crying Indian” from Keep America Beautiful’s 1971 iconic anti-pollution public service announcement? But did you know that the Indian featured in the commercial, the same Indian who led a full career as an Indian actor, was an Italian from Kaplan?
According to a Wikipedia article Dreher came across today, Iron Eyes Cody apparently wasn’t a “crying Indian.” He was a rich Italian who made a successful Hollywood career for himself by taking on an American Indian persona that he continued to claim even after his true background came to surface. This from a Snopes.com article that exposes Cody’s Italian and Louisiana roots:
Iron Eyes Cody was born Espera Decorti on 3 April 1904 in the small town of Kaplan, Louisiana. He was the son of Francesca Salpietra and Antonio DeCorti, she an immigrant from Sicily who had arrived in the USA in 1902, and he another immigrant who had arrived in America not long before her. Theirs was an arranged marriage, and the couple had four children ... In 1909, when Espera was five years old, Antonio DeCorti abandoned his wife and children and headed for Texas. Francesca married again, this time to a man named Alton Abshire, with whom she bore five more children.
As teenagers the three DeCorti boys joined their father in Texas. He had since altered his name from Antonio DeCorti to Tony Corti, and the boys apparently followed suit as far as their surname was concerned. In 1924, following their father’s death, the boys moved to Hollywood, changed “Corti” to “Cody,” and began working in the motion picture industry. It was about this time Iron Eyes began presenting himself to the world as an Indian. Iron Eyes’ two brothers, Joseph William and Frank Henry, found work as extras but soon drifted into other lines of work. Iron Eyes went on to achieve a full career as an actor, appearing in well over a hundred movies and dozens of television shows across the span of several decades.
Although Iron Eyes was not born an Indian, he lived his adult years as one. He pledged his life to Native American causes, married an Indian woman (Bertha Parker), adopted two Indian boys ... and seldom left home without his beaded moccasins, buckskin jacket and braided wig. His was not a short-lived masquerade nor one that was donned and doffed whenever expedient — he maintained his fiction throughout his life and steadfastly denied rumors that he was not an Indian, even after his half-sister surfaced to tell the story [to The Times-Picayune] in 1996 and to provide pointers to the whereabouts of his birth certificate and other family documents.
Cody died 5 January 1999 at the age of 94.
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