Eskimo Star, by Lael Morgan
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 an 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 in a leading role.
Eskimo Star (144 pages) 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 for 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 16, Mala got his break in Alaska in 1921 when hired to help film “Primitive Love” in which he was given a role. Mala appeared in more than 25 films over the next three decades, playing Hawaiians, South Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and other “exotics.”
“Lael Morgan brings to life the grit, pluck, and drive that enabled Ray Mala to become the most famous indigenous actor and cameraman in Hollywood. Despite poverty and racism, Mala succeeded in an unlikely profession far from home.”
–William L Iggiagruk Hensley, author of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow
Lael Morgan is an award-winning writer, historian, photographer, and journalist who has written numerous books about Alaska, including the popular Art and Eskimo Power. She was named Alaska’s historian of the year in 1998 for her work on Good Time Girls.
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