Monday, March 16, 2015

Woody Strode and Michael Pate: Western Stalwarts

There are many "Faces" in movies we recognize immediately. We just don't know the name that goes with it. The following are two mini-biographies of two of my favorites whose performances were critical to some major films and both at one time, or another played Native American's.

My favorite memory of Woody Strode comes from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 remake of his own 1923 motion picture “The Ten Commandments”. Woody enters the reception area of Sir Cedric Hardwick's Pharaoh with regal stature as the King of Ethiopia. His royal costume and stance left an impression on nine year old Lloyd. Woody Strode just had a presence about him in that scene that sticks in a young boys mind and would appear again in other of his works. It might also have helped that he stood six feet four inches tall and seemed to tower over everyone else.

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Woodrow Wilson Woolwine “Woody” Strode was born July 25, 1914 in Los Angeles. Wikipedia describes Woody Strode was “African American” a term that didn't came into being until during the Reagan Era when “Politically Correctness” was the vogue. Prior to that he might have been described as Black, Negro and during the Civil War Period as with the part of Braxton Rutledge he played “Colored”. I bring this all up, because in a sense they are incorrect descriptions of the man’s race.
Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode should be considered “Black-Native American” in our “Politically Correct” World. His father was a member of the Creek and Blackfoot tribes. His mother was of the Cherokee tribe. I could not determine if they just became members of those tribes, or where the children of Indian and Black parents. Either way that still made Woody part Native American and therefore not truly just “Afro-American” as many believe him to be.
I could not locate anything specific about Strode’s life before Jefferson High School in East Los Angeles. After graduation he enrolled in UCLA one of the few schools at that time that permitted a mix racial student body. Woody became a member of “Alpha Phi Alpha” the first Black inter-collegiate Greek-lettered fraternity. It was founded back on December 6, 1906 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Over the years beside Woodrow Strode the fraternity would include Norman Manley a future Jamaican Prime Minister, Martin Luther King, Jr,, Jesse Owens, Justice Thurgood Marshall, United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and singer Lionel Richie.

When we look at Woody’s outstanding athletic performance at UCLA. A letter to the New York Times published on June 30, 1996, after his death, makes an interesting point along with confirming Strode’s racial make-up:

To the Sports Editor:
Dave Anderson writes about athletes with good and bad timing in the decathlon ("Decathlon's 11th Factor: Good Timing," The Times, June 23). Less known was the expected duel for the gold medal in the 1936 decathlon between two Californians, Woody Strode, the great black-American Indian, and the great white hope, Glen Morris.
Woody Strode never made it to the Olympic trials because he was required to take a shop course at U.C.L.A. So Glen Morris won the gold medal and the Sullivan Award for 1936 as America's top amateur athlete over Jesse Owens. Woody Strode deserves some historical footnote for his lost opportunity.
While at UCLA Strode was highly praised in the decathlon. He consistently threw a 50 foot, or longer shot put. The World Record was 57 feet. His high jump had reached 6 feet 4 inches when the World’s Record was 6 feet 10 inches. So that required Shop Course cost him a lot and probable Olympic Gold and standing beside Jessie Owens in front of Adolph Hitler during the Berlin Olympics.

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Also of note is that Adolph Hitler commissioned a series of paintings of athletics to exhibit at the Berlin Olympics from renowned painter Hubert Stowitts. One of those Stowitts did was of a nude Woody Strode. Strode’s picture and others of Jewish athletics chosen by Stowitts were not what Hitler pictured his exhibit to be about and he closed it opening day.

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The four men who made up the 1939 Bruins backfield were for the time surprising and would stir controversy when UCLA played in certain states and even California cities that year. The backfield consisted of Black Athletes Ray Bartlett, Kenny Washington, Jackie Robinson and Woody Strode. In 1940 these four students were part of the team that stopped their conference past champions and past national champion USC in a Zero to Zero tie in the first UCLA-USC rivalry football game that ever had national implications.
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Of the four Kenny Washington and Strode would become the first Black American’s to play in the modern National Football League (NFL) for the Los Angeles Rams the year I was born, 1946. Jackie Robinson would of course go on to break the color barrier in baseball playing for the Dodgers. Bartlett would play football in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He would fight in World War 2, return to his hometown of Pasadena, California and eventually retire from the Police Department there and become the Grand Marshall of the 1998 Rose Parade.
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Woody Strode would also play for the Calgary Stampeders of the Western Interprovincial Football League in Canada starting in 1947 and ending in 1949 due to an injury that ended his football career.
Three things happen back in 1941. One had Strode beginning an on and off again wrestling career that would continue for 21 years into 1962. During the period between August 12, 1952 and December 10, 1952 he wrestled almost weekly. Woody was billed as both the Pacific Coast Heavyweight Wrestling Champion and the Pacific Coast Negro Heavyweight Wrestling Champion of 1962. One of the venues that Strode wrestled at was the “Ocean Park Arena” in Ocean Park, California owned by my family.
The second thing that happened in 1941 was Woody’s first motion picture appearance. The film entitled “Sundown” was directed by Henry Hathaway. Strode played a Tribal policeman. The film is described as: “Englishmen fighting Nazi’s in Africa discover an exotic mystery women living among the natives and enlist her aid in overcoming the Germans”. The film starred Gene Tierney, Bruce Cabot and George Sanders. A full list of the cast has Woody Strode shown number 31 out of 34 actors and he received no screen credit..

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The third and to Woody the most important event in 1941 was his marriage to Luukialuana (Luana) Kalaeloa a full blooded Hawaiian girl who was also a Princess and distant relative of Liliuokalani the last Queen of the Hawaiian Islands. They would be married until her death 39 years later in 1980 and have one son Kalai born in 1946. From a biography about Kalai I found this information about the Strode family that brings the reader to 1950:
Kalai Strode was born in Hollywood, California in 1946, the first of the "baby boomers" generation. His father, Woody Strode, was playing for the Los Angeles Rams football team with Kenny Washington as the quarterback. His mother, Luukialuana Kealohapauole Kaluhiokalani, was a hula dancer for the Harry Owens band. They lived in a two story house called "Tortilla Flats" with Polynesian entertainers who worked in the movies as actors and extras, or played and danced at the various clubs in Hollywood such as the "Seven Seas." The family moved to a little farm in Montebello, an eastern suburb of Los Angeles, in 1948. His father was then playing for the Calgary Stampeders in Canada and won the Grey Cup that year. They had a chicken and rabbit farm. His father's football injury caused him to leave the game and begin wrestling. In 1950 the family moved to East Los Angeles, before the Long Beach and Pomona freeways were constructed, when it was still a nice Mexican suburb community.
Small rolls followed usually playing black laborers, or African natives. Billed as Woodrow Strode he appeared as Walu in the highly successful “Bomba the Jungle Boy” film series in the 1951 feature “The Lion Hunters”. Playing “Bomba” was Johnny Sheffield typed cast, because he had played “Boy” in the Johnny Weissmuller “Tarzan” movie series of the late 1930’s and 1940’s.
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In the 1951 motion picture “Bride of the Gorilla” starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Barbara Payton and Raymond Burr. Woody played a policeman named Nedo in that “cult film”. Strode followed that movie with an unusual role in an excellent film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Androcles and the Lion” released on October 30, 1952 by RKO. In a cast that included Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Alan Young, Robert Newton, Maurice Evans and Elsa Lanchester. Woody Strode played “The Lion” in a lion skin in this film about a man who pulls a thorn from the paw of a fierce lion and then meets it once more in a Roman arena. When he is supposed to be put to death because of his Christian beliefs. You may want to laugh about the role, but if you ever see the movie there is more to what Woody does with that lion skin costume that you think.Image result for images of movie androcles and the lion
Woody Strode would next have a small role as a Gladiator in the big budgeted/star studded sequel to “The Robe” in 1954’s “Demetrius and the Gladiators”. The same year found Strode playing the role of “One of Native Escorts to Biplane” in 1954’s “Jungle Man-Eaters” a series of films featuring the radio and comic strip character “Jungle Jim” starring Johnny Weissmuller. A similar series of quickie films usually around 60 minutes in competition with the “Bomba” series. Woody would eventually also appear in Weissmuller’s “Jungle Jim” television series. Roles for a six foot four inch Black-Native American actor were all small and stereo typical, but brought in money to supplement Woody’s on again, off again wrestling. Along with the sale of rabbits from the family farm.
Five more similar roles including DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” and in 1958 Woodrow Strode met Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan of the Apes” and the start of some substantial movie roles. The movie was “”Tarzan’s Fight for Life” and he played Ramo, a native warrior who is helping a witch doctor stop a hospital from being built, opposite Gordon Scott’s “Tarzan”. He would appear in 1963’s “Tarzana’s Three Challenges” opposite Jock Mahoney as Tarzan. Woody would also play the dual roles of the dying leader of an unnamed Asian country and his twin evil brother Khan. Strode would additionally appear in different roles on the television series “Tarzan” starring Ron Ely that ran from 1966 into 1968.

This a link to the trailer for "Tarzan's Fight Life" and Woody Strode is seen at the beginning and at other points in it.

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The year 1959 saw the film that made Woody Strode truly a recognized actor. “Pork Chop Hill” may have starred Gregory Peck, but it was the character of Private Franklen played by Strode that everyone centered upon in reviews. His part was a study of the pressure of war on the infantry soldier along with just a touch of the racial prejudice of being black in the military system. His performance was intense to say the least.
Franklen is part of the racially segregated 24th Infantry Regiment that in reality during the Korean U.N. Police Action was poorly trained, poorly equipped and very poorly led  by white Southern Officers. During the real move on Pork Chop and never mentioned in the film was a second fully equipped unit in reserve right behind the 24th. The stated reason for the reserve unit which did not go into action was that the army expected the 24th to break and run as this had already happened more than once. The screenplay by James R. Webb based upon the book by Military Historian Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall shows that under the right leadership, in this case Peck’s Lieutenant Joe Clemons, Franklen becomes an outstanding solider. The Brigadier in his book put the blame for the 24th’s failures right on the Military leadership of the time and Woody Strode brought the character of Franklen to life in an unforgettable performance.

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The 1960’s was a great decade for Woody Strode, before his Golden Globe Award nominated performance in “Spartacus” he had two other excellent portrayals. The first in a very good, but mostly forgotten, disaster at sea film “The Last Voyage” starring Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. The movie tells the story of an aged ocean liner on her final voyage when an explosion in the boiler room causes the ship to begin to sink. The poster for the film read: “91 Minutes of the Most Intense Suspense in Motion Picture History”. I don’t know if it was at that time, but the film from the opening credits to the closing keeps you on your seat with excellent performances, a solid script and the fact they actually where sinking a real outdated ocean liner. The movie was shot mostly not on sound stages, but the real sinking vessel. Woody Strode played the only member of the crew that would assist Stack in rescuing his wife Malone who is trapped under wreckage in their flooding stateroom.

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Woodrow Strode’s next film was “Sergeant Rutledge”. What I am going to do now is discuss the four films he made for John Ford. Of note is that just before Ford died in 1973. Woody Strode spent four months living with him as his caregiver and slept on the floor of Ford’s bedroom at night to care for the dying director.
As for Rutledge I remember that all the previews and other ads for the film gave one the impression this was just another of John Ford’s Cavalry pictures, but without John Wayne. The film starred Jeffrey Hunter, Constance Towers from Ford’s “The Horse Soliders”, and Billie Burke, Glenda the Good Witch from “The Wizard of Oz”, and fourth billed Woody Strode. In foreign markets the movie was also known as "Captain Buffalo" for the Negro Buffalo Soldiers.
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The surprise came for 14 year old Lloyd when he went to see it. For its time the film tackled a strong subject the murder of the Commanding Officer and the rape and murder of his white daughter by a “Colored” Soldier in the late 1880’s. The story is told in “flashbacks” during the Court Marshall and Trial of First Sergeant Braxton Rutledge, 9th Cavalry. Woody Strode gave a strong performance and again his size and presence added to the part. In the end a White witness breaks down under Jeffrey Hunter’s questioning and admits committing the murder and rape and Rutledge is cleared of the charges. However, until this finally happens Ford dealt with the questions of race within the Army after the Civil War.

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One year later in 1961 John Ford made “Two Rode Together” starring James Stewart, Richard Widmark and Shirley Jones. The film once more tackles the race issue during the frontier period of the 1880’s, but in this case white women being taken captive and becoming the wives of Native Americans. At one point in the film Stewart and Widmark's characters meet with Quanah Parker over returning some of the captured white women to their real families. Quanah Parker was a famous Comanche Chief. His mother had also been a white captive Cynthia Ann Parker and his father was Peta Nocona a renowned chief known as Iron Jacket, because he wore a Spanish coat of mail.
Parker finds there are four white women in his band. Two do not want to go, but the other two start to leave with James Stewart. One played by Linda Cristal is the wife of Stone Calf, Woody Strode in his first role as a Native American a rival of Parker. He starts a fight with Stewart and is killed. It was a small, but in the context of the overall film an important role.
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Which moves us one more year later and 1962’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. Listed 13th in the cast Woody Strode plays “Pompey” described as the “Ranch Hand” of John Wayne’s Tom Doniphon. When you mention John Ford and Westerns his “Calvary Trilogy”, “Fort Apache”, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” and “Rio Grande” immediately come to mind. I believe “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” completed his “1880’s Race” trilogy starting with “Sergeant Rutledge” two years before, but in a subtle way in the character of Pompey.
There are no out and out racial words or scenes, but the viewer is given the impression that Strode’s Pompey might at one time have been a slave of Doniphon’s, or that Doniphon meet him originally under such conditions and freed him creating a strong bond between the two men. Take you pick, but that’s how I have always read these two characters even when I first saw the film when I was 15 in Junior High in 1962.

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Researching this article on Woodrow Strode, Actor, I have found references and quotes that confirm John Ford’s state of mind during the production. The following, from Wikipedia, contains one of those references and another can be found in a biography of Ford:
Quoting the Wikipedia article on “Liberty Valance”:
Another condition imposed by the studio, according to Lee Van Cleef, was that Wayne be cast as Doniphon. Ford resented the studio's intrusion, and retaliated by taunting Wayne relentlessly throughout the filming. "He didn't want Duke to think he was doing him any favors," Van Cleef said. Woody Strode recounted that Ford "kept needling Duke about his failure to make it as a football player", comparing him to Strode (a former NFL running back), whom he pronounced "a real football player". (Wayne's football career at USC had been curtailed by injuries.) Ford also ridiculed Wayne for failing to enlist during World War II, where Stewart served with distinction as a bomber pilot: "How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?" Wayne's avoidance of wartime service was a major source of guilt for him in later years.
Stewart related that midway through filming, Wayne asked him why he, Stewart, never seemed to be the target of Ford's venomous remarks. Other cast- and crew-members also noticed Stewart's apparent immunity from Ford's abuse. Then, toward the end of filming, Ford asked Stewart what he thought of Strode's costume for the film's beginning and end, when the actors were playing their parts 25 years older. Stewart replied, "It looks a bit Uncle Remussy to me." Ford responded, "What's wrong with Uncle Remus?" He called for the crew's attention and announced, "One of our players doesn't like Woody's costume. Now, I don't know if Mr. Stewart has a prejudice against Negroes, but I just wanted you all to know about it." Stewart said he "wanted to crawl into a mouse hole"; but Wayne told him, "Well, welcome to the club. I'm glad you made it."
Ford's behavior "...really pissed Wayne off," Strode said, "but he would never take it out on Ford," the man largely responsible for his rise to stardom. "He ended up taking it out on me." While filming an exterior shot on a horse-drawn cart, Wayne almost lost control of the horses, and knocked Strode away when he attempted to help. When the horses did stop, Wayne tried to pick a fight with the younger and fitter Strode; Ford called out, "Don't hit him, Woody, we need him." Wayne later told Strode, "We gotta work together. We both gotta be professionals." Strode blamed Ford for nearly all the friction on the set. "What a miserable film to make," he added.” Unquote.
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In 1966 Woody Strode appeared in his last John Ford film “7 Women” aka: “Seven Women” starring Anne Bancroft and Sue Lyon. The film is about a group of women missionaries in 1935 China who are confronted by a Chinese Bandit leader. In one of the scenes Strode appeared as the character “Lean Warrior” who may be a threat to the Bandit Leader Tunga Khan played by Mike Mazurki. In the scene Lean Warrior is supposed to wrestle another bandit, but Khan enters the ring himself and in the match breaks Strode’s characters neck ending any potential threat to his leadership. The film had mixed reviews including mentioning of white actors playing Chinese in heavy make-up, but if you want to enjoy an interesting film at the end of Ford’s career this is it.

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Returning to 1960 that year ended of course with “Spartacus” and Woody Strode's Golden Globe Award nomination as the Ethiopian gladiator Draba. An excellent performance opposite Kirk Douglas.

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Near the end of the 1960’s audiences saw Woody Strode in five interesting performances one of which was part of the biggest mistakes of the last few decades for Hollywood.
However, first Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode were “The Professionals” in the 1966 Richard Brooks film. Hired by Rancher J.W. Grant played by Ralph Bellamy to go into Mexico and rescue his wife played by Claudia Cardinale from Mexican Revolutionary leader turned bandit Jesus Raza played by Jack Palance. Great cast, great script, great film, great fun, great ending.

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In 1968 there was the Italian film “Sedulto alla sua destra aka: Black Jesus” that starred Woody Strode as fictional character Lalubi, but was based on the life of Patrice Lumumba. The film was supposed to compete at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, but the festival was cancelled due to the civil unrest, strikes, demonstrations and other anti-government actions that resulted in President de Gaulle secretly leaving the country until things calmed down.
A description of this film reads:
A Congo rebel leader is captured and imprisoned with two white felons in this feature deep with religious symbolism and condemnation of colonial exploitation. Maurice Lalubi (Woody Strode) is thrown in jail with a soldier and an Italian thief. The trio endures torture at the hands of their captors, while a newly formed military regime decides the fate of the insurgent. His imminent demise could turn him into a martyr and spell trouble for the new government dictator in this sometimes violent film.
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Once again we find Woody Strode playing a Native American, the Apache Chief’s son Chato, in a Western based upon Louis L’Amour’s “Shalako”, This Western filmed in Spain tells the story of a group of Europeans played by Brigitte Bardot, Jack Hawkins, Peter van Eyck and Honor Blackman out for adventure in the American Wild West. However, their guide played by Stephen Boyd takes them into Apache territory which by treaty no whites may enter. The group gets into trouble with Chato and it’s up to ex-cavalry scout Shalako played by Sean Connery to save them. I still enjoy this film, but then I’m a fan of both L’Amour and Westerns.

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An extremely small cameo role came next, but what a cameo role. It consisted of six foot, four inch Woody Strode, a Cowboy Hat and dripping water in an Italian tribute to the American Western and John Ford by director Sergio Leone. The classic film was “C’era una volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West)”. Woody was “Stony” one of four gunslingers sent to kill “Harmonica”, Charles Bronson. Strode and the other three actors playing the gunfighters didn't last long after the opening credits.

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The film that followed was that big mistake by Hollywood “Che”. Woody Strode was cast in fifth billing as Guillermo in the 1969 film starring Omar Sharif and Jack Palance described by film critic Roger Ebbert this way:
From the beginning, it sounded like a bad dream. Hollywood was making a movie about Che Guevara. Why? Probably because somebody smelled easy money, having been inspired by the sales figures on Che posters. That must have been the reason, because Che! is abundant evidence that no one connected with this stinkeroo gave a damn about Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, the Cuban Revolution or anything else requiring more than five seconds' thought,
Also during the 1960’s Strode would appear on different television series ranging from “Batman” as “The Grand Mogul” in “Marsha, Queen of Diamonds” to stereo typed casting in the third season of Fess Parker’s television series “Daniel Boone”. Where he played a slave/wrestler with the name Goliath. Another show was "Rawhide" with Clint Eastwood:

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During the 1970’s Woody Strode appeared in 17 movies with a variety of titles and topics. An Italian historical drama called “Scipione detto anche l’Africano (Scipio the African)”. Set during the Second Punic War Strode played the First King of Numidia. The film starred Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman and Silvana Mangano.
At one point he narrated a film “Black Rodeo” a documentary about the first African-American rodeo in Harlem, New York. Following that with “Winterhawk” about an Indian Chief whose tribe is ill from small pox. When a friendly trapper suggests he ask the white men in a nearby village for help. Instead the whites attack and in retaliation Winterhawk kidnaps two young people and over the journey falls in love with the girl. Woody was one of those pursuing the Indian Chief. Then there was another Italian Western “Noi Non Siamo Angeli (We Are No Angles)” that starred Bud Spencer and Terence Hill and you get the picture of the 70’s.
Sadly in 1980 Woody Strode’s wife Luana passed away. Two years later Woody would marry Tina Thompson who would survive him.
On February 23, 1980, or was it July 4, 1980 depending on whose review you’re reading. Found Woody Strode joining other actors just looking for a paycheck in a film from Troma entitled “Cuba Crossing” aka: “Assignment: Kill Castro” aka: “Kill Castro” aka: “The Mercenaries” aka: “Sweet Violent Tony”. One review of the film reads:
Assignment: Kill Castro was originally released as Cuba Crossing. Stuart Whitman stars as a mercenary hired to "off" the Cuban dictator. He soon discovers that he will be immediately expendable once the deed is done, and that co-stars like Robert Vaughn should not automatically be trusted. Raymond St. Jacques, Woody Strode and Caren Kaye are among the good actors who appear fitfully in the film; the bulk of the story, however, is carried by such inexpensive unknowns as Mary Lou Gassen. Don't miss jewelry-bedecked pop star Monty Rock III as a "cruiser"--and we don't mean the Evinrude variety.
Two more 1980’s films followed and then something called “Horror Safari” in 1982. Woody is teamed with Stuart Whitman in a film that has an alternate title of “Invaders of the Lost Gold”. Also in the cast was Harold Sakata better remembered as “Odd Job” in “Goldfinger”.
A group of Japanese WWII soldiers transporting a gold shipment are captured and fight against a savage cannibal tribe. Years later, an expedition heads back into the jungle to locate the lost gold.
Not to say the 80’s were all bad films. Woody had a major role in the Francis Ford Coppola produced “The Black Stallion Returns” as Meslar an Arab horse breeder and trainer.
Then it was back to a string of Italian movies, such as one with Franco Nero called “Keoma”, aka: “Django Rides Again” aka: “The Violent Breed”, and one other weird foreign film appearance in “Euer Weg fuhrt durch die Holle (Your Path Leads Through Hell) aka: “Jungle Warriors” aka: “The Czar of Brazil”. The movie was shot in Mexico by the old West Germany. The film had mainly American and Mexican Actors and besides Woody Strode were out of work actors John Vernon, Alex Cord, Sybil Danning, Marjoe Gortner replacing Dennis Hopper and Dana Elcar (McGyver’s boss). Although the movie was filmed in English it was released in a German dub long before it made it back to the States.
Woody Strode’s next two movies were on a higher level. On December 14, 1984 he appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola directed “The Cotton Club” starring Richard Gere and Gregory Hines. He played a character called “Holmes” in this look at the 1930’s Harlem Club. Next was an adult rip off of Spaghetti Westerns starring Divine, Tab Hunter and Lainie Kazan “Lust in the Dust”. Woody’s character is called “Blackman, Hard Case Gang”.
Of Woody Strode’s final five films only two need be mentioned. He played the character “Storyteller” in Mario Van Peebles ensemble western “Posse” about a group of Buffalo Soldiers betrayed by a corrupt colonel over a cache of gold. The tale is told by an old man, Strode’s the storyteller, in flashbacks.

Woody’s final film was Sam Raimi’s Western “The Quick and the Dead” released on February 10, 1995.

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Sadly he would not see this film in release as on December 31, 1994 Woodrow Wilson Woolwine “Woody” Strode had passed away.

One last item you now know the source of the name for this Pixar character:

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During the 1950’s and into the mid 1960’s he was known for playing strong Native American Indian roles. Overlooked was one small detail he was Australian.

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This is a short sketch of Edward John Pate born February 26, 1920 in Drummoyne, New South Wales, Australia a suburb of Sydney. His dream was to become a medical missionary, but due to the Depression he was unable to afford the fees for schooling. As a result Pate shifted career goals and started working as both a writer and broadcaster for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on radio in 1938 as “Michael” Pate. His earliest known film role was in 1941’s “40,000 Horsemen” An Australian film about the last cavalry charge in modern times. Which took place during the “Battle of Beersheba” in 1917 as part of the Sinai Campaign by the Australian Light Horse. In the film Michael appeared in three different roles without any screen credit, An Arab Carpet Seller, an Arab Customer and a Sikh Policeman.

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World War Two would intervene with Michael Pate’s fledgling film career as it did for many others. Initially Michael served in the Australian Army in the South West Pacific Area, but his broadcasting experience and that one film background resulted in a transfer to the “1st Australian Army Amenities Entertainment Unit” known as “The Islanders” to entertain Australian troops in various combat areas.
Eventually Michael Pate would marry Actress Felippa Rock, who also appeared without screen credit in Pate’s 1951 film starring Claudette Colbert and Ann Blyth “Thunder on the Hill”. The motion picture was based upon “Bonadventure” a story that Pate had produced and adapted in 1950 for the stage. Felippa was also in the Betty Davis film “The Virigin Queen” and the Cult Classic “Bride of the Gorilla” along with Woody Strode.
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Felippa Rock Pate was the daughter of American film producer Joe Rock. Rock produced many comedies during the silent era including 12 by Stan Laurel before he teamed with Oliver Hardy. Joe Rock received an Oscar for a documentary on Krakatoa in 1933. Michael and Felippa Pate would have a son Christopher who would also follow his parents and become an actor.

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Christopher with his father on the set for "McLintock".
Examples of Michael Pate’s varied work include 1951’s “The Strange Door” a horror thriller based upon a Robert Lewis Stevenson story that starred Boris Karloff and Charles Laughton, 1952’s “The Black Castle” with Karloff once more, Richard Greene and Lon Chaney, Jr. and 1953’s  3-D film“The Maze” starring Richard Carlson in which Michael Pate played the butler who alone knew all the family secrets that brought Carlson to Scotland from America,1954’s. Pate would also appear in “King Richard and the Crusaders” starring Rex Harrison, George Sanders and a young Laurence Harvey and the same year in a weird combination of acting styles in the biblical film “The Silver Chalice” starring Paul Newman and Jack Palance, He had a chance to ham up those type of roles in Danny Kaye’s hysterical attack on the rash of movies about English Medieval Knights “The Court Jester” with Basil Rathbone and Glynis Johns. Michael Pate would be associated with Hollywood Westerns in films such as 1955’s “A Lawless Street” starring Randolph Scott, 1957’s “The Oklahoman” starring Joel McCrea and the John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara Western/Comedy, loosely based upon William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew, 1963’s “McLintock!”.
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Two of Michael Pate's most famous Indian roles came 12 years apart. The first was in John Wayne’s 1953 3-D  “Hondo” were he played Vittorio leader of the Apache tribe who adopts the white boy Johnny. Of note is that the film was loosely based upon a L’Amour’s short story “The Gift of Cochise”. The novel “Hondo” would be written after the movie had come out based upon the script L’Amour and James Edward Grant wrote for Wayne.
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Pate’s second memorable Indian role was the exact opposite of the noble Vittorio as the homesteader and Calvary killing Apache renegade chief Sierra Charriba in Sam Peckinpah’s classic “Major Dundee” starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris. Pate’s opening lines are delivered in a strong voice that grabs your attention and sets Dundee's quest for redemption..

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During 1956 Michael Pate appeared on the television series “Broken Arrow” starring John Lupton as Indian Agent Tom Jeffords and Michael Ansara as Apache Chief Cochise. The series was based upon the 1950 movie of the same name starring James Stewart as Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise. Pate appeared in three episodes as “Gokliya” which was another Indian name for Geronimo.

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A variation of the Native American Indian roles Michael Pate would become associated with occurred earlier in 1954 in “Secret of the Incas.” A treasure hunt movie starring Robert Young, Charlton Heston and Thomas Mitchell looking for a sacred Incan relic made of solid gold. In this film Australian Michael Pate plays a modern day Inca Indian complete with proper make up and accent. I have attached photo's of two articles about this movie and its influence on the Steven Spielberg/George Lucas film "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and from that perspective alone its worth looking at.

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1953 was a busy year for Pate and besides “Hondo” and “The Maze.” Pate would appear in a small role in the Tony Curtis/Janet Lee film “Houdini” produced by George Pal. Along with a little bit of Shakespeare in “Julius Caesar” an acclaimed film produced by John Houseman and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s. The movie starred Marlon Brando as Marc Anthony and James Mason as Brutus. Should you enjoy Shakespeare don’t be turned away by the seemingly odd casting of Brando. This film which also features Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and Edmond O’Brien is rated a solid four stars and is one of the best film treatments.
Two years later Pate would be in an episode of a television show the recreates famous events “You Are There”. The title of the 1955 program was “The Assassination of Julius Caesar (March 15, 44 B.C.)” and he played Brutus.
If I asked you what was the title of the first screen appearance of Ian Fleming’s character James Bond. I am sure you would respond with 1962’s “Dr. No.” A follow up question of who played Bond should get the reply of Sean Connery. It might take a little time to think of pre-“Hawaii Five-O” actor Jack Lord as Felix Leiter of the CIA.
Excellent answers, but all wrong.
In the beginning of television in the early 1950's most of the programs were live performances. As with live stage productions anything could go wrong and it probably did. In the case of the following there is the shadow of a boom mike in a very critical scene that comes to mind. On a weekly CBS television anthology hosted by William Lundigan was called “Climax” and on October 21, 1954 8 year old Lloyd watched Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale”. Of course with slight alternations.

Playing James Bond, but referred to more often as “Jimmy” Bond. Who was with the American CIA and not MI-6 was Barry Nelson. While playing “Clarence” not Felix Leiter of the British Secret Service not the American CIA was Michael Pate. Oh, and playing the first real Bond villain was not Joseph Wiseman as “Dr. No”, but Peter Lorrie as Le Chiffre. The actual running time for this first James Bond appearance was 48 minutes and if you’re interested it is available on DVD. A little trivia for your next Bond discussion.

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Another interesting part for Pate was in Randolph Scott’s 1956 film “The 7th Cavalry” were he got to play the flip side of his Indian roles. In this routine, but interesting story of the aftermath of Custer’s Last Stand. Michael Pate played Captain Benteen one of the officers under Custer who survived with most of his troop The Little Big Horn.
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My favorite Michael Pate film has to be 1959’s underrated “Curse of the Dead”. Into an unnamed southern California town circa 1880 rides a typical Western movie "baddie" gunfighter all dressed in black played by Pate. There is only one difference here. Drake Robey was in actuality Drago Robles is the son of the original Mexican owner of the land the town is built upon. Oh, and he is a vampire. His opponent is a Minister played by pre-“Rawhide television series star Eric Fleming.
What makes “Curse of the Undead” work is the casting of Pate and Fleming who play very well off of each other and the fact that unlike those behind making the film. The two actors took their roles seriously. The story line reflected true European Vampire Lore. Rather than the changes made by Universal Studios, who released it, in their 1930’s and 40’s horror film and the mythology rewritten by the House of Hammer.

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I mentioned those behind this excellent off beat vampire film weren't taking it seriously. Here is a quote from Wikipedia on that subject:
Curse of the Undead started as a gag idea by husband-and-wife team Edward and Mildred Dein called Eat Me Gently, described by Edward as "a Western horror story about a fag vampire running around the desert eating little boys". Universal-International producer Joseph Gershenson heard about the idea from his wife and quickly phoned Edward Dein: "Hey, smartass. The good stuff you don't give us. I want to make this picture." According to an early studio announcement the film was intended as a satire of the vampire theme set in the Old West, but the final version is fairly serious. Shooting was finished in only 18 days.


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One of the television series that Michael Pate appeared in was Walt Disney’s “Zorro” starring Guy Williams. Pate was Mexican villain Salvador Quintana who worked for Jose Sebastian Varga known as “The Eagle”. Varga wanted to take over all of California setting himself up as King. An interesting point is that the three episodes with Pate and three others apparently were cut into a movie never shown in the United States entitled “Zorro, the Avenger”. This re-edit was apparently made for Japanese audiences and released in Japan on September 10, 1959. This re-edit should not to be confused with “The Sign of Zorro”. The movie released in the United States on June 11, 1960 made from eight different “Zorro” episodes. I found a film entitled “Zorro the Avenger” on Amazon and E-Bay, but it is not the Walt Disney film, but one from 1962 made in Spain.

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Other television appearances for Michael Pate would be on  “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, a two part episode on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, “Mission Impossible”, “The Time Tunnel” “The Rat Patrol” where he played not an Australian soldier but an Arab Shiek and three appearances as different villains on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”.
So it would seem Michael Pate’s television appearances gave the character actor a chance for diversion, but not quite. For starters he appeared in two episodes of “Wagon Train” one as Native American Crazy Bear and the other as Yellow Robe. Clint Walker’s show “Cheyenne” saw him as Chato and Strongbow. On “Gunsmoke” Pate would play Wild Hog, Blue Horse and Buffalo Calf. While in a three part episode of 1966’s “Branded” he played Chief Crazy Horse and on Fess Parker’s “Daniel Boone” he was Pushta and Raccuwan”.
Of course it was inevitable that in all seventeen episodes of the 1967 short lived television series based upon the John Wayne film “Hondo”. Michael Pate would be cast as the Apache Chief, but his name was Vittoro and not Vittorio as in the movie. While I’m on his Indian roles. There was the 1965 motion picture “The Great Sioux Massacre” that saw Australian Pate play Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.

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Michael Pate’s nationality was not completely lost for him in American movies and television. In 1963 he would play the real life Lt. Reginald Evans the Australian Coast Watcher who rescued Lieutenant, Junior Grade John F. Kennedy and his crew in the movie “PT 109”.

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Michael Pate died on September 1, 2008 having played more Indian roles than any one Native American Actor. His career had spanned 300 television appearances and 50 movies. However, unlike many other character actors there are two performances that stand out and remembered by fans of either the Duke, or Vampire movies.

Whenever John Wayne’s “Hondo” is shown Michael Pate’s performance as the noble Apache Chief Vittorio is a high point. When Vampire movies are discussed. Those in the know bring up a little film called “Curse of the Undead” and its unusual sitting as it picks up more cult fans.

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