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Mala, Hollywood's first Native American star, is in the spotlight again

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
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Lael Morgan was in Sitka recently to discuss Ray Wise Mala, the first Native American film star in Hollywood, and the subject of her 2011 book “Eskimo Star”, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reports.

Mala was the first Alaskan and Native American film star in Hollywood, and was referred to as the “Eskimo Clark Gable” due to a variety of major roles in big Hollywood films. Mala’s biggest role was the lead in the 1934 film “Eskimo.”

Morgan has been gathering notes on Mala’s life since 1980. She “kept seeing photos about an extraordinarily handsome Eskimo prominently displayed in a number of home,” she writes in the prologue of her book. That man turned out to be Mala.

Since she began her research, she has also been fielding questions from Mala’s children on when she would write a book about him.

Although initially concerned that readers would not be interested in the life of “a totally decent guy,” Morgan came to realize that Mala’s life “did make for good reading,” she told the Daily Sitka Sentinel.

Now the book has come to fruition, using her notes gathered over 30 years. Many of the sources she interviewed have since passed away. The 143-page book, published by Epicenter Press in 2011, includes photographs and movie posters of Mala; Morgan is proud of the book and hopes young Native Alaskans will be attracted to the book.

Mala’s fans are also working on getting the actor’s own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.