Iron Eyes Cody
|Iron Eyes Cody|
Cody (left) in 1947, in Glendale, California.
|Born||Espera Oscar de Corti
April 3, 1904
Kaplan, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||January 4, 1999
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Other names||Tony Corti, Tony Cody, The Crying Indian|
|Spouse(s)||Bertha "Birdie" Parker
(m. 1936–1978; her death)
Iron Eyes Cody (born Espera Oscar de Corti April 3, 1904 – January 4, 1999) was an American actor. He portrayed Native Americans in Hollywood films. In 1996, his Italian ancestry was confirmed by his half-sister.
Cody was born Espera Oscar de Corti on April 3, 1904, in Kaplan in Vermilion Parish, in southwestern Louisiana, a second son of Antonio de Corti and his wife, Francesca Salpietra, immigrants from Sicily. He had two brothers, Joseph and Frank, and a sister, Victoria. His parents had a local grocery store in Gueydan, Louisiana, where he grew up. His father left the family and moved to Texas, where he took the name Tony Corti. His mother married Alton Abshire and had five more children with him.
When the three de Corti brothers were teenagers, they joined their father in Texas and shortened their last name to Corti. They moved on to California, where they were acting in movies, and changed their surname to Cody. Joseph William and Frank Henry Cody worked as extras, then moved on to other work. Frank was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1949. The boys' father, Tony Corti, died in Texas in 1924.
Cody began acting in the early 1930s. He worked in film and television until his death. Like many other Native impersonators, Cody claimed Cherokee-Cree ancestry, also naming several other tribes and frequently changed his place of birth. He appeared to live as if he were of indigenous Native American descent, on and off the screen, and was said to have supported Native American causes.
He appeared in more than 200 films, including The Big Trail (1930), with John Wayne; The Scarlet Letter (1934), with Colleen Moore; Sitting Bull (1954), as Crazy Horse; The Light in the Forest (1958) as Cuyloga; The Great Sioux Massacre (1965), with Joseph Cotten; Nevada Smith (1966), with Steve McQueen; A Man Called Horse (1970), with Richard Harris; and Ernest Goes to Camp (1987), as Chief St. Cloud.
In 1953, he appeared twice as Chief Big Cloud in Duncan Renaldo's syndicated television series, The Cisco Kid. He guest starred on the NBC western series, The Restless Gun, starring John Payne, and The Tall Man, with Barry Sullivan and Clu Gulager. In 1961, he played the title role in "The Burying of Sammy Hart" on the ABC western series, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams.
Cody was widely seen in his "crying chief" role in the "Keep America Beautiful" public service announcement (PSA) in the early 1970s. The environmental commercial showed Cody dressed as a Native American, shedding a tear after trash is thrown from the window of a car and it lands at his feet. The announcer, William Conrad, says: "People start pollution; people can stop it."
Marriage and family
In 1936, Cody married Bertha Parker. She was active in excavations during the late 1920s and early 1930s before becoming an Assistant in Archaeology at the Southwest Museum from 1931–1941. They adopted two children of Native American descent, said to be of Dakota-Maricopa origin. One son, Robert "Tree" Cody, was interviewed about his father in the 2009 documentary Reel Injun. Son Arthur Cody served in the United States Marine Corps as a Vietnam War veteran and died as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. Cody remained married until Bertha's death in 1978.
In 1992, Cody married Wendy Foote and they divorced the following year.
Cody died on January 4, 1999 at the age of ninety-four. He was survived by his adopted son, Robert "Tree" Cody, now known as a performer on the Native American flute. Robert is of Dakota-Maricopa ancestry.
|1927||Back to God's Country||Indian||Uncredited Role|
|1930||The Big Trail||Indian||Uncredited Role|
|1931||Fighting Caravans||Indian After Firewater||Uncredited Role|
|Oklahoma Jim||War Eagle|
|1947||The Senator Was Indiscreet||Indian|
|1949||Massacre River||Chief Yellowstone|
|1954||Sitting Bull||Crazy Horse|
|1958||Gun Fever||1st Indian Chief|
|1965||The Great Sioux Massacre||Crazy Horse|
|1966||Nevada Smith||Taka-Ta||Uncredited Role|
|1970||El Condor||Santana, Apache Chief|
|Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County||Crazy Foot|
|A Man Called Horse||Medicine Man|
|1987||Ernest Goes to Camp||Old Indian 'Chief St. Cloud'|
|1953||The Cisco Kid||Chief Big Cloud / Chief Sky Eagle||Two separate roles, Indian Uprising (1953) as Chief Sky Eagle and
The Gramophone (1953) as Chief Big Cloud
|1955||Cavalcade of America||n/a||Episode, The Hostage (1955)|
|1959||Mackenzie's Raiders||n/a||Episode, Death Patrol (1959)|
|1961||The Rebel||Sammy Hart||The Death of Sammy Hart (1961) Season 2, Episode 25|
|1967||The Fastest Guitar Alive||1st Indian|
|1969||Then Came Bronson||Chief John Carbona||Episode, Old Tigers Never Die—They Just Run Away (1969)|
|1986||The A-Team||Chief Watashi||Episode, Mission of Peace (1986)|
- Aleiss, Angela (May 26, 1996). "Native Son: After a Career as Hollywood's Noble Indian Hero, Iron Eyes Cody is Found to Have an Unexpected Heritage". The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
- 1970s PSA
- Chris J. Walker, "Larry Klein Is Doing It All", Mixonline.com, June 1, 2002
- "Was Iron Eyes Cody an American Indian?"
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
- In 1996, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Cody as having Sicilian heritage, but he denied it. He lived his adult life claiming he was American Indian; his half-sister and other relatives in Louisiana stated he was of Italian ancestry. Cody supported American Indian-related causes most of his life.