Victor Daniels as Chief Whitecloud in Renegade Girl (1946)
April 12, 1899
Muskogee, Indian Territory, U.S.
December 1, 1955 (aged 56)|
Ventura, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
Victor Daniels (April 12, 1899 – December 1, 1955), known professionally as Chief Thundercloud, was an American character actor in Westerns. He is noted for being the first actor to play the role of Tonto, the Lone Ranger's Native-American companion, on the screen.
Family and education
Information available about Daniels is limited and vague. His application for a Social Security number lists his birth date as April 12, 1899, and his birthplace as Arizona. At various times he falsely claimed to be Cherokee and Creek.
His Lone Ranger press biography claimed he was derived from the "Muskogee aristocracy"[sic] - but the concept of European "royalty" and "aristocrats" is foreign to Native American cultures. He was actually the first of nine children born to Jesus and Tomaca Daniels (as indicated on his Social Security application). The pressbook for The Lone Ranger Rides Again announced his parents as "Dark Cloud and Morning Star, aristocrats of the Muskogee tribe"[sic] while his death certificate lists his father as Joseph Mahawa.
Raised on a ranch in Arizona, he claimed to have attended the University of Arizona at Tucson, where he "excelled scholastically and in athletics (football, boxing);" however no record exists of his enrollment or attendance at the school.
Work as a character actor
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. (January 2018)
Daniels worked many jobs before becoming a stuntman, as a cowboy on cattle ranches, as a miner, a rodeo performer, and tour guide, before he went to Hollywood to try his luck in acting. From there he graduated to character actor status. His title "Chief" was a Hollywood invention - a stage name. He had the title role in Geronimo (1939) and played Tonto in both Republic Lone Ranger serials, The Lone Ranger (1938) and The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939).
Throughout the 1940s Daniels continued to work as a character actor, maintaining the Chief Thundercloud persona. In most of the films in which he was featured, he played an antagonist opposing the white protagonist. For example, in the film "Young Buffalo Bill" (1940) he played Akuna, a renegade Native American Chief who commits murder while working as a hired hand. In the film Renegade Girl (1946), he played the main villain, Chief Whitecloud, a vengeful antagonist with a vendetta against the protagonist's family.
Although featured in a number of films, Daniels was uncredited in some films, such as Gun Smoke (1935), a film about a ranch defending itself from a flood of sheep. He also appeared in the first two parts of the serial Custer's Last Stand (1936), again uncredited.
Daniels had a short appearance on early television, on The Gene Autry Show (1950). One of his last appearances was on March 1, 1955, as the Apache Geronimo in the premiere episode of the syndicated television series Buffalo Bill, Jr., starring Dick Jones in the fictional title role of a young Texas frontier marshal.
Legal problems and later years
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Daniels was fined $200 and sentenced to four years of probation in 1951 after he pleaded guilty to violating the Corporate Security Act. He was told to make restitution of $5625 to his victims after he had sold them shares in films without a permit. During his final years, he worked with other western actors, performing in live shows at the Corriganville Movie Ranch, now the Corriganville Regional Park, near Simi Valley, California.
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Victor Daniels died at age 56 following surgery for stomach cancer, in Ventura County, California, on November 30, 1955. He was survived by his wife, Frances Delmar, a former singer, and their two children, White Eagle and Lone Star. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Los Angeles. His last film role was in the John Wayne film "The Searchers" (1956), which was released after his death.
The Lone Ranger and legacy
After working for some time as a stuntman and in bit parts, it was Daniels' portrayal of the character Tonto in the serial The Lone Ranger (1938) that was to be his legacy. This is perhaps where he gained the most recognition as a character actor." The same year he had a small villain-like role in the first part of Flaming Frontiers, a 15-part cliffhanger about murder and double cross. The following year Thundercloud reprised his role as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick in The Lone Ranger Rides Again.
- Custer's Last Stand (1936)
- Renfrew of the Royal Mounted (1937)
- Riders of the Whistling Skull (1937)
- Wild West Days (1937)
- The Lone Ranger (1938)
- The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939)
- Geronimo (1939)
- Young Buffalo Bill (1940)
- Hi-Yo Silver (1940)
- Buffalo Bill (1944)
- Renegade Girl (1946)
- Call of the Forest (1949)
- Davy Crockett, Indian Scout (1950)
- The Traveling Saleswoman (1950)
- Buffalo Bill in Tomahawk Territory (1952)
- The Searchers (1956)
- The Lone Ranger Rides Again pressbook, via B-Westerns; retrieved 11 August 2007.
- Profile, b-westerns.com; accessed August 11, 2007.
- Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), p. 114