Dolores Del Rio, Star of Ramona

QUESTION: Dolores Del Rio, star of film in the United States and Mexico, was conpared to what famous actress for the beauty and photogenic nature of her face?
A)  Greta Garbo
B)  Theda Bara
C)  Katherine Hepburn
D)  Hedy Lamarr

As the American Treasure Tour continues our examination into the story behind the book, film, and personalities from Ramona, we take a look at Dolores Del Rio, the star of the 1928 interpretation of the classic tragedy about a woman who was condemned by society because of her ethnicity and because she fell in love with a Native American man. Notably, the Mexican actress was discovered by a Native American director.  Edwin Carewe introduced her to silent film audiences with a small but memorable role in his 1926 film High Steppers.  Born in 1904 with the heady name Maria de los Dolores Asunsoolo Lopez-Negrete into a prominent family that lost everything during the Mexican Revolution, they retreated to Mexico City, where the future Del Rio received a monastic education at a religious school run by French nuns until she married a wealthy aristocrat.  She was still with him when Carewe discovered her and convinced her to move to Hollywood, changing her name to Del Rio.

Del Rio's career took off. Ramona in 1928 was close to the beginning of a career that put her in the ranks of the A-list Hollywood performers. She transitioned well out of silent and into talking films. Sadly, her marriage did not last, as her husband struggled with her great celebrity. Carewe, positively obsessed with Del Rio, behaved in a way modern Americans would likely describe as stalking. Law suits ensued, until Del Rio completely broke away from him. By the early '40s, Del Rio's career in Hollywood started to suffer, so she moved back to Mexico. A well-made decision, she had a new lease on life there, and continued well into her sixties, long after most female actors tend to get pushed aside for younger starlets. When Del Rio passed away in 1983, she had a long legacy of film, television and theater behind her. 

ANSWER:  A)  Great Garbo.  A plaque hanging from her birthhome in Durango City, Mexico describes Del Rio as having a "perfect face," similar to Garbo.

Edwin Carewe, Director of Ramona

QUESTION:  Edwin Carewe was born Jay John Fox and changed his name to Edwin Carewe for professional reasons.  Carewe came from one of the characters he performed as a New York actor. After whom did he name himself Edwin?
A)  Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, second man to walk on the moon
B)  Edwin Booth, brother of Abraham Lincoln's assassin
C)  Edwin Cox, an important oilman from Texas
D)  Edwin Hubble, a famous astronomer

Last week, the American Treasure Tour blog discussed a book called Ramona about a mixed-breed Mexican-Native American woman with blue eyes. Racism and blind hatred steered the direction of her life, especially when she fell in love with a full-blooded Native American man and affectively alienated herself from her adopted Southern California family. The man who directed the 1928 interpretation of the film was Edwin Carewe, born Jay John Fox in Gainesville, Texas in 1883.  One could argue that no better man could have taken charge of this film, since Fox/Carewe's father was the product of a mixed marriage - his father having been Caucasian and his mother Chickasaw. Fox/Carewe's mother was full-blooded Chickasaw.  It is notable that Fox/Carewe was able to succeed in an industry heavily dominated by whites at a time when racism against Native Americans was still excessive. In fact, it was not until 1924 before Native Americans as a people were given citizenship in the United States!

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Fox/Carewe directed well over fifty films during the silent era, and starred in almost as many. He also earned credit as a director and writer, becoming one of the most prolific Native Americans ever employed in the art of film. He did not make a successful transition to taling films, so his name is all but forgotten today, but he deserves a call out for his achievements, including the critically acclaimed Ramona.  He passed away in 1940 at the age of fifty-six.

ANSWER:  B)  Edwin Booth.  The brother of John Wilkes Booth was a famous actor whose career extended after the tragic events of 1865,


QUESTION:  What famous director filmed the first interpretation of the Helen Hunt Jackson novel Ramona in 1910?
A)  Stephen Spielberg
B)  D.W. Griffith
C)  Cecil B. DeMille
D)  Alfred Hitchcock

The walls of the Music Room here at the American Treasure Tour are covered in record albums, celebrity photographs, and movie posters. We do what we can at blog headquarters to explore everything on the walls, but our challenge is that we also have many other things we want to talk about.  It's how we suffer. Today, we return to the classic silent films advertised in posters, headshots and one sheets. We are pleased to highlight the film Ramona.  No, we're not talking about the Ramona released in 1910 starring Mary Pickford, or Adda Gleason's 1916 interpretation.  Nor are we talking about the 1936 release with Loretta Young in the title role. Today, we honor Dolores Del Rio's Ramona, released in 1928. Sometimes keeping track is a challenge.  We realize that.  We don't want to get you too excited, what with today being a Friday and everything, but we are going to delve into this one over the course of a few days. Today, we will talk about the novel that inspired the movie. Next week, we will be throwing caution to the wind and delving into other facets of this fascinating tale, so stick around. Or come back after your weekend. That's probably better, realistically.

Our Ramona is a silent film released during the somewhat slow transition to talking pictures in the late-20's. Edwin Carewe directed Dolores Del Rio and Warner Baxter in the film adaptation of the novel originally published by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1884. The story is about a mixed-race orphan girl (Ramona) whose suffering during life stemmed from bigotry and hatred based solely on her heritage as being half Native American, and half Scottish. Set in post-Mexican Southern California, Ramona lives with the sister of her deceased foster mother, a loyal Mexican who hates the government that took over with Mexico's defeat. When Ramona falls in love with Alessandro, son of the chief of a local Indian tribe, her foster family forbid their marriage.  So Ramona elopes with Alessandro and the couple run off to start a life together elsewhere. Hardship and persecution follow the couple, until - and we won't tell you how it ends.

Jackson hoped that Ramona would reveal the humanity of the generally-persecuted Native and Latin Americans, similar to how Uncle Tom's Cabin exposed the suffering of African Americans thirty years before. Sadly, contemporaries generally remained unaffected and perpetuated negative stereotypes of the people of both races, arguing that Ramona must have been an exception to what they "knew."  A tragic inclination of racists is to perceive their smallmindedness as truth. But Ramona did serve to increase interest in Southern California as a destination, improving late-19th century tourism to the region. Come back Monday to learn more about the 1928 film and the people involved in its creation!

ANSWER:  C)  Cecil B. DeMille.  Honestly, everyone knows Spielberg spells his first name with a "v" and not a "ph," too, so A) could not possibly have been the correct answer.