Chief Yowlachie: To Horse Opera From Opera-Opera

Today a tribute to Chief Yowlachie (Daniel Simmons, 1891-1966). If you don’t know the name, surely you know that face! Yowlachie was a full blood Yakama native from Washington State. Delightfully, he started his show business career as an opera singer, and sang in west coast theatres for several years under his born name Daniel Simmons.

In 1923, he began to work in motion pictures under the name Chief Yowlachie. Of his 100 screen credits, all but one of them are Native American characters in westerns and comedies. (The one exception is the 1940 serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, in which he played the King of the Rock People). Some of his better known westerns include The Girl of the Golden West (1930), Red River (1948), Yellow Sky (1948), Tulsa (1949), Winchester ’73 (1950), and Nevada Smith (1966).

His impassive, stoic look made him a natural for “how! ugh!” sight gags (for better or worse) in comedies. They include Ella Cinders (1926) with Colleen Moore, Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942) with Abbott and Costello, Bowery Buckaroos (1947) with the Bowery Boys, The Dude Goes West (1948) with Eddie Albert, The Paleface (1948) with Bob Hope, several Ma and Kettle movies, both My Friend Irma movies, The Traveling Saleswoman (1950), Annie Get Your Gun (1950), and Hollywood or Bust with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin (1956). You can read about several of these movies in my post about comedy westerns here. 

For more on classic film comedy, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.