It was a culminating moment in American Indian as well as cinematic history when the Native American Ned Romero played toe role of the noble Chief Joseph in I Will Fight No More Forever, the 1975 TV movie inspired by the great Nes Perce Indian’s immortal speech. That the role featuring the most famous Indian oration in American history was awarded to a Native American actor signaled the long-delayed arrival of the American Indian as a first-class citizen in Hollywood as well as in American society in general. And no actor deserved the role more than the Chumacha Indian Ned Romero, whose countless appearances in Indian roles on the big and little screen over a twenty year period had earned him the status of Hollywood’s most accomplished, versatile and sought-after Native American actor.
Ned Romero was born in 1925 in Franklin, Louisiana, of Native American as well as French and Spanish stock. Interestingly enough, the multi-talented Romero entered show biz in 1943 as an opera singer, performing in Los Angeles in local opera productions and then in the San Francisco Opera, and he was ultimately cast in such popular 1950’s musical comedies such as Kiss Me Kate, Kismet and Oklahoma!. In fact, Romero’s first television appearance, on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, was in an opera skit in which he actually performed a brief medley of famous opera arias.
The Talisman–renamed The Savage American–was Romero’s first movie, and the film also represented his first Indian role. In a recent exclusive interview with Wildest Westerns, the veteran actor recalled with a grin: “There wasn’t a whole lot of dialogue. I think ‘Savage’ was the only word I said throughout the whole film.” In fact, Ned added, “people’s perception of the Indian, or the Hollywood Indian, at least at that time, was very stoic, just on or two lines, no blink, no expression.”
Romero was a true pathfinder and risk taker for Native Americans in Hollywood, and, by the time his legendary career reached its zenith with his Emmy Award-nominated role in………………………….