The blazing marquee of the plush Astor Theater in New York City billed the 1933 premier of "Eskimo" as "THE BIGGEST PICTURE EVER MADE," propelling an 27-year-old Inupiat Eskimo from Candle, Alaska, to
The blazing marquee of the plush Astor Theater in New York City billed the 1933 premier of "Eskimo" as "THE BIGGEST PICTURE EVER MADE," propelling an 27-year-old Inupiat Eskimo from Candle, Alaska, to overnight stardom. The handsome actor was not only the first Alaskan to become a Hollywood movie star but also the first non-white actor to play in a leading role. This is the story of Ray Wise Mala, the talented and enterprising son of an itinerant Russian trader and an Eskimo mother. Mala became part of the white man's world but for most of his life struggled to find a place in it, discriminated against because of his mixed race and his father's Jewish faith. At age 16, Mala got his break in Alaska in 1921 when hired to help film "Primitive Love" in which he was given a role. Mala appeared in more than 25 films over the next three decades, playing Hawaiians, South Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and other "exotics."
Lael Morgan was born in rural Maine and has lived more than half her life in the wilds. She started her writing career as a reporter for the Malden Press in Massachusetts. Later she became a photojournalist at the Juneau Empire in Alaska's capitol city, and then covered crime, politics and the old red light district for the Fairbanks News Miner just south of the Arctic Circle. In 1968, Morgan began a five year stint at the Los Angeles Times, and then returned to the Far North for assignments with National Geographic, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and Alaska Magazine. In 1988 she joined the Department of Journalism and Broadcasting, University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she taught writing, photography and multimedia for 12 years. In 1999 she became managing editor and later publisher of the Casco Bay Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Portland, Maine. Then, motivated by a low threshold of boredom, she moved south to Arlington, Texas, where she went to work for the Department of Communication, University of Texas Arlington. Morgan has authored more than a dozen books, including Good Time Girls of the Alaska Yukon Gold Rush, which in 1998 won her the title of Historian of the Year from the Alaska Historical Society. Art and Eskimo Power: The Life and Times of Alaskan Howard Rock, a book she wrote in 1988, was recently included in a listing state's best nonfiction books, and has been republished by University of Alaska Press.