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Saturday, February 15, 2014

THE REEL REALS: Charles Stevens

Charles Stevens

Little is known about Charles Stevens. Despite his anglicized name, the actor was half Mexican/half-Apache  and the great grandson of none other than the notorious Geronimo himself. (Charles even portrayed his great grandfather on the screen a couple of times). Few are familiar with his face, though true movie aficionados have probably ignorantly scanned over him many times as a periphery player, particularly in the silent films of Douglas Fairbanks-- a close friend to Charles. The duo probably met while filming The Lamb, Doug's first feature. Immediately fascinated by Charles's roots, Doug would become his great champion, and after his own gravy train came in, he insisted on having his pal cast in nearly all his films. 

As a non-caucasian, the possibility for career advancement or stardom was incredibly difficult for Charles. This was a time when racism edged non-caucasians out of the market and different races could barely interact at all on-screen, let alone in romantic leading roles. As such, white actors simply used cosmetics or painted their skin to resemble other races when a non-white character had a more prominent part in a the film, and blacks, Asians, Mexicans, etc, were relegated to doing extra work or possibly winning some screen time as a mildly featured player. It makes Charles all the more impressive, therefore-- although lesser remembered-- for boasting such an impressive resume. With his distinctive, sinister look and the proper connections, Charles was able to work steadily for nearly his entire adulthood, and due to his silent short film participation, he completed more than 200 projects. Sadly, his mixed race left him almost consistently uncredited. Look for him in The Mark of Zorro, The Gaucho, and The Mummy's Curse.

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