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Campaign begins to honor Alaska Native actor in Hollywood

Posted: November 11, 2013 - 1:03am

ANCHORAGE — A campaign is under way to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the first Alaska Native to star in a movie.

The effort is to honor Ray Mala, who was born in 1906 to an Inupiat woman, and whose father was a Russian Jewish trader. He grew up in Candle, and lived and worked in Hollywood from 1925 until his death in 1952, KTVA reported.

He starred in the movie “Eskimo,” which debuted Jan. 10, 1934, and won an Oscar in 1935 for editing. The movie was filmed near Teller, Alaska.

Ron Holmstrom, the Alaska representative to the Screen Actors Guild, said a star will cost $30,000, and applications are due in May to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. He said the campaign will ramp up early next year.

“It’s not gonna be a no-brainer,” Holmstrom said. “It’s gonna take some work on all our parts as Alaskans coming together on this.”

Holmstrom said Mala would have likely had his star on the Walk of Fame by now if it hadn’t been for censorship in the early days of Hollywood.

“Mala had previously been a leading man with white leading ladies,” Holmstrom said. “Well, the Hays Office (the motion picture censor’s office) said, ‘We can’t have that. We can’t have these beautiful white women working with guys that aren’t white.’”

He said after that, Mala’s acting career fizzled, and he turned to smaller roles and camera work.

“If not for that huge misstep, in the Golden Age of Hollywood, his star would probably already be there,” Holmstrom said.

Attending the kickoff, which included a viewing of “Eskimo” at Cyrano’s Playhouse on Tuesday in Anchorage, were Mala’s grandson, Ted Mala Jr., and author Lael Morgan.

Her 2011 book, “Eskimo Star: From the Tundra to Tinseltown: The Ray Mala Story,” is considered a catalyst for the effort to get the start on the Walk of Fame.

“I think the family had thought about it, but without a book he’d been gone so long,” Morgan told the Anchorage TV station. “But when the book came out, we thought we had a real possibility.”

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