Victor Daniels (April 12, 1899 – December 1, 1955), known professionally as Chief Thundercloud, was an American character actor in Westerns. He is noted for being the first actor to play the role of Tonto, the Lone Ranger's Native-American companion, on the screen.
Victor Daniels as Chief Whitecloud in Renegade Girl (1946)
April 12, 1899
|Died||December 1, 1955 (aged 56)|
Ventura, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Spouse(s)||Mildred Ann Turner (1907-1993) Frances Courtright (1901-1982)|
Family and educationEdit
Information available about Daniels is limited and vague. He repeatedly said he was born in the Oklahoma Territory. But his Social Security Application lists his birth date as April 12, 1899 and his birthplace as Santa Cruz County in the Arizona Territory. He listed his parents as Jesus Daniels and Tomaca Daniels.
At various times he falsely claimed to be Cherokee and Creek. He had a sister named Anita, born October 6, 1911, in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona Territory. On her birth certificate she listed similar parents with Jesus Daniel (born in Sonora) and Tomaso Acuna (born in Arizona).
Thundercloud's first marriage was to 17-year-old Mildred Turner (from Missouri) on May 26, 1925 in Los Angeles. At that time, he called himself “Victor Vasquez.” Their son Victor Junior Daniels was born on May 7, 1926 and a second son Norman Daniels on September 5, 1927 both in Los Angeles. Thundercloud divorced Mildred and later married Frances Courtright on April 26, 1933.
His Lone Ranger press biography claimed he was derived from the "Muskogee aristocracy"[sic] - but the concept of European "royalty" and "aristocrats" is foreign to Native American cultures. He was actually the first of nine children born to Jesus and Tomaca Daniels (as indicated on his Social Security application). The pressbook for The Lone Ranger Rides Again announced his parents as "Dark Cloud and Morning Star, aristocrats of the Muskogee tribe"[sic] while his death certificate lists his father as Joseph Mahawa.
Raised on a ranch in Arizona, he claimed to have attended the University of Arizona at Tucson, where he "excelled scholastically and in athletics (football, boxing)." However, no record exists of his enrollment or attendance at the school under the name Daniels or any other name he used.
Work as a character actorEdit
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. (January 2018)
Daniels worked many jobs before becoming a stuntman, as a cowboy on cattle ranches, as a miner, a rodeo performer, and tour guide, before he went to Hollywood to try his luck in acting. From there he graduated to character actor status. His title "Chief" was a Hollywood invention - a stage name. He had the title role in Geronimo (1939) and played Tonto in both Republic Lone Ranger serials, The Lone Ranger (1938) and The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939).
Throughout the 1940s Daniels continued to work as a character actor, maintaining the Chief Thundercloud persona. In most of the films in which he was featured, he played an antagonist opposing the white protagonist. For example, in the film "Young Buffalo Bill" (1940) he played Akuna, a renegade Native American Chief who commits murder while working as a hired hand. In the film Renegade Girl (1946), he played the main villain, Chief Whitecloud, a vengeful antagonist with a vendetta against the protagonist's family.
Although featured in a number of films, Daniels was uncredited in some films, such as Gun Smoke (1936), a film about a ranch defending itself from a flood of sheep. He also appeared in the first two parts of the serial Custer's Last Stand (1936), again uncredited.
Daniels had a short appearance on early television, on The Gene Autry Show (1950). One of his last appearances was on March 1, 1955, as the Apache Geronimo in the premiere episode of the syndicated television series Buffalo Bill, Jr., starring Dick Jones in the fictional title role of a young Texas frontier marshal.
Daniels appeared as Chief Thundercloud in the 1954 episode, "The Saint's Portrait", of the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the story line, a painting of Saint Joseph is thought by a tribe and its covetous neighbor to be magical. However, the mission priest, Father Mariano (Martin Garralaga), reveals its deeper meaning. The episode also starred Rico Alaniz, George J. Lewis, and Eugenia Paul.
Legal problems and later yearsEdit
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Daniels was fined $200 and sentenced to four years of probation in 1951 after he pleaded guilty to violating the Corporate Security Act. He was told to make restitution of $5625 to his victims after he had sold them shares in films without a permit. During his final years, he worked with other western actors, performing in live shows at the Corriganville Movie Ranch, now the Corriganville Regional Park, near Simi Valley, California.
Victor Daniels died at age 56 following surgery for stomach cancer, in Ventura County, California, on December 1, 1955. He was survived by his wife, Frances. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, near Los Angeles. His last film role was in the John Wayne film "The Searchers" (1956), which was released after his death.
The Lone Ranger and legacyEdit
After working for some time as a stuntman and in bit parts, it was Daniels' portrayal of the character Tonto in the serial The Lone Ranger (1938) that was to be his legacy. This is perhaps where he gained the most recognition as a character actor." The same year he had a small villain-like role in the first part of Flaming Frontiers, a 15-part cliffhanger about murder and double cross. The following year Thundercloud reprised his role as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick in The Lone Ranger Rides Again.
- Rustlers of Red Dog (1935, Serial) - Chief Grey Wolf
- Cyclone of the Saddle (1935) - Thundercloud
- Wagon Trail (1935) - Henchman
- Rustler's Paradise (1935) - Henchman
- Gun Smoke (1935) - Sheep Herder (uncredited)
- Fighting Pioneers (1935) - Eagle Feathers
- Saddle Aces (1935) - Canejo Rider Jose
- The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935) - Indian Chief (uncredited)
- The Singing Vagabond (1935) - Young Deer (uncredited)
- Custer's Last Stand (1936, Serial) - Young Wolf
- Silly Billies (1936) - Indian (uncredited)
- For the Service (1936) - Indian Brave (uncredited)
- Ramona (1936) - Pablo
- Ride, Ranger, Ride (1936) - Little Wolf
- The Plainsman (1936) - Indian #5 with Painted Horse (uncredited)
- The Bold Caballero (1936) - Zorro's aide (uncredited)
- Riders of the Whistling Skull (1937) - High Priest
- Wild West Days (1937) - Indian (uncredited)
- Renfrew of the Royal Mounted (1937) - Indian Henchman
- The Lone Ranger (1938, Serial) - Tonto
- The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1938, Serial) - Chief Gray Eagle [Chs. 3, 14]
- Flaming Frontiers (1938, Serial) - Thunder Cloud
- The Law West of Tombstone (1938) - Chief Little Dog (uncredited)
- The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939, Serial) - Tonto
- Union Pacific (1939) - Cherokee Indian (uncredited)
- Man of Conquest (1939) - Cherokee Indian (uncredited)
- The Cat and the Canary (1939) - Indian Guide (uncredited)
- Fighting Mad (1939) - Indian
- Geronimo (1939) - Geronimo
- Murder on the Yukon (1940) - Manti - Henchman
- Young Buffalo Bill (1940) - Akuna
- Typhoon (1940) - Kehi
- Wyoming (1940) - Lightfoot
- North West Mounted Police (1940) - Wandering Spirit
- Hi-Yo Silver (1940) - (archive footage)
- Hudson's Bay (1941) - Orimha
- Western Union (1941) - Indian Leader
- Pirates on Horseback (1941) - Flying Cloud (uncredited)
- Silver Stallion (1941) - Freshwater
- Shut My Big Mouth (1942) - Indian Interpreter
- My Gal Sal (1942) - Murphy (uncredited)
- Lady in a Jam (1942) - Thundercloud (uncredited)
- King of the Stallions (1942) - Hahawi
- Overland Mail (1942) - Chief Many Moons [Ch. 13]
- The Valley of Vanishing Men (1942, Serial) - Chief Tall Tree (ch. 9) (uncredited)
- Daredevils of the West (1943, Serial) - Indian Chief [Ch. 8, 9]
- The Law Rides Again (1943) - Thundercloud
- The Fighting Seabees (1944) - Indian Seabee (uncredited)
- Buffalo Bill (1944) - Crazy Horse (uncredited)
- Outlaw Trail (1944) - Chief
- Sonora Stagecoach (1944) - Chief Thunder Cloud
- Raiders of Ghost City (1944, Serial) - Chief Tahona (uncredited)
- Black Arrow (1944, Serial) - Tribal Medicine Man (uncredited)
- Nob Hill (1945) - Indian Chief (uncredited)
- The Phantom Rider (1946, Serial) - Chief Yellow Wolf
- Romance of the West (1946) - Chief Eagle Feather
- Badman's Territory (1946) - Chief Tahlequah
- Renegade Girl (1946) - Chief White Cloud
- Unconquered (1947) - Chief Killbuck (uncredited)
- The Prairie (1947) - Eagle Feather
- The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947) - Indian
- Blazing Across the Pecos (1948) - Chief Bear Claw (uncredited)
- Call of the Forest (1949) - Stormcloud
- Mrs. Mike (1949) - Indian (uncredited)
- The Traveling Saleswoman (1950) - Running Deer
- Davy Crockett, Indian Scout (1950) - Sleeping Fox
- Ambush (1950) - Tana
- A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950) - Crooked Knife (uncredited)
- Colt .45 (1950) - Walking Bear
- The Iroquois Trail (1950) - Ottawa Chief (uncredited)
- I Killed Geronimo (1950) - Geronimo
- Indian Territory (1950) - Indian (uncredited)
- Last of the Buccaneers (1950) - Indian Leader on Galveston Island (uncredited)
- Santa Fe (1951) - Chief Longfeather
- Buffalo Bill in Tomahawk Territory (1952) - Black Hawk
- The Half-Breed (1952) - Apache (uncredited)
- The Searchers (1956) - Comanche Chief (uncredited) (final film role)
- U.S. Social Security Act, Application for Account Number 564-12-6490, Victor Daniels (“Chief Thunder Cloud”) filed Jan 12, 1937.
- "Arizona Territorial Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Original Certificate of Birth for Anita Daniel" (PDF). October 6, 1911. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
- "California County Marriages, 1850-1952, Marriage License for Victor Vasquez and Mildred Turner". May 26, 1925. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
- "California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994, Birth Record for Victor Junior Daniels". May 7, 1926. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
- "California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994, Birth Record for Norman Daniels". September 5, 1927. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
- The Lone Ranger Rides Again pressbook, via B-Westerns; retrieved 11 August 2007.
- Profile, b-westerns.com; accessed August 11, 2007.
- Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), p. 114.
- "The Saint's Portrait on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- Los Angeles Daily News, 23 March 1951. See also Hollywood Citizen-News, 24 October 1952.
- Certificate of Death, Chief Thunder Cloud (aka Victor Daniels), State of California, County of Ventura, 1 December 1955.