Birthday: April 3, 1904
Died At Age: 94
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Espera Oscar de Corti
Born in: Kaplan, Louisiana
Famous as: Actor
Spouse/Ex-: Bertha Parker (m. 1936–1978), Wendy Foote (m. 1992–1993)
father: Antonio de Corti
mother: Francesca Salpietra
siblings: and Victoria, Joseph and Frank
Died on: January 4, 1999
Cause of Death: Cancer
U.S. State: Louisiana
Iron Eyes Cody was an Italian-American actor best known for playing Native Americans in Hollywood movies, most notably in Bob Hope's 1948 film ‘The Paleface’. He also portrayed a Native American in one of the nation’s most recognized TV public service campaigns, "Keep America Beautiful". Born Espera Oscar de Corti to two first-generation Italian immigrants, Cody moved to California as a young man, changing his name "DeCorti" to "Corti" and eventually Cody. He began working as an actor, usually presenting himself as a Native American. He appeared in over 200 movies and worked until his death. In 1936, Cody married American archaeologist Bertha Parker. The couple adopted two sons and remained together until Bertha's death in 1978. The actor himself died in January 1999 after suffering from mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer, at the age of 94. After his death, it was revealed that Cody had Sicilian ancestry and was not of Native American heritage at all.
Childhood & Early Life
Iron Eyes Cody was born as Espera Oscar de Corti on 3 April 1904, in Kaplan, Vermilion Parish, south-western Louisiana, to Antonio de Corti (aka Tony Corti) and Francesca Salpietra. He grew up in Gueydan, Louisiana, alongside two brothers, Frank and Joseph, as well as a sister named Victoria.
His father left the family and his mother remarried and had five more kids. De Corti moved to California, changed his surname to Cody and started acting.
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Iron Eyes Cody’s first role was an uncredited one in the 1927 movie ‘Back to God's Country’. He then appeared in ‘The Big Trail’ which was later selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2006 after being deemed as “historically, culturally or aesthetically significant”.
In 1931, Cody did the movies ‘Fighting Caravans’, ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘The Rainbow Trail’. The last one was adapted from Zane Grey's novel of the same name.
The actor played Red Corn in the adventure flick ‘Unconquered’, which depicted the violent battles between the Native Americans and the American colonists in the mid-18th century during the period of Pontiac's Rebellion.
In 1948, he played a Native American, Chief Iron Eyes in the technicolor comedy western ‘The Paleface,’ which starred Bob Hope and Jane Russell. The film’s song "Buttons and Bows" by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston earned the Academy Award for Best Song that year.
Cody appeared in two different roles in Duncan Renaldo's syndicated TV series ‘The Cisco Kid’ in 1953.
In the ensuing years, he made guest appeared in a number of TV programs including ‘Cavalcade of America’, ‘Rawhide’, ‘The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour’ and ‘Mackenzie's Raiders’, to name a few.
In the 1950s, he also featured in Mark Stevens’ western flick ‘Gun Fever’ alongside Mark Stevens, Larry Storch, John Lupton and Maureen Hingert.
In the early 1960s, the actor made guest appearances in an episode each of ‘The Rebel’, ‘Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre’ and ‘The Virginian.’ He featured in Sidney Salkow's 'The Great Sioux Massacre,' which depicted Custer as an inept warmonger and the Indians as his victims.
In 1966, he played Taka-Ta in the western ‘Nevada Smith’. This was followed by his guest roles in the drama series ‘The Fastest Guitar Alive’ and ‘Then Came Bronson’.
Cody appeared in a minor role in the American-Mexican 1970 western flick ‘A Man Called Horse’ starring Richard Harris. Following guest roles in the sitcoms ‘Newhart’ and ‘The A-Team’, he featured in the film ‘Ernest Goes to Camp’ as Old Indian Chief St. Cloud.
Iron Eyes Cody appeared as a Native American in ‘Keep America Beautiful,’ one of the best known public service TV announcements in the country. In the campaign, he was shown shedding a tear after he witnesses garbage being thrown from the window of a car, polluting the environment.
Family & Personal Life
In 1936, Iron Eyes Cody married archaeologist Bertha Parker. They adopted two kids of Dakota-Maricopa origin, Arthur and Robert. They remained married until Parker’s death in 1978.
From 1992 to 1993, the actor was married to another woman named Wendy Foote.
On January 4, 1999, Cody died of mesothelioma, at the age of 94.