Courtesy Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives
Delores Del Rio in 'Ramona' (1928). Photo Courtesy Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives.

Recovered and Restored: 'Ramona,' Silent Movie by Chickasaw Filmmaker

Angela Aleiss
3/27/14

Edwin Carewe’s real name was Jay Fox, and he was born in Gainesville, Texas, in 1883 and died in Los Angeles in 1940. His brothers Finis (1881-1949) and Wallace (1885-1958) were both accomplished Hollywood producers and screenwriters. All three brothers appear on the 1907 Chickasaw rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes.

Today, few are aware of Carewe’s rather prolific Hollywood career. According to Imdb.com, he directed 58 films, produced 20, acted in 47, and wrote screenplays for four. Older brother Finis had written Ramona’s screenplay and created its intertitles.

RELATED: 100 Years Ago: Lillian St. Cyr Was First Native Star in Hollywood Feature

But for decades, Ramona was thought to be lost until archivists rediscovered it in the Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague. (Studios distributed their movies overseas, and many have since surfaced in Eastern Europe’s hidden vaults.) The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress later transferred Ramona’s highly flammable original nitrate print to acetate safety stock.

Edwin Carewe in 1928. Photo Courtesy Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives.

The job of translating the Czech intertitles into English was especially challenging. “To us, the key was trying to get the [English] words back in there,” says Rob Stone, the Library’s Moving Image Curator. He adds that Ramona “is a downer of a story, but it’s a great movie.”

The UCLA Film & Television Archive will premiere Ramona in its Billy Wilder Theater with live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The Archive’s Head of Public Programs Shannon Kelley says the opportunity to screen Carewe’s restored film at UCLA “represents a tremendous honor.”

Visit edwincarewe.com for more information on Carewe’s life and career.

Spanish language poster from 'Ramona' (1928). Photo Courtesy Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

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2 Comments

seanglenn47's picture
seanglenn47
Submitted by seanglenn47 on
Great piece of both film and Native American history. This story gave a lot of great facts about Edwin Carewe and Dolores Del Rio. Luckily, this film was saved. However, so many other classic films, and also what were once called "race" films are disappearing every day. Thousands of titles of films made for general audiences, and thousands of American films made for segregated black audiences, Yiddish films made for Jewish immigrants, and Slavic films made for other immigrant groups have already disappeared. Once these films disappear, they can never be recreated, and a slice of American history is lost forever. Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

Larry41's picture
Larry41
Submitted by Larry41 on
Thanks to the Library Of Congress and others for finding and saving this once lost film… The 1928 production Ramona was the third film version of the Helen Hunt Jackson novel of the same name, first dramatized (in one reel!) by D. W. Griffith in 1910. Dolores Del Rio plays the title character, the ward of domineering California sheep rancher Senora Moreno (Vera Lewis). Escaping her cruel and judgmental guardian, Ramona sadly resigns herself to the probability that she will never find true happiness because she is a half-breed. Though she loves Moreno's grandson Felipe (Roland Drew), Ramona does not want him to bear the stigma of a mixed marriage, so she marries Allesandro (Warner Baxter), an Indian shepherd. SPOILERS: Misfortune continues to befall the heroine when her husband is lynched by bigoted white ranchers; shortly thereafter, her baby dies from injuries sustained in a bandit raid because the white doctor refuses to treat an Indian infant. Suffering a total nervous breakdown, Ramona wanders into the woods, having lost all memory of her previous existence. But faithful Felipe rescues the girl, snapping her out of her amnesia by singing her favorite childhood song (courtesy of the Vitaphone soundtrack). Ramona was remade in 1936 with Loretta Young and Don Ameche.