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post The Importance of Good Supporting Characters: Part Two

July 30th, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:06 pm

by W. St.Germain

This month we conclude our series with a look at the contributions of supporting cast Rudy Ramos, Frank Silvera and Gilbert Roland.

Rudy Ramos as Wind

Rudy Ramos as Wind in season
four of The High Chaparral

Rudy Ramos (Wind)

I don’t think anyone else could have done such a superb job of portraying the character Wind as Rudy Ramos did. I was surprised to learn that the introduction of Wind caused a degree of ire among some fans who thought he was introduced to replace Blue. I don’t quite understand why. Blue was John’s son. Wind was a nomad who chose to stay at the Chaparral. There is no comparison. I can’t help thinking it came about purely by a timing error. Perhaps if Wind had joined the cast earlier, no one would have had any issues about it. But came he did and what a wonderful job Rudy made of his role!

Rudy brought a quiet dignity to the character, unkindly called a ‘breed’ by many; breeds being half white and half Indian. We learn that Wind was abused by both the Pawnee, of which his mother was one, and by the white man, yet he shows no hatred for either. His mother named him Wind saying he would never have a home (not too encouraging as mothers go, was she!). Interestingly we hear nothing of his father and I found out why. It seems that the writers were leaving the door open to have Wind be Buck’s son. This might explain Buck’s initial hatred of Indians. Perhaps they stopped him from being with the woman he loved. We will never know. But it would have been a nice touch for Buck to finally have a family of his own.

When Wind is falsely accused of cattle theft and nearly hanged, men of the Chaparral ranch save him. Wind works at the ranch in an effort to repay them and ends up becoming a welcome member of the group. But not immediately. While he is not abused, we see distrust in many of the bunkhouse boys. Over time, Wind finds a home, in a way, at the Cannon ranch. Wind only appeared in about every other episode of the final season which is a shame given that he created such a marvelous character through his performance.

There is something about the way Rudy chose to play Wind that is particularly engaging. As one would expect, he is as unsettled by living at the ranch as many of the ranch hands are of having him there. Rudy might well have slipped into the self-pitying portrayal some actors choose for ‘misfits’ but he did not. Nor did he take the angry approach. In some way, and I have yet to put my finger on how he did it, Rudy let us see that Wind was hurt but was also strong enough in spirit to accept that this was the hand he was dealt. There is never any whining or complaining behavior from him. Consequently, we care about Wind. Rudy also portrayed him as wise but not so wise that he had all the answers. Indeed, in A Man to Match the Land, he considers John and his men horse thieves for going to round up horses on Indian land and later admits he was wrong. We seldom see Wind smile but when we do, oh how welcome it is!

It wasn’t until I watched Rudy on the 2009 Reunion DVD that I realized, like many of the cast he put a lot of himself into that character. He clearly cared about the fans, listened and appreciated all the good things he had been blessed with. Wind also rounds out the series in showing that the white man and the Indian (even if he is only half Pawnee) can live and work together. He personifies that hope and was a valuable addition to the show. My only wish would be that he came sooner! In my view, no one else could have created such an inspiring character, so late in the series I might add, as Rudy Ramos’ Wind.

Frank Silvera as Don Sebastian Montoya with
Linda Cristal as Victoria Montoya Cannon

Frank Silvera (Don Sebastian Montoya)

Another one of my favorite supporting characters is Jamaican born Frank Silvera as Don Sebastian Montoya. Like Marie Gomez, his presence fills a scene. Even if I’ve seen an episode so much that I could almost recite it, I never miss it if Frank is making an appearance. Superior talent is required to create a believable character like Don Sebastian and I’m not sure anyone else could have done the job as well. Generally, if a person changed their opinion, ideas, behavior and moods as often as Don Sebastian does, he’d be considered neurotic. Yet Frank pulled off this contradictory behavior beautifully.

We learn that Don Sebastian created his own empire and this explains his often ruthless behavior. He has no intention of being poor again. Most of the time he is dignified, thoughtful and definitely a shrewd businessman. Viewers might believe he was cold and calculating yet his love for Victoria and disappointment in Mano’s attitude to life give him a vulnerability others might not be able to inject into the character. His wish for grandchildren also shows us a lonely side – a man who wants a big family to love. Don Sebastian is also a lady’s man as we see in Once on a Day in Spring when the beautiful Countess Maria, played by Kathleen Crowley, comes to town.

In every instance, Frank’s relationships with the rest of the cast, teaches us something about the other character. His disappointment in Mano gives us a chance to see Mano’s inner turmoil over not being like his father. His love for Victoria reveals that this strong woman is, and always will be, Daddy’s little girl. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite supporting cast member. They are all wonderful. But if I had to give an example of one who is a character we grow to love and look forward to seeing, who also acts to tilt the mirror on the main cast in a way as to reveal light (or darkness) in their character that might otherwise remain hidden, I’d say Frank tops the list.

Henry Darrow with Gilbert Roland as Don Domingo Montoya

Gilbert Roland (Don Domingo Montoya)

After the accidental death of Frank Silvera, Gilbert Roland brings the series to its conclusion in the two part movie Lion of Sonora. To have brought in a new character so close to the end, and one that might be mistaken to be a replacement for the irreplaceable Frank Silvera, was a brave move on the part of the creators. They could have played it safe by having Mano finally accept his responsibility to the ranch but they did not.

In his role as Don Domingo Montoya, Gilbert’s transformation from selfish, lazy gambler to what we know will be a wonderful new Patron of Rancho Montoya is remarkable. Most people would need more time to put that to viewers in a convincing fashion but Gilbert managed to do it in only two episodes. I often wondered how Mano could be so very different in character to his father. Through Don Domingo, we learn that he takes after his uncle as often happens in families.

Lion of Sonora was so well done that this two part special could well have been used as an opening for the new season and its new characters. Sadly the show was cancelled instead. That the final supporting cast member to join High Chaparral should be twice nominated for the Golden Globe Award and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame shows that even down to the very last episode and the very last member of cast and crew, the show’s creators always had an eye for the best.

Did You Know?

Before deciding to become an actor, Frank Silvera attended Law school with the intention of becoming an attorney or teacher of Law. His Chaparral ‘brother’, Gilbert Roland, planned to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a bull fighter!

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