Chief Dan George received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Chief Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man.
Native American Chief Dan George portrays Chief Old Lodge Skins another Native American Chief in Little Big Man who is humorous, dignified, and wise. An interesting thing about changing attitudes is it can cause one cliche to go away such as the brutal evil Native American chief, and they then can be simply be replaced by another which is the wise humorous chief. Well I cannot actually say how many not evil chiefs appeared before Dan George's portrayal, there were some before like Jeff Chandler in Broken Arrow, but later on the friendly wise funny chief is a very common character now.
The point is Chief Dan George portrays the part in a fashion I expected to be as the Chief character, and Dan George being a Chief himself it certainly fits. His early scenes he is simply just somewhat humorous charming to a degree, and of course dignified. He is rather quiet, but he conveys the wisdom of his character well, but never builds his character too much into something otherworldly having the occasional comical reaction that are not overplayed but effective in giving a lighter quality to the part.
Later in the film though another aspect required is to give dramatic speeches about the evils of the White man, which actually are the most heavy handed moments in the film that are the most obvious moments in the film really just in the way they are written. Now do not get me wrong in my statement by problem is in that the film was already get the point across visually quite well without having to hammer it in with speeches. To his credit though Chief Dan George is actually very strong in his delivery of his speeches bringing a passion to them that although does not rid them of their heavy handed nature are far more effective due to his performance.
Eventually in the film he seems to become philosophical soul searcher of sorts after he becomes blind. Dan George does not change that much with this part of his performance he more of simply becomes less lively in his performance, and a little more sad and wily instead. Chief Dan George doesn't make Old Lodge Skins dreary as he still shows a charming spirit in his performance, but he certainly shows a lesser degree of heart in Old Lodge Skins from what has happened to him.
I want to make this clear that I do believe this to be a good performance, but I can't see the great performance some seem to. In the end it is mostly just a standard kindly chief performance and much of the time there isn't anything particularly special about his performance. It is always good though, but I just not see any moment where he really sets his Native American Chief from other similar characters. He is one of the best of the type, but he still feels more like a type than a completely unique character.