Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Misidentified: The Jungle Girl

Hollywood Jungle Girl - the Actress Acquanetta - Jet Magazine Feb 14, 1952

Born Burnu Acquanetta in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to an Arapaho mother and a French-English-Cherokee father, she was given up for adoption and raised as Mildred Davenport by adoptive parents in Norristown, Pa. Accounts of her "real" story vary widely because early agents thought it best to conceal her Black heritage. Which really wasn't too unheard of back then because there was favoritism towards light skinned women within the race. And as for outside of the Black race, the lighter you were back then, the better you could pass for White. Therefore, you have two conflicting stories one being she was born on a reservation... The other story is she was born to light skinned working class Black parents.

After graduating high school, her exotic good looks brought her to New York to become a model. As her career took off, she took back part of her original name and, with the aid of helpful New York columnists, fabricated a South-of-the-Border background. In 1942 she landed a contract at Universal Pictures, where she played a succession of jungle girls and exotic beauties.

She is perhaps best remembered for her role in "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman" (1946). Other films included "Arabian Nights" (1942), "Captive Wild Woman" (1943) and "The Sword of Monte Cristo" (1951).

In the late 1950s, she married Los Angeles businessman Jack Ross and the two moved to the Phoenix area, where he became a successful automobile dealer. She starred in radio and TV commercials for her husband's Lincoln-Mercury dealership and became a socialite and philanthropist.

The couple donated money to help build a hospital in Mesa, Ariz., founded a theater in Scottsdale, Ariz., raised money for the Phoenix Symphony and served as a member of the Arizona Press Club. They also founded Combined Charities Inc., a foundation that allowed smaller charities to use the interest from its consolidated donations. Ross later ran unsuccessfully for governor.

In 1974 she published a book of poetry called "The Audible Silence." The couple eventually divorced in the 1980s, and among the property she gained in the settlement was the Mesa Grande ruins that scientists suspected was an ancient Hohokam temple. She eventually sold the site to city of Mesa, after obtaining promises that it planned to preserve the site as a museum.

This Black and Indian actress died in 2004 at 83 after having lived an apparently very full life with four children and seven grandchildren.
Pictures via google.
 Some enlightenment
 from Barry L. Atkins
via vieilles_annonces.

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