Iron Eyes Cody was an American actor. He was recognized for portraying Native Americans in Hollywood films. Near the end of his life, his Italian ancestry was made public. In 1995 he was honored by the Native American community for his portrayals.
Cody was born as Espera Oscar de Corti in Kaplan, Louisiana, a son of Antonio de Corti and his wife, Francesca Salpietra, immigrants from Sicily, Italy. They had a local grocery store in Gueydan, Louisiana, where he was raised. In some of his earliest acting credits, Cody was listed as Tony de Corti. Cody was drawn to the Native American people finding comfort/similarities for himself in their struggle. He later changed his name to Tony Cody, and from then on lived his life as if he were of aboriginal descent, both on and off the screen. Cody married Bertha "Birdie" Parker, a woman of aboriginal descent.
Cody began his acting career at twelve and worked until the time of his death. He appeared in more than 200 films, including The Big Trail, with John Wayne; Sitting Bull, as Crazy Horse; Nevada Smith, with Steve McQueen; A Man Called Horse, with Richard Harris; and Ernest Goes to Camp, with Jim Varney. In 1953, he appeared twice as Chief Big Cloud in Duncan Renaldo's television series, The Cisco Kid.
He was most famous for his "crying Indian" role in the "Keep America Beautiful" Public Service Announcement in the early 1970s. It was an ecology commercial in which an Indian sheds a tear after some trash is thrown from a speeding car and lands at his feet. The announcer, William Conrad, of Bullwinkle and Cannon fame, memorably declares: "People start pollution; people can stop it."