11

Lily Gladstone said the following during her acceptance speech for "Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama" during the 2024 Golden Globe Awards:

I'm so grateful that I can speak even a little bit of my language, which I'm not fluent in, up here because in this business, Native actors used to speak their lines in English and then the sound mixers would run them backwards to accomplish Native languages on camera.

I tried searching to see if that claim is actually true, and while I found several articles make the same claim (e.g. 1, 2, 3), I haven't found anything that names any movies containing fake Native American speech that is actually English played backwards.

Is there any evidence that some movies tried to pass off backwards English as Native American speech?

6
  • 1
    I've edited your question so that it doesn't fall under the "identification" reason to VTC. Please feel free to rollback or correct it if I was wrong.
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 10 at 16:09
  • 2
    If it's not on-topic here, this question looks like a decent fit for Skeptics - there's a clear "notable claim" as required by the rules of that site.
    – IMSoP
    Jan 10 at 18:00
  • 5
    @Paulie_D - "Is this true" isn't an identification question, although a good answer would probably offer an example.
    – Valorum
    Jan 10 at 18:01
  • 5
    I don't think this counts as an identification question, providing an example as evidence isn't identification. It certainly is not in the spirit of an ID question.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 10 at 18:55
  • 4
    I think this question is on-topic. As far as I know, while questions that ask to identify movies and TV shows (and episodes) are off-topic here, there is neither a site policy nor a community consensus to ban all questions that involve identifying something about a movie. Jan 11 at 3:53

2 Answers 2

8

This happened at least once, in the 1939 film serial 'Scouts to the Rescue' in Chapter 8, 'Thundering Hoofs'.

Use of an alien-sounding language that was rarely a genuine native language also contributed to the distancing and Othering of Native Americans for mainstream audiences. Hollywood had its own ideas of what an Indian sounded like, and the industry went to fairly extreme lengths to get the “authentic” sound. In Scouts to the Rescue (1939), for instance, the Indians were given a Hollywood Indian dialect by running their normal English dialogue backwards. By printing the picture in reverse, a perfect lip sync was maintained, and a new “Indian” language was born

Celluloid Indians by Neva Jacquelyn Kilpatrick

enter image description here

6
  • I can't see much evidence of this being a common method in Hollywood. All the claims I've found link back to this article which lists Celluloid Indians as its source. It's possible it only happened the once.
    – Valorum
    Jan 10 at 19:39
  • I've watched this episode. I think Prof. Kilpatrick is being very generous when she says that the goal was "perfect lip sync".
    – Valorum
    Jan 10 at 22:55
  • Seems to me that using a genuine Native language would also be Othering; though it would not be as weird as backwarding. Jan 11 at 20:20
  • 1
    Valorum - I suspect that you are correct about it not being common. Otherwise we would be seeing (and hearing) a plethora of example clips on YouTube with the sound running backwards, which would clearly reveal that the technique was used. Just like everyone was playing records backwards in the 1970's when they found out that the Beatles and Led Zeppelin had done some backward masking. By the way the guy in your screenshot almost looks like Buster Keaton! Jan 12 at 2:20
  • 1
    The chapter of Scouts to the Rescue! in question is here. The first-and-I-think-only line of "Indian" speech in the episode is at 23m00s, and it is indeed 100% the reversal of "We go back." (I used this gadget to do the reversal.) Contra the Celluloid Indians claim, the picture itself is not reversed, the line is dubbed, and the actors are too far away to see their lips anyway. Jan 26 at 0:15
2

The Scouts to the Rescue! serial in question is here, in two parts:

The serial of course is aimed at children and isn't really trying to "accomplish Native languages"; it's doing Peter Pan stuff, with buried treasure and Indians and gangsters and so on. In fact, given the context I'd expect that this isn't even an Easter egg from the guy who mixed the audio — I'd think of it more like an Ovaltine decoder ring, a deliberate little puzzle for the kids. (See also Pig Latin.)

You can decode the Indian talk with an online gadget like this one, if you can't find your kid's Yak Bak. The first several instances of "Indian talk" are at:

  • Chapter 1 @17:27: "White [strangers?] come! Whites [only?] come!"
  • Chapter 2 @28:00: milling about, clearly reversed but unintelligible
  • Chapter 2 @28:33: "Tell great chief. Many white strangers leave. Some stay." (The lips are readable in this one: the actor is really saying the English lines, and the video is not reversed. This is immediately followed by a subtitled message on the drum: "Some white strangers go. Many stay.")
  • Chapter 2 @29:13: two sections, both definitely reversed but unintelligible, both sound non-English to me
  • Chapter 2 @29:21: "Where's [Likoku?] Send the [icing?] to our hideout! Send message! [Please hurry?]"
  • Chapter 2 @39:49: "Tell great chief: White strangers come into hills. Fast like wind." (The lips are readable in this one: the actor is really saying the English lines, and the video is not reversed. This is immediately followed by a subtitled message on the drum: "White strangers come into hills fast like wind.") Immediately followed by...
  • Chapter 2 @40:02: "Send message. [It's Lloyd Daniels?] Stop white strangers." (The lips are readable in this one: the actor is really saying the English lines, and the video is not reversed.)
  • Chapter 3 @46:52: As the Indians mill around, some plausibly "Native language," perhaps; doesn't sound reversed and also doesn't sound like English. "...um-patiha, tiha; el, dal-a-ji..."
  • Chapter 3 @48:23: "Tell great chief. Many white strangers stay in our hills." (Lips unreadable. This is immediately followed by a subtitled message on the drum: "Many strangers remain in our hills.")
  • Chapter 3 @49:00: [...]

I initially intended to list all of them, but it turns out there were a lot, and I ended up with better things to do. :) Maybe I'll come back and expand this answer later.

2
  • 1
    Your post has useful information, but it seems to be phrased as a reply to another answer and doesn’t seem to address the question directly. Answers should be self-contained and addressed to the question-asker. Could you please edit your post to more directly address the question? Feb 13 at 0:27
  • Be true if this was accepted and above the one up there, that has a comment thread leading directly into this answer, which is the answer to the title: yes, they used to run stuff backwards. +1 (answer above is a google search. This was work.)
    – Mazura
    Feb 18 at 0:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .