“Playground of the Native Son,” a documentary film about the Hominy Indians football team is nearing completion, executive producer Celia Xavier said Thursday on the 86th anniversary of the Indians’ most legendary victory.
A public viewing of the film is tentatively set for late January or early February, added Xavier, who said her production company has finished approximately 95 percent of its work on the project. Initial showing of the final cut probably will be in Tulsa, Xavier said.
“Also, a June presentation is planned in conjunction with one of Bartlesville’s Indian Summer-related events,” the movie executive said.
Local filming on the project was completed late last year by Xavier’s Los Angeles-based Fully Funded Films. Following a regional casting call, scenes were shot last December in Bartlesville, Dewey, Ramona and Skiatook. Two months ago, around 200 cast and crew members were shown a rough cut of the documentary, according to Xavier.
“It was very successful,” said the film producer, who also served as writer on the project. “Just a few hours before, though, we weren’t even sure if we would have a place to show it.”
The special viewing at downtown Tulsa’s historic Mayo Hotel during the National Congress of American Indians.
For nearly a decade in the 1920s and early ’30s, the Indians barnstormed the country playing primarily against other semi-professionals. Osage businessmen led by Ira and Otto Hamilton sponsored the Hominy squad, which was comprised entirely of Native Americans. It is estimated that its players represented more than a dozen different tribes.
The Indians produced several notable accomplishments, including a 28-game winning streak. But the Hominy team’s most renowned triumph came Dec. 26, 1927, when the Indians defeated the New York Giants — who were the reigning champions of professional football.
In an exhibition contest played the day after Christmas at Pawhuska, the Indians topped the Giants, 13-6, only a few weeks after the New York squad had captured the pro crown. Among the stars of the game for Hominy was John Levi, a former All-America halfback from Haskell College. Three Pawhuskans — including longtime pro gridder Rudy Comstock and local wrestling star Vic Miller — were recruited to play for the Giants.
Xavier said recognition is long overdue for the Hominy team and the families who supported its efforts. She will serve as co-producer on a feature-length film version of “Playground of the Native Son,” sharing those duties with Adam Beach, the noted First Nations’ actor. Beach also is expected to narrate and star in the feature film.
“I’m looking for sponsorships to help with the feature film,” said Xavier. “That project is now my main focus.”
The production company executive said she is hoping the Hominy Indians’ story will be a source of pride for all Native Americans.
“I especially would like it to be something that motivates the youth,” said Xavier.
Michael Nash directed the documentary and is also to direct the full-length “Playground” project.
“I think this is another ‘Rocky’ story,” Nash said, referencing the Sylvester Stallone movie series about an underdog boxer. “I’m excited to tell the story about a group of Indians that came together and beat the world champions.”
Xavier, who had previously produced a documentary film on the Osage Reign of Terror, said tribal members she met while researching the football movie have proven to be a rich source of material for possible future film projects.
“I already have one thing in mind that I’d like to work on next,” she said.