Cameron University to host screening of rediscovered silent film, “The Daughter of Dawn”

Cameron University, the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) and the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture will present “The Daughter of Dawn,” a historic silent film shot in the Wichita Mountains in 1920. Featuring a cast made entirely of Comanche and Kiowa Indians, “The Daughter of Dawn” was screened in Los Angeles and at least two other venues but was then lost for almost 85 years. This showing marks the first time the film will be shown in southwest Oklahoma. The screening takes place at the Cameron University Theatre on Thursday, October 11 at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. There is no cost to attend; seating will be first-come, first-served.

“The discovery of the original silver nitrate film some several years ago was momentous in terms of both Oklahoma and cinematic history,” says Bob Blackburn, Executive Director, OHS.  “It is one of the first silent films shot entirely in Oklahoma and is also the first to have an all Native American cast. Thanks to grants from the McMahon Foundation and the Lawton Community Foundation, the Oklahoma Historical Society was able to purchase the film in 2006. Funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation enabled us to restore the film, including transferring the movie to 35mm film, DVD and other media formats. It is with great pride that we can now share this lost treasure with the public.”

A musical score for the film was composed by David Yeagley, a member of the Comanche Nation, and recorded by the Oklahoma City University Orchestra.

Blackburn, Yeagley and elders from the Comanche Nation and the Kiowa Nation will be in attendance to provide commentary on the film.

“The Daughter of Dawn” was directed by Norbert Myles, a vaudevillian/actor/writer/director whose work in film began in 1915. He was hired in late 1919 to direct a film written by Richard Banks, owner of the fledgling Texas Film Company. The movie was shot entirely on location in the Wichita Mountains using local Native Americans as actors.

The completed 80-minute production was screened in October 1920 at the College Theater in Los Angeles, where it received rave reviews and was referred to by one critic as “an original and breathtaking adventure…hardly duplicated before.”  For unknown reasons, the film was never released and was considered lost until a silver nitrate copy was brought to the OHS’ attention in 2003.

In the film, Esther LeBarre plays the lead character, Daughter of Dawn, the daughter of Hunting Horse, Chief of the Kiowa. She is courted by White Eagle, played by White Parker, and Black Wolf, played by Jack Sankadota. Dawn loves White, but the Chief says that Wolf has many ponies so he must consider both as potential husbands for his daughter. To this love triangle is added Red Wing, played by Wanada Parker, who is in love with Wolf. Both White Parker and Wanada Parker were children of the Comanche Chief Quanah Parker.

The story also includes two buffalo hunt scenes, a battle scene, village scenes, dances, deceit, courage, hand-to-hand combat, love scenes, and a happy ending.

For more information about the October 11 screening at Cameron University, contact the Cameron University Office of University Advancement at 580-581-2999.

For more information about “The Daughter of Dawn,” contact the Oklahoma Historical Society at (405) 521-2491.

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September 28, 2012

PR#12-156