Manny P. here…
A long-lost silent film admired by historians as a rare visual account of Native American customs is being released after a private detective in North Carolina stumbled across a damaged copy. The Daughter of Dawn — first screened in Los Angeles in 1920 — features a large cast of Comanche and Kiowa people, and shows scenes of buffalo hunting and ceremonial dances obscured by time. The copy, discovered more than a decade ago, has been restored and was screened in Texas this week, ahead of its commercial release later this year.
Two of the approximately 300 Comanche and Kiowa people in the film, which portrays a fictional love story that also serves as a record of Native-American traditions, are children of legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker, whose exploits were widely recounted on the frontier. The Daughter of Dawn was a striking departure from the racial stereotypes found in films from that time, such as D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.
The year after the movie was first screened, a fire destroyed the Dallas warehouse where the small Texas Film Co., which produced The Daughter of Dawn, stored most of its work. Somehow, a copy later ended up in the care of a North Carolina resident, who offered five nitrate celluloid reels to the private detective as payment in an unrelated matter. The detective then sold the reels of the movie — shot in the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma — to the Oklahoma Historical Society for over $5,000 before Milestone was recruited as the distributor. The historical society retains ownership of the original nitrate film, which is being stored at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Los Angeles.
The delicate restoration work took years, and an orchestral score was completed in 2012. A year later the Library of Congress added the movie to its National Film Registry. An initial screening of the 87-minute, black-and-white film was held this week at an Amarillo library. The film will be released on DVD and Blue-ray, and made available through online outlets.
Until next time> “never forget”