Lost Silent Film with American Indian Cast rediscovered, restored


Jul 23, 2012

By Alex Cranz

Photo: The Daughter of Dawn, as played by Esther LeBarre.

The Daughter of Dawn was considered a quirk of American cinematic history, a lost full length feature film that happened to be about American Indians and starring only American Indians.

Shot in 1920, during the heyday of silent film, the film featured a cast of Comanches and Kiowas whom provided their own props, costumes, set dressings and horses. Among the cast were Wanada and White Parker, the children of famous Comanche chief Quanah Parker and the grandchildren of Cynthia Ann Parker. If that name is ringing a bell it’s because she was the inspiration for both Natalie Wood’s character in The Searchers and Mary McDonnell’s character in Dances With Wolves. (How one woman’s story could create two such wildly different characters and tales is a conversation for another article.)

Producer Richard E. Banks was familiar but with the Native populations of Texas and Oklahoma and with Hollywood’s terrible representation of all Native people. So he hired direct Norbert Myles to write and direct a film that didn’t use Native people as props in a white man’s story.

Unfortunately between 1920 and now the film was lost.

Only somehow, like the classics Metropolis and Gloria Swanson’s Beyond the Rocks, The Daughter of Dawn was rediscovered. A private investigator received reels of the film as payment from a client. He quickly realized that what he had on his hands was a valuable long-lost film and contacted the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. With the help of Oklahoma Historical Society they were able to purchased the film and restore.

And now the first ten minutes of this very cool piece of our history is online.

The History Blog has the whole story. It’s a fascinating read and this is a truly fascinating piece of history once thought lost.

And if you’re jonsing for a copy of the full length film, the Oklahoma Historical Society is planning on selling it on DVD in the near future.

Source [The History Blog via NewsOK]

tags: american indian cinema, cynthia ann parker, lost films, private investigator makes good silent film, texas, the daughter of dawn

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