A remarkable historical discovery has been made as a long lost silent film is recovered.
More than 80% of all silent films ever made are gone. Nobody had a sense of the value of these things, and so most of the films of the period were destroyed rather than stored. Many classics, many historical moments, are lost forever to time.
One of those films was Daughter of Dawn, a 1920 feature length silent movie. What sets Daughter of Dawn apart from other lost silent films is that it was shot entirely with a Native American cast. At a time when white people were regularly playing Indians, this is a big deal. An even bigger deal is the fact that Daughter of Dawn isn't a cowboys and Indians film; it doesn't feature an appearance by heroic whites. It's a love story set entirely within an Indian tribe. 300 Comanches and Kiowas brought their own clothes, weapons and props to make the film authentic. There are two buffalo hunt scenes that are shot with real buffalo herds and real riders bringing them down.
The movie was shot by Norbert Myles, who first started making shorts in 1913. It was the only feature produced by the Texas Film Company, whose founder had lived with Indians for 25 years. According to The History Blog the film may have screened only once for the public:
According to the October 17, 1920, issue of the influential industry trade magazine Motion Picture News, an exclusive preview of The Daughter of Dawn had been shown earlier that week at the College Theater in Los Angeles to great critical acclaim. It was an “original and breath-taking adventure” which had “hardly been duplicated before.” Notwithstanding the fine notices, there’s no evidence that the movie was ever distributed any further.
Until now. The restored movie played last month at the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City. Daughter of Dawn turned up a few years back when - and this is a story that sounds like something from a movie - a print was given to a private investigator as payment. The PI realized the silver nitrate print was worth money, and he sold it to the Oklahoma Historical Society, who set about restoring the film.
The first ten minutes of the movie are embedded above.
Daughter of Dawn will be heading to home video soon. Meanwhile the question remains: what other gems are hidden in garages and attics out there? What lost movies will someday be found?
Thanks to @HeavyMidnites for the link!