#310) The Daughter of Dawn (1920)

Daughter of Dawn (1920)

#310) The Daughter of Dawn (1920)

OR “Two Guys, a Girl, and the Great Plains”

Directed by Norbert Myles

Written by Myles and Richard Banks

Class of 2013

No trailer, but here’s the first 12 minutes of the film.

The Plot: Kiowa tribe member Daughter of Dawn (Esther LaBarre) wants to marry the brave hunter White Eagle (White Parker), but her father the Chief (Hunting Horse) wants her to consider the more powerful Black Wolf (Jack Sankadota). When Black Wolf learns that Daughter of Dawn is not interested in him, he plots with the Chief of the Comanche tribe (Belo Cozad) to steal the Kiowa’s horses and women. But this love triangle has four sides, as Black Wolf is oblivious to the adoration fellow Kiowa Red Wing (Wanda Parker) has for him. All this, plus a well-documented look at the Plains Indian lifestyle of the early 20th century, complete with a buffalo hunt!

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film “a priceless record of Native-American customs, traditions and artifacts of the time” and mentions its then-recent restoration by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

But Does It Really?: This film made it to the NFR the quote-unquote easy way: be a silent film that is presumed lost for decades only to be rediscovered and restored with funding by the National Film Preservation Foundation. The film’s 2012 restoration no doubt led to its 2013 inclusion, but that’s all beside the point: “Daughter of Dawn” would have made the list anyway because of its historical significance. The film is 80 minutes of the Kiowa and Comanche tribes, with a cast comprised entirely of Native Americans, who brought their own clothing and artifacts for authenticity. As a film it’s a bit on the slow side, but at the end of the day you have a decent film and an indispensable historical document. “The Daughter of Dawn” deserves to be on this list, perhaps more so than some of the Registry’s more recognizable titles.

Everybody Gets One: Not a lot of information out there about the cast and crew, but this essay by Oklahoma History teacher Leo Kelley gives a bit of information on writer, director, and “interesting character” Norbert Myles. Myles started off as an actor who worked with practically every major silent film studio before getting “blackballed” from Hollywood for clashing with too many studio heads. In 1919, Myles was persuaded by filmmaker Richard Banks to direct a film for Banks’ Texas Film Company based on a Comanche legend Banks had been told.

Wow, That’s Dated: This whole movie features “women as property” as a major plot point. Also, buffalo! Look at all the buffalo! We screwed that one up for sure.

Take a Shot: Daughter of Dawn gets her name because she was born as the sun rose. By that logic, my name would be “Son of Right-After-Lunch”.

Other notes

  • A quick word about the restored print: either the original intertitles were missing or in poor condition, so they have all been replaced, using text from the shooting script to fill in the gaps. This includes the film’s prologue text, found on the front page of the script, thanking Richard Banks for his “knowledge of the Indian…gained during the twenty-five years that he lived with them”.
  • Not a lot is known about the cast, except that the actors playing White Eagle and Red Wing are the children of Quanah Parker, the “Last Chief of the Comanche”.
  • As for that beautiful landscape, the entire film was shot in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma.
  • The Chief is first referenced as being the “Father of Daughter of Dawn”. Any more relatives and we’ll need a flowchart.
  • Why do they keep calling them “ponies”? Those are full-grown horses, and that is false advertising.
  • Nice illustrations; were those part of the original intertitles?
  • Six years after “The Bargain”, the filmmakers of “The Daughter of Dawn” figured out how to film day-for-night: just tint the film dark blue afterwards.
  • Speaking of, I like the golden tint the rest of the movie gets. Gives it a sepia-tone feel, like you’re out in the sun alongside the characters.
  • My god, these intertitles are on screen forever! How slowly did people read back then? This whole movie could have been over in 20 minutes!
  • My favorite part about this movie is there isn’t a single white character. No Kevin Costner to play white savior, and no settlers pillaging the land. The Kiowa and Comanche tribes have enough problems as it is, thank you very much.
  • White Eagle and Black Wolf have to jump off a cliff to prove their love for Daughter of Dawn? Isn’t that the same process the Puritans used to determine who was a witch?
  • Has anyone else noticed that Daughter of Dawn has become a supporting character in her own movie? This movie should have been called “White Eagle and Black Wolf”.
  • “White Eagle’s physical injuries were soon routed by youth, love, and happiness.” Ah yes, back when you could cure a movie character with intertitles.
  • Am I watching the Comanche attack in real time? Pick it up everybody, it’s a movie!
  • “The Daughter of Dawn” is not without its faults, but it’s still better than the silent version of “Last of the Mohicans” on this list.
  • Wow, the credits were able to identify not only the cast, but also many of the allegedly hundreds of extras utilized during production. As I always say, there is no substitute for thorough research. Well done, Oklahoma Historical Society.

Legacy

  • How much of a legacy can a film that went missing for 92 years have? Hopefully the rediscovery is just the beginning of this film’s influence.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s