Sunday Silents Presents Daughter of the Dawn (1920)

Sunday Silents Presents Daughter of the Dawn (1920)

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

3:00 pm | $7/$5 members | 1 hr 20 min | 1920 | Western | with live music by Marta Waterman

Rosendale Theatre presents DAUGHTER OF THE DAWN, a touching story of Native American life in the 19th century, recently restored and seen for the first time in almost 100 years. As one of the only silent feature films starring a Native American cast, DAUGHTER OF THE DAWN broke new ground when it was released and faced a wide range of challenges throughout its production.

The film was produced by Richard Banks, who had met Norbert A. Myles, a seasoned actor of vaudeville and short subjects, on a movie set in 1916. At that time, he began to recruit Myles’ as-of-yet unproved directorial talents for a film Banks had long aspired to make, one based on an old Comanche legend.

Filming took place at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma, in the summer of 1920. The story of DAUGHTER OF THE DAWN revolves around different tribes, a hunt for buffalo, and a love triangle. The film is especially interesting to audiences today because of its authentic portrayal of Native American life and legends.

The film is of interest on many levels. One is that Myles, rather than making a typical Hollywood film, instead he adapted his methods and equipment to the Indians and their environment through the use of natural lighting, location shooting and existing costumes and props. Perhaps the greatest asset provided by the surrounding earth came in the droves of bison that once again flourished on the Oklahoma plains. Following the American bison’s near-extinction in the late 19th century, the American Bison Society, starting in 1907, had transplanted 15 specimens from New York City’s Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma grasslands. The efforts succeeded, leading to a proliferation of bison across the Wichita Mountains, the population of which numbers about 650 today. Director Myles valued the beauty and force of these animals, going so far as to order his cameraman to film a buffalo chase scene “from a pit so as to have all the buffalo … and Indians … pass directly over the top of the camera.” It was an extremely bold move for early films.

The Native American cast lent authenticity to DAUGHTER OF THE DAWN. These performers lent their expertise contributed greatly to the value of the film, which, in addition to telling a unique story, provides a record of Native American culture.