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Silent movie from early 1900s gets new life

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OKLAHOMA CITY_There is no other movie like it anywhere else. 'Daughter of Dawn' was shot at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in 1920. It's the oldest feature film shot in Oklahoma and the only film of its time with an all-Native American cast. Lost for more than 80 years and thought to be gone forever, the film will be shown for the first time in 92 years, next week in Lawton.

It was in a guys garage, which Is not exactly the best way to preserve a nearly 100 year old film. When the phone rang at the Oklahoma Historical Society and the person on the other end told them what he had, the interest was immediate even though acquiring the film and preserving it took some time.

"Daughter of Dawn" made its debut in Hollywood, it was shown only once. What was once lost, has now been found and delicately preserved.  

"When we received the film it was made on nitrate, which is extremely volatile. It can explode it can disintegrate, there are so many things that can happen to it," Jeff Moore of the Oklahoma Historical Society said.

A call to the national film preservation trust led to a grant and a 35 millimeter copy. What you will be seeing now has been re-mastered from that copy. The original is now housed in a vault at the Academy of Motion Pictures.

"We knew that a score had not been composed originally. So any viewing that would have happened in 1920 or 1921 would have just been generic house music at whatever theater with an organist." 

When the historical society completes the restoration of "Daughter of Dawn" music will bring the film to life. 

"There's a gentleman by the name of David Yaegley who is a member of the Comanche tribe who is a trained classical composer. Basically we contracted with him to compose an original score," Oklahoma Historical Society's Matt Reed said.   

Yaegleys musical touch enhances a silent film that will be silent no more. The historical society had a multitude of options for musicians to record the score. They decided to use students at Oklahoma City University. At the time the movie was made Native Americans were prohibited from gathering in large numbers, speaking their own language, even wearing traditional clothing.

"When you watch the movie and you see these folks come out and they're using their teepees and they're wearing their traditional clothing and they're even dancing their dances, even though it's a silent we suspect they're probably speaking Kiowa, it's very significant."

The actors and actresses are all Native Americans including some names you might already be familiar with.

"There will be a lot of people in your viewing area that will be related to these folks. White Parker and Wenonah Parker, the two descendants of Quanah, that were in the film as well as Jack Sancadotie."

There are so many reasons why this film is historically significant not just here in Southwest Oklahoma or even the State of Oklahoma. People from all over the world have expressed interest in it. There are several teepees used in the making of the film, one of the teepees that you see the most was believed to have been lost or destroyed for decades. Matt Reed thought he recognized the drawings on the teepee and sure enough he was right. The Oklahoma Historical Society has had the teepee in it's possession since 1929 and hopes to display it in a new exhibit in the next year or two.

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