By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
If you're in Kansas City Missouri tonight tickets are still available for Daughter of Dawn, the first film to feature an all Native American cast. Believed to have been lost for ninety years, the film originally shot on a reservation in southwest Oklahoma, will now screen in conjunction with the Latino writers collective, at Cinema Cabaliste at 6:30 p.m. It is supplemented by a score composed by Comanche classical composer, David Yeagley and performed and recorded by the student symphony of Oklahoma City University.
What's the private eye angle in all this? In 2004 Brian Hearn received a “strange call from a private investigator in North Carolina,” according to Melissa Lenos, writing for Kansas City University Radio (KCUR).
"'This guy had a client whose grandfather had owned a silent movie theater," Hearn who was film curator of the Oklahoma City Museum at the time, explained. “When it came time to pay the PI, the client ‘paid’ him with six canisters of film.” The six canisters of film, it turns out, housed the Daughter of Dawn, featuring a cast of more than 300 Kiowa and Comanche people.
Many pre-1935 films were lost because they were shot on a highly flammable and decomposable silver nitrate. What saved Daughter of Dawn from a fate of dust or flames, fumes and vapor were those tightly closed canister lids fused with the fact no one had bothered to open them in a really long time.
The North Carolina based private investigator --whom we are in the process of trying to track down for a follow up story-- initially wanted $35,000 from the Oklahoma Historical Society.
With the assistance of Bob Blackburn, the then executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society plus several years of negotiations the museum managed to buy the film from the private investigator for $5,000.
They went on to raise the funds needed to restore, score and bring the film back to the silver screen. DVD and Blu Ray versions of Daughters of Dawn can now purchased through the Oklahoma Historical Society.
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