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Film / The Daughter of Dawn

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The Daughter of Dawn is a 1920 film directed by Norbert Myles.

It is notable for being a movie about Native Americans featuring an all-Native American cast (specifically, Kiowa and Comanche). The film is set in an indefinite time period sometime after the Spanish brought the horse to the Americas but before the white man destroyed the Native American way of life. The chief of the Kiowas has a daughter he named Daughter of Dawn as she was born as the sun rose. Daughter has two Kiowa braves vying for her hand. Her father is inclined to favor Black Wolf, who has "many ponies" to bring to the marriage. However, Daughter herself loves White Eagle, a charismatic young brave who is the tribe's best hunter. Waiting off to the side is Red Wing, a young Kiowa woman who is in deep and unrequited love with Black Wolf.

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The chief tries to get Daughter to accept Black Wolf, but she insists on White Eagle. Her father arranges for a test of character to see who will win his daughter's hand. Meanwhile, a group of Cheyenne, the Kiowa's enemy, is lurking about, waiting for a chance to steal the Kiowa's ponies and their women.

The film depicts a native dance which would have been strictly forbidden by United States authorities if it hadn't been for a movie. White Eagle was played by a Comanche named White Parker, who was the son of Quanah Parker, who was a pretty important guy.

Compare White Fawn's Devotion, a short film made entirely by Native Americans in 1912.


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Tropes:

  • "Awesome McCool" Name: White Eagle, Red Wing—those are great names.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: Truth in Television to a certain extent and demonstrated in this film, as an authentic Native American cast dressed in just this way.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Subverted, as in this film the chief's daughter actually falls in love with another member of the tribe, and not Mighty Whitey.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Black Wolf is judged a coward and expelled from the tribe after he refuses to jump off an intimidating bluff to prove his worthiness for Daughter's hand.
    • And even if one considers that good sense rather than cowardice, Black Wolf is more plainly a dirty coward earlier in the movie, when he sees a Comanche spy lurking near the Kiowa camp, and elects not to tell anyone.
  • Driven to Suicide: Red Wing kills herself after finding Black Wolf's body in the woods.
  • Engagement Challenge: The chief decides to test the worthiness of Black Wolf and White Eagle by taking them to a bluff and challenging both of them to jump off to prove their worthiness. White Eagle does, and wins Daughter's hand. Black Wolf doesn't, and is expelled from the tribe.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Sticks to the silent-era convention in which night scenes are tinted bluish.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Even though a title card says "From time immemorial the eternal triangle", it's actually a dodecahedron, with Black Wolf and White Eagle vying for Daughter of the Dawn while Red Wing pines for Black Wolf.
  • Love Martyr: Red Wing is utterly devoted to Black Wolf despite the fact that he doesn't give a crap about her and only has eyes for Daughter of the Dawn. After Black Wolf is killed by White Eagle, she kills herself.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with Daughter of the Dawn and White Eagle, having been finally united in marriage by her father, sailing away across the lake in a canoe.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Black Wolf has a lot of ponies and other goods that he can bring to a marriage with Daughter of the Dawn, while White Eagle has little.
  • Together in Death: Red Wing collapses and dies on top of Black Wolf's body after she stabs herself.
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