UA screens long-lost silent film today; grad scores soundtrack

2013-02-18T12:09:00Z UA screens long-lost silent film today; grad scores soundtrackCathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 18, 2013 12:09 pm  • 

UA doctoral graduate David Yeagly made history a few years ago when he was commissioned to pen the 80-minute symphonic soundtrack for the long-lost 1920 movie “Daughter of Dawn.”

Yeagly, who earned his doctorate in music from the University of Arizona in 1994, was the first American Indian composer to land the job of scoring an action film.The Oklahoma native, a member of the Camanche tribe created a lush sonic landscape to go with the film, which was the first full-length movie of an American Indian story told through American Indian actors.

Today, Yeagly returns to Tucson as a special guest for a free screening of a completely restored version of “Daughter of Dawn.” The screening, presented by the UA Hanson Film Institute and the School of Music, is at 5:30 p.m. at the UA Center for Creative Photography Auditorium, 1030 N. Olive Road.

• About the film: It’s in black and white and was shot in the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma using Comanche and Kiowa Indian actors. The story is based partly on legend, partly on lore and flashes images of Indian life include a buffalo hunt, dancing, fighting and a love story. The film had been lost until 2005, when the Oklahoma Historical Society recovered it from a private owner and set about restoring it. The first public screenings were at Oklahoma’s Dead Center Film Festival and the Santa Fe Native Cinema Showcase, both last summer .

• About the actors: The ranged in age from young kids to old men, including a handful of people who had lived in the 1870s, before the Comanches fully surrendered at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Descendents of the younger actors are still alive today.

• About the soundtrack: In a videotaped interview on the movie’s website (, Yeagly said his score does not imitate “pow-wow songs. I’m not using any historical, authentic songs still sung among elderly Comanche, either. I was asked to write a symphonic score. I was commissioned to write for full orchestra. This is a major, classical music effort. This is not a pop music score. This is not about sound effects or cartoon entertainment music. This is first rate symphonic music.”

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