Early silent film production in Oklahoma has a unique history as the state was formed from two territories prior to statehood, November 19, 1907. One territory was known as the Oklahoma Territory and the other was Indian Territory.
Lawton and Southwest Oklahoma was in the Oklahoma Territory. It was and still is the home of the Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, Caddo, Wichita, Delaware, Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribal Nations. The City of Lawton was established in 1901 when the indian lands were opened for settlement. Prior to that, nearby Fort Sill was established in 1869.
A few of the early silent films produced in the area are 1914 The Sign of the Smoke, 1920 Daughter of Dawn, Wolf Hunt, and The Great Train Robbery.
1914 The Sign of the Smoke, Geronimo Film Company-
Oklahoma Research Source of Information:Federal Theatre Project Mr. Frank V. Wright 765-3-4 S203 708 D Street, Lawton, Oklahoma
In 1914 Mr. Frank V. Wright organized a film company known as the Geronimo Film Company. Producers of true to nature western films. (Studio, Wichita Mountains). “The Sign of the Smoke” was made in the fall and winter of 1914. The following is copied from newspaper clippings from the News-Republican, a newspaper printed in Lawton at that time:
Lawton, Oklahoma, Wednesday, December 30, 1914
“SCENERY A DELIGHT TO MOTION PICTURE ARTISTS
“With a few days of sunshiny weather “The Sign of the Smoke,” the feature picture being made by Frank Wright and his associates, will be completed. Immediately afterwards, Mr. Kent, photographer, will proceed to make a feature film for Bill Tighman and his associates, many of the scenes being made in the Wichita Mountains.
“Mr. Kent, who does the photo work for the 101 Ranch and is one of the best in the business, is delighted with the scenery of this section and says it is equally as good for all purposes as California. In his opinion, if the businessmen would lease a section of land adjacent to the mountains and provide a studio and a few cottages, every month of the year would find a motion picture company on the ground, as many of their stories could be made into film there. He told of one or two instances where this had been done by business interests.
“Not only is it a good advertisement for a city but a splendid business proposition, says Mr. Kent. The people, to a large extend, employed are high-salaried people and sometimes there are a very large number employed in the making of a picture. They naturally spend a large portion of their salaries wherever located.
“This arouses a train of thought well worth following, it would seem. While local citizens seem to appreciate the natural scenery of this section, strangers are enthused over it, and especially those who have come here for the purpose of film making. The proper inducement would probably mean that of the many companies, some one, or perhaps two, would be on the ground at all seasons of the year.
“It can readily been seen what advantages would accrue to Lawton and vicinity from an advertising standpoint.”
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“THE SIGN OF THE SMOKE”
This film is a product by the Geronimo Film Company, composed of Frank Wright and associates. The picture composing the plot was made in the Wichita Mountains, where the national reserve is located. The buffalo herd there is included; the beautiful scenery and clear, pretty shaded streams that abound. Among the most prominent people carrying out the story are Vern and Edith Tantlinger and Miss Kent, of the 101 Ranch, owned by Miller Bros., in northern Oklahoma; also Jack Arnold.
The Comanche Indians taking part are among those around Lawton, and White Parker, son of Chief Quannah Parker, is the principal character. The members of this tribe of Indians performed well their part and completed a truly western picture.
“The Sign of the Smoke” is a high-class production, affording much food for thought, as well as being an interesting story of adventure, containing a love plot that always adds to the merit of any production.
It was seen by hundreds yesterday afternoon and last night at the Murray and many more will witness it today, which is the last it will be shown here for the present.
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“THE SIGN OF THE SMOKE”
The Real Comanche Indian Pictured In His Native Haunts
A scenario written about an actual life incident of a famed Comanche Chief that had much to do with his final submission to the white man’s laws and his later profession of Christianity.
Every Feature True To Nature
More than 100 full-blood Comanche Indians.
More than 50 head of range buffalo -- the finest in America.
More than 200 long-horn range cattle stampeded.
A full company of Uncle Sam’s troops.
An emigrant train composed of real emigrants, secured at the opportune moment for this production.
A positive relief from the Broadway exaggeration of the true western life.
A picture showing the Indian as he really was in the past and he really is today.
BIG because no expense was spared.
BRIGHT because the scenario carries a story that tugs at every heart string.
BEAUTIFUL because nature did her best where the settings for this picture were created.
A Heart Story Endorsed by Press and Public.
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What the Managers have to say about “THE SIGN OF THE SMOKE”
Lyric -- Pawnee, Oklahoma, R.B. Stafford, Mgr.
“The Sign of the Smoke” showed here to a packed and pleased house. One of the greatest pictures of its kind and can recommend it as a sure winner. Don’t miss exhibiting feature.
Bijou -- Monett, Missouri, W.S. Sevier, Mgr.
This is to certify that we have this day (April 21, 1915) run “The Sign of the Smoke.” The feature gave entire satisfaction and the display is certainly a box office attraction.
Electric Theatre -- Hennessey, Oklahoma, M.A. Blackburn, Mgr.
Patrons of our theatre last night (April 7, 1915) were delighted with “The Sign of the Smoke.” So true to nature -- its many thrilling scenes -- it’s real portrayal of Indian life and characteristics, along with the roaming buffalo on the plains and the hunt by the old-time Indians, makes the show that catches everybody. We take pleasure in recommending this splendid feature to our fellow managers.
University Theatre -- Norman, Oklahoma, Ray C. Berry, Mgr.
This picture showed in our No. 2 house to capacity business and gave satisfaction. We have asked for a return date in our No. 1 house at any time it may please the booking office. “The Sign of the Smoke” is a good one and the advertising given it gets the money.
Oklahoma Research Classification: Indian Story
Federal Theatre Project Obtained by Interview from
765-3-4 S-203 Esther La Barr Jordan
In the interview I had with Esther La Barr Jordan, she said “The Daughter of Dawn” was made in 1920 in the Wichita Mountains.
During the 4 months it took to make this picture, there were about 5,000 Indians who camped and helped to make the picture. These Indians were used in the cast as extras. Several Indian battles were fought in the picture.
The story of “The Daughter of Dawn” was the story of two young Indian braves, both of whom wanted to marry Chief Dawn’s daughter. One was rich; he had great herds of cattle and ponies. The other one was very poor; all he could offer was his strength and courage.
Since Chief Dawn favored the poor young brave, he told them that they would have to prove themselves worthy of his daughter by jumping over a high cliff.
When the time came for the test, the old chief had everything ready, and all the tribe was watching to see who could claim the Indian princess.
Both young braves were there, but at the last moment, the brave with the cattle and ponies refused to make the leap over the cliff.
So the old Chief Dawn gave his daughter in marriage to the poor young Indian that had neither cattle nor ponies but only his brave deeds to offer.
The poor young brave in the picture was White Parker, son of Quannah Parker. The brave with the many ponies and herds of cattle was Jack Sanka-doey.
Immediately after this picture was finished, Esther La Barr married. She was 16 years old at that time.
The other picture was made several years before “The Daughter of Dawn.” Esther La Barr was not in this picture. It was called “The Sign of the Smoke.”
ubmitted by: Margaret Harrold, Research Worker
Oklahoma Research Title: Early Day Theatres
Federal Theatre Project Source: Copied from a Newspaper
765-3-4 S-203 Clipping Belonging to
Mrs. Frank V. Wright
Electric Parlor is dedicated to the use of ladies and gentlemen of Lawton as a place of public amusement. The employees of the house are ladies and gentlemen. For them, we ask and demand the same courteous treatment that will be extended patrons.
“Posers,” “ogglers” and “mashers,” if any there be in Lawton, are invited to stay away -- we don’t need the money or desire the presence of that class.
Rules of propriety, such as prevail in our best homes, will govern Electric Parlor so long as the present management is in control.
Trusting that our policy may be thoroughly understood and that our effort to establish a popular place of amusement may not prove an utter failure, we are,
Very respectfully yours,
FRANK V. WRIGHT
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Gaining in Popularity
Electric Parlor, under the management of Mr. Wright, is daily gaining favor with the amusement-loving people of Lawton. As was his custom when engaged in the newspaper business in this city, Mr. Wright now exerts his characteristic energy in making his new venture popular with the people. That he is succeeding admirably is evidenced by the big crowds attending the after and evening entertainments. Mrs. J.W. Enochs has accepted a permanent position as pianist at Electric Parlor and her overtures alone are well worth the price of admission. Miss Gertrude Salter, of El Reno, is enlightening the Lawton public with her illustrated songs and special intermission selections.