The Great Train Robbery
US, 12min, Silent, B&W
Director: Edwin S. Porter
Screenplay: Scott Marble, Edwin S. Porter
Cast: A.C. Abadie, Gilbert M. “Bronco Billy” Anderson, George Barnes, Walter Cameron, Frank Hanaway, Morgan Jones, Tom London, Marie Murray, Mary Snow
Considered by many historians to be the first “western,” helped to kick-start what would be the most popular genre in American film. This is a pretty straight forward story about a group of train robbers and the townsfolk who capture them. The best parts of this film, to me, are what is happening outside of the scene. When there is a window or an opening in the train you can see what is happening around the film.
In the opening scene where the robbers are holding the telegrapher captive we see the train arrive through the window. Later, when the train car is being robbed you see the landscape going by. It is beautiful to watch the ingenuity of Porter and the way he set up the camera and the editing to achieve these visuals. All things we take for granted in these days of light weight small cameras. This was done with a heavy, nearly immobile piece of equipment.
This and A Trip to the Moon are great introductions into the world of film history. With their lengths and fun stories they are easy to enjoy for both adults and children.
Available for streaming on YouTube. I suggest looking for the version with the original hand tinting.