Birth of the Western Film
In 1894, Thomas
Edison produces a large number of documentary Kinetoscope footage of
Western life. Some of this
footage features Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show.
They include Indian scenes, cowboys at work footage and scenic
1898, the Edison Company makes two films that contain a storyline.
It is a decisive jump from the reality films, which dominates the
very early years of the cinema. It
is the drama or story that moviemakers found Hollywood.
The first film is Poker at Dawson City. Sitting
around a table,
we watch four
people play cards and cheating. Suddenly,
a fight breaks out. The title
Poker at Dawson City anchors it firmly to a Western setting.
The card playing and fistfight scenes become Western staples.
better-known film is Cripple
The story is about people drinking in a bar. After getting drunk, the barmaid throws them out.
As with Poker at Dawson City, the
title establishes the location as a Western.
(Cripple Creek is the biggest gold strike in Colorado.)
Besides, the costumes portray a make Western style.
One or two of the hats resemble the cowboy�s ten-gallon hat.
One character dresses in top hat, white shirt and black coat, the
traditional garb of the gambler we will find in later Western movies.
Great Train Robbery
may not be the first Western film, but it is a
major advance in film production. The
director, Edwin S. Porter, uses actual outdoor locations (He shots
the film in New Jersey on the Delaware and Lackawanna Railroad).
It only runs ten-minutes and importantly the film has a story that
becomes traditional to Western audiences worldwide.
The film includes a train robbery, a fistfight, a horseback chase,
a dude forced to dance at gunpoint, and the final shootout.
Unfortunately, the short running time does not allow actors to
develop their characters. The
film is also shot with long shots with virtually no close ups.
Instead of The Great Train Robbery being
the first dramatic Western movie story, Kit Carson may hold that
In September 1903, the
American Mutoscope and Biograph Company
produce the film.
Director Wallace McCutcheon directs this short
21-minute film. Indians
capture Kit Carson and tie him to a tree in the Indian village.
An Indian maiden aids him in his escape.
It would be December 1903, that Porter and the Edison Company
The Great Train