The Great Train Robbery (film)
|The Great Train Robbery|
|Directed by||Edwin S. Porter|
|Produced by||Edwin S. Porter|
|Written by||Edwin S. Porter
|Starring||Alfred C. Abadie
Broncho Billy Anderson
Justus D. Barnes
|Cinematography||Edwin S. Porter
|Editing by||Edwin S. Porter|
|Distributed by||Edison Manufacturing Company
Kleine Optical Company
|Language||Silent film (English intertitles)|
The Great Train Robbery is a 1903 American Western film written, produced, and directed by Edwin S. Porter. 10 minutes long, it is considered a milestone in film making, expanding on Porter's previous work Life of an American Fireman. The film used a number of innovative techniques including composite editing, camera movement and on location shooting. The film is also the first to introduce the technique of cross cutting, in which two scenes appear to occur simultaneously but in different locations. Some prints were also hand colored in certain scenes.
The film was directed and photographed by Edwin S. Porter, a former Edison Studios cameraman. Actors in the movie included Alfred C. Abadie, Broncho Billy Anderson and Justus D. Barnes, although there were no credits. Though a Western, it was filmed in Milltown, New Jersey. In 1990, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The film opens with two bandits breaking into a railroad telegraph office, where they force the operator at gunpoint to stop the train and give the engineer orders to fill the train up at the station's water tank. Afterwards they knock him out and tie him up. As the train stops to fill up, the bandits, now four, board the train. While two of the bandits enter an express car, kill a messenger and open a box of valuables with dynamite, the others kill the fireman and force the engineer to halt the train and disconnect the locomotive. The bandits then force the passengers off the train and ransack them of their belongings. One passenger tries to escape, but is instantly shot down. Carrying their loot, the bandits escape in the locomotive, later stopping in a valley to continue on horseback.
Back in the telegraph office, the operator wakes up and tries to escape, collapsing again. His daughter enters and restores him to consciousness by throwing water in his face. At a nearby dance hall, there is comic relief when a "dude" is forced to dance when the men fire at his feet. The operator goes to the dance hall to gather assistance, and the men grab their guns and pursue the bandits. The posse catches up with the bandits, and in a final shootout all of the bandits are killed.
An additional scene is included in the film. It is a close up of the leader of the bandits, played by Justus D. Barnes, firing point blank towards the camera. While usually placed at the end, Porter stated that the scene could also be played at the beginning.
- Alfred C. Abadie as Sheriff
- Broncho Billy Anderson as Bandit / Shot Passenger / Tenderfoot Dancer
- Justus D. Barnes as Bandit Who Fires At Camera
- Walter Cameron as Sheriff
- Donald Gallaher as Little boy
- Frank Hanaway as Bandit
- Adam Charles Hayman as Bandit
- John Manus Dougherty, Sr. as Fourth bandit
- Marie Murray as Dance-hall dancer
- Mary Snow as Little girl
- George Barnes (uncredited)
- Morgan Jones (uncredited)
All cast members are deceased.
Production and Release
Porter's film was shot in the Edison studios in New York City, on location in New Jersey at the South Mountain Reservation, part of the modern Essex County Park system, as well as along the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. Filmed during November 1903, the picture was advertised as available for sale to distributors in December of that same year.
The Great Train Robbery had its official debut at Huber's Museum in New York City before being exhibited at eleven theaters elsewhere in the city. In advertising for the film, Edison agents touted the film as "...absolutely the superior of any moving picture ever made" as well as a "...faithful imitation of the genuine 'Hold Ups' made famous by various outlaw bands in the far West..."
In popular culture
- Edwin made a parody of The Great Train Robbery titled The Little Train Robbery (1905), with an all-child cast in which a larger gang of bandits holds up a mini train and steal their dolls and candy.
- In a 1966 episode of "Batman" silent movies stars Neil Hamilton and Francis X. Bushman appear in this episode. Bushman stars as the wealthy film collector who ownes a print of "The Great Train Robbery". Ironically in one of his last film appearances as a wealth collector of silent Films, Bushman never starred in the real "The Great Train Robbery" nor did he star in the "Keystone Cops" comedys.
- The final shot is paid homage in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas when Joe Pesci's character fires a gun at the camera at the end of the movie.
- Ridley Scott also paid homage after the final credits of American Gangster when Denzel Washington's character in a darkened bar fires a gun into the camera.
- The .45 Long Colt shot clip appears in the historical introduction to the film Tombstone, as do numerous other clips from the film, notably the man shot while attempting to escape the robbers.
- It is believed[by whom?] that the sequence with Justus D. Barnes was the inspiration for the gun barrel sequence in James Bond movies.
- In Martin Scorsese's 2011 film Hugo, there is a clip while the main characters were reading a book, with other famous movie clips such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
- The 1904 film The Bold Bank Robbery was inspired by the success of this film.
- Musser, Charles. "Moving Towards Fictional Narratives: Story Films Become the Dominant Product." In The Silent Cinema Reader, edited by Lee Grieveson and Peter Krämer. London: Routledge 2004, p. 89.
- Musser (2004), p. 90.
- Brooklyn Clipper 19 December 1903.
- "Overview of Edison Motion Pictures by Genre - Drama & Adventure". Retrieved 2012-10-11.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Great Train Robbery.|
- Download from the Library of Congress (in MPEG-1, RealVideo or QuickTime format)
- The Great Train Robbery at the Internet Movie Database
- The short film The Great Train Robbery is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- The Great Train Robbery at the TCM Movie Database
- The Great Train Robbery at allmovie
- Great Films: The Great Train Robbery