The Great Train Robbery

January 3, 2010 | By

The Great Train Robbery was produced by Edison Company in 1903.  The film was shot in November and released a month later. It was a huge financial success.


Edwin Porter

Edwin Porter directed the film and wrote the screenplay.  Porter had worked his way up the fledging  film industry.  Hired by the Edison Company in 1900, the mechanically minded Porter made improvements to Edison’s motion-picture equipment and was a cameraman on several film.  We was later placed in charge of Edison’s skylight studio on East 21st Street in New York City.

The Great Train Robbery continued ground breaking achievement in the telling of a narrative story with motion pictures.  Many early films adopted a theartical frontal composition style.  Porter included some theatrically staged scenes shot in the New York City studio.  There were also outdoor location scenes of this early American western shot in Essex County, New Jersey.  Porter also added additional motion to the film by placing his camera on a moving train as well as a short camera pan as the bandits cross a stream after making their escape.

This 14 scene, 11 minute film tells a complete story of a train robbery and sets a pattern carried on in later film story telling that crime never pays.


Justus Barnes

The cast includes  G.M. Anderson (real name Max Aronson) who later starred in many westerns becoming widely known as Bronco Billy.  In The Great Train Robbery, Anderson played one of the bandits, the Tenderfoot who dances to gunshots at the hoedown and the train passenger who is shot attempting to flee the robbery scene.

Justus Barnes played the lead bandit and is also the actor who at the end of film fires directly into the camera.  One can only imagine the response from a turn of the century audience only then becoming familiar with motion pictures.

Voiceover narration has been provided to help explain elements of the story.


Filed in: Honored Tradition

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