First Movie Cowboy, The
1561. THE FIRST MOVIE COWBOY (1913-1915-USA). Gilbert M. ÒBroncho BillyÓ Anderson- born Max Aronson in Little Rock, ArkansasÑwas the movies’ first cowboy hero. With GEORGE K. SPOOR, he established the Essanay Film Manufacturing Corporation, one of the most important movie studios of its day, for which he directed and starred in several hundred one and two-reel Westerns. He cast himself as “Broncho Billy,” a character from a PETER B. KYNE short story. Each scenario was dealt with individually: sometimes, Billy was the good guy; other times, he was the villain; occasionally, he was even killed off. The following trio of featurettes offers a representative sampling of Broncho Billy Westerns.
1. THE MAKING OF BRONCHO BILLY (1913-USA). With G.M. ANDERSON. Directed by G.M. ANDERSON. Billy’s a dude, garbed in a suit and tie, who finds himself in a gambling parlor populated by some rough, ornery cowpokes. He’s bullied mercilessly, so he decides to don more traditional Western gearÑand learn how to shoot a gun.
2. THE PRISONER (Broncho Billy’s Sentence) (1915-USA). With G.M. ANDERSON. Directed by G.M. ANDERSON. It seems that Billy has stolen some foot, and a sheriff and posse are hot on his trail. His meeting with a young girl and her father marks the start of Billy’s unlikely transformation from sinner to bible-spouting saint.
3. BRONCO BILLY’S CAPTURE (Broncho Billy’s Capture) (1913-USA). With G.M. ANDERSON: Directed by G.M. ANDERSON. Billy’s a lawman who’s fallen for a two-timing woman. She and her other boyfriend, a desperate criminal, plot a stagecoach robbery. Billy will be in for quite a shock when he learns of his sweetie’s Jekyll-Hyde personality. Silent films with original organ score, correct projection speed. 47 minutes total. ÒSilentÓ Western