The Great Train Robbery (1903)

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    • The Great Train Robbery (1903)

      THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

      DIRECTED, WRITTEN & PRODUCED BY EDWIN S. PORTER
      EDISON MANUFACTURING COMPANY


      INFORMATION FROM IMDb

      Plot Summary
      Among the earliest existing films in American cinema - notable as the first film that presented a narrative story to tell - it depicts a group of cowboy outlaws who hold up a train and rob the passengers. They are then pursued by a Sheriff's posse. Several scenes have color included - all hand tinted.
      Written by garykmcd

      Cast
      A.C. Abadie ... Sheriff (uncredited)
      Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson ... Bandit / Shot Passenger / Tenderfoot Dancer (uncredited)
      George Barnes ... (uncredited)
      Justus D. Barnes ... Bandit Who Fires at Camera (uncredited)
      Walter Cameron ... Sheriff (uncredited)
      John Manus Dougherty Sr. ... Fourth Bandit (uncredited)
      Donald Gallaher ... Little Boy (uncredited)
      Shadrack E. Graham ... Child (uncredited)
      Frank Hanaway ... Bandit (uncredited)
      Adam Charles Hayman ... Bandit (uncredited)
      Morgan Jones ... (uncredited)
      Robert Milasch ... Trainman / Bandit (uncredited)
      Marie Murray ... Dance-Hall Dancer (uncredited)
      Mary Snow ... Little Girl (uncredited)

      Directed
      Edwin S. Porter ... (uncredited)

      Writing Credits
      Scott Marble ... (story) (uncredited)
      Edwin S. Porter ... (uncredited)

      Cinematography
      Blair Smith
      Edwin S. Porter ... (uncredited)

      Trivia
      The final shot of a gun being fired toward the camera had a profound effect on audiences. As cinema was in its infancy, many people who saw the film thought that they were actually about to be shot.

      The original camera negative still exists in excellent condition. The Library of Congress, who holds it, can still make new prints.

      The film uses simple editing techniques (each scene is a single shot) and the story is mostly linear (with only a few "meanwhile" moments) but it represents a significant step in movie making, being one of the first "narrative" movies.

      The film was originally distributed with a note saying that the famous shot of the bandit firing his gun at the camera could be placed either at the beginning or at the end of the film. All known prints put it at the end.

      This was Tom London's film debut. He was cast in the role of the locomotive engineer, his real-life job.

      The earliest American film listed in "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.

      Goofs
      Continuity
      When the bandits rob the train and drive away with the engine it is on the right rail-track. When they stop to proceed on horseback the train is on the left.

      After the bandits have robbed the passengers they run towards the rear of the train instead of towards the front, where their getaway locomotive is waiting. In the next shot, they are seen running towards the locomotive.

      Miscellaneous
      Looking closely, you can see that every time a gun is used, it is pointed away from the person/camera. This might be regarded as a revealing mistake, but this is done for 2 reasons. The first being that film was in its early stages, so they didn't think the audience could see the tilted guns. Reason 2 being that blank cartridges for pistols weren't invented/widely used at the time, so they had to use real bullets.

      Revealing mistakes
      Obvious dummy is thrown from the train.

      When the telegraph operator revives with his hands tied behind his back, he uses one of his hands to help him stand up and then quickly puts the hand behind his back again.

      When the guard riding with the money in the baggage car
      is shot he throws his arms straight up in the air and falls to the floor with them extended.
      He was shot more then once, but while laying on the floor he holds his right arm up off the floor
      while his attackers search his body. Once they get up, he crosses his right arm across his face.

      Filming Locations
      New Jersey, USA
      Dover, New Jersey, USA
      Essex County Park, New Jersey, USA
      Orange Mountains, New Jersey, USA
      New York, USA
      West Orange, New Jersey, USA

      Watch this 12 minute movie (FASCINATING)

      Best Wishes
      Keith
      London- England
    • The Great Train Robbery is a 1903 American silent short Western film written,
      produced, and directed 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.
      The film was inspired by Scott Marble's 1896 stage play

      At twelve minutes long, The Great Train Robbery film is considered a milestone in film making,
      expanding on Porter's previous work Life of an American Fireman.
      The film used a number of then-unconventional techniques,
      including composite editing, on-location shooting, and frequent camera movement.
      The film is one of the earliest to use the technique of cross cutting,
      in which two scenes are shown to be occurring simultaneously but in different locations.
      Some prints were also hand colored in certain scenes.



      Techniques used in The Great Train Robbery were inspired by those used in Frank Mottershaw's
      British film A Daring Daylight Burglary, released earlier in the year.
      Film historians now largely consider The Great Train Robbery
      to be the first American action film and the first Western film with a "recognizable form".

      In 1990, The Great Train Robbery was selected for preservation
      in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress
      as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

      Final shot
      Justus D. Barnes as "Bronco Billy Anderson", the leader of the outlaw band, taking aim and firing point blank at the audience, shocking many first-time moviegoers with the extreme realism of the final shot
      An additional scene of the film is a close up of the leader of the bandits, played by Justus D. Barnes, who empties his pistol point blank into the camera. Although it is usually placed at the end, Porter stated that the scene could also appear at the beginning of the film.

      In the 1990 film Goodfellas, the final shot of Tommy shooting at the camera was taken from this film.

      Production notes
      Porter's film was shot at 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.



      User Review

      A timeless, priceless work
      6 March 2003 | by MikeF-6 (Rio Rancho, NM)

      MIKE wrote:

      What can one say about an 11 minute film, which is reputed to be the first narrative motion picture to be shot in the United States? What does one compare it to when nothing had come before it? What is even more amazing is that parts of this movie are in color! The women's dresses at the dance are in color - each frame had been hand colored. The flashes from the barrels of the six shooters are red and an explosion sends up a riot of color. There is even a little girl in a red coat. Take that, Steven Spielberg!! Except for the last five seconds, all of the shots are in medium to long. The camera never moves. For each sequence, it is set in place and actors move in front of it.

      It is a western, of course (shot in the wilds of New Jersey). A gang of bad guys knock out a train station clerk then board a departing train. They move to the car where there is a safe, blow the safe, stop the train and rob the passengers. Back in town, the clerk revives and tries to get help but passes out again. A little girl comes in wakes him up. The townspeople are having a dance when the clerk runs in to form a posse. The posse rides out and surrounds the gang, who is counting the loot in the woods. There is a gunfight and the robbers are killed. That is the whole story, but there is one short scene left - one of the most remarkable in film history. The all color episode lasts about 5 seconds. In medium close-up, a cowboy raises his pistol, points it directly at the camera, and fires three times. It is difficult for us to understand why this is here or what purpose it served. But when people who had never seen a movie before and didn't have any understanding of the technology first saw this man shooting at them, they screamed, fell to the floor, and ran for the door. It is also said that some in the audience pulled firearms and shot back. It is an early testament to the power that motion pictures had, even in its earliest incarnation. Thankfully, TCM ran TGTR without any modern musical accompaniment, as thousands must have seen it in the nineteen-aughts. I watched in total amazement. I was transported. Later, I reflected on how far movies had come and how little they had changed in the last 100 years. This movie is a priceless historical artifact that shows us just how much the past is still with us.
      Best Wishes
      Keith
      London- England


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