The Great Train Robbery: Where Westerns Began

A great film tra­di­tion – the West­ern – start­ed with The Great Train Rob­bery in 1903. Edwin S. Porter’s 10 minute film com­bined west­ern themes with inno­v­a­tive cin­e­mat­ic tech­niques (nar­ra­tive sto­ry­telling, par­al­lel edit­ing, minor cam­era move­ment, loca­tion shoot­ing, etc.). And the film took its inspi­ra­tion from an event that became the stuff of leg­end: Butch Cas­sidy’s 1900 train heist, which end­ed with Cas­sidy blow­ing open a safe and escap­ing with $5,000 in cash.

Porter’s land­mark film helped spark Amer­i­ca’s love affair with West­ern films. Thou­sands of West­erns flood­ed cin­e­mas through­out the silent era — films like Bron­cho Bil­ly and The Greas­er (1914)Sky High (1922), and West of Hot Dog (1924). And though the West­ern fad­ed briefly with the advent of sound film (cir­ca 1927), the genre staged a major come­back with the release of Stage­coach (1939), a John Ford film that turned John Wayne into one of Hol­ly­wood’s endur­ing stars. And yes, we have cat­a­logued 25 free John Wayne Films right here. To find oth­er free West­erns, vis­it this YouTube chan­nel.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Trip to the Moon: Where Sci Fi Movies Began

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.