The Western Moves West
Great Train Robbery is
a hit and leads to imitations, such as The
Bold Bank Robbery and The Hold-up
of the Rocky Mountain Express.
Film companies like Essanay, Selig, Biograph, Edison, Lubin,
Vitagraph and Kalem fight to build upon the rich vein that they are
opening up. Western movie
productions continue filming in the East.
is a spectacular growth of theaters.
Theatre owners cry out for product.
In addition, Thomas Edison attempts to monopolize film
production, which results in patent wars.
Unfortunately, the young American film industry cannot supply the
demand. This forces the
theatre owners to import foreign films. Movie experts argue that the Western genre results because
American film producers, to fight foreign imports, besides a need to
improve organization, also needs to produce a distinctive product that
Europeans cannot imitate.
January 1907 the
Selig-Polyscope Company of Chicago sends a film crew to a western
Girl from Montana, one of the
films the crew shot, emphasizes both local atmosphere, particularly
scenery, and action. Selig
success leads to sending other film crews to the west during the summer of
1907. One of these summer
films is Western Justice. The
trade press praises it for the stunning backgrounds and its "marvelously
stirring and sensational chase".
In 1908, both
Selig and Essanay film their movies using Colorado locations.
The popularity of authentically Western locations leads to a number
of imitations made in the east. The
trade press scorns these Eastern Westerns.
They editorialize that "cowboys, Indians and Mexicans must be
seen in proper scenic backgrounds to convey any impression of reality."
late 1909, the Bison Company arrives in California.
This marks a consolidation of the authentic location.
Bison soon becomes the major Western production company.
1910, the Western becomes the first truly film genre and the first
uniquely American input to this new art form.
Moving Picture World writes that the Western is the
"foundation" of American dramatic story.
In 1910, 21 per cent of all American pictures made (213 out of
1001) are Westerns. That is
how popular the Western has become in seven years.
However, importantly the percentage remains consistent for about 75
years. In 1911, only eight years since The Great Train Robbery
a writer in the trade journal Nickelodeon protests those Westerns
are "a gold mine that had been worked to the limit."
It is a forecast repeated frequently about the pending end of the
New York Times in a 1918 review of William S. Hart's new
Western complains, "that kind of photoplay has been done almost to
death." In 1929, Photoplay
magazine pronounced, after Charles A. Lindbergh flew the Atlantic
writes, "Lindbergh has put the cowboy into the discard as a type of
national hero. The Western
novel and motion picture her have slunk away into the brush, never to