An Early Western Industry: Bison 101
cowboy appeal owes much
to Broncho Billy. The
popularity of Indians in films is the result of their striking look and
the chance they offer for exciting battle scenes.
However, it is mainly do to a film company fittingly named Bison,
which specialized in Native American films.
At first Bison, like other film companies, made their Westerns in
the east. In 1910, film fans demand authentic locations.
the chief director, decides to take the company west and finds a
location in Santa Ynez canyon, near Santa Monica, California.
They take a long
lease on a 18,000 acre spread dotted with orange groves and vineyards.
The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show
tours California. The outfit
finds its home in Oklahoma, on a huge tract of land with its own rodeo
arena. The Miller Brothers
101 Ranch includes real cowboys and Indians, herds of buffalo and cattle,
stagecoaches, tepees and other gear important in Western film production.
Bison contracts the Miller Brothers for the use of the entire
outfit. The owners rename their company Bison 101.
Overnight, they find themselves equipped to become a major Westerns
film studio. They build a
permanent wooden fort, which you see in such pictures as At Old Fort
Having a many Indians under contract, Bison produces Native
the same time as it acquires the 101 Ranch, Bison also hires a new
director, Thomas H. Ince. Ince's
is a genius at organizing and supervising.
In addition, he has great talent for self-promotion, which leads
him to claim credit for directing other films and for even the original
decision to merge with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch.
However, Ince's actual achievements are substantial.
Among his achievements is making a detailed shooting script, with
every item of decor and costume, every shot and movement specified.
This detailed preplanning becomes a standard industry practice.
It saves time, money and streamlines production at the Santa Ynez location. The film
industry calls the studio Inceville.
Bison 101 has
the best capital for making Westerns and the best equipped to maximize its
investment. The Ince regime at Santa Ynez (Inceville) studios is brief.
Carl Laemme�s Universal Pictures takes over The New York
Motion Picture Company, the parent of Bison 101.
Laemmle moves production units into Inceville and produces
his own Westerns utilizing the 101-Bison brand name.
Ince builds a new studio in Culver City.
In 1920�s, Inceville falls into disuse in the, after Universal
consolidates production in their huge new studio built on the old Taylor
Ranch five miles north of Hollywood.
Universal formally opens their new facilities on March 15, 1915.
Universal City, like
Inceville, boasts permanent Western sets. Today visitors to Hollywood, who take the Universal Studio
tour, can see streets of standing Western town sets.
Universal�s level of investment in Western stars and extras, plus
their suitable real estate (they own a San Fernando Valley ranch) make
sure that it remains the largest producer of Westerns during the 1920s.