"The MGM of the Silents"


The set of Broncho Billy. Niles, Calif.

“Born Max Aronson in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1880, Gilbert Anderson had begun his movie career in 1903, the year he appeared in The Great Train Robbery, the first movie with a plot. He had made a few films at Selig Polyscope, a Chicago studio led by the self-styled ‘Colonel’ William Selig, but now he longed for more autonomy. He and Spoor joined forces to create the Peerless Film Manufacturing Company, which they renamed Essanay in August 1907. The studio was ‘probably the MGM of the silents’, says William Grisham, the Evanston movie historian who in the 1960s interviewed Mollie Anderson and some of the Essanay principals.
What’s more, the Essanay movies – and those made by Selig and others – established film as a dramatic and entertaining new art form. ‘They built the foundation for an industry that didn’t exist before and changed the world’, says David Kiehn, the historian for the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum (in Fremont, California) and the author of Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Com­pany. ‘Unfortunately, 1907 to 1918, when they were all thriving, is a black hole in film history.'”
Robert Loerzel
Reel Chicago


>>>The Great Train Robbery on this site: Edwin S. Porter: Blockbuster for Edison