Broncho Billy, the First Cowboy

Broncho Billy’s Last Hold-Up
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Gilbert M. Anderson, Vedah Bertram, Arthur Mackley, Harry Todd. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1912
Print: Jean Desmet Collection at EYE
Dutch titles

“A girl helps Broncho Billy to hide when the sheriff comes looking for him. When a while later he finds her and her mother unconscious, he holds up a stagecoach to bring them to a doctor. The sheriff, still on Billy’s track, shoots him in front of the doctor’s practice.” (YouTube)

Broncho Billy’s Narrow Escape
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Gilbert M. Anderson, Brinsley Shaw, Vedah Bertram, Arthur Mackley. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1912
Print: Jean Desmet Collection at EYE
Dutch titles

“While looking for work, Broncho Billy meets a girl and falls in love with her. Broncho is then accused of horse theft by a jealous lover of the girl. At the moment that he is to be hanged, Broncho’s beloved girl comes to his rescue.” (YouTube)

Broncho Billy’s Sentence
R: Gilbert M. Anderson. B: Gilbert M. Anderson. D: Gilbert M. Anderson, Virginia True Boardman, Ernest Van Pelt. P: Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1915

“In 1907, Gilbert Anderson and George Spoor founded Essanay Studios (‘S and A’ for Spoor and Anderson), one of the predominant early movie studios headquartered in Chicago. Gilbert Anderson acted in and directed over 400 short films for the studio. Although he played a wide variety of characters in these, he gained enormous popularity in a series of 148 silent western shorts, becoming the first cowboy star of the movies, ‘Bronco Billy’.” Originally spelled ‘Broncho Billy’. Spoor stayed in Chicago running the company like a factory, while Anderson traveled the western United States to California by train with a film crew shooting movies. Many of these were shot in small towns with trains running through them. These were: San Rafael, Fairfax, Niles and Santa Barbara. Essanay Film Company rented four houses near the Eastside Ballpark in San Rafael.  (…) The film lot was on the Ball Park.  (…) It took up the whole block. The portable stage was sitting outside of right field on the ball park. No one told the San Rafael Colts baseball team. Their star player, Roland Totheroth, remembered, “One day we went to practice and Lo and Behold! There was a bunch of Cowboys and Indians and Horses all over the field.” Roland Totheroth joined Essanay the next year (1912) in Niles, CA and became a camera operator.  In 1916 he went to Hollywood and became cameraman for Charlie Chaplin. (…)
In 1912 they moved from Happy Valley (San Rafael) to Niles, California, a small town in Alameda County near Fremont, CA., where the nearby Western Pacific railroad route was a perfect location for the filming of Westerns. Eventually they moved to Los Angeles as it was becoming the film capital of the world. Many Bronco Billy westerns were shot in Niles, California, along with The Tramp featuring Charlie Chaplin. In Niles they made a picture a week.”
Constanza Perry: Broncho Billy and The Essanay Film Company in Happy Valley
Montecito Area

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