An Outlaw with a Sense of Responsibility

Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner
R: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson. B: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson. D: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson, Edna Fisher, Arthur Mackley, Julia Mackley. P: The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch intertitles, Engl. subtitles

“This film is a novelty in western productions. The idea of it is excellent and the method of working it out is to be commended. Broncho Billy is a bad man who has committed numberless crimes. In this instance, even though he had planned to rob a coach, he rescues the driver and a girl from death in a runaway and is invited with the rest of the crowd to a Christmas dinner at the girl’s home. The incident results in his redemption and a decision to reform. The long ride through the mountains with the coach is attractive and there is a thrill in every step of the runaway horses as they dash away and the outlaw after them. When he climbs to the box and takes the reins from the girl’s hands the audience is ready to cheer. The story and the action are alike excellent and this film will prove popular because of its unusual but altogether reasonable sensations.”
The Moving Picture World, January 6, 1912

“What distinguished Broncho Billy movies was that Billy was a repeating central character that appealed to audiences. Anderson focussed on personality rather than on the spectacle that characterized contemporary Westerns. Billy was typically an outlaw who underwent reformation, but one with a sense of responsibility towards women and children. With Bronch Billy, Anderson tried to create better entertainment for families and at the same time be a role model to teach moral lessons to children. He affirmed Victorian values and made the movie theater an attractive place for middle-class families. Anderson often drew to evangelical themes, especially redemption, and used Christian themes in his movies. Examples were Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner (1911), Broncho Billy’s Bible (1912), and Broncho Billy’s Sermon (1914). These themes helped to make him popular with middle-class women.”
Jeremy Agnew: The Creation of the Cowboy Hero: Fiction, Film and Fact. McFarland 2014, p. 101

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