Broncho Billy and Essanay | Chicago Reader

Broncho Billy and Essanay

Gilbert M. Anderson first made cinema history as a pirouetting gunshot victim in Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903), and as a founder of the Essanay production company he wrote, directed, and starred in nearly 400 one- and two-reel western adventures, often playing the brave and resourceful Broncho Billy. This Film Center program, part of a series of classic westerns, brings to light a half dozen of Anderson's shorts from the Library of Congress; cranked out on a weekly basis, they have little dramatic value, but they provide an interesting glimpse of a movie genre in its infancy. Arnie Bernstein, author of Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago Movies, will introduce the screening with a lecture on Essanay, whose studios still stand on Argyle Street in Uptown. David Drazin, the Film Center's able house pianist, will accompany the films, which have a total running time of about 80 minutes.

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