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The Great Train Robbery (December 1, 1903)

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The Great Train Robbery

Released on December 1, 1903: A gang of robbers holds up a train full of passengers and escapes into the nearby woods, only to be tracked down and killed by a local posse of men from a dance hall.

Directed by Edwin S. Porter

The Actors: A.C. Abadie (Sheriff), Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson (one of the bandits, the shot passenger and the tenderfoot dancer), George Barnes (unknown), Justus D. Barnes (bandit who fires at the audience), Walter Cameron (Sheriff), John Manus Dougherty Sr. (a bandit), Donald Gallaher (little boy), Frank Hanaway (bandit), Adam Charles Hayman (bandit), Morgan Jones (unknown), Marie Murray (dancer in the dance hall), Mary Snow (little girl)


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Bang . . . Bang . . . Bang

The most famous gunshots in the history of motion pictures were fired by Justus D. Barnes, a milk delivery man from Weedsport, New York. Motion pictures were still just experiments by inventors and visionaries, including the famous Thomas Edison, who produced some of the first and best motion pictures for a growing commercial audience. In 1903 Edison saw a British short film about a daring daylight robbery and was inspired to produce this story of train robbers who were becoming famous in the U.S. In 1866 the Reno Gang became the first bandits to rob a train, followed by Jesse James and others, and great train robberies in the Wild West created big headlines around the country. Thomas Edison filmed this adventure at Essex County Park in New Jersey along the Lackawanna railroad line in November of 1903 and was first shown to an audience on December 1, 1903. In the Edison Film Catalogue that advertised the movie to sell it to theaters around the country Edison said: "This sensational and highly tragic subject will certainly make a decided `hit' whenever shown. In every respect we consider it absolutely the superior of any moving picture ever made." The famous scene with one of the bandits shooting his pistol directly at the audience was a separate reel and theaters were advised that they could either begin the show with this scene or end with it, or both. The bandits first enter the local train station and force the fellow inside to signal the approaching train and order it to stop and take on water, and while the train is stopped the bandits hold up the train and it's passengers, and then make their daring escape. A wounded telegraph operator staggers into the dance hall and after telling them about the robbery the men grab their guns and chase after the robbers, with a wild shoot-out that takes the lives of the bandits and several of the posse. Pop a little bowl of white kernel popcorn and enjoy a short slice of cinematic history.