In my review of “The Great Train Robbery,” I alluded to the ongoing debate over what is “the first Western.” I include this movie to demonstrate that Western tropes were explicit in American cinema even before narrative film or, for that matter, the film projector, had been introduced. It is a short kinetoscope of the famous Wild West performer doing her rifle act. The mythos of the “Wild West “ developed in a variety of media, including art, literature, and live performances, all of which contributed to what would become one of the most beloved American film genres. This little film is also interesting as one of the first movies made in the “Black Maria” studio, the first purpose-built motion picture studio in the world. From a Women’s History perspective, it’s interesting to note that the first person shown shooting a gun on film was a woman, although I’ve always felt that the nineteenth-century fascination with Oakley was because she was a kind of freak. Like a dog that is taught to “speak” or a horse that can do math, a woman who can shoot is entertaining because it contradicts nature for her to do so.
Director: William Heise
Starring: Annie Oakley
Run Time: 21 seconds
You can watch it for free: here