Broncho Billy and the Schoolmistress (1912)
The young Gibert M. Anderson was one of the founders of Essanay studios (the “A” of “S and A” is for “Anderson). He was a Jewish man from Arkansas, but to his many fans he was known on the screen as “Broncho Billy.” He directed himself ultimately in hundreds of Westerns, although apparently he never learned how to ride or throw a lasso. In this film, he is a charming but seemingly gullible cowpoke, who meets the new “school ma’am” when she arrives with the stage. Apparently this is a town with a lot of children for her to teach, but no other eligible young ladies, because all the men hanging around “Poppie’s Hotel” immediately take an interest in her, despite what I would call fairly plain looks. They also deride her small “ladies’ pistol” and concoct a plan to frighten her by faking a robbery. Billy, hoping to prevent any unpleasantness, volunteers to act the bandit, but he is shot by his rival from a bush when the girl pulls out her pistol. At first she is blamed for his injury, but reveals that her gun shoots only blanks, and the truth is revealed. In all, this movie goes a long way to establish the gender roles appropriate to the Western genre, but also does give the female lead some agency in foiling the bad guy’s plans.
Director: Gilbert M Anderson
Camera: Jess Robins
Starring: Gilbert M Anderson, Brinsley Shaw
Run Time: 14 Min
You can watch it for free: here.