Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Category: Retrospectives

The Broncho Billy Marathon

Blogathon Marathon StarsFor this “Marathon Star Blogathon” post, I’m going to binge-watch several of Gilbert “Broncho Billy” Anderson’s movies, and write about him as I go. Don’t worry, each film will get it’s own individual review in the weeks to come; in accordance with the rules of this blogathon tonight I’ll be focusing on Anderson himself and what I learn by looking at so much of him at once. Incidentally, a year or so back I watched another one: “Broncho Billy and the Schoolmistress,” and I have also watched “His Regeneration” before, in connection with my many reviews of Charlie Chaplin.

OK, here we go…

Making of Broncho BillyFirst up, “The Making of Broncho Billy” (1913). The DVD I bought has a nice brief introduction to the star, reminding us that he was born “Max Aronson,” a Jewish man from Arkansas, and that he finagled a job as “Max Anderson” on “The Great Train Robbery” working for Edwin S. Porter. Supposedly, his horse threw him and he never was in any of the chase scenes, since he couldn’t ride. After founding Essanay, his own production company, with George K. Spoor, he went on to make over 350 films, mostly Westerns. Anyway, this film is a kind of “origin story” for Broncho Billy, although of course there had been many movies made before it. Anderson shows up in a Western town wearing Eastern clothes (he looks sort of like a young D.W. Griffith) and is mercilessly mocked by the local cowhands. When he tries to fight one in a bar, he learns that he must learn to shoot to gain their respect. We see him attempt shooting a bottle in his Eastern garb, but he can’t hit the side of a barn until he puts on a Stetson hat and cowboy shirt. After he confronts one of the bullies, he rides to the sheriff for protection as an angry mob comes after him, but the surviving bully just wants to shake his hand. Anderson is good in this, changing his body language and his acting style as he goes from the victim to the tough guy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy Times and Jolly Moments (1943)

Comedian Ben Turpin in 1914.

Comedian Ben Turpin in 1914.

This turned up on TCM yesterday, and since my ability to download movies is limited, I thought I’d make an exception and talk about it. It wasn’t made in 1914, but it claims to be about 1914 movies – in particular the movies of Mack Sennett Studios. It’s a look at how the movie audiences of nearly 30 years later recalled our period. It even includes a recreated look at a Nickelodeon Theater, including a kid reading the Intertitles aloud to his little brother, confirming some of my ideas about audiences of the time. One name you’d expect to hear in a retrospective on Keystone is Charlie Chaplin, but no dice here. I think Charlie had re-acquired the rights to all his old movies at this time, and wouldn’t have allowed it. So, instead, we get clips of Billy Bevan, Ben Turpin, and even Fatty Arbuckle (with no mention of the scandal that brought him down). There’s a brief flash of Mabel Normand, and we also see Gloria Swanson as a Sennett Bathing Beauty, although she’d have denied ever holding that title. The Keystone Kops are featured, but for some reason are called “policemen.” The new score is beautifully timed, but not really appropriate to the period, while the narration swings from annoying to interesting. I suspect a lot of the footage is post-1914 Keystone.

Written by: James Bloodworth

Run Time: 18 Min

Not available for free viewing at this time.