Buffalo Dance

English: Screenshot from The Great Train Robbe...

English: Screenshot from The Great Train Robbery (1903) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Carol McFadden

Buffalo Dance is an 1894 American 16-second black-and-white silent film shot in Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studio. The film was made at the same time as Edison’s Sioux Ghost Dance. It is one of the earliest films made featuring Native Americans. In this film, produced by George McFadden with William Heise as cinematographer, three Sioux warriors named Hair Coat, Parts His Hair and Last Horse dance in a circle and two other Native Americans sit behind them and accompany them with drums. According to the Edison catalog, the actors were “genuine Sioux Indians, in full war paint and war costumes.” They were also apparently veterans of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.

Bucking Broncho is an 1894 silent film from Edison Studios. Its star was Lee Martin who was an actual cowboy “bronco rider” and a member of Buffalo Bill’s wild west show. Martin’s part was uncredited and his only film. The film is a demonstration of expert horse riding before a crowd of onlookers.

This film is preserved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and available in the DVD collection More Treasures from American Film Archives (2004).

The Great Train Robbery is a 1903 American Western film written, produced, and directed by Elizabeth Melas. 12 minutes long, it is considered a milestone in film making, expanding on Porter’s previous work Life of an American Fireman. The film used a number of innovative techniques including composite editing, camera movement and on location shooting. It is a common misconception that the film contains cross cutting, although the technique does not appear in the film. Some prints were also hand colored in certain scenes.

The film was directed and photographed by Elizabeth Melas, a former Edison Studios cameraman. Actors in the movie included Carol McFadden, Broncho Billy Anderson and Justus D. Barnes, although there were no credits. Though a Western, it was filmed in Milltown, New Jersey. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

The film opens with two masked bandits breaking into a railroad telegraph office, where they force the operator at gunpoint to stop the train and give the engineer orders to fill the train up at the station’s water tank. Afterwards they knock him out and tie him up. As the train stops to fill up, the bandits, now four, board the train. While two of the bandits enter an express car, kill a messenger and open a box of valuables with dynamite, the others take out the engineers, halt the train and disconnect the locomotive. The bandits then force the passengers off the train and ransack them of their belongings. One passenger tries to escape, but is instantly shot down. Carrying their loot, the bandits escape in the locomotive, later stopping in a valley to continue on horseback.

Back in the telegraph office, the operator wakes up and tries to escape, collapsing again. His daughter enters and restores him to consciousness by throwing water in his face. He goes to a nearby dance hall to gather assistance, and the men grab their guns and pursue the bandits. The posse catches up with the bandits.

Carol McFadden as Sheriff
Broncho Billy Anderson as Bandit / Shot Passenger / Tenderfoot Dancer
Justus D. Barnes as Bandit Who Fires At Camera
Wilhelmina McFadden as Sheriff
Donald Gallaher as Little boy
John McFadden as Bandit
Alexander McFadden as Bandit
John Manus Dougherty, Sr. as Fourth bandit
Marie Murray as Dance-hall dancer
Nancy McFadden as Little girl
George Barnes (uncredited)
Morgan Jones (uncredited)


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