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March 21: Broncho Billy

March 21, 2013

20060808043115!BBA_Broncho_Billy's_Conscience_1913The first Hollywood cowboy, Gilbert Anderson (Maxwell Henry Aronson), who starred as "Broncho Billy" in 148 silent Western shorts beginning in 1907, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on this date in 1880. Anderson's parents hailed from New York, where he moved at the age of 18 to attempt a career in vaudeville. In 1903, he played three roles in Edwin S. Porter's silent film, The Great Train Robbery, and was soon writing and starring in his own movies, many of them shot in Niles, a town southeast of San Francisco. In 1916, Anderson returned to New York and bought the Longacre Theater, then filmed a series of shorts with Stan Laurel, including his first work with Oliver Hardy, in 1919, titled A Lucky Dog. Anderson produced movies into the 1950s and received an Honorary Academy Award in 1958 as a "motion picture pioneer."

"Anderson’s contribution was to develop the western film and the techniques he devised, including the 'long shot,' 'medium shot,' 'close up,' and 'reestablishment scene,' have become standard techniques present even in modern westerns." —David Wallis, Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture