Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


He was born Maxwell Henry Aronson, a Jew whose grandparents came from Eastern Europe.  Raised in Arkansas and Missouri, he went to new York when he was eighteen and worked in vaudeville and the theater.  In 1903 he was hired by Edward S. Porter as an actor and script consultant.  Porter cast him for three separate roles in The Great Train Robbery.  When Aronson saw the audience reaction to that film he decided the film industry was where he wanted to be.  Changing his name to Gilbert M. Anderson, he began a career that would lead him to co-found Essanay Studios.  Churning out  stream of more than 300 films, 148 of them westerns, Anderson soon became the first cowboy film star as "Broncho Billy."  He retired from acting in 1916, concentrating instead on directing and producing, but his place in the history of the western was secured.  He was now known as "Broncho Billy" Anderson.  In 1958 he received and Honorary Academy Award for his "contribution to the development of motion pictures as entertainment."  He died in 1971, aged 90.

The year he filmed Broncho Billy and the Greaser, Anderson starred in 46 films -- at least 34 of which featured Broncho Billy.  As with most of his films, Anderson also wrote and directed the movie.

In this film, Broncho Billy is  mail carrier.  A small crowd of people are waiting for their mail at the general store which also served as a post office, including a lovely girl (played by 23-year-old Marguerite Clayton, who was featured in various roles in at least 60 Broncho Billy films).  A Mexican "half-breed" with an evil squint (Lee Willard, who appeared in at least 49 Broncho Billy oaters and ended his career as the Frozen Body of Jasper Adams in 1940's The Man with Nine Lives) rudely pushes The Girl aside to get to the head of the line.  This does not sit well with Broncho Billy, who pulls a gun on The Half-Breed and kicks him out of the building.  The Half-Breed vows vengeance.  On his way home, Broncho Billy rescues a lost old man and takes him home to recover from his ordeal.  This proves that Brocho Billy is truly noble.  Meanwhile, The Half-Breed is lurking outside the house with a very sharp, very deadly knife...

Welcome to Stereotypical Theater, where the good guy is good, the woman is sweet and virginal, and the bad guy (The Half-Breed, or "The Greaser" in the title) is a racial slur.  (More than a century later we are still hearing, "And some, I assume, are good people.")

So welcome to the Old West, where men were men, ladies were ladies, horses were horses, and villains were dastardly.


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