Broncho Billy Anderson Was One of the First Western Stars — Remembering His Life

Late American actor Broncho Billy Anderson was one of the pioneers of western film genre — here are a few things to note about his long and eventful life. 

In the movie industry, names like John Wayne and Tom Mix are well known, but before them, when Hollywood was much younger, there was another name associated with pioneering films set in the Old West. 

Gilbert M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson is reportedly the first actor to take up a role in a film of the western genre. 

Picture portrait of Broncho Billy Anderson, circa 1913 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ George G. Fraser Studio (PD)

Picture portrait of Broncho Billy Anderson, circa 1913 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ George G. Fraser Studio (PD)

EARLY BEGINNINGS

Broncho Billy Anderson was born into a Jewish family. Both his parents came from New York — his dad, Henry Aronson, was from a German Jewish family, while his mom, Esther, was born to Russian Jewish parents.

When Anderson clocked 18, he moved to New York, where he fended for himself by taking jobs in Vaudeville and the theater.  At one of his jobs, he was scouted by film director Edwin S. Porter — his life never remained the same after that. 

Picture portrait of Broncho Billy Anderson | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Picture portrait of Broncho Billy Anderson | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

HIS CAREER IN THE FILM INDUSTRY

In 1903, Anderson was cast in Porter's short film, "The Great Train Robbery,"— a film reportedly inspired by the Butch Cassidy train robbery, which happened in 1900. 

The film was a huge success — it was also one of the earliest blockbusters, and this made Anderson start writing, directing, and acting in western films of his own.

His plays did not bring the same success he had enjoyed in films.

He founded Essanay Studios with George Kirke Spoor in 1907— it is ranked one of the earliest film studios. In addition to acting, Anderson would also write and direct his films.

Picture portrait of Broncho Billy Anderson | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Picture portrait of Broncho Billy Anderson | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 He directed "Mr. Flip"—reportedly the first film to use the form of comedy that involved getting a "pie in the face."

Despite all these achievements, Anderson did not become a household name until he played "Broncho Billy" in more than 100 silent films.

"Broncho Billy" became the first significant cowboy star in Hollywood. While Spoor remained in Chicago to keep their company running, Anderson got on the road along with a film crew. 

They produced many films, and Anderson racked up a pretty impressive filmography, with 469 credits as a director and 349 as an actor.

HIS RETIREMENT

Anderson sold his shares in Essanay and retired in 1916. He went back to New York, where he bought the Longacre Theater. He produced plays at the theatre; however, his plays did not bring the same success he had enjoyed in films. 

He came out of retirement as a producer in a series of short films for Metro Pictures; however, after he got into conflict with the studio, he went back into retirement.  In the 70s, Anderson came out of retirement once again for a cameo role in "The Bounty Killer."

HIS DEATH

Anderson passed away in 1971 at the age of 88. He was survived by his wife, Mollie Louise Anderson, their daughter, Maxine.

Related posts
Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson's Heated Divorce & Custody Battle over Their Kids — a Look at Their Rocky History
GettyImages
Popular Jul 05, 2020
Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson's Heated Divorce & Custody Battle over Their Kids — a Look at Their Rocky History
Vera Farmiga Shares 2 Kids with Her Musician Husband — Meet the 'Bates Motel' Star's Family
Getty Images
Relationship Jun 16, 2020
Vera Farmiga Shares 2 Kids with Her Musician Husband — Meet the 'Bates Motel' Star's Family
Look Back at Actor Bill Nunn's Life, Career, and Death from Leukemia
Getty Images
TV Shows May 15, 2020
Look Back at Actor Bill Nunn's Life, Career, and Death from Leukemia
Chuck Norris from 'Walker, Texas Ranger' Is a Doting Husband to Gena O'Kelley and Proud Dad of 5 Kids
Getty Images
TV Shows Apr 03, 2020
Chuck Norris from 'Walker, Texas Ranger' Is a Doting Husband to Gena O'Kelley and Proud Dad of 5 Kids

Please disable your AdBlocker

Advertising helps us continue to provide quality content. For instant unlimited access. Please disable your AdBlocker on our site and refresh the page.

If you need help to disable AdBlocker please choose yours: