Thursday, January 12, 2012

Treasures 5: The West #2 -- January 12, 2012

One of my Christmas presents was the fifth Treasures From the American Film Archives, The West.

Disc two starts with "Over Silent Paths: A Story of the American Desert," a 1910 one-reeler directed by DW Griffith for the American Biograph Company.  A wanderer in the California desert accidentally kills a prospector while robbing him.  The wanderer runs away, overcome by grief.  The prospector's daughter finds her father.  She buries him and swears vengeance over his grave.  As she drives their wagon towards town, San Fernando, she finds the wanderer lying unconscious.  She gives him water and takes him to town.  She reports the murder to the sheriff.  Rather quickly, this being a one-reeler, the daughter and the wanderer become attracted to each other.  There is a brief romantic scene by Mission San Fernando Rey de España. When the Wanderer proposes marriage, he pulls out a sack of gold. The daughter recognizes the sack as her father's. She pretends to accept his proposal, but snatches the pistol from his belt and marches him to the sheriff. Griffith could fit a lot of story into 16 minutes.

"Life on the Circle Ranch in California" was shot in 1912 in Santa Monica.  It is a documentary of ranch life, but the commentary by Donald W Reeves is careful to point out where scenes are staged, like the setting up of the camp and the fiesta after the roundup.  He is sarcastic about the scenes where people who are not cowboys try to brand a calf.

"Broncho Billy and the Schoolmistress" is a 1912 Essanay produced during the company's stay in San Rafael.  A new school marm arrives in town and all the men are interested, including Gilbert M Anderson, Broncho Billy, Augustus Carney, who played Alkali Ike in the Snakeville comedy series, and a character named Jack.  Men warn the new teacher not to go out at night to visit her students, but she pulls out a revolver and shows it to them.  They think it is too small.  The men decide for some reason to scare her by faking a robbery and they persuade Broncho Billy to be the robber.  Jack shoots him and then things are confusing and then Broncho Billy marries the teacher.  The image above shows "Broncho Bill" and Alkali Ike. It is from the 13-November-1911 Chicago Day Book.

"How the Cowboy Makes His Lariat" is part of a 1917 movie in which wild west show star Pedro León demonstrates collecting horse hair, twisting it into rope, and making a cinch.  He does not make a lariat in the surviving footage.

"Mexican Filibusters: An Incident in the Recent Uprising" is a 1911 Kalem film about Mexican Americans who are smuggling arms to revolutionaries in Mexico.  The smugglers are the heroes and the female smuggler saves the day.  There are some nice railroad scenes.

"The Better Man" is a 1912 Vitagraph one-reeler, shot in Santa Monica, about a no-good father who leaves the house to gamble while his daughter is dangerously ill.  A Mexican American horse thief breaks into the house and demands food.  The mother wants him to go for a doctor.  He tries to ignore her, but the daughter takes his hand and the mother points to an image of Mary and Jesus.  The father leaves the saloon and sees a wanted poster for the thief.  He decides to collect the reward.  The thief runs towards town and the father tries to catch him, but falls over a cliff.  The thief winds up on the father's horse.  He gets the doctor and they ride back towards the house.  The ride is intercut with the father running towards the house.  The doctor treats the little girl and the father tries to capture the thief.  The mother tells the father to let him go.  This was the other movie we raised money to preserve in the 2010 For the Love of Film Blogathon (  

"Ammunition Smuggling on the Mexican Border" is a unique three-reeler produced in Texas in 1914 by a former sheriff, Eugene Buck.  It tells the true story of the capture of Buck and a deputy, Candelario Ortiz, by gun runners.  Ortiz is killed by the smugglers as two posses search for them.  There are two commentaries.  One, by Martin Marks, explains the background of the movie and speculates that Buck may have made the movie to tell his side of the story because he was the star witness in the trial of the surviving smugglers, who included an American IWW member.  The other commentary talks about the musical accompaniment.  My favorite line:  "It doesn't matter where the music comes from, it matters where it is going."

"Lake Tahoe, Land of the Sky," is a 1914 documentary by Essanay.  I enjoyed seeing the steamboat and the train arriving at Truckee in a snowstorm.

Mantrap is a 1926 feature starring Clara Bow and directed by Victor Fleming.   It was a wonderful comedy.

"The Golden West" is an excerpt from a 1938 film by an unidentified amateur.  It was shot in Kodachrome and it documents a trip to Los Angeles, probably from Pennsylvania.  It shows many freakish sites, including a gas station built around a Fokker F32 airliner with rotating propellers.

I'll do Disc Three another day.

Disc One:

Disc Three:

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