It might be hard to believe, but the movie that bears the distinction of being the first Western ever filmed was made in 1903. The twelve minute long “The Great Train Robbery”, a silent movie, was an immediate hit with audiences and paved the way for scores of other movies set in the mythical “Old West”.
“The Great Train Robbery” packed a lot of action into such a short movie. The film told the story of a group of outlaws who robbed a train and made off with the loot. The movie showed the desperadoes blowing open the safe on the train, robbing the passengers on the train and then making off with their ill-gotten gains on horseback, while they are pursued by a posse of lawmen. The whole story can be found at http://wolfnwings.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/cops-and-robbers/ The movie ends with a stable of Western movies, a spirited gunfight between the robbers and the lawmen. At the end of the film the robbers are all killed by the good guys. An obvious message of the film is that “crime does not pay.”
From a historical standpoint, “The Great Train Robbery” is considered an important film not just because it was the first Western but because of some of the cinematic effects in the movie. The film had a definite storyline, plot and character development. The film also shifted from one scene to another. Some of the film’s producers were concerned that the shifting of one scene to another might confuse audiences, but this was not the case. Another innovation in the brief movie was the movement of the camera during the filming of a scene.
The movie was distributed by the Edison Film Company and capitalized on the public’s fascination with Cowboys and Indians, Lawmen and Bandits and the Old West made popular in the dime novels of the day.