Broncho Billy: Cowboy Hero | Chicago Reader

Broncho Billy: Cowboy Hero

Archival prints (courtesy of the Library of Congress) of rare early silents made by Gilbert M. Anderson at the Essanay studios in Chicago, most of them Broncho Billy adventures starring Anderson as the screen's original cowboy hero. Cranked out on a weekly basis, the series exploited and explored all the essential tropes of the western genre: in the 1912 An Indian Sunbeam, a dying woman leaves her preteen child to a tribe of Indians; 12 years later the young woman's Indian sweetheart tries to turn the tribe against a white suitor, in anticipation of the race-mixing anxieties that would animate John Ford's The Searchers. The barroom sob story His Regeneration (1915) features an appearance by Essanay's new star, Charles Chaplin, recently hired away from Keystone at $1,250 a week, who wanders through the bar causing havoc as the Tramp. The Film Center's able house pianist, David Drazin, will accompany the screenings, which total about 80 minutes.

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