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The Great Train Robbery (1903)

A group of bandits stage a brazen train hold-up, only to find a determined posse hot on their heels.

Director:

(uncredited)
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Cast

Uncredited cast:
A.C. Abadie ...
Sheriff (uncredited)
...
Bandit / Shot Passenger / Tenderfoot Dancer (uncredited)
...
(uncredited)
...
Bandit Who Fires at Camera (uncredited)
Walter Cameron ...
Sheriff (uncredited)
John Manus Dougherty Sr. ...
Fourth Bandit (uncredited)
...
Little Boy (uncredited)
Shadrack E. Graham ...
Child (uncredited)
Frank Hanaway ...
Bandit (uncredited)
Adam Charles Hayman ...
Bandit (uncredited)
Morgan Jones ...
(uncredited)
...
Trainman / Bandit (uncredited)
Marie Murray ...
Dance-Hall Dancer (uncredited)
Mary Snow ...
Little Girl (uncredited)
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Storyline

Among the earliest existing films in American cinema - notable as the first film that presented a narrative story to tell - it depicts a group of cowboy outlaws who hold up a train and rob the passengers. They are then pursued by a Sheriff's posse. Several scenes have color included - all hand tinted. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Action | Crime | Western

Certificate:

TV-G

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 December 1903 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le vol du grand rapide  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$150 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Color:

(hand-colored)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The final shot of a gun being fired toward the camera had a profound effect on audiences. As cinema was in its infancy, many people who saw the film thought that they were actually about to be shot. See more »

Goofs

When the bandits rob the train and drive away with the engine it is on the right rail-track. When they stop to proceed on horseback the train is on the left. See more »

Connections

Featured in Hugo (2011) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A timeless, priceless work
6 March 2003 | by (Rio Rancho, NM) – See all my reviews

What can one say about an 11 minute film, which is reputed to be the first narrative motion picture to be shot in the United States? What does one compare it to when nothing had come before it? What is even more amazing is that parts of this movie are in color! The women's dresses at the dance are in color - each frame had been hand colored. The flashes from the barrels of the six shooters are red and an explosion sends up a riot of color. There is even a little girl in a red coat. Take that, Steven Spielberg!! Except for the last five seconds, all of the shots are in medium to long. The camera never moves. For each sequence, it is set in place and actors move in front of it.

It is a western, of course (shot in the wilds of New Jersey). A gang of bad guys knock out a train station clerk then board a departing train. They move to the car where there is a safe, blow the safe, stop the train and rob the passengers. Back in town, the clerk revives and tries to get help but passes out again. A little girl comes in wakes him up. The townspeople are having a dance when the clerk runs in to form a posse. The posse rides out and surrounds the gang, who is counting the loot in the woods. There is a gunfight and the robbers are killed. That is the whole story, but there is one short scene left - one of the most remarkable in film history. The all color episode lasts about 5 seconds. In medium close-up, a cowboy raises his pistol, points it directly at the camera, and fires three times. It is difficult for us to understand why this is here or what purpose it served. But when people who had never seen a movie before and didn't have any understanding of the technology first saw this man shooting at them, they screamed, fell to the floor, and ran for the door. It is also said that some in the audience pulled firearms and shot back. It is an early testament to the power that motion pictures had, even in its earliest incarnation. Thankfully, TCM ran TGTR without any modern musical accompaniment, as thousands must have seen it in the nineteen-aughts. I watched in total amazement. I was transported. Later, I reflected on how far movies had come and how little they had changed in the last 100 years. This movie is a priceless historical artifact that shows us just how much the past is still with us.


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