Lifelong Learning Institute: SILENTS, PLEASE: Spring 2004 

Edwin S. Porter: 1903: THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY: editing sequence:

from David A. Cook: A History of Narrative Film:


THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY : deconstruction of shots:

1. Interior of the railroad telegraph office: two bandits enter and bind and gag the operator while the moving train, visible through the office window, comes to a halt.

2. Railway water tower: the other members of the gang board the train secretly as it takes on water.

3. Interior of the mail car with scenery rushing by through an open door; bandits break in, kill a messenger, seize valuables from a strong box, and leave.

4. Coal tender and interior of the locomotive cab: the bandits kill the fireman after a fierce struggle, throw his body off the train, and compel the engineer to stop.

5. Exterior shot of the train coming to a halt and the engineer uncoupling the locomotive.

6. Exterior shot of the train as the bandits force the passengers to line up along the tracks and surrender their valuables; one passenger attempts to escape, runs directly into the camera lens, and is shot in the back.

7. The bandits board the engine and abscond.

8. The bandits stop the engine several miles up the track, get off and run into the woods as the camera tilts slightly to follow them.

9. The bandits scramble down the side of a hill and across a stream to mount their horses; the camera follows them in a sweeping vertical movement, or panning shot.

10. Interior of the telegraph office: the operator's daughter arrives and unties her father, who then runs out to give the alarm.

11. Interior of a crowded dance hall: a "tenderfoot" is made to "dance," as six-guns are fired at his feet; the telegraph operator arrives and a posse is formed.

12. Shot of the mounted bandits dashing down the face of a hill with the posse in hot pursuit; both groups move rapidly toward the camera; one of the bandits is killed as they approach.

13. Shot of the remaining bandits examining the contents of the stolen mail pouches; the posse approaches stealthily from the background and kills them all in a final shoot-out.

14. Medium close-up (a shot showing its subject from the mid-section up) of the leader of the bandits firing his revolver point blank into the camera (and, thus, the audience), a shot which, according to the Edison Catalogue, "can be used to begin or end the picture."


bgs: 03-04