The Hold-Up of the Leadville Stage (1905)

29 April 1905

Director:

Harry Buckwalter

Production Company:

Selig Polyscope Co.
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HISTORY

Harry Buckwalter (1867-1930) was a reporter for Denver, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News and perhaps that state’s earliest filmmaker. Selig Polyscope released Buckwalter’s 1902-04 Colorado travelogue movies but generally did not describe them in its catalog.
       William N. Selig (1864-1948) formed one of the earliest film operations, the Mutoscope & Film Company, in Chicago, IL, in 1896. He changed the name the following year to the Selig Polyscope ... More Less

Harry Buckwalter (1867-1930) was a reporter for Denver, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News and perhaps that state’s earliest filmmaker. Selig Polyscope released Buckwalter’s 1902-04 Colorado travelogue movies but generally did not describe them in its catalog.
       William N. Selig (1864-1948) formed one of the earliest film operations, the Mutoscope & Film Company, in Chicago, IL, in 1896. He changed the name the following year to the Selig Polyscope Company.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
CPC
1907?
pp. 250-251.
FILM HISTORY
1900..
[Vol. 4, No. 2], pp. 89-100.
MPW
12 May 17
p. 948.
NYC
29 Apr 05
p. 264ta.
VFI
26 Jan 1907.
---
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Robbery of the Leadville Stage
Release Date:
29 April 1905
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
700
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Selig summary: A wonderfully realistic series of scenes and incidents actually made in Colorado and following with exceedingly fine accuracy the true events that made Colorado famous in the early days. The greatest feat of sensational motion photography ever attempted and one that merited full-page descriptions in the New York Journal, the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles papers October 23, 1904. It is the best advertised film ever made, as a hundred columns of newspaper clippings will show. HISTORICAL. "The Hold-Up of the Leadville Stage" is a motion picture with the most exciting and rapidly varying situations. The negatives were made in Colorado, on the old Leadville stage road through the Garden of the Gods and Ute Pass. The scene of the attack and holdup, as well as the actual stage coach and driver, were the identical ones where twenty-five years ago robberies of gold dust from the stage were almost daily occurrence. General Dave Cook, still alive and living in Denver, was the head of the so-called "Rocky Mountain Detective Agency," and also the leading spirit in the vigilantes who gave chase to the robbers on many occasions. Colonel William F. Cody--Buffalo Bill--was also one of the leading spirits in these chases that always ended in the death of several persons. The exciting times following the robbers across the mountains, through gulches and canons and around tortuous and dangerous trails seem almost like a modernized version of the inferno. Robbers and pursuers knew not at what instant a leaden messenger of death would come and life be extinct even before the sound of the report reached the ears. It was ... +


Selig summary: A wonderfully realistic series of scenes and incidents actually made in Colorado and following with exceedingly fine accuracy the true events that made Colorado famous in the early days. The greatest feat of sensational motion photography ever attempted and one that merited full-page descriptions in the New York Journal, the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles papers October 23, 1904. It is the best advertised film ever made, as a hundred columns of newspaper clippings will show. HISTORICAL. "The Hold-Up of the Leadville Stage" is a motion picture with the most exciting and rapidly varying situations. The negatives were made in Colorado, on the old Leadville stage road through the Garden of the Gods and Ute Pass. The scene of the attack and holdup, as well as the actual stage coach and driver, were the identical ones where twenty-five years ago robberies of gold dust from the stage were almost daily occurrence. General Dave Cook, still alive and living in Denver, was the head of the so-called "Rocky Mountain Detective Agency," and also the leading spirit in the vigilantes who gave chase to the robbers on many occasions. Colonel William F. Cody--Buffalo Bill--was also one of the leading spirits in these chases that always ended in the death of several persons. The exciting times following the robbers across the mountains, through gulches and canons and around tortuous and dangerous trails seem almost like a modernized version of the inferno. Robbers and pursuers knew not at what instant a leaden messenger of death would come and life be extinct even before the sound of the report reached the ears. It was indeed the strenuous life and this picture perpetuates the thrilling scenes. The old timers are passing away. Old Butch White, who drove the stage and was victim of innumerable conflicts with the road agents, is nearing his grave. The old stage coach itself is gone. Its life ebbed away with the last negative made for this picture and its history, if written, would be a tale almost beyond belief. Originally costing $2,500, fitted inside with silk and brocaded velvet, its heavy leather seats and straps ornamented with the finest carving and stamping, it was a palace of luxury on wheels. A fine sheet of chilled steel was concealed between the outer finishings and many arrows of Indians as well as bullets were turned and the lives of the occupants saved. The marks are still in evidence. Buffalo Bill himself rode on the initial trip across the plains. The late Senator Tabor and other Colorado millionaires of the early days were frequent passengers, and Horace Greeley made his famous ride behind Hank Monk down the steep mountain side when he made his famous remarks about going "so fast I thought the driver was going to cross Hell before it froze over." With all these appurtenances of historical interest and accuracy, the sunny crags and gloomy canons of Colorado fortuitating and the actual characters who took part in the early day affairs of blood, this picture will be one to live long and to interest millions. There is nothing lacking to make it perfect. Full of action and excitement it is thrilling in the extreme. The plot is worked out with infinite care and good judgment. The mind of the spectator needs no training. He can follow the story without a thought. Blood-curdling situations and instances that almost make the heart pause in its beats follow each other with increasing intensity until the climax shows the strong hand of the law wiping out the gang that infested the mountain fastnesses and robbed, murdered and plundered until the government and Wells-Fargo companies could stand it no longer--until the people arose and braved the bullets of the buccaneers of the mountains and wiped them from the face of the earth. THE PLOT. The stage is seen arriving at and departing from one of the relay stations at Bruin Inn, North Cheyenne canon. The surroundings are ideal from a scenic standpoint, the inn being almost hidden in the deep gorge and surrounding mountains. The change of the relay of horses, the transfer of the mail bags, the stop of (illegible) bibulous passengers for a drink from the black bottle that (illegible) kept on tap are all interesting and lifelike. With a crack of the whip the start is made and the stage lumbers past the camera, the horses galloping and the crowd in good spirits. ON THE ROAD. A dozen different views are given of the stage climbing the mountain trails toward the cloud city of silver and gold. In each case the background includes some famous spot of deep significance or absorbing interest to those who have journeyed over the route. Ute Pass, North Cheyenne canon, Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak, Cheyenne mountain, Cameron's Cone and a hundred other points are easily recognized. SIGHTED BY THE ENEMY. The bandits sight the stage from a vantage point far up the side of the mountains. Word had gone abroad that Senator Tabor was about to open up his bank in Leadville and a million dollars in gold was supposed to go west by this stage. The Wells-Fargo strong box was doubly sealed and locked and a guard sent out on top of the vehicle. The mails also were expected to be very heavy for it was just after the arrival of a treasure shipment from the east and the Clark-Gruber mint at Denver was busy coining gold for the miners who preferred the minted money to the handling and weighing of dust in their barter and trade. THE CHASE FOR LIFE. The robbers follow the stage through canon and over the trembling bridges almost give way and the poor, hard-on horses splash and pant through chilly waters and the (illegible). They would pause to quench their thirst, but the driver cracks his whip and shouts to push forward and elude the murderous wretches in the race. The chase quickens and the robbers approach. The guards on top of the stage prepare to begin battle and fire several shots but fail to stop the pursuers. They slowly close up the gap and begin shooting at the driver and the horses and everybody to bring the treasure stage to a halt. One of the guards receives a bullet in his brain just as the stage approaches and he falls off to the ground. The robbers keep up the chase and the people in the stage try to hide their valuables where best they can. It is a moment when the grinning face of death almost touches those who are bent on errands of peace. The air seems thick with screaming shot and whistling bullets. Life seems not worth the proverbial song and it is a moment for prayers. THE CAPTURE. The robbers know a short cut across the mountains and they make it. The stage is reached at a wild spot that almost has the breath of death in its very air. With one or two masked men holding the struggling lead horses and another covering the driver and passengers with a murderous-looking gun the occupants of the stage are compelled to alight and stand in line. They are thoroughly searched and relieved of their valuables and the mail bags and treasure chest secured. One passenger, a little boy, tries to escape. He is shot down like a dog and one of the women faints. It is a moment of strained nerves. Of intense excitement. It seems like a terrible dream but the action continues with rapidity. The robbers take their treasure and depart and the stage trip is resumed. But the passengers decide to give chase. While the men prepare to follow the women pick up the body of the little boy and place it tenderly in the coach. The scene is heart-breaking in its intensity and reality. They mount horses and secure reinforcements from travelers who chance upon the road. THE PURSUIT. Across mountains, trails, rocks and through dense timber the chase is taken up. It is a chase to the death. The stake is big and the rewards offered by Uncle Sam and the express company tempt the timid, and with the most reckless abandon the robbers are followed toward their lair in the heart of the Rockies. The chases through the mountains form the most wonderful and realistic series of motion photography ever attempted, and for wildness and thrilling excitement they cannot be equalled. LASSOING A ROBBER. The chase narrows down to very close quarters. With fresh horses and renewed activity the posse from the rear closes in on a narrow mountain trail. It is a stem-and-stern chase with no possible deviation for the country is too rough to leave the trails. Suddenly the foremost pursuer sends his arm aloft. The swish of the whirling lariat can almost be heard. The sinuous noose is seen trembling and swaying in the air. It shoots forward and suddenly whirls around the neck of the robber in the rear. He tries to shake it off but the noose is pulled too quickly. With a sudden swing and the planting of rigid forelegs the pursuer's horse braces himself for the strain. It comes with the tightening of the rope and the robber is jerked from his horse and tumbled headlong in the dust. There is a gasp of horror and a pause to see the result. One of the horses is seen to strike the prostrate form with his hoof and the robber moves no more. DESPERATE STRUGGLES. But the lassoing of one robber does not end the chase by any means. The remaining ones are followed to the death. The pursuers close up like hounds after the quarry and the pace gets too hot. Exhausted horses and excited nerves can stand the strain no longer. The robbers dismount and try to escape on foot. Across rocks and around narrow ledges they go until a bullet wipes out the life of another. Then the two remaining take to a little path not known to the pursuers and escape to their cabin. They carry with them the mail pouches and most of the plunder, but they are pretty exhausted. Their nearness to safety, however, spurs them on until they finally elude the posse in the rear. MEETING IN THE CABIN. After sure the hounds of the trail have been deceived the two bandits hasten to divide the spoils. The country will be too hot for them in a few hours and their safety lies in separation. They settle down to the division of the plunder, cut the mail bags and open the treasure chest. DUEL TO THE DEATH. The cutting and opening of the mail pouch is done hurriedly and even more treasure than expected is looted from the missives. Fond letters from loving mothers to the sturdy miners in the mountains are thrown over the floor with the more hardened missives of the women of the cloud camp to others of their kind on the plains. The money is stacked up on a rude table and then the count begins. But there is a hitch. One robber tries to cheat his partner and trouble again begins. Both draw their bowie knives and hurl their forms toward each other. A desperate struggle follows. Across and around the room the fight wages. Thrust after thrust of the vicious blades is either turned or parried. With the agility of mountain animals these two brawny men try to each wipe out the other's life. At first their struggles are fearful in intensity. They gradually die down but lose not the least vigor of excitement until one savage thrust of the keen bowie knife ends the fight. With a horrible curse the defeated bandit sinks to the floor and gives up his life. THE AVENGING HAND. The lone robber hastily gathers up the plunder and prepares to escape. But listen! From without comes the sound of footsteps. There are intruders in the fastness that hitherto has been safe from the eyes of outsiders. The nose of the hound of the law has been to the ground and trailed the savages to their den. There are shots and yells and suddenly the doors, windows and loop holes are filled with shining musket barrels. There is a crash and the pursuers burst within and capture the robber after a desperate struggle. The picture ends with the triumphs of right over wrong and the supremacy of law over the bandits and their evil ways. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.