Rock the Oscars 2019: Broncho Billy Anderson

At the 1958 Oscars, Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson received an Honorary Oscar as a motion picture pioneer.  The citation praised  his contributions to the development of motion pictures as entertainment.

Born in Little Rock in March 1880, he was the son of Esther and Henry Aronson. Both were originally from New York.  Her parents were German-Jewish immigrants and his parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants.

After working as a photographer’s assistant and model, Anderson eventually found his way to vaudeville as a performer and writer.  In 1903, he appeared in the early seminal film The Great Train Robbery in several roles.  He created the western persona of Broncho Billy in front of the cameras.  Behind the scenes, he was a studio owner and director.  Over his career, he directed over 400 films.  By the early 1920s, he retired as an actor and director and devoted himself to owning a Broadway theatre and producing stage shows.

He made occasional film appearances beginning in the 1940s.  In 1958, he appeared in a documentary about Westerns for the TV show “Wide, Wide World.”  Also featured in that special were Little Rock actors Ben Piazza and Gail Davis.  His final screen appearance was in 1965’s The Bounty Killer.  He died in 1971 at the age of 90. He had been married to his wife for sixty years at the time of his death.

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