The Great Train Robbery (1903), Edwin S. Porter’s film starring Broncho Billy Anderson, is often cited as the first Western, though George N. Fenin and William K. Everson point out that the “Edison company had played with Western material for several years prior to The Great Train Robbery. ” Nonetheless, they concur that Porter’s film “set the pattern—of crime, pursuit, and retribution—for the Western film as a genre.” The film’s popularity opened the door for Anderson to become the screen’s first cowboy star; he made several hundred Western film shorts. So popular was the genre that he soon faced competition from Tom Mix and William S. Hart.

The Golden Age of the Western is epitomized by the work of several directors, most prominent among them, John Ford (My Darling Clementine, The Horse Soldiers, The Searchers). Others include: Howard Hawks (Red River, Rio Bravo), Anthony Mann (Man of the West, The Man from Laramie), Budd Boetticher (Seven Men from Now), Delmer Daves (The Hanging Tree, 3:10 to Yuma), John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven, Last Train from Gun Hill), and Robert Aldrich (Vera Cruz, Ulzana’s Raid).