New research reveals that the first ever Western film was shot in Lancashire not the United States

Astonishing new research has revealed the first ever Western film was not shot in the United States - but BLACKBURN in Lancashire.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 2:40 pm
New research reveals that the first ever Western film was shot in Lancashire not the United States

The movie ''Kidnapping by Indians'' was filmed in 1899 - four years before The Great Train Robbery which until now was widely seen as the genre's first film.

Shot in Lancashire countryside, the two minute movie is about a pair of cowboys who rescue a white woman from native American kidnappers.

It was made by Blackburn film company Mitchell & Kenyon which was a pioneer of early commercial motion pictures at the start of the 20th century.

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Mitchell & Kenyon's cache of movies have become much-loved since they were discovered in barrels underneath their old headquarters in 1994.

But the first proper study of the film has revealed it was made in 1899 - and predates what was previously held as the first ever Western.

Many of the films, including Kidnapping By Indians, are now kept by the British Film Institute (BFI), which has revealed the remarkable revelation.

BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon said: "It's remarkable and an absolute joy to think the first Western was shot in Blackburn.

"The debate about what a Western actually is can be argued until the cows come home but Kidnapping By Indians definitely qualifies as on in my opinion.

"There are cowboys and Indians in the film and it really does encapsulate the idea of a western frontier-type story."

She added: "It's incredible how much action Mitchell & Kenyon managed to squeeze into a film that lasts less than two minutes.

"The film makers are very well known in the film industry and incredibly important figures in the history of it."

Kidnapping By Indians was shot in fields close to Blackburn and the producers used local actors, including some made up as native Americans.

The story line involves a white woman being saved from the clutches of native Americans by white cowboys, which was a common theme in early Western cinema.

One eminent film with similar tropes is Last of the Mohicans, which is about the daughter of a British colonel being kidnapped.

Mitchell and Kenyon are recognised as one of the best film making teams in history, pioneering the art form when it was in its earliest stages.

The initial link between Kidnapping By Indians and the Western genre was made by Blackburn artist and film-lover Jamie Holman.

He came across the film while researching links between the cotton industry and film history in the Lancashire town.

Mr Holman said the film was "hiding in plain sight", adding that he just "put it into context".

The BFI have since confirmed Kidnapping By Indians has usurped the Great Train Robbery, made in the US in 1903, as the first Western.

Kidnapping By Indians is not Blackburn's first link to the Wild West.

The town's weavers supported President Abraham Lincoln's fight to free slaves in the South during the 1860s.

Another little-known fact is that outlaw Butch Cassidy has roots in the North West, as his parents emigrated to Utah from Preston

Kidnapping By Indians will be celebrated in Blackburn town centre tomorrow with a banner parade and special viewings of the film.

A local Western re-enactment group will also be performing.

You can watch Kidnapping By Indians on the BFI wesbite here: