Bold Bank Robbery: The plagiarism myth

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Assault, carjacking, armed robbery - then the action starts... Not usually cited as a significant or influential film, yet it contains a number of elements that were not commonly found in films at that time, but later were widely used.

Bold Bank Robbery

  1. The plagiarism myth

  2. Antecedents
  3. Legacy
  4. Extra: The Outlaw Cut

A case of mistaken identity

Bold Bank Robbery is an overlooked gem, that gets no respect in too many film histories. Part of the problem may come from a widespread plagiarism myth, that seems to stem from mistaken identity, so examination of Bold Bank Robbery must begin with busting that myth:

Although the copying and counter-copying that was the norm of that era did cause much confusion (that still persists), after over a century a consensus has been reached regarding the chronology around the milestone production of The Great Train Robbery and its follow-ups:

Dec 1903:
Edison's company released Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery. The story takes place in the West and, as the title implies, is about a train robbery.
Jun 1904:
Lubin's company released a remake, also called The Great Train Robbery, that also takes place in the West and replicates each scene in the original.
Jul 1904:
Lubin's company released Jack Frawley's Bold Bank Robbery that takes place in Philadelphia and, as the title implies, is about a bank robbery. Superficially, it's only similarity to The Great Train Robbery is that both films involve a robbery.
Sep 1904:
Edison's company released Edwin S. Porter's The Capture of Yegg Bank Burglars, that incorporated elements of Frawley's Bold Bank Robbery, including heist planning and the chase.

So it seems these film histories are confusing the Lubin film Bold Bank Robbery with the Lubin remake of The Great Train Robbery, which was released a month earlier. I found no record of a Porter film titled "The Great Bank Robbery". Perhaps that refers to Porter's The Capture of Yegg Bank Burglars? But, if that is the case, the history's claim that Bold Bank Robbery is a remake of the Porter bank robbery film is still incorrect, as the Porter film was released months later.

So, in summary, Bold Bank Robbery does not appear to be a remake of any Edison film. It appears to be an original film, influenced by (and incorporating elements of) its predecessors, while also adding elements not commonly seen in films of the day - and thus passing on a unique legacy to successors.