William S. Hart

18 Oct

WILLIAM S HART 1
WILLIAM S HART 2

Tell ’em William was here.

William Surrey Hart (December 6, 1864 – June 23, 1946)
was an American silent film actor, screenwriter, director and producer.
He is remembered for having “imbued all of his characters with honor and integrity.” – Wikipedia

Billy's gun bar

He began his acting career on stage in his 20s, and in film when he was 49, which coincided with the beginning of film’s transition from curiosity to commercial art form … He had some success as a Shakespearean actor on Broadway … he appeared in the original 1899 stage production of Ben-Hur.

Hart went on to become one of the first great stars of the motion picture Western. Fascinated by the Old West, he acquired Billy the Kid’s “six shooters” and was a friend of legendary lawmen Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson … Hart was particularly interested in making realistic western films. His films are noted for their authentic costumes and props, as well as Hart’s extraordinary acting ability, honed on Shakespearean theater stages in the United States and England.

By the early 1920s, however, Hart’s brand of gritty, rugged westerns with drab costumes and moralistic themes gradually fell out of fashion. The public became attracted by a new kind of movie cowboy, epitomized by Tom Mix, who wore flashier costumes and was faster with the action. Paramount dropped Hart, who then made one last bid for his kind of western. He produced Tumbleweeds (1925) with his own money, arranging to release it independently through United Artists. The film turned out well, with an epic land-rush sequence, but did only fair business at the box office. Hart was angered by United Artists’ failure to promote his film properly and sued United Artists. The legal proceedings dragged on for years, and the courts finally ruled in Hart’s favor, in 1940.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, William S. Hart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6363 Hollywood Blvd. In 1975, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

As part of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, California, Hart’s former home and 260-acre (1.1 km²) ranch in Newhall is now William S. Hart Park. The William S. Hart High School District as well as William S. Hart Senior High School, both located in the Santa Clarita Valley in the northern part of Los Angeles County, were named in his honor. A Santa Clarita baseball field complex is named in his honor.

On November 10, 1962, Hart was honored posthumously in an episode of the short-lived The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, a western variety program on ABC.

Billy's gun bar

2 Responses to “William S. Hart”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong October 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    Hollywood is so fickle. Funny, if you think about it, Hart’s type of western is back today. He would be very much in fashion in 2014. Excellent. Thank you. This is the first good write up I’ve seen of Hart.

    • jcalberta October 19, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      I have much more on Hart – so much in fact that I didn’t want to put it all in one posting. As a Silent Star from way back you’d think he would be obscure, but since he’s the Original Western Film Star, he got a lot of coverage – and work. He’s was an interesting chap – and an honorable man. Sadly discarded – as many are – when times changed.

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