~William S. Hart~

Born: December 6, 1864 in Newburgh, New York, USA
Died: June 23, 1946 in Newhall, California, USA
~Biography~
William S. Hart was the most popular Western movie hero of the 1910s and the most revered Western
movie actor of the silent era -- and oddly enough, that was only his second successful performing career.
Born in Newburgh, NY, in 1870 (though his son always insisted it was 1864), he was the son of an
itinerant laborer who moved his family to the Dakotas not long after, and Hart grew up among settlers
and members of the Sioux tribe. The family's moves also took them to the Oklahoma and Indian
Territories, and he knew the West of the 1870s and 1880s and always tried to give a true picture of what
it was like. The family later moved back to Newburgh, and while he was in his teens, Hart decided to try
for a career on the stage in New York City. He spent a few years in stock, in America and England, before
graduating to leading roles in major productions during the 1890s, which included the dual lead in The
Man in the Iron Mask and most notably as the Ben-Hur villain Messala in the original Broadway
production. He was beloved for his Shakespearean portrayals as well and, in the midst of a wide variety
of stage parts, occasionally got to play roles associated with the West, including the title parts in The
Squaw Man (1905) and The Virginian (1907); he toured with the latter show for two years and later
enjoyed success with The Barrier and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

Hart entered the movies in the early teens at the behest of his friend Thomas H. Ince, starting at 75
dollars a week; that quickly grew to 10,000 dollars a week as he proved not only a commanding and
immensely popular screen presence but also as a director, screenwriter, and producer. Hart's insistence
on showing the real West, and his honest, taciturn portrayals was something new and refreshing, whether
he was playing heroes or villains (and, most often, villains who became heroes). His early films included
O'Malley of the Mounted and -- in anticipation of Clint Eastwood's '60s persona -- The Man From
Nowhere; these pictures, at his insistence, showed an unglorified, dusty vision of the West, showing how
ordinary cowboys, ranchers, shopkeepers, and settlers lived and worked. He was one of the most popular
leading men in movies during the mid-teens and became one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in
pictures, establishing himself as an independent producer working through Famous Players-Lasky (the
predecessor to Paramount), earning over four-million-dollar profits on an investment of the same size in
some 27 films made there. Such was his fame on the screen, that most of Hart's fans were unaware of his
background as a top Broadway actor with stage experience in New York and London. To them he was
honest, taciturn Bill Hart, a two-gun threat and a realistic presence onscreen -- of those movies he made
in the teens, the best of them (which he co-directed) was Hell's Hinges, a kind of Sodom and Gomorrah
tale transposed to the West. By the early '20s, however, a change in public taste coupled with some
personal conflicts -- including accusations (later proved false) of a son born out of wedlock, and the
resulting breakup of his marriage -- marked a turn in Hart's fortunes.

Audiences wanted more romance in their Western heroes, and were getting it from players like Tom Mix;
Hart's movies and portrayals were seen as old hat. He went on, however, until 1924, when he went into
partnership with United Artists in the production and distribution of his last film, Tumbleweeds. A
nostalgic look back at the closing of the West, Tumbleweeds is today regarded as one of the greatest of
silent Westerns, though on its original release, the movie was -- based on original claims by the
distributor -- only a moderate success in its own time. It did contain the essence of his screen persona and
a land-rush scene that, in its editing and execution, has been compared favorably with the contemporary
work of Eisenstein. Hart subsequently sued United Artists in a case that lasted for over a decade and
ended up in Hart's favor, awarding him 278,000 dollars in damages in 1940. He later re-released the
movie with a sound prologue in which the aging actor gave a touching farewell to the screen and his fans.

During the late '20s, he wrote an autobiography, My Life -- East and West, and a few Western novels, but
apart from the reissue of Tumbleweeds was largely invisible to the public. He did play an important
behind-the-scenes role in the making of one classic film, however, when he was approached by Francis X.
Bushman, who had been asked to star in the silent epic Ben-Hur: A Story of the Christ, in the role of
Messala. Bushman had built his career playing heroes and wasn't sure if he should -- or should want to --
play a villain of such profound proportions in so weighty a work. He talked to Hart who had played the
role on Broadway for two years and reportedly offered the advice: "Trust me -- play the villain." It has
since proved to be the one role for which Bushman is remembered in silent movies. In the '40s, disputes
broke out in public about Hart's physical condition, and the conditions under which he was living. His
closest companion was his sister who lived at his estate; she was especially passionate about the rescue
of homeless animals, and after her death in 1943, he gave 100,000 toward the establishment of an animal
shelter in her name in Westport, CT. In his will, Hart established a Western museum on the grounds of his
estate. He remains one of the most respected and revered Western actors from the early days of the
genre, and his films Hell's Hinges and Tumbleweeds are still among the most watchable of all silent
Westerns.

Biography by Bruce Eder, AllMovie.com
~Silent Filmography~
~Actor~

Show People (1928) ... Himself
Screen Snapshots (1926) .... Himself
Tumbleweeds (1925) .... Don Carver
Singer Jim McKee (1924) .... 'Singer' Jim McKee
Hello, 'Frisco (1924) .... Himself
Hollywood (1923) .... Himself, Cameo appearance
Wild Bill Hickok (1923) .... Wild Bill Hickok
Travelin' on (1922) .... J.B., The Stranger
White Oak (1921) .... Oak Miller, a gambling man
Three Word Brand (1921) .... Three Word Brand/Gov. Marsden/Ben Trego
The Whistle (1921) .... Robert Evans
O'Malley of the Mounted (1921) .... Sergeant O'Malley
The Testing Block (1920) .... 'Sierra' Bill
The Cradle of Courage (1920) .... 'Square' Kelly
Sand! (1920) .... Dan Kurrie
The Toll Gate (1920) .... Black Deering
John Petticoats (1919) .... 'Hardwood' John Haynes
Wagon Tracks (1919) .... Buckskin Hamilton
Square Deal Sanderson (1919) .... Square Deal Sanderson
The Money Corral (1919) .... Lem Beason
The Poppy Girl's Husband (1919) .... Hairpin Harry Dutton
The Breed of Men (1919) .... Careless Carmody
Branding Broadway (1918) .... Robert Sands ... Movie Still Code: A60-X
The Border Wireless (1918) .... Steve Ransom
Riddle Gawne (1918) .... Jefferson 'Riddle' Gawne
Shark Monroe (1918) .... Shark Monroe
Selfish Yates (1918) .... 'Selfish' Yates
The Tiger Man (1918) .... Hawk Parsons
Blue Blazes Rawden (1918) .... Blue Blazes Rawden
Staking His Life (1918) .... Bud Randall
The Lion of the Hills (1918)
Wolves of the Rail (1918) .... 'Buck' Andrade
United States Fourth Liberty Loan Drive (1918) .... Himself
A Bullet for Berlin (1918) .... Himself
The Narrow Trail (1917) .... Ice Harding
The Silent Man (1917) .... 'Silent' Budd Marr
The Cold Deck (1917) .... Jefferson 'On-the-Level' Leigh
Wolf Lowry (1917) .... Tom 'Wolf' Lowery
The Square Deal Man (1917) .... Jack O'Diamonds
The Desert Man (1917) .... Jim Alton
The Gun Fighter (1917) .... Cliff Hudspeth
Truthful Tulliver (1917) .... Truthful Tulliver
All-Star Production of Patriotic Episodes for the Second Liberty Loan (1917)
The Devil's Double (1916) .... 'Bowie' Blake
The Return of Draw Egan (1916) .... 'Draw' Egan/William Blake
The Dawn Maker (1916) .... Joe Elk
The Patriot (1916) .... Bob Wiley
The Captive God (1916) .... Chiapa
The Apostle of Vengeance (1916) .... David Hudson
The Primal Lure (1916) .... Angus McConnell
The Aryan (1916) .... Steve Denton
Hell's Hinges (1916) .... Blaze Tracy
Between Men (1915) .... Bob White
The Disciple (1915) .... Jim Houston
Keno Bates, Liar (1915) .... Keno Bates
Pinto Ben (1915) .... Pinto Ben - Boss Rider
Knight of the Trail (1915) .... Jim Treen
Cash Parrish's Pal (1915) .... Cash Parrish
The Ruse (1915) .... 'Bat' Peters
Tools of Providence (1915) .... Steve Blake
The Conversion of Frosty Blake (1915) .... Frosty Blake
The Darkening Trail (1915) .... Yukon Ed
... aka "The Hell-Hound of Alaska" - USA (reissue title)
'Bad Buck' of Santa Ynez (1915) .... Bad Buck Peters
The Man from Nowhere (1915) .... Buck Varley - the Man from Nowhere
The Taking of Luke McVane (1915) .... Luke McVane
On the Night Stage (1915) .... 'Silent' Texas Smith
... aka "The Bandit and the Preacher" - USA (reissue title)
The Roughneck (1915) .... Dave Page
The Sheriff's Streak of Yellow (1915) .... Sheriff Hale
The Grudge (1915) .... Rio Ed
Mr. 'Silent' Haskins (1915) .... Lon Haskins
The Scourge of the Desert (1915) .... Bill Evers
Grit (1915)
In the Sage Brush Country (1914) .... Jim Brandon
Two-Gun Hicks (1914) .... Two-Gun Hicks
... aka "The Passing of Two-Gun Hicks" - USA (reissue title)
The Bargain (1914) .... Jim Stokes
... aka "The Two-Gun Man in the Bargain" - USA (reissue title)
Jim Cameron's Wife (1914) .... Andy Stiles
His Hour of Manhood (1914) .... Pete Larson
The Gringo (1914) (unconfirmed)
The Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1914)
The Fugitive (1913/I)
Ben Hur (1907) .... Messala
The Man Killer (????)

~Director~

Tumbleweeds (1925) (uncredited)
The Cradle of Courage (1920)
Square Deal Sanderson (1919)
The Money Corral (1919)
The Poppy Girl's Husband (1919)
Branding Broadway (1918) ... Movie Still Code: A60-X
A Bullet for Berlin (1918)
The Border Wireless (1918)
Riddle Gawne (1918)
Shark Monroe (1918)
Selfish Yates (1918)
The Tiger Man (1918)
Blue Blazes Rawden (1918)
Wolves of the Rail (1918)
The Narrow Trail (1917)
The Silent Man (1917)
The Cold Deck (1917)
Wolf Lowry (1917)
The Square Deal Man (1917)
The Desert Man (1917)
The Gun Fighter (1917)
Truthful Tulliver (1917)
The Devil's Double (1916)
The Return of Draw Egan (1916)
The Dawn Maker (1916)
The Patriot (1916)
The Apostle of Vengeance (1916)
The Primal Lure (1916)
The Aryan (1916)
Hell's Hinges (1916) (uncredited)
Between Men (1915)
The Disciple (1915)
Keno Bates, Liar (1915)
Pinto Ben (1915)
Knight of the Trail (1915)
Cash Parrish's Pal (1915)
The Ruse (1915)
Tools of Providence (1915)
The Conversion of Frosty Blake (1915)
The Darkening Trail (1915)
... aka "The Hell-Hound of Alaska" - USA (reissue title)
'Bad Buck' of Santa Ynez (1915)
The Man from Nowhere (1915)
The Taking of Luke McVane (1915)
The Roughneck (1915)
The Sheriff's Streak of Yellow (1915)
The Grudge (1915)
Mr. 'Silent' Haskins (1915)
The Scourge of the Desert (1915)
Grit (1915)
In the Sage Brush Country (1914)
Two-Gun Hicks (1914)
... aka "The Passing of Two-Gun Hicks" - USA (reissue title)
The Gringo (1914) (unconfirmed)
The Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1914)

~Producer~

Tumbleweeds (1925) (producer)
Wild Bill Hickok (1923) (producer)
White Oak (1921) (producer)
Three Word Brand (1921) (producer)
O'Malley of the Mounted (1921) (producer)
The Cradle of Courage (1920) (producer)
Sand! (1920) (producer)
The Toll Gate (1920) (executive producer) (uncredited)
Wagon Tracks (1919) (producer)
The Money Corral (1919) (producer)
The Poppy Girl's Husband (1919) (producer)
The Breed of Men (1919) (producer)
Branding Broadway (1918) (producer)
The Border Wireless (1918) (producer)
Riddle Gawne (1918) (producer)
Shark Monroe (1918) (producer)
Wolves of the Rail (1918) (producer)
The Silent Man (1917) (executive producer)
The Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1914) (producer)

~Writter~

Singer Jim McKee (1924) (story)
Wild Bill Hickok (1923) (writer)
Travelin' on (1922) (story)
White Oak (1921) (story "Single Handed")
O'Malley of the Mounted (1921) (story)
The Testing Block (1920) (screenplay) (story)
The Toll Gate (1920) (story "By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them")
The Money Corral (1919) (story "Somebody's Fool")
The Narrow Trail (1917) (story)
Pinto Ben (1915) (writer)
Counter
Follow silentworlds on Twitter
Share |