William S. Hart

The Ruse
R: William H. Clifford, William S. Hart. B: J.G. Hawks, Thomas H. Ince. K: Robert Doran. D: William S. Hart, Clara Williams, John Davidson, Fanny Midgley. P: Broncho Film Company, New York Motion Picture. USA 1915

Hell’s Hinges
R: Charles Swickard, William S. Hart. B: C. Gardner Sullivan. K: Joseph H. August. D: William S. Hart, Clara Williams, Jack Standing, Alfred Hollingsworth. P: Kay-Bee Pictures. USA 1916

“This is an unusual Western which uses the freedom which existed before the Hays Code to cast as a villain a faithless Reverend who gets drunk in the local saloon, spends the night with one of the saloon girls and takes part in the arson of his own church. Opposite him we find the Reverend’s saintly sister, adequately called Faith, and the big gun Blaze who was determined to get rid of the parson but falls in love with Faith and because of that start believing in God, protects the justs and destroys the villains. Apart from the parsons who is torn between good and evil, the characters are quite unidimensional and racist stereotypes are present, in this case concerning Mexicans. The sudden transformation of Blaze from bad to good is a bit too sudden to be credible. The cinematography is quite innovative for the time with the use notably of a very wide shot with extended panning to follow a stage coach travelling in the hills. Editing is dynamic with efficient use of cross-cutting. Most of the action is filmed outdoor with the reconstitution of a Wild West settlement which is entirely burned down at the end. Sepia, blue and red tainting are used to convey the atmosphere of different scenes. Humour is also present e.g. when we are shown how the parsons imagines the West. The moralizing ending where the bad are punished is a bit less satisfactory.”
A Cinema History

Hart was brought up in the Dakotas, where he lived until he was 16. He made his first appearance on the stage in 1889 and soon made a name for himself, especially for his performances in Shakespearean plays. In 1905 his role in the play ‘The Squaw Man’ made him a western hero. After acting in the stage productions of ‘The Virginian’ (1907)* and ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’ (1912/14), he went to Hollywood, where his portrayals of stern, taciturn Westerners became enormously successful.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica

* see the 1914 De Mille films The Squaw Man and  The Virginian on this site

“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.”
Bruce Eder
Silent Hollywood

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>>> W.S. Hart’s First Feature Film

>>> The William S. Hart Formula