The William S. Hart Formula

Bad Buck of Santa Ynez
R: William S. Hart. B: J.G. Hawks. Thomas H. Ince. D: William S. Hart, Bob Kortman, Fanny Midgley, Thelma Salter. P: Kay-Bee Pictures. USA 1915

“Bad Buck is a little two-reel western (about 24 minutes total) that follows the traditional Hart formula, bad man turned good by (kid/woman/faith). But the short is also one of the only times in Hart’s career that he dies on-camera and the only Hart death scene available on DVD. Hart’s westerns tended to follow a formula (not always a bad thing) so it is always interesting to run into one that bucks the trend. Hart died a grand total of four times (at least judging from extant films and film reviews) during his time in Hollywood. (…) To give you a sense of how rare it is for Hart to die in a movie, he starred in over seventy films between 1914 and 1925. (…)
There are two things silent actors just loved to do: Go insane and die. Why all this death and madness? Well, it gave performers the chance to show their versatility. Plus, if you were dying or going mad, chances are the camera would focus on you. The undisputed champions of this activity were Lillian Gish, John Barrymore and Lon Chaney. Let’s get morbid! How does Mr. Hart’s deathly skill measure up to this renowned trio? My verdict is that he does well but his death is a little ‘pretty’ for my taste. I give him a solid “B” for his skill at dying. (…)

The story of Bad Buck is very much in keeping with Hart’s style and in the style of shorts of the late nickelodeon era. Short dramas were already on the way out the door, replaced by features and never to return. Even today, the twenty minute to half-hour length is reserved for cartoons and sitcoms. I have to say, though, that the dramatic short films is something that deserves a second look. A well-made dramatic short is like a good short story, it aims for impact and a vignette of human nature. Bad Buck of Santa Ynez is no exception. It is a William S. Hart Good Bad Man drawn with quick, colorful strokes. (…)
I generally prefer Hart’s earlier westerns. While some of his later work could be wonderful, he tended to get trapped in either fulfilling his chosen formula or attempting to subvert it. Plus, the earlier films often avoid the overbearing religiosity that give his later offerings the flavor of a sermon, albeit one delivered by a very violent preacher.
The direction, as was typical for Hart, is simple and to the point with emphasis on the wild beauty of the west. However, there is a nice panning shot at the climax when the posse comes through the door to arrest Buck and discover his body instead.”
Fritzi Kramer
Movies Silently

More William S. Hart on this site:
>>> William S. Hart
>>> W. S. Hart’s First Feature Film

United States Navy, 1899

U.S. Cruiser “Olympia” Leading Naval Parade
R: James H. White. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1899
Print: Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)

Filmed September 29, 1899, during the Dewey naval parade on the Hudson River in New York City.

“‘We equipped eight parties on the occasion of Admiral Dewey‘s arrival in New York Harbor, Wednesday, September 27th, 1899, and secured the following excellent moving pictures of the Admiral and his great ship, together with the stirring events of Dewey Day, September 29th, the day of the Naval Parade’.
(Edison films catalog)
The ‘Olympia’, at the head of Admiral Dewey’s naval parade steams up the North River (i.e., the Hudson River) with the Admiral aboard. Many other boats of all kinds accompany her as she passes by Grant’s tomb, and fires a 21-gun salute.”
Library of Congress

“George Dewey (December 26, 1837 – January 16, 1917) was Admiral of the Navy, the only person in United States history to have attained that rank. (…) He was promoted to commodore in 1896 and assigned to the Asiatic Squadron the following year. After that appointment, he began preparations for a potential war with Spain, which broke out in April 1898. Immediately after the beginning of the war, Dewey led an attack on Manila Bay, sinking the entire Spanish Pacific fleet while suffering only minor casualties. After the battle, his fleet assisted in the capture of Manila. Dewey’s victory at Manila Bay was widely lauded in the United States, and he was promoted to Admiral of the Navy in 1903. Dewey explored a run for the 1900 Democratic presidential nomination, but he withdrew from the race and endorsed President William McKinley.”

>>> Spanish-American War 1898 on this website

Oscar Apfel

The Passer-By
R: Oscar Apfel. B: Marion Brooks. K: Otto Brautigan, Henry Cronjager. D: George Lessey, Miriam Nesbitt, Marc McDermott, Guy Hedlund. P: Edison Company. USA 1912

“(The) memory flash back, which takes up about three quarters of the film’s duration, is introduced by a combination of tracking shots and editing. From a full shot of the men, the camera smoothly closes in on the narrator up to a medium to shoulder close-up. Then a dissolve hides the cut to a much younger version of the same man and the memory flash back starts. Note that the spectators are being visually eased into the dissolve by heavy cigarette smoke on the margins of the frame. Subsequently, the camera pulls back again until the image is back to a full shot. The story continues in the past as told by the stranger until it seems he to have reached almost the age of the present day, when, with the same combination of movement and editing, the film jumps back to the bachelor party of the framing narrative. (…) Invoking thus not only that TIME IS SPACE but also more specifically that THE PAST LIES BEHIND is a conventionalized metaphor that also manifests itself in everyday language but is realized here with an actual, spatial camera movement ‘transporting’ the viewers from the present to the past. At the same time, the combined camera movements and close-up in The Passer-By also (…) suggest the concept of the head being a CONTAINER for the mind that, in this case, may be accessed by the spectators through the camera’s attempt to travel inside the character’s memories.”
Maike Sarah Reinerth: Metaphors of the Mind in Film. In: Kathrin Fahlenbrach: Embodied Metaphors in Film, Television, and Video Games. Routledge 2015, p. 223-224

“Oscar C. Apfel (January 17, 1878March 21, 1938) was an American film actor, director, screenwriter and producer. He appeared in 167 films between 1913 and 1939, and also directed 94 films between 1911 and 1927. Born in Cleveland, Ohio where he secured his first professional engagement in 1900. He spent eleven years on the stage on Broadway then joined the Edison Company. Apfel first directed for the Edison Company (Thomas A. Edison, Inc.) in 191112, where he made the innovative short film The PasserBy (1912). In 1913, he became one of two main directors for the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, the other being Cecil B. DeMille. Apfels directorial collaboration with DeMille was a crucial element in the development of DeMilles filmmaking technique. Apfel is often creditied as being one of the first men (along with DeMille) to bring Hollywood, then known as Hollywoodland, to the world stage. Legend has it that the two filmmakers were scouting for a location to shoot The Squaw Man (1914) in Flagstaff, Arizona. However, the conspicuously snowcapped mountains contradicted the pictures sweltering western setting. So they climbed aboard a train and headed west. Eventually they found themselves in a sleepy district of Los Angeles named Hollywoodland. The all yearround sunshine and cheap land made it an ideal place to shoot films. In late 1914, Apfel left the Lasky Company and directed for various companies into the 1920s, gradually returning to acting.”

“Oscar Apfel came from a large family. The 1900 census lists the Apfels at 134 Pelton St., Cleveland Ohio. (…) In 1900 this neighborhood was predominantly German; almost all of the Apfels’ neighbors, like them, were first- or second-generation German-Americans. In June of 1900 Philip Apfel, Oscar’s father, and Louise, his mother, were both 47. Both his parents had been born in Germany.”

669-Oscar Apfel

Oscar Apfel films on this site:
>>> The Squaw Man
>>> The Last Volunteer
>>> Thirty Days at Hard Labor