To me, William S. Hart is THE sexy, sensitive cowboy - really rugged yet gentle, almost bashful when it comes to women. As I see more of his films he is becoming more and more one of my favorite stars of the silent era.
Film Reviews - Plot Summaries and Ratings
- Selfish Yates (1918) - The photography is the thing in this magnificently photographed, short and satisfying silent film. From the beauty of the desert vista where two young sisters (Jane Novak and teen era child actress Thelma Salter) watch their father die on the desert floor, then trek via covered wagon to the nearest town alone, a frontier town and saloon, threadbare and stark against the prairie sky, to the smoke from a cigar wafting around the face of William S. Hart as it fills the screen - this film is a real visual experience more than compelling story, you can really feel the Old West here - it's a real treat to see on a big screen (saw this at a Cinecon festival screening).
Hart plays "Selfish" Yates, a man with a motto "Me first, me second, me to the end", and "Never do for anyone but yourself". He has a young protegee named Hotfoot, abandoned son of a dance hall girl, who is being taught the ropes by Yates, but with the two pretty sisters in town, it just may be only a matter of time before Yates and Hotfoot get tamed of their selfish ways! I found this film to be quite good, I always enjoy the performances of William S. Hart, his face and eyes are so expressive, perfect for the silent screen. Jane Novak's appeal in this is more visual than any great acting quality - her big-eyed, pretty young face standing in contrast next to the sun-worn face of Hart. The print I saw of this looked gorgeous, mostly tinted a bright yellow/sepia tone. Well worth seeing. * 8/10 stars *
- Branding Broadway (1918) - "The New York City Cowboy". Enjoyable silent romantic comedy/western starring William S. Hart as a wild west Cowboy who gets in a barroom brawl in an Arizona bar after finding out the state has gone "dry" (and he just arriving with a taste for a "pail of liquor", oh no), he's then sent heading out of town by rail, hog-tied. Well, he reads about a job in NYC to be "guardian" for a wealthy man's 27-year old playboy son, the duties to mainly entail going out drinking and brawling with him - right up his alley, oh boy! So he hightails it to the big city, promptly gets hired, and is put into top hat, white tie, and tails - all ready for the nightclubs (and let me just say, Hart cleans up real nice - swoon). A real duck out of water, so to speak, he ditches the top hat in favor of his cowboy hat as soon as he can - next thing you know, he is enlisted by the dad to get ahold of some "love letters" that the son's pretty girlfriend (Seena Owen), a waitress (not desirable to dad), is holding. He heads over to the "Wheat Cake Restaurant" where she works, and lacking the courage to actually come out and ask for the letters, he ends up eating 18 pancakes but never quite works up the nerve. Poor guy, he's become completely smitten with this woman! In a fun climax to save the letters, now in the clutches of a detective hired to get them when Hart continually fails at the task - our cowboy commandeers a New York City police horse for a wild west style ride through Central Park to save the day.
This is a quite entertaining film, the screening I saw of this, at Cinecon 43 in Hollywood, featuring a clear, great-looking sepia tinted print. William S. Hart is one of my favorite stars from that era, he seems to always play a rugged cowboy who has a real soft side and boyish bashfulness when it comes to women, which I find very appealing. His portrayal here is charming, sensitive and well done, the film itself very entertaining and fun to watch. * 8/10 stars *
- Tumbleweeds (1925) - Bravo! Terrific little silent western. About cattlemen who must clear out from their ranches when the government offers up the strip of land where they are raising their cattle to homesteaders. Cowboy Don Carver (William S. Hart), owner of the Box K ranch, is ruggedly handsome, manly, and just a touch "girl shy" when he meets a pretty gal named Molly (Barbara Bedford) when he accidently ropes her in some sort of saloon hijinks he's up to with his goofy, grubby cowpoke sidekick "Kentucky Rose" (he also, in a previous scene, has roughed up her half-brother, though deservedly so). But Molly goes for him anyway as he shyly shows up the next day with a bunch of prairie flowers in his hand (and in an amusing scene, has just secretly cut off his Alfalfa-like cowlick off the top of his head in her parlor). Now our hero must contend with two bad men (one her half-brother, the other her oily, hated wannabee suitor) who want to lay their hands on the Box K. In an exciting scene, thousands of homesteaders race to claim their land at the sound of the noon cannon shot. Horses, wagons, even big-wheeled bicycles, race across the land at a really high rate of speed (boy, that gal Molly can drive a wagon at a fast pace!) in some really great camerawork. This film is really excellent - I like the shots of the sepia-tinted cowboys on horseback as they are silhouetted against the prairie sky, and, of course, the big finale is really fun and exciting to watch. The DVD from Image Entertainment features a very nice looking tinted print and excellent piano score by William Perry. It also includes a short made in the thirties with Wlliam S. Hart himself describing the historical background of the film. Interesting to see and hear him, unfortunately he comes across a bit long-winded and hammy. Still nice to see though. * 10/10 stars *
My Most Wanted: ??
Trivia and Tidbits
- William Surrey Hart was born December 6, 1864 in Newburgh, New York - died June 23, 1946 in Newhall, California
- Hart had a son, William S. Hart Jr. with wife, actress Winifred Westover
- Listing in the 1920 Los Angeles City Directory - - Hart Wm S actor Wm S Hart Co r945 Orange
- Also from the 1920 Los Angeles City Directory - - Hart Wm S Co The E H Allen mgr motion picture producers 1215 Bates av
- William S. Hart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - address: 6363 Hollywood Blvd.
Links / Resources
IMDb: William S. Hart - Filmography and mini biography.
William S. Hart Ranch and Museum - Newhall, California