Birth Name: William Surrey Hart
Date of Birth:
December 6,1864, Newburgh, New York, USA
Spouse:
Winifred Westover(1921-divorced1927)
Child: William S. Hart, Jr. (1922–2004)
Date of Death:
June 23, 1946, Newhall, California, USA
Nickname:
"
Two-Gun Bill"
Height: 6' 2" 

  A Mini Biography
William S. Hart was the original silent screen film cowboy. He personally crafted the role of the western storybook hero, fashioned as he lived, ever forthright, well-mannered, honest, humble, - "The White Hat"  Cowboy Hero.

It was the character he portrayed in his first 2-reeler film, His Hour of Manhood (1914). Over the next decade, with an output of 87 films to his credit, William S. Hart retired in 1925, producing, directing, and starring in the role of "Don Carver" in United Artists' Tumbleweeds.  Even when cast as the villain, his character managed to retain most of the qualities. 

 William Surrey Hart was born in Newburgh, New York, on  December 6, 1864, one of seven children of Irish and German ancestry, born to James and Katherine Hart. During his boyhood, his family traveled extensively throughout the Midwest (Dakota Territories) as his father searched unsuccessfully for the ideal site to build a gristmill (for grinding grain), where he would make a permanent home for his family. Consequently, young Bill was raised in pioneer atmospheres, where he had personal contact with Indians from many tribes, as well as an assortment of ranchers and cowboys. The youngster learned Indian sign language and even a little of the Sioux language from his playmates. He gained a respect for Indians and Indian cultures that he retained throughout his long and productive life.

While Bill was in his early teens, the Hart family returned to New York, and it was there that he developed his interest in the stage. He took as job as a postal clerk in New York City, and in 1888, he began to study acting. He received critical acclaim for his own production of "The Man in the Iron Mask", and in 1899, he created the role of "Messala" in the original stage production of "Ben Hur" .
By 1900 he had appeared in productions from New York to San Francisco, as well as Montreal.
Hart's first Western role was in 1905, when he was cast as "Cash" Hawkins, in a stage production of "The Squaw Man". After that experience, he tried to limit his subsequent stage roles to Westerns, resulting in excellent reviews for his lead role in the enormously successful production of "The Virginian"  in 1907.

Hart's extraordinary acting ability was honed from performances on Shakespearian theatre stages, throughout the US and England. While touring with the company of "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" in 1914, Hart decided to move to California to make Western films. In his autobiography, he wrote,
"I was an actor and I know the West - I had to bend every endeavor to get a chance to make Western motion pictures."

After his relocation to Hollywood, Hart obtained parts in several Westerns and collaborated in writing screenplays, and his new Western film career was launched.
William S. Hart went on to become one of the first great stars of the motion picture western.
Hart was particularly interested in making realistic western films. Despite his limited range of acting roles, he directed, often produced, and even scripted, many of his features. W.S. Hart films are noted for their authentic costumes and props, as well as film locations.

In 1915 he signed a contract with Thomas Ince and joined Ince's
"Triangle Film Company".
Two years later he followed Ince to "Famous Players-Laskey"
and received a very lucrative contract from Adolph Zukor.
By the early twenties, Hart's career began to dwindle. Film fans had tired of Hart's straight-laced, "Snow White Western Hero". And then, to make matters worse, "Our Hero" was named in a widely publicized paternity suit. Though the case was later dismissed, the widespread publicity surrounding the suit emphasized the hypocrisy of the situation and Bill Hart's impeccable reputation was forever tainted.

In 1921, Hart purchased a ranch house and surrounding property (260 acres) in Newhall, north of Los Angeles. He commissioned famed Los Angeles architect Arthur Kelly to design a magnificent 22-room Spanish colonial style mansion, which Hart christened
"
La Loma de los Vientos" (Hill of the Winds).
He filled it with Western art, including Navajo textiles, Indian costumes, guns and weapons, and Western paintings, sculptures, Native American artifacts, and early Hollywood memorabilia. Some of Hart's later Westerns were shot on and around the Newhall ranch, and in 1927, he permanently moved to his majestic retirement home where lived until his death in 1946.

Hart's popularity had waned as the film public began to be attracted to “larger than life” (i.e. "less authentic") Western stars, such as Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson, Fans embraced the new, looser interpretation of the "Western Hero" over the Victorian moralizing of Hart's character.

In his retirement, Bill became active in the operation of his ranch and deeply involved in Santa Clarita Valley community affairs. In fact, the local high school was dubbed "William S. Hart High School", in his honor. Bill remained busy in his retirement, writing more than a dozen novels and short stories, including his fascinating autobiography, "My Life - East and West".

Hart's reputation as a Western figure put him in contact with other prominent personalities of the day. Western enthusiasts, such as Will Rogers and Wyatt Earp, and important artists, including Charles M. Russell, C. C. Cristadoro, and James Montgomery Flagg, visited the ranch or corresponded with Hart.

True to the spirit of the Western heroes he had portrayed on screen, Hart was humbly grateful to the fans who had supported his film career.

"While I was making pictures, the people gave me their nickels, dimes, and quarters.
When I am gone, I want them to have my home."

When Bill Hart died in 1946, at the age of 81, he left the bulk of his estate to the County of Los Angeles, stipulating that his house and the ranch property were to be used as a museum and public park. When he bequeathed the 265-acre estate to Los Angeles County he also stipulated that it was for the enjoyment of the public at

  "No Charge".


William S. Hart is buried with family in Greenwood Cemetery, in New York


Money raised from memberships is essential to the continuing restoration and preservation of the Park and Museum.
One can never have too many "Friends."
Friends of Hart Park and Museum is a California Non-Profit Corporation Section 501 C-3

The William S.Hart Park and Museum
24151 San Fernando Road in Newhall
Open Wednesday through Friday
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
 Weekends from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tours Every Half Hour
 
Admission is free !

For more information, call (661) 254-4584
or visit the museum's website at
www.hartmuseum.org


copyright
    2007
            WEBMASTER                        

THE NEXT GENERATION'S WILLIAM S.HART