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William S. Hart - 33

William S. Hart

William S. Hart (1864–1946) A storybook hero, the original screen cowboy, ever forthright and honest, even when (as was often the case) he played a villain, William S. Hart lived for a while in the Dakota Territory, then worked as a postal clerk in New York City. In 1888 he began to study acting. In 1899 he created the role of Messala in "Ben-Hur", and received excellent reviews for his lead part in "The Virginian" (1907). His first film was a two-reeler, His Hour of Manhood (1914). In 1915 he signed a contract with Thomas H. Ince and joined Ince's Triangle Film Company. Two years later he followed Ince to Famous Players-Lasky and received a very lucrative contract from Adolph Zukor. His career began to dwindle in the early 1920s due to the publicity surrounding a paternity suit against him, which was eventually dismissed. He made his last film, Tumbleweeds (1925), for United Artists and retired to a ranch in Newhall, CA. By that time audiences were more interested in the antics of a Tom Mix or Hoot Gibson than the Victorian moralizing of Hart. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, NY.

Donated his estate to the City of Los Angeles, on the condition they install a fountain and use the park for the arts. Today, the internationally renowned Actors Studio has its West Coast branch at the William S. Hart Park, in West Hollywood, in Hart's old estate. Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1975.Hart High School located in Newhall, California is named after him. The entire school district is also named the William S. Hart school district. An interesting footnote, the famous prohibition lawman (also once a bodyguard for the President Of The United States) "Two Gun Hart" changed his name to that of this famous actor and in some ways patterned his life after him. The real-life lawman Two Gun Hart seldom revealed his birth name, which was James Vincenzo Capone. He was the older brother of infamous gangster Al Capone. In March of 1923, Hart, already being sued for divorce by wife Winifred Westover, was accused by her of fathering a child by another woman. This hurt his already declining career and by 1924 and 1925 he would release only two more films before retiring. A friend of legendary wild west lawman Wyatt Earp, and along with fellow silent movie cowboy star Tom Mix, was a pallbearer at Earp's funeral in 1929. His mansion in Newhall, California, is now a museum and has been preserved with its original fixtures and furnishings intact.While living in semi-retirement in Newhall, he was disturbed by a plane which kept flying over his house. The plane was being piloted by Amelia Earhart, and they ended up becoming good friends after he invited her to dinner in order to complain about the noise her plane was making. He rode a horse named "Fritz".

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