3/29/17 Wednesday in Acton, CA (Soledad Canyon-TT)
We drove about 30 miles to the William S Hart Park, arriving before noon so we could catch the first tour of his mansion. He was one of 3 top movie actors in the world, along with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, appearing in 69 silent movies. He studied in Europe to be an actor, having grown up in the Midwest among the Sioux. Back home he was upset with the way the West was portrayed – nothing was authentic. He eventually got his friend, Thomas Incle, head of Paramount, to let him star in and produce better Westerns. Tom knew that Westerns were a dying genre, but let “Bill” give it a try. The Hart Westerns were a huge hit, making Hart a wealthy man. Note, Bill didn’t start acting in the movies until he was 50! Here he is with his beloved pinto pony “Fritz”. Both he (a tall man) and Fritz (a short horse) clicked from the beginning and both did their own stunts. Hart even had a special burial place for Fritz, as well as another for his dogs. In his love for animals he also kept many that are now on the site for people to enjoy…”for the benefit of the American public of every race and creed.” He wanted all those people who paid their nickels and dimes to see his shows to enjoy what he loved.
The Ranch House was originally built in 1910. Then Hart wanted to use it for location filming, putting boards and nail walls up so they could easily be removed for “sunlit” scenes. Later (1921-1924) he lived there, using it as a second home, a breather from Hollywood. Yes, he permanently installed the walls and stuccoed the outside by 1922. Click on images for captions.
Meanwhile, he got busy building his retirement home on the hill, LaLoma de los Vientos, living there from 1927 until his death in 1946.