William S. Hart Classics [5 Discs] [DVD]

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Hell's Hinges
The quintessential William S. Hart western, Hell's Hinges stars two-gun Bill as gunslinger Blaze Tracy, "a man wholly evil." When a new preacher (Jack Standing) comes to town, Tracy and saloon proprietor Silk Miller (Alfred Hollingsworth) prepare to kick the "sky pilot" out of town. But while the preacher is weak-willed, his pretty sister (Clara Williams) is firm in her religious resolve. For her sake, Tracy decides to leave the preacher alone. From this point on, the film parallels the redemption of Tracy with the degeneration of the preacher, who is seduced by saloon-strumpet Dolly (Louise Glaum). Drunk and delirious, the preacher leads the townsfolk in burning down his own church! He comes to his senses just in time to be killed by Silk Miller, whereupon Blaze Tracy, exacting a near-Biblical retribution, guns down every nasty character within hailing distance and sets fire to the town. As the evil townspeople scurry about in terror, Tracy walks slowly and determinedly through the blazing inferno. His work done, he helps the girl bury her brother and rides off with her to a better life "over the rim". The direction of Hell's Hinges is credited to both William S. Hart and Charles Swickard, but it's easy to see which of the two had the most creative control. The poetic, larger-than-life qualities of the film are superbly complemented by writer C. Gardner Sullivan's florid subtitles. A 2-reel version of Hell's Hinges, retitled The Devil Dodger, was released to TV in the early 1950s as part of the silent-film retrospective series Movie Museum. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Square Deal Man
In this William S. Hart picture, the cowboy star plays Jack O'Diamonds, a gun-toting gambler in a border town. A minister (Milton Ross) convinces him and his partner Two Spot (Joseph J. Dowling) to quit gambling since winning money from the average man causes women and children to suffer. On their last night at cards, Jack is up against Colonel Ransome (J. Frank Burke). When Jack wins all the Colonel's money and his hacienda, the Colonel accuses him of cheating. Jack draws his gun and the lights go out. When they come back on, the Colonel is dead and a couple of Mexicans are riding off. Jack sends for Virginia, the Colonel's daughter (Mary MacIvor), with the intention of giving her the ranch. When she arrives, he immediately falls in love with her and gives up his wild life to become the ranch's foreman. Meanwhile, the Mexican who really committed the murder is plotting to convince Virginia that Jack killed her father -- then she will send Jack away and the Mexican can run the ranch's cattle over the borderline and kidnap the girl. But his plot, of course, is foiled and Jack and Virginia find happiness together. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

The Return of Draw Egan
With a price on his head, the notorious bandit "Draw" Egan (William S. Hart) is hired to bring law and order to the lawless frontier town of Yellow Dog by reformist Mat Buckton (J.P. Lockney). Hiding his criminal past, Egan rules the town with an iron hand until, that is, a former collaborator, Arizona Joe (Robert McKim), arrives to make trouble. "Draw" manages to scare off his opponent, however, and the grateful town forgives his past and elects him sheriff to the delight of Buckton's daughter (Margery Wilson). William S. Hart excelled in playing outlaws reformed by the love of a good woman and The Return of Draw Egan is perhaps the quintessential Hart western. Like so many times before and since, Hart's hero has to choose between two disparate women, a hardened dance-hall harlot (played to the hilt by veteran silent screen femme fatale Louise Glaum) and the naive, but God-fearing and just Margery Wilson. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Toll Gate
William S. Hart added a bit more suspense and drama in this otherwise typical Hart western. The greatest western star of the mid 1910s, Hart again played a good-bad man reformed by his love for a righteous woman (Anna Q. Nilsson) and a young child, in this case, Nilsson's son (Richard Headrick). The villain is the woman's brutish husband (Joseph Singleton) who eventually gets the heave-ho (literally, over a cliff). What makes this western very unusual for its time (or any time, for that matter) is the lack of the traditional happy ending. Although pardoned by the sheriff for killing Singleton, Hart refuses to marry the widow despite their obvious love for one another because he deems himself unworthy after killing her husband. Critics have bemoaned such "Hart-isms," but the decision actually seems quite logical and understandable this time. This was the first film Hart made after leaving Thomas Ince and organizing his own production company. Leading lady Anna Q. Nilsson was Scandinavia's first gift to the American film industry. Arriving in New York as a domestic around 1905, the Swedish beauty rose to screen stardom in the early to mid-1910s without the benefit of a single acting lesson. Hollywood chronicler Adela Rogers St. Johns later termed the actress the screen's "only blond vamp." ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Bargain
William S. Hart's third film and his first multi-reel western, The Bargain tells a familiar Hart tale of a good-bad man redeemed by the love of a woman -- in this case the sturdy-looking Clara Williams. When stage robber "Two-Gun" Jim Stokes (Hart) is wounded during a heist, he finds a willing nurse in the naive Nell (Williams). They fall in love and marry. Wedded bliss changes the former villain, and he attempts to return the stolen goods. Arriving back in town, Stokes is apprehended by the sheriff who then promptly loses the recovered valuables at the gaming table. Having discovered the hard way how alike they really are, lawman and prisoner strike the bargain of the title: If the sheriff will let him go, Stokes will recover the money. He does just that -- by robbing the gambling house -- and is arrested once again. But the sheriff, keeping his end of the bargain, releases the now truly repentant Stokes to the forgiving Nell. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Cast & Crew

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    Frank J. Burke - Zeb Taylor
  • William S. Hart
    William S. Hart - Blaze Tracy
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    Clara Williams - Faith Henley
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    Jack Standing - Rev. Robert Henley
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    Louise Glaum - Dolly
Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.