William S. Hart “Tumbleweeds”

September 4, 2008

In 1926, Charles Starrett would have been graduating from Dartmouth and beginning his training on the stage before heading out to Hollywood.

I hope he found time to catch “Tumbleweeds”, the last film by his childhood hero William S. Hart.

Statue featured at the Autry Museum

This is one of those films that’s semi-okay until the last half-hour – then it’s just great!  It’s a Landrush picture and Hart plays, from what I understand from my reading, a rare straight hero role.  He’s suffers though.  And he’s real good at that.

The incredible part of this film is the prologue which was shot for the 1939 re-release.  It features Hart, in his 70’s and dress in cowboy garb, delivering a soliloquy into the camera while standing on a bluff outside Newhall, California.  This has to be the most over-the-top histrionics I have ever seen outside out a Vincent Price flick.

Hart sets up the film with some hyperbolic descriptions (in a posh, Shakespearean voice that has little to do with his Newbourgh, New York upbringing).  The cruel fate of the rancher, the crying hue of the gathering herd, etc.  He lays it on thick and when you think that you can’t take it any more — get out some more hankies, fellas, cuz here comes the encore…

He bids a sad farewell to his audience.  He piles hyperbole upon hyperbole in describing the film-making process which he will miss — the cruel cut of wind in his face, the pounding hoofs of the beast below him, the cloud of dust circling him, the director shouting out “good work, Bill, and give ol’ Fritz a pat on the nose for me”, and pat him he does, as the cloud of dust turns to the shimmer of a thousand gold stars and through it he sees a line of cattle riding into the sky, and at the lead a pretty pony, (gasp) a pretty pony with an empty saddle calling his name…

Incredible.  I like!


One Response to “William S. Hart “Tumbleweeds””

  1. Rosalind Hart said

    Love your notes, but thought I should let you know that Bill Hart WAS a Shakespearean actor long before he came out West.

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