William S. Hart “Hell’s Hinges”

September 24, 2008

“Hell’s Hinges” is the greatest Clint Eastwood movie not starring Clint Eastwood!

In the form that Charles Starrett sent to the Dartmouth Alumni Records Office in 1956, for inclusion in the Alumni Directory, he lists under religion “Episcopal.”

Watching “Hell’s Hinges” starring and directed by Starrett’s boyhood celluloid hero, William S. Hart, one must wonder how deeply his religious sentiment ran as a child.

The film, released in 1916, is very religious in content and theme.  Like many of Hart’s roles, Blaze is a bad man who finds salvation.  Here it is a pretty straight path to God — he falls for the new Parson’s sister, she has a smile unlike any he’s ever seen, he defends the church from the mob, he becomes a member, and when the mob burns the church down, he burns the whole damn town down!

I like this guy.  He looks cool when he’s evil.  And heroic when he’s good.  I like the way he holds his guns, all hunched over like a coiled snake.  And he rides like a demon.

The religious stuff barely shows up in Starrett’s film (good v. bad maybe) but he didn’t have nearly the control over his pictures that Hard did.  I don’t know but I wonder how much the religous undertones were a part of Charles attraction to the guy.

More here.


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