Saturday, October 10, 2009

Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley: Intro to the William Hart Ranch

I'm on my way this morning to the William Hart mansion up in Santa Clarita Valley for another visit. Hart, one of the great silent film stars, filmed his last film, Tumbleweeds on this property in Newhall in 1925. After the film was finished, Hart purchased the property. Los Angeles architect Arthur Kelly designed Hart's home, a lovely Spanish style home atop a hill overlooking the valley. Hart christened the home La Loma de los Vientos (Hill of the Winds) and moved into it in 1927.
Hart died in 1946. Upon his death, the property was bequeathed to the County of Los Angeles, the stipulation being that people be able to visit the property free of charge. When he had announced that the property would go to the public, Hart said, "While I was making pictures, the people gave me their nickels, dimes, and quarters. When I am gone, I want them to have my home."Besides house tours, there are extensive grounds with a herd of buffalo. This herd was originally acquired in 1960 by the Disney Studio Movie Ranch down the road in Placerita Canyon. But when the herd became to difficult to maintain, the Studios donated them to the Hart mansion in 1962 and the herd's offspring are now pastured close to the mansion.

I am in the middle of reading Hart's autobiography "My Life East and East." And while the writing is very quaint and full of "Golly!", I'm enjoying it immensely. Why? Because his heart must have been as big as his ranch and it shows. He writes of his career and his climb to stardom with what seems a childlike wonderment of his success. He was fiercely loyal to his early producers even when it became painfully evident that he was severely underpaid. He writes extensively when his beloved bulldog dies. I know his sister helped him write this book and maybe I'm naive in believing that he really was as simple and unselfish as it appears, but I'm convinced that he was who he says he was.
I'll be writing more of Hart, probably in a few installments. He deserves a great deal of mention because of his strong connection with the Santa Clarita Valley and the film industry.

BUT, on the way, I'm going to stop at another place dedicated to the memory of an early cowboy star, Gene Autry: The Museum of the American West. I'm not going into the museum - I've seen it several times - I'm going strictly for the store. They probably have the best inventory of history books -- on the cowboy, the Western film industry, the history of the West -- this side of the Nevada. I'm looking for information on the SCV and also stunt riders. I hope I can get out of the store before I spend my entire bank account in there. And wait, I'm not done yet. I also plan to write a little about John Wayne's early Lone Star films up in the SCV. Here, to whet your appetite, is a movie poster from an early John Wayne movie - this was a Lone Star production probably filmed up in the SCV. It shows Robert Bradbury as the director, and if you recall from an earlier post on Melody Ranch, Bradbury's son Bob Steele was the one that introduced Wayne to Bradbury. And the rest is history.After visiting the Hart Ranch, I'm meeting someone for dinner. Which baseball for me tonight. I might just miss the Dodgers sweep the Cardinals.


Charles Gramlich said...

What a gorgeous house. I'd love to live there.

Evan Lewis said...

I think I've seen that house on more than one episode of Disney's Zorro series. That alone is a good reason to visit.

Laurie Powers said...

Wait till you see the pictures I took today. Will be posting them tomorrow. Thanks for your comments, guys.

Barry said...

What a lovely home. The only William S. Hart fim I have seen is "Hell's Hinges" but I recall being impressed with it at that time. Been 30 or more years since I saw it.
I am puzzled TCM does not show some silent westerns on their Silent Sundays. Unless they have and I missed them.

Konrad said...

If you are looking for Books on the SCV Might I suggest "Santa Clarita Valley (Images of America)"
by John Boston

In June, 2009, he was named Best Humor Columnist in North America by The National Society of Newspaper Columnists. It's the second time he's received the award.

I would also recommend his website the Boston report. Not only is he funny, he is an authority on teh history of the SCV.

We have his book for sale in the train station of the Santa Clarita Valley historical Society, but you can also get it on line.