|Before Clint Eastwood, there was William S. Hart|
"I was intrigued by a picture near the bar. The photograph was an old still from some silent movie. The actor in the picture wore a ten-gallon hat, a six shooter, boots and spurs. He is standing at the bar, facing the camera. I do not recognize the silent movie actor, but the picture is signed Witzel. Can you tell me more?"
Actually, yes I can.
The cowboy in the photograph is William S. Hart (1864-1946), the original movie cowboy who filmed a variety of silent westerns before retiring from films in 1925.
Unlike his more conventionally handsome movie rival Tom Mix, Hart was a trained New York actor who found fame playing in moralistic Western movies. Mix -- who had actually been a bartender in Oklahoma -- had the more flamboyant film career (he was married five times), but Hart -- who was already middle-aged when he started making movies -- was a solid film presence in films such as The Toll Gate, Wild Bill Hickok and Tumbleweeds.
Although he was only married once, Hart's career was damaged by the scandal surrounding a paternity suit. His former home and ranch are now a museum.