Monday, May 10, 2010

Who is that cowboy at the LongHorn bar?

Posted By on Mon, May 10, 2010 at 2:31 PM

fatcitywmhart_thumb_300x534.jpg
Before Clint Eastwood, there was William S. Hart
​Fat City reader Vernon Justice from Kansas City, Kansas, wrote in with an interesting question about a cowboy he'd seen in the bar at the LongHorn Steakhouse in Wyandotte County's Legends complex. Not a real cowboy, but a vintage photograph.

"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.

click to enlarge gunfighter.jpg

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.

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