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Tea with Mary Ellen

William S. Hart, Silent Star of Westerns

William S. Hart, Silent Star of Westerns

Martine and I usually visit the William S. Hart house in Newhall at least twice a year. It is operated by the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and receives numerous visitors, most of whom have little idea of who Hart was. I have seen many of his silent Westerns, such as Hell’s Hinges (1916), Blue Blazes Rawden (1918), and Tumbleweeds (1925).

Moreover, I knew his son William S. Hart, Jr., who taught classes in real estate at Cal State Northridge. I spoke as an expert in demographic data for site location to his classes several times in the early 1980s.

For a three month period in 1922, William S. Hart, Sr. was married to Hollywood actress Winifred Westover. During this time, William, Jr. was conceived. Several years later their divorce was finalized.

William, Sr., lived out the rest of his life at La Loma de los Vientos, his hilltop house in Newhall, with his sister Mary Ellen, who had to move about in a wheelchair. She assisted her brother in writing and publishing a series of novels with Western themes.

The Door to Mary Ellen’s Little Tea House

The Door to Mary Ellen’s Little Tea House

Mary Ellen’s brother never married again. They lived together until 1943, when Mary Ellen died. William followed her three years later. They are both buried in Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

There was a strain of loneliness in the family. Once, when Bill Hart, Jr., offered me a ride after lecturing to one of his classes, he told me he married a single mother with a child and suggested I do so as well as a means of staving off isolation. Bill died in 2004.

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