Fun Size Review: The Bargain (1914)

Can a 100+ year old action movie be exciting for modern viewers? The Bargain shows that the correct answer is an enthusiastic yes. Fast-moving and funny, this western is about a bandit who forms a strange alliance with the sheriff charged with arresting him. The climax is one of the best chase scenes (oh, all right, the best) of the 1910s. This is also western legend William S. Hart’s very first feature film and it’s also one of his lightest. Strongly recommended.

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Silent Movie Rule #17: Heroes are tough. Their moms are tougher.


It is a known fact that silent movie moms are not to be trifled with. Heroes? You can get away with a bit. But mess with mom and you are skating on thin ice, as William S. Hart discovered in The Cradle of Courage.

“Mom, can you seriously not pull a gun on me? Sheesh!”

In this case, mom thinks that one son gunned down the other. Of course, Mr. Hart is innocent and killin’ mad and off to find the real killer, etc. etc. etc. But that’s another story. I find it very weird to see Hart without his cowboy gear but the film is actually pretty good, if a bit derivative.

Of course, all bets are off if the ladies in question are unwed or adulterous mothers who have recently given birth. In that case they wander onto ice floes, die of movie-itis, and so forth. Movie-itis is marked by no symptoms other than dying and looking incredibly beautiful while doing it. Other characters often remark that the victim has lost the will to live. Tragedy! A miracle cure, often true love’s kiss, sometimes occurs but usually doesn’t. It has been used since the beginning of movies and still crops up. Natalie Portman is a famous modern case in Revenge of the Sith.

(You can read my review of The Cradle of Courage here.)

Availability: The Cradle of Courage is available on DVD from Grapevine.

Walking away dramatically from fiery destruction? This guy INVENTED it! Animated GIF


One action movie cliche that really needs to go is the Unflinching Walk Away from Destruction. You know what I mean, our protagonist blows up something (or is nearly blown up) and walks away from the fiery destruction without a flinch or a reaction. It’s supposed to show how tough our protagonist is but it just makes them look dim. Have they never heard of shrapnel?

Now compare our indomitable Mr. William S. Hart. This is Hell’s Hinges, he’s a gunslinger/assassin who recently got religion and the minute his back is turned, his old friends form a mob, burn down the church, shoot the minister… In short, they got Hart mad. Anyone who has seen a silent movie knows that this is the one thing you must never do. Do not get Hart mad.

See the difference? It’s the difference between trying to look like a tough cookie and actually being a tough cookie on the screen.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually know who the first person to walk dramatically away from destruction was. Would be interesting to find out!

(You can read my full-length review of Hell’s Hinges here.)

Availability: There was a gorgeous print released in the out-of-print box set Treasures from American Film Archives: 50 Preserved Films. Alpha has released a bargain disc that is still in print. I have not viewed it but it’s quality is likely far lower than the box set release. However, it is quite inexpensive.

Photoplay Cookbook: William S. Hart’s “Stuffed Summer Squash”

Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from one of the biggest players in early features of the wild west.

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Keno Bates, Liar (1915) A Silent Film Review

William S. Hart is the proprietor of a successful gambling house. Some clown gets the brilliant idea of robbing him at gunpoint. This goes over about as well as you might expect. The problem? The dead man’s innocent and penniless sister is on her way to town. Hart has to do a whole heap of lying to keep her from finding out about her brother’s disgrace.

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The Bargain (1914) A Silent Film Review

William S. Hart’s first feature film is also a real corker. He plays a bandit who decides to trade it all in for an honest life but who soon realizes that going straight is a lot harder than it looks. After some misadventures, he finds himself in a strange alliance with the local sheriff. Filled with genuinely exciting actions scenes, ironic humor and a good dose of dust, this movie is the one that made Hart a star. It’s easy to see why.
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Theme Month! December 2014: Have a Hart


December of 2014 is a significant month for fans of western star William S. Hart. His first feature was released a century ago this month and he was born one hundred and fifty years ago. I couldn’t let this milestone month pass without paying tribute to everyone’s favorite Good Bad Man of the west.

What’s more, I am going to be featuring spoofs of Hart’s gritty west that star some of the best comedians of the silent era! Please enjoy. Oh, and if you have a little something special planned for Hart this month, let me know and I will link to you.

Big V Riot Squad is joining me in the Hart celebration.

To whet your appetite, here are my past reviews of Hart films. Also, I get a chance to be punny. I offer no apologies.

Dark Hart: The Toll Gate (1920) has Hart at his most menacing.

Burning Hart: Hell’s Hinges (1916) is perfectly apocalyptic.

I left my Hart in San Francisco: The Cradle of Courage (1920), in which Bill trades his Stetson for a copper’s cap.

Broken Hart: Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915) is a rare tragedy from our usually-victorious hero.

Review #1: New Hart

The Bargain (1914) set the stage for all subsequent Hart films. It’s also a darn good piece of entertainment that holds up remarkably well.

Review #2: Lying Hart

Keno Bates, Liar (1915) was Hart’s last short film and provides an unexpected bit of vamping, courtesy of Louise Glaum.

Review #3: Lloyd Goes West

Two-Gun Gussie (1918) is Harold Lloyd’s fun little short dealing with the perils of a jazz pianist in the oldish west.

Review #4: Arbuckle-Keaton-St. John Go West

Out West (1918) is a dark, morbid and violent send-up of William S. Hart’s grown-up westerns.

Silent Movie Trivia Card #3: Hell’s Hinges (1916)

Click here to view in lightbox.
Click here to view in lightbox.

This Silent Movie Trivia Card concerns an 1916 apocalyptic western entitled Hell’s Hinges, which stars a very stern William S. Hart. While most writing on the film justly focuses on the famous ending, the rest of the movie’s story is equally fascinating. You know, darkness, redemption, revenge… Hart stuff. (You can read my full-length review here.)

However, there is plenty of interesting stuff going on in the background if you know what to look for. For example, there is a handsome young fella who is still a few years away from making his mark on the romance genre…

(I didn’t have time to do a screen grab but you can see our young Jack in action in my video review of the film.)

Availability: A gorgeous tinted print of Hell’s Hinges was released as part of the out-of-print Treasures From American Film Archives box set. There is an in-print Alpha release but I hear the image quality is pretty poor. Still, you can snag a copy for just a few bucks so…

Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915) A Silent Film Review

One of William S. Hart’s earliest surviving films, this western two-reeler tells the tale of a bad guy who narrowly escapes being guest of honor at a necktie party and learns to be not quite so bad when he meets a kid in trouble. You know, a typical William S. Hart Thursday. An early example of the gritty-yet-emotional western that would become Hart’s stock-in-trade. Hart also directed.

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Fun Size Review: The Cradle of Courage (1920)


William S. Hart hangs up his cowboy hat in this cops-and-robbers tale of post-War San Francisco. Hart is a veteran and ex-crook who comes back from his doughboy stint a changed man. The robber is now a cop and he is forced to investigate his old friends and his own family. Good enough but no classic. Worth it for vintage footage of San Francisco.

If it were a dessert it would be:


Rocky Road Ice Cream. You got your cool stuff, your dark stuff and your fun stuff. An old hat but welcome all the same.

Read my full-length review.


The Cradle of Courage has been released on DVD-R by Grapevine.

Silent Movie Bookshelf: The Complete Films of William S. Hart by Diane Kaiser Koszarski

This is how the (movie) west was won!

William S. Hart was one of the most popular western stars of the silent era. Though his films have a low loss rate, relatively few of them are available on home media. This book is valuable because it is the closest we may ever get to some of Hart’s more obscure titles. It also happens to be the gold standard in the “complete films of” book genre.

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