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Bill Hart on the silver screen

Silents Under the Stars shows two films starring William S. Hart

Posted: August 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Silents Under the Stars. Silents Under the Stars.
Silents Under the Stars.
Film historian David Shepard. Film historian David Shepard.
Film historian David Shepard.
Silent auction. Silent auction.
Silent auction.

By Michele E. Buttelman

Signal Features Editor

Saturday was a hot August night in the Santa Clarita Valley, but it didn’t stop nearly 200 fans of Western silent film star from turning out to support the Friends of Hart Park.

The 17th annual Silents Under the Stars offered supporters a chance to bid on silent auction items, have a dinner from Rattler’s and view two silent Bill Hart films.

Film historian David Shepard provided the two films that were screened, “Keno Bates, Liar” (1915) and  Hart’s 1921 revenge drama, “The Whistle.”

“The Whistle” is one of Hart’s rare non-Western films, Shepard said.

“His Westerns all had strong moral themes,” he said. “‘The Whistle is a melodrama that is also a surprisingly strong film.”

The event was briefly in jeopardy when Shepard’s two projectors developed mechanical problems during dress rehearsal. Shepard then drove to Pomona the day of the event to obtain replacement parts for the projectors.

Ray Lowe wrote the original music to go with the silent films. This was his seventh year volunteering for Silents.

“I really enjoy working on this event,” he said. “Working on the ‘The Whistle,’ was a real treat for me, because it wasn’t a Western.”

Lowe said he was able to do something a little different with the music for this year’s films. However, it wasn’t as easy as he first envisioned.

“I had a hard time at first because the characters aren’t all good or all bad,” Lowe said. “It makes it harder to create a musical signature for the character.”

Lowe said he had to view the film a few times to create the music for Hart and his antagonist.

“I had to watch this film a couple of times to figure out how to play these two characters,” he said.

Silents was held to benefit the Friends of Hart Park. The nonprofit is working to upgrade the facilities at Hart Hall.

“We’re going to add movie screens, dark shades, seating and improved sound,” said Laurene Weste, president of Friends of Hart Park and Santa Clarita councilwoman. “The county is spending a lot of money to improve the front of Hart Park and make other improvements.”

The evening attracted many event regulars who enjoy the annual film screening held at Hart Hall in Newhall.

“This is a great event,” said Richard Green. “I wish I had found out about it sooner.”

Evie Leslie said she looks forward to the event every year.

“The items in the auction are super this year,” Leslie said.

“We love the Silents Under the Stars,” Sally Coss said.

Guests were able to tour the Hart Mansion at the top of the hill above Hart Park before returning to Hart Hall for the dinner and film screening.

The evening also featured the Western and bluegrass stylings of the All Digital String Band.

Sharon Blowers served as event chairwoman.


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