HELL’S HINGES (directors: Charles Swickard/William S. Hart; screenwriter: from the C. Gardner Sullivan story; cinematographer: Joseph H. August; cast: William S. Hart (Blaze Tracy), Clara Williams (Faith Henley), Jack Standing (Rev. Robert ‘Bob’ Henley), Alfred Hollingsworth (Silk Miller), Robert McKim (A clergyman), J. Frank Burke (Zeb Taylor), Louise Glaum (Dolly, dance-hall girl); Runtime: 64; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Thomas H. Ince; Grapevine Video; 1916-silent)
“An early silent William S. Hart western that delivers a religious message about moral retribution.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An early silent William S. Hart western that delivers a religious message about moral retribution. It pits the church against the saloon in a battle of good and evil for man’s soul. The weak-willed Reverend Bob Henley (Jack Standing) became a pastor to please his mom, but doesn’t have the calling. His superiors see that and remove him from an inner-city slum church, and send him to the prairie. He arrives with his strong-willed pretty sister Faith (Clara Williams) in the God forsaken town that’s known as Hell’s Hinges, a lawless gun-toting den of iniquity. The few respectable citizens are known as The Petticoat Brigade. One of them, Zeb Taylor, donates his barn to be the first church. At the first service, the evil saloon owner Silk Miller (Alfred Hollingsworth) has his rowdy dance hall crowd break into the service and start dancing. Gunslinger Blaze Tracy (William S. Hart) fell in love with Faith at first sight, and pulls his guns on the dancers to force them to leave in order to impress Faith. Bob then conducts an uninspiring sermon. Silk, the next day, asks Bob to conduct a service for the dance hall girls, and on Silk’s orders the sexy dance hall girl Dolly (Louise Glaum) lures Bob to her flat. They spend the night together and she gets him drunk so he’s in no condition to conduct the morning service. Faith is embarrassed, but Blaze saves the day by asking for the town to give him another chance. The next day Silk lures Bob back to the saloon and gets him drunk again. Silk then persuades the frenzied mob to burn down the church, with Bob lighting the torch. The church goers try to protect the church, while the drunken Bob is killed trying to torch the place. Blaze returns and burns down the saloon and the rest of the town, leaving it as a blazing inferno. He then buries Bob and comforts the sobbing Faith. Blaze then maps out their future in another town over these hills, where they can get a fresh start together.
It’s a quintessential William S. Hart western as he portrays his usual ‘good badman’ character, which turns out better than most of his others (most of his early films were lost). It shows Hart going from a gun-slinger to someone finding redemption in love and in God. He even converses with the Man, asking him to make sure Faith is happy and chooses him to marry. It’s codirected by Charles Swickard and Hart, and based on a story by C. Gardner Sullivan. Hart was immensely popular during this time period, and his fame rivaled silent greats Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford.
REVIEWED ON 6/2/2007 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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