The William S. Hart Museum has unveiled a temporary exhibit featuring objects in the Natural History Museum (NHM) and Hart Museum collections relevant to two Academy Award© Best Picture nominees: Hugo and The Artist. Both films focus on the making of silent movies and early film pioneers. General admission to the Hart Museum is free.
This special exhibit will feature several cases in the Hart Mansion containing costumes, film props, equipment and historical artifacts.
The main character in Hugo was based on early filmmaker Georges Méliès, played by Ben Kingsley. The Hart Museum has in its collection a 4-page letter from Méliès in which he bitterly writes of his plight as an ignored silent filmmaker and the burning of his work. Fans of Hugo will find that the movie’s climactic scene pulls directly from this correspondence.
The Artist is loosely based on swashbuckling star Douglas Fairbanks (played by Jean Dujardin), a donor to the Natural History Museum, who coincidentally also appears in Hugo.
Among the items to be displayed at the William S. Hart Museum:
· The Georges Méliès letter, with transcription.
· William S. Hart’s shirt and cuffs from his last film, Tumbleweeds, which appears in Hugo.
· Props from The Artist.
· A jeweled dagger from The Thief of Bagdad, as seen in Hugo.
· Buster Keaton’s pork pie hat, and Harold Lloyd’s glasses, both seen in Hugo.
· A Lumière Cinématographe, one of only three in the United States. The Lumière brothers, referenced in Hugo, produced the Cinématographe, the first commercially successful camera and projector.
· Early pre-cinema devices such as magic lanterns and a Praxinoscope, as seen in Hugo.
The motion picture property house History For Hire (www.historyforhire.com ) will also loan the William S. Hart Museum key props used in The Artist, including the projector from the fire scene.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County was one of the first Museums to collect film memorabilia. In the 1930s, the Museum (then known as the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art) began contacting filmmakers, actors and publicists for the purposes of collecting everything needed to make and market a film. Hollywood greats, from Charlie Chaplin to Walt Disney, have contributed to the collections. Recent additions include Betty Bronson’s costume from the original Peter Pan (1924) and a Grace Kelly costume from The Swan. NHM’s film frame archive spans hundreds of movies made from 1890 to 1930.
William S. Hart was one of the most popular leading men of the silent film era, unique for his powerful presence and serious approach to early Westerns. His acting skills were honed by years of experience on the New York stage and theaters all over the country, and in his movies, the actor insisted on authentic depictions of the Old West and its people, from their clothes to their lifestyles and complex personalities. He frequently played a stalwart, tough-as-nails cowboy, with a soft spot for his favorite horse — a brown and white pinto named Fritz. He is the only silent film star that ever turned his home into a Museum.
The Hart Museum, located in Newhall, California, is part of the Natural History Family of Museums.
About the Hart Park and Museum
Silent film star William S. Hart purchased a ranch house and surrounding property in Newhall, north of Los Angeles, in 1921. He built a 22-room mansion and filled it with Western art, Native American artifacts, and early Hollywood memorabilia. Hart bequeathed the 230-acre estate to Los Angeles County for the enjoyment of the public at no charge. Tours and programs such as silent movie screenings take place frequently at the Hart Museum. Among the Hart Park’s permanent residents is an assortment of animals, including a small herd of bison, a gift from the Walt Disney Studios in 1962. Today, the property is jointly administered by two Los Angeles County agencies. The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation is responsible for the grounds, animals, and buildings, while the care and interpretation of the Hart home and its artifacts is administered by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The Hart Park and Museum is located at 24151 Newhall Avenue, Newhall, CA, 91321. The Park is open 7 days a week until 5:00 pm. The Museum is open Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and weekends from 11 am to 3:30 pm, with tours every half hour. Admission is free. For more information on the Museum, visit www.hartmuseum.org or call (661) 254-4584. For more information on the Park visit parks.lacounty.gov or call (661) 259-0855.
About the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County serves nearly one million families and visitors annually, and is a national leader in research, exhibitions and education. The Museum was the first dedicated museum building in Los Angeles, opening its doors in 1913. It has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history — with more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. The Natural History Family of Museums includes the NHM (Exposition Park), the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits (Hancock Park/Mid-Wilshire), and the William S. Hart Park and Museum (Newhall, California). For more information, visit the Museum’s website at www.nhm.org or call (213) 763-DINO.