William S. Hart is the star in the Thomas Ince production of "Wagon Tracks" (Paramount-Artcraft 1919). Original publicity still (No. A84-50) from the (Vincent) Mercaldo Archives of New York (see below).
Hart plays Buckskin Hamilton, a westward-bound emigrant who avenges his brother's murder and cleverly enables the local Indians to avenge a murder in the process. One of Hart's real-life flames,
Jane Novak, plays the love interest.
Note that Hart is standing on a black fabric screen on the wooden stage floor.
From Koszarski (1980:114):
Produced by William S. Hart Productions; advertised as "supervised by Thomas H. Ince"; distributed by Paramount-Artcraft; released July 29, 1919; ©July 21, 1919; five reels (5158 feet).
Directed by Lambert Hillyer; story and screenplay by C. Gardner Sullivan; photographed by Joe August; art director, Thomas A. Brierley; art titles, Irwin J. Martin.
CAST: William S. Hart (Buckskin Hamilton); Jane Novak (Jane Washburn); Robert McKim (Donald Washburn); Lloyd Bacon (Guy Merton); Leo Pierson (Billy Hamilton); Bertholde Sprotte (Brick Muldoon); Charles Arling (The Captain).
SYNOPSIS: The wagon tracks leading to Westport Landing are those of emigrants westward bound during the days of the gold rush. Buckskin Hamilton, a desert guide, comes down to meet the steamer on which he expects his younger brother Billy. On going aboard he learns that he has been killed, the story being that he was shot by Jane Washburn in self-defense. He credits part of the story — it is inconceivable that she deliberately shot him, but he suspects that her gambling brother Donald, and his confederate Merton, had something to do with the killing. These people accompany a long wagon train in the charge of Buckskin. On the desert one of the wagons carrying water falls over a precipice and the entire train is put on short allowance. Buckskin shows so much tender consideration for the weak and helpless at this time that Jane is deeply moved and confesses that the man killed had not annoyed her. Buckskin is now certain she did not do the shooting. He captures Donald and Merton at night, binds them to a lariat and drives them out on the desert to walk until one or the other confesses. They become half-crazed by thirst and accuse each other, the guilt being finally fixed on Donald. A band of Indians nearby has demanded of the emigrants the murderer of one of their number, a man for a man. Buckskin gives Donald the alternative of going to the Indians or of shooting himself. Donald attempts to escape, but is captured by the Indians and taken to the torture. The wagon train goes on now unmolested. On reaching its destination, Jane, who has learned to love Buckskin, seeks to restrain him from going over the trail, but he decides to leave her. She fondly hopes he will come back some day. He regretfully says "mebbe" and returns to his duty. [Moving Picture World, August 23, 1919]
REVIEWS: The director saw to it that things were kept within reasonable bounds, even when there were chances to lay things on a bit thick ... it treats of an always romantic phase of American history. Those days back in '49 and '50 have been written, and screened over and over again, but the romance of the Westward trend of Americans is always of interest to the present generation, especially if the story is well presented and has more meat to it than the usual dance-hall mellers. [Wid's, August 17, 1919]
A fairly good Hart picture, well constructed by the talented author, Gardner Sullivan, logical and consistent throughout, but dark in mood, presenting Hart in a vindictive and revengeful character... . The motives of revenge, so well suited to Continental audiences, are not so much in use here, possibly because they have been overdone in cheap melodrama, somewhat looked down upon by manly Americans of today... . [Louis Reeves Harrison, Moving Picture World, August 23, 1919]
About the Mercaldo Archives.
119-04 Liberty Avenue, Richmond Hill 19, New York
104-42 104th Street, Ozone Park 16, New York
Click to enlarge.
Vicent Mercaldo, an Italian immigrant, was an early-20th-century Western historian and painter who collected a large number of documents, photographs and other memorabilia, especially concerning William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. His paintings and documents are featured in several Cody biographies, and his collected photographs reside in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and other museums. His original publicity photos of William S. Hart were acquired for SCVHistory.com in 2018.
Brooks Brothers Hobbyist
The New Yorker | August 20, 1955.
Did you know that the largest collection of Buffalo Billiana in private hands is in the private hands of Vincent Mercaldo, Brooks Brothers' head necktie cutter and patternmaker? We journeyed up to Mr. Mercaldo's apartment in Queens the other evening and found ourself in a living room containing a painting of William F. Cody on horseback, and another of Custer's last fight. Custer's hands were gloved, and each was holding a Colt revolver.
"I made a mistake there," said our host, who had painted both pictures. "A man can't shoot a revolver with gloves on. At least, Custer never did."
Mr. Mercaldo, a dark, intense man of 53 who was wearing tortoise-shell glasses and a blue and white polka-dot bow tie, began to collect memorabilia of Buffalo Bill and other Indian fighters long before he took to painting them.
"I was born in Marseille, of Italian parents," he said. "My father was a builder and architect. When I was 3, my mother became very sick, my father's fortune started shrinking, and my mother and I went to live with my grandfather in Naples while my father emigrated to the United States. One of my earliest recollections is Vesuvius in action in 1906, when I was 4."
Mr. Mercaldo and his mother came here to join his father three years later, and one of his earliest recollections of the United States is a poster in a store on Park Row advertising Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
"It made a tremendous impression on me," he said, "and this was strengthened by my father's saying he had seen Buffalo Bill in Rome. I began to collect Buffalo Bill dime novels — 'Buffalo Bill's Boy Pard,' 'Buffalo Bill's Cannon Cache,' 'Buffalo Bill's Sioux Foes,' and so on — and cut the pictures out. Later, I collected Wild West Show cigarette cards, and by the time I was in grammar school in Brooklyn, I was collecting photographs of Buffalo Bill and woodcuts of him, many torn out of books. For a while, I had an after-school job weighing the contents of pushcarts for a junk dealer. The carts contained a lot of books, and my pay was permission to tear pictures out of them. I must have over 500 pictures of Buffalo Bill. 1 never met him, but when I was 18, three years after he died, I went to see the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show in Coney Island and met Pawnee Bill, an old Cody associate. He gave me some photos of himself and Bill. Fifty-one of my pictures were used in Jim Horan and Paul Sann's 'Pictorial History of the Wild West,' and 38 are being used in 'Buffalo Bill and the Wild West,' a pictorial biography by Henry Sell and Victor Weybright that the Oxford University Press is bringing out this fall."
Buffalo Bill's admirer took us to his study, which is full of Wild West Show posters photographs of dance-hall girls — Big Nose Kate, Crazy Horse Lil, Big Minnie Bignon — and boxes and boxes of B.B. pictures and Wild West programs.
"Here's Buffalo Bill signing a contract with Pawnee Bill to become partners," he said. "Here's Bill and Prince Ludwig of Bavaria in Munich in 1890. Here's the original of the only photograph showing Wild Bill Hickok, Texas Jack, and Cody together."
"How about the tie business?" we asked.
"Oh, I went to work for a tie manufacturer in Brooklyn when I was 14," he said, "and eventually became head cutter. The firm folded in 1948 and I went over to Brooks. We make ties to order for Alfred Vanderbilt and Clark Gable and so on, but I don't really like ties. What I like is Buffalo Bill. I believe that in the field of Buffalo Bill there's no individual that can top me. In some things I'm better than the Smithsonian or the Library of Congress."
Mr. Mercaldo, who has a son of 15, three married daughters and eight grandchildren, seven of them little girls, introduced us to his wife, who handed us a drink.
"I don't really like Buffalo Bill," she said.
LW3419: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.