Regia: Scen.: C. Gardner Sullivan; F.: Joe August; Scgf.: Robert Brunton; Ass. R.: Cliff Smith; Int.: William S. Hart (“Draw” Egan / William Blake), Louise Glaum (Poppy), Margery Wilson (Myrtle Buckton), Robert McKim (Arizona Joe), J.P. Lockney (Mat Buckton), Leo Willis (un cowboy); Prod.: Thomas H. Ince per Triangle (Kay-Bee); Dist.: Triangle Digibeta. D.: 55’.
After the success of Hell’s Hinges, Hart and Ince followed with another dark vision of the American West, The Aryan, which the actor remembered as “one of the best Westerns ever made”. A favorite of Louis Delluc and other European critics, it now exists only as a fragment. But Hart did not want to be typed as an outlaw, reformed or otherwise, and in his next few films took on the role of trapper, minister, and even (twice) an Indian. Despite the suitably iconic nature of these roles, both men realized that stories of moral and spiritual redemption – critics were already referring to these as “soul fights” – were more dramatic when the “good bad man” was involved. This time the outlaw finds himself the new sheriff of Yellow Dog, another of those disreputable Western shanty towns created at Inceville by the no-frills production designer Robert Brunton. Blackmailed by a former associate, convention would suggest another tragic, or at least low-key, finale. But C. Gardner Sullivan’s script rewards this outlaw’s conversion with a full-scale happy ending: he not only gets the girl, but gets to remain town peacemaker as well. Not all of Hart’s subsequent films would end on so upbeat a note, but tragedy would strike less frequently after 1917. Increasing attention by reform groups, and a change in Hart’s fan base (or at least his understanding of who those fans really were) would gradually lighten up the more somber corners of Hart’s cinema. By the time America entered the Great War he would be less concerned with graph- ic authenticity and more conscious of his role as moral beacon for “the boys of America”.
Richard e Diane Koszarski