Hell’s Hinges

Saturday July 9 at 11:30 AM — Music Box Theatre — 3733 N. Southport Ave
Tickets: $12 at the door or purchase in advance

July 9 - Hell's Hinges

Directed by Charles Swickard & William S. Hart • 1916
Westerns of the silent era are often regarded as kiddie stuff, generic action pictures with matinee idols in chaps like Tom Mix, Bronco “Billy” Anderson, and Hoot Gibson. Then there are the Westerns of William S. Hart, a middle-aged moralist of the plains whose films reverberate with a dark evangelical awe. Hell’s Hinges is his masterpiece: a fire-and-brimstone sermon on temptation and degeneration that practically demands a denomination all its own. Hart stars as Blaze Tracy, “a man-killer whose philosophy of life is summed up in the creed ‘Shoot first and do your disputin’ later.’” Tracy maintains an alliance of convenience with the proprietor of Silk Miller’s Palace of Joy, a bordello in Hell’s Hinges, “a devil’s den of iniquity that scorched even the sun-patched soil on which it stood.” It’s the kind of town where a preacher might save a few souls, and so an Eastern priest (Jack Standing) and his aptly named sister Faith (Clara Williams) are dispatched to eradicate sin. But even a man of the cloth is no match for a town yearning for a burning, though Tracy’s liquor-fueled Bible study suggests an unlikely path to salvation. Beautifully photographed by Joseph August and sharply constructed by scenarist C. Gardner Sullivan, Hell’s Hinges plays like a religious tract scrawled in blood on the back of a stagecoach handbill. There is, thankfully, nothing else like it in silent cinema. Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art. (KW)
64 min • Triangle Distributing Corporation • 35mm from the Museum of Modern Art
Live musical accompaniment by Dennis Scott
Preceded by: “The Ruse” (William S. Hart, 1915) – 22 min – 16mm