Originally, when I heard the tale of Hart’s marriage to Winifred Westover, I figured it was a sham Hollywood marriage designed to hide a secret Hart was living with. Hart was 57 and Westover was 22. Married in 1921, he and Westover lived together for less than six months before Hart ordered Westover out of the house.
Westover later said, “We had our difficulties but I am sure that if it had not been for the return of his sister, Miss Mary Hart, we would have been able to adjust our troubles. But after that, nothing I ever did seemed to please him or rather, his sister.”
Westover went on to say, “It was following a long conference between my husband and his sister that I was finally ordered to leave. I could hardly believe my ears. It appeared incredible that a man with any idea of chivalry would order his wife, about to become a mother in a few months, out of her home. I thought he was joking until he sternly reiterated his order…And what added to the humiliation was the fact that guests were present at the time.”
- Hart and Westover marry on December 7, 1921.
- A couple of months later Westover announces she is pregnant.
- Westover is ordered out of the house in May of 1922.
- Bill, Jr. is born on September 6, 1922.
- Hart gives Westover sole custody of Bill, Jr.
Their divorce was not finalized until 1927 because Hart and Westover couldn’t agree on a settlement figure. Westover eventually accepted $200,000 even though Hart was worth over $3 million at this point. Despite a world of adoring female fans Hart never married again and settled down into a comfortable existence living in this house with his sister for the last twenty-five years of his life.
When he died in 1946 William S. Hart didn’t leave the house, the land or any money from his estate to his only son, Bill, Jr.
Hart had set up a trust fund for Jr. when he was born but claimed he didn’t want to supply anymore money to Jr. because he was afraid Westover would get her hands on it. Bill, Jr. sued to gain control of the house, land and estate three times (in 1946, in 1950 and in 1955) but lost all three times. Not that it matters but I’m not convinced Bill Jr. was Hart’s biological son.
Davis, R. L. (2003). William S. Hart: projecting the American west. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Oliver, M. (2004, May 25). Obituaries: William S. Hart Jr., 81; only son of famed silent film cowboy. Los Angeles Times.