Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Bill Hart Jr., Film Star's Son, Dead at 81.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — William S. Hart Jr., son of the silent film star of the same name, has died. He was 81.

Hart, who was his father's only child, died May 13 at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, said his wife, Rosalind Hart. He had lived on nearby Bainbridge Island since his retirement in 1989. The cause of death was not announced.

The son of Broadway actor and silent western film star William Surrey Hart, he remained a namesake of old Hollywood. Hart's father one of the biggest box office stars of the 1920s and made more than 50 films.

Hart Sr. died June 24, 1946, and left a will that left his nearly $1.2 million estate and 220-acre Horseshoe Ranch near Newhall to Los Angeles County for a public park. The will also stated: "I have made no provision in this will for my son for the reason that I have amply provided for him during my lifetime."

After several years of litigation Hart Jr. was unsuccessful in trying to acquire his father's ranch, but maintained a lifelong interest in its management as a park. The William S. Hart County Park and Museum has been curated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

In 1944, Hart Sr. donated another property, his De Longpre Avenue mansion, to the city of Los Angeles along with an acre of ground and $50,000 for a public park even though it was outside the Los Angeles city limits.

His son also sought to preserve that property, and in 1989 Los Angeles gave the parcel, called William S. Hart Park, and the now-$284,000 trust fund to the city of West Hollywood for 30 years.

Hart Jr. graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and later returned for a master's degree in environmental planning. During World War II, he worked in Washington, D.C., as a cryptographer for the Office of Strategic Services.

He became a Santa Monica real estate appraiser and also taught business, appraisal and finance classes at the University of Southern California, Santa Monica College and UCLA.

Hart Jr. is survived by his wife; three daughters, Vanessa, Karina and Christina; and two grandchildren.

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