"Travelin' On" by William S. Hart, 28 pages octavo, 1920. Rare.
Hart had his scenario (short story written for adaptation on the screen) printed in a short run of possibly fewer than 10 copies by a local mom-and-pop (actually father-son) print shop in Los Angeles
that he used more than once for the purpose of securing copyright.
At the time, the prevailing copyright law (Copyright Law of 1909) required the appearance of the copyright notice and distribution to the public without restrictions. It did not specify the number of copies that constituted "publication." (Subsequent law specified "one or more" copies; see H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476). In 1920, Hart would have had to deposit two copies with the copyright office.
The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society owns one copy. This is another copy. It is unknown whether additional copies survive. (At this time we're checking with the L.A. County Natural History Museum, which
operates the Hart Museum.)
Hart has written "Same title" on the cover of this copy, indicating it was made into a movie of the same name that was copyrighted in February 1921 and released by Paramount-Artcraft in March 1922. It's possible the film's copyright follows this scenario; it was printed sometime in 1920 but might not have been approved by the copyright office until February 1921.
As the wartime melodramas of the late Teens gave way to the blood-and-thunder action pictures of the Roaring Twenties,
"the public's enthusiasm for [Hart's] brand of Westerns had crested" (Davis 2003:152), and writers were no longer churning out the types of stories Hart felt were appropriate for the screen. So he started writing them himself. As he notes in his 1929 autobiography (Hart 1929:302-303):
It was almost impossible to secure suitable Western stories. I had just produced "The Cradle of Courage" and "The Whistle," which were not Western, and while they pleased
and were good money-makers, the exhibitors called for more Westerns. So while the court proceedings were going on [contract and money disputes with Thomas Ince and J. Parker Read], I put in part
of my days and most of my nights working out stories. My good luck remained with me. I was fortunate enough to turn out two more successful screen tales, "Travelin' On" and "White
But the contmplative Two-Gun Man's days as one of America's biggest box-office draws were behind him. "Travelin' On" would be Hart's fifth-to-last picture. Davis (2003) writes:
At fifty-seven, Hart's seniority was written in his face and his energy was low. The pace of his films had grown slower and their narratives more redundant. ... Younger moviegoers preferred
the audacious riding, breezy showmanship, and glib manner of Tom Mix, the flashier dress of Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard, and the comedy of Buck Jones. More mature viewers admired the work
of Harry Carey and John Ford and would soon embrace Western spectacles such as "The Covered Wagon" (1923) and "The Iron Horse
... The vogue in motion pictures was moving away from his moralistic themes.
Believed to be scenarios written by Hart:
- By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them, 1919 (became "The Toll Gate," 1920)
- Nellie Grey, 1919
- Travelin' On, 1920 (movie of same name, 1922)
- Patrick Henry, 1920
- Children of the South, 1925
- In the Days of '52, 1925
About the Printer, Will A. Kistler Co.
From Oviatt Library, California State University, Northridge.
William A. Kistler established a printing business in Los Angeles in 1910. After World War I he purchased a lithography firm. His son, Lynton Kistler (1897-1993), learned offset lithography there in the late 1920s, and also began working on lithographic stones. He was one of a few local printers who became proficient with this process. Merle Armitage and Jean Charlot were his first customers. In 1932 Kistler printed Armitage's "The Work of Maier-Krieg" using the offset process. Vernon Grant's graphic art appears on several advertisements for the company during the 1930s.
In 1936, William Kistler sold his business, but Lynton continued making lithographs out of his garage studio. After briefly opening his own business, he moved to New York in 1941 where he worked in the printing trade. While working for Blanchard Press in New York he published a pamphlet on airplane profile recognition. On returning to Los Angeles in 1945, he resumed working on projects for Merle Armitage who brought him more work from other artists such as Edward Weston, Millard Sheets, and Warren Newcombe and his wife Beatrice Wood.
Kistler stopped making lithographs in 1952 because of an allergic reaction he developed to the acids used in lithography, and the expense of working on stone. He turned to more commercial printing and purchased a plant at 1653 West Temple Street in Los Angeles. The business prospered and his financial situation improved. In 1970, he sold this plant to purchase a larger facility at Washington and Normandie Boulevards. He sold the business in 1976 and retired from commercial printing.
About "Travelin' On," the Motion Picture.
From Koszarski (1980:137):
Produced by the William S. Hart Company; distributed by Paramount-Artcraft; released March 11, 1922; ©February 24, 1921; seven reels (6267 feet).
Directed by Lambert Hillyer; screenplay by Lambert Hillyer from the story "J.B. the Unbeliever" by William S. Hart; photographed by Joe August; art director, J.C. Hoffner; art titles by Harry Barndollar. (Note: "J.B. the Unbeliever" might have been a working title of the picture, but the original short story, per Hart, is titled "Travelin' On.")
CAST: William S. Hart (J.B.); James Farley (Dandy Allen McGee); Ethel Grey Terry (Susan Morton); Brinsley Shaw (Hi Morton); Mary Jane Irving (Mary Jane Morton); Robert Kortman (Gila); Willis Marks ("Know-It-All" Haskins); Fritz ("Spots"); Jocko the Monk (as himself).
SYNOPSIS: J.B., a Western wanderer, reaches the town of Tumble Bluff about the same time as Hi Morton, a zealous preacher. McGee, who owns the saloon and dance hall, resents the preacher's presence and also incurs the enmity of J.B., who does not trust him. Both McGee and J.B. covet Morton's wife, but she resists their advances. J.B. rescues her from McGee and then sees himself as he really is. [On a stormy night J.B. goes in search of the monkey given to him by a dance-hall girl. While he is gone Morton borrows "Spots," J.B.'s pinto horse. Riding the horse,] Morton, who was formerly a highwayman, holds up the stage coach to get money to finish the church. He is arrested and sentenced to be hung. J.B., to save the woman he loves, thereupon assumes the guilt, frees Morton and then makes his escape. [Moving Picture World, March 25, 1922]
REVIEWS: Travelin' On seems slower and a bit below the average of pictures usually offered by Hart. ... this one is not nearly as full of action and sure-fire situations as most of the others. The picture is over six reels and the story, written by Hart, doesn't contain sufficient situations to carry it over five reels. ... [He] has written much better stories and while he has provided himself with a good part, the others are not strong ... a good deal of padding such as the prominence given the monkey, and the numerous titles ... help consume the six reels. Travelin' On is said to be the star's last picture, or at least the last one which Paramount will release unless a new contract is made. ... [Wid's, March 19, 1922]
Typical William S. Hart production — fitly describes this star's latest Paramount feature, Travelin' On. It compares favorably with any of his recent productions and should prove perfectly satisfactory to lovers of Westerns and admirers of William S. Hart in particular ... there are a number of thrilling moments in the story, particularly where the hero on successive occasions saves himself by his unusual quickness on the draw. ... [C. S. Sewell, Moving Picture World, March 25,1922]