Click to enlarge.
Mother-in-Law Separates Wife and Bill Hart
Her Father Reveals Secret of Movie Gunman's "Rift in Lute"
Says Case Same As Own
Believes Film Star Suffered From Interference as He Did
San Francisco Chronicle | Thursday, March 15, 1923
When Winifred Westover Hart startled the film world by separating from "Big Bill" Hart, most famous of all Western heroes of the screen, the feature of their separation not the least provocative of speculation was the silence in which Hart received his wife's charges of "cruelty" and the infliction of mental suffering. He denied the charges briefly and quietly, and said nothing more.
Yesterday, in San Francisco, the curtain was lifted on the real reason for Hart's silence.
Winifred Westover's real father told the story. Hart's shattered romance, he said, is a repetition of his own, and the cause is the same in both cases — a mother-in-law.
Lives In This City
Thomas C. Heide is the name of the man who has letters, pictures and newspaper clippings to show his relationship to Winifred Westover, born Heide. His home is at 418 Hayes street, and he is a mining engineer who has made his headquarters in San Francisco for thirty-four years.
Heide was married to the only daughter of a widow. They were happy together, until disagreements arose between Heide and his mother-in-law. Religious differences played a part; the mother-in-law came to exercise a greater and greater influence in the family, until 1905, when the final break came.
Mother-in-Law Did It
"My wife's mother arranged everything for the divorce," said Heide. "She consulted the attorneys, and all my wife did was to sign the papers, as her mother told her.
"I still loved her, but if she didn't want to live with me, I didn't want to force her. So I agreed to let her get the divorce, and Winifred, 7 years old, was given to her mother."
Ten years later Mrs. Heide was married to Clyde Westover, scenario writer.
From the time of the divorce until Winifred became of age, Heide sent her money, a regular allowance. Shortly after she began her motion picture work at the old Griffith studio, she wrote to her father, asking for a lump sum instead of monthly payments. He sent her $400.
Letter Never Answered
At the same time, said Heide, he received a letter from his sister saying that she had gone to visit Winifred, and that the girl had changed her name to Westover. Heide had not heard of the change.
"That was the beginning of the estrangement," he said. "I wrote to her and asked her under what name she had deposited the money I sent. She never answered."
Heide also sent money to his former wife, he said, whenever she wrote asking for aid. In 1920, after Winifred and her mother returned from a trip to Norway, where Winifred did some film work, he sent Mrs. Westover $500.
Shortly after this time, said Heide, he read in the newspapers that Winifred Westover and William S. Hart were engaged. He was delighted at the news that his daughter was to be the wife of a man so highly regarded as "Big Bill" Hart.
"But they came to San Francisco on their honeymoon, and Winifred never came near me," he said.
"When the break in their romance came, I understood. I knew Winifred, her mother and her grandmother before her. I could see just what had happened.
"Winifred is a wonderful girl, and I know that Hart is a splendid man. If they had been left alone, just the two of them, it might have been different. But something had been handed down from mother to daughter — perhaps it might be called too much of the mother-in-law spirit.
"No wonder Hart didn't say anything even when all sorts of charges were made against him. He must have suffered as I did, but it wasn't a story that he could or would tell.
"But I can tell it."
Mrs. Hart Replies to Father's Story
LOS ANGELES, March 14. — Winifred Westover, wife of William S. Hart, whom she is suing for divorce, and her mother, Mrs. Clyde Westover, tonight answered the father and former husband, William C. Heide of San Francisco.
"That man — that's all I can think of him as being — is my real father," the actress said. "I adopted the name of my mother's second husband shortly after she was married to Clyde Westover. I went through the Oakland High School under the name of Winifred Westover.
"Mr. Westover did everything in the world for me. My real father has done nothing. He deserted my mother when I was 5 years old and never paid her the $15 a month alimony allowed for my rearing.
"Little Bill may know all of this some day, but I'm so glad he doesn't have to listen to it now," said the child's mother.
"Bill Hart's story is almost my story, and mine is not a pleasant one," said Heide in the story.
Winifred broke into tears.
"I pray to God that my father never treated my mother like Bill Hart treated me," she cried.
News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.
Click to enlarge.
Real Father of Star Turns Up
Winifred Westover Hart Not Writer's Daughter
Actress and Mother Reveal Domestic Tragedy
Bay City Man Gives Letters Out for Publication
Los Angeles Times | March 15, 1923, pg II-1
Winifred Westover Hart estranged wife of William S. Hart "two-gun" hero of the silver sheet, is not the daughter of Clyde Westover, Hollywood scenario writer, as all of her friends have believed for many years, but is the daughter of Thomas C. Heide of San Francisco, former mining engineer who is now living in obscurity and poverty in San Francisco.
Mrs. "Bill" Hart and her mother, Mrs. Westover, last night admitted the relationship to Mr. Heide, after the latter had given out in San Francisco several letters from his daughter.
But Mrs. Hart says she has not seen her father for more than ten years, and that the break came long before she succeeded as a motion-picture actress.
Thomas C. Heide is called "the desert man." He was once a mining engineer, and soldier of fortune, and is said to have been graduated from the Denmark Military Academy at Copenhagen.
Yesterday, in his obscure little home in the Bay City, this man, hitherto unrecognized as the father of the young star who married Hart, threw back the covers of the book of time. His statements and the interpretations he put upon certain letters given to the press were harshly critical of his daughter and of his former wife.
Last night in their Hollywood home Mrs. Winifred Hart and her mother, Mrs. Westover, formerly Mrs. Heide, answered the innuendoes of the father and former husband.
"That man — that's all I can think of him as being — is my real father." The actress said. "I adopted the name of my mother's second husband shortly after she was married to Clyde Westover. I went through the Oakland High School under the name of Winifred Westover.
"Mr. Westover did everything in the world for me. My real father has done nothing. He deserted my mother was I was 5 years old and never paid her the $15 per month alimony with which the court had allowed for my rearing. Why should I use the name of the man who had never helped me? It was through my stepfather that I got into pictures.
"I am sorry that my father had to sacrifice parental love on the altar of publicity. I love to think of my father as a great big, wonderful man. I can't really understand why he would want to turn against me this way. I have never done him a wrong in the world."
Bill Jr. Present
The story as told by the father of Winifred was read to the young star and her mother in their home last night. Winifred's mother held her baby, Bill, Jr. The baby went to sleep as the story of this mother's father was read. The biting words, the pent-up feeling which broke yesterday after an emotion had been suppressed during the many weeks of the case, passed meaningless by the ears of Heide's daughter's child.
"Little Bill may know all of this some day, but I'm so glad he doesn't have to listen to it now," Mrs. Hart said.
The reporter read Heide's story, "...Bill Hart's story is almost my story," said Heide. "And mine is not a pleasant one."
Winifred broke into tears and cried:
"I pray to God that my father never treated my mother like Bill Hart treated me."
In his story Heide accuses his daughter of accepting financial aid from him long after she started her trip toward the summit of fame's dizzy peak. Later he learned, according to his story, that she had renounced him.
"All Over Again"
"And then she forgot all about me," Heide said. "That's why I can understand Bill Hart's position. It is happening all over again, to him."
Then Winifred talks again, her tears hidden now by a tiny handkerchief.
"I should have forgotten him long ago, but I've wanted to remember him. He always seemed so fine and kind to me until I needed his help one time and then well, he sent me something (of?) which I shall never be able to forget him.
"I was broke, I was hungry and I needed money badly. I wrote him for some, and he sent me a telegram in which he said ‘I am in my usual financial circumstances — Trust in God. He will help you.'
In the story of the father, he says at one time he wired his daughter $400.
"As her real father I felt shocked to learn that she had renounced my name but I sent the $400. I wrote and asked her under what name she made a deposit at the bank. To this day I have received no reply from her."
"I have never received a cent from my father in my life." the daughter said last night. "I haven't seen my father in ten years and the only thing I have to remember him by is the telegram he sent me when I wrote him I was hungry."
Heide's story now and then brings in "too much mother-in-law" as the probable reason for his daughter's wrecked love affair.
And the former wife of Heide replies: "He hasn't seen me for more than ten years. How can he say that?"
The daughter, the girl-mother of Bill Hart's son, defends her mother at every opportunity. She says: "If it hadn't been for my mother, God knows what would have ever become of me. My father has turned against me just as Bill Hart has turned against his own child. My mother has been my one real friend. She has stuck by me; she has been hungry with me; she has been happy with me, and has cried with me."
Winifred's voice rises and the sobs choke her speech.
"A Quitter," She Says
"You'll pardon me," she says. "But it hurts me to think that Bill Hart has been a quitter; that my own father has been a quitter. Bill wanted a baby boy. I prayed that our child would be a boy. And then when this separation began brewing I prayed harder than ever because I thought that when the child came and should it be a boy that Bill would come back, because he wanted a boy so much. If there had been a girl I would have always thought that the child had been to blame, but now I know that it's just that Bill …"
And here Winifred leaves the rest of the story untold; probably to be told at some other date under oath in courtroom where all the curious may come to hear.
In the story of the both of them — father and daughter — separated now more than ever, is drawn a line of drama and tragedy, a tale in which Balzac would have reveled.
Tells of Past
Heide told of his marriage to Winifred's mother back in Oakland. He told of the birth of the "little girl" in 1898. He talked of the divorce in 1905 and of Winifred going with her mother.
"Why didn't he tell all about the divorce?" asked Mrs. Westover last night. "I received the divorce on the grounds of desertion and nonsupport."
Later Mrs. Heide met Clyde Westover, scenario writer, and they were married. Winifred said last night that she changed her name to that of her stepfather when she was 13 years of age.
"Why didn't I look my father up when I was in San Francisco with my husband?" asks Winifred. "Yes, why didn't I? All my father did was to desert my mother and me long before I was capable of remembering. And then he wants me to hunt him up!"
In Heide's story he tells of various letters he has received from his daughter. The letters are quoted in his story. Winifred Hart admitted last night that she had written them, and declared she had never heard from him in reply to any of the letters.
Among the last of the missives received by Heide from his daughter was one dated Dec. 2, 1919, as follows, in part: "All day long on your birthday I thought of you and wondered where you were and hoped you were happy as you usually are. Right now I am out of work. Have been for quite a while. I have nothing in view and don't know what I am going to do. I'll have to struggle on through just as I have before. I have a couple of good pictures coming out, and maybe they'll help. It is all a terrible, terrible, struggle. Right now I am without funds, and as winter is here production is slack, which means little work.
"The competition is so great I can't keep up. The other girls are dressed so wonderfully that the directors take them, of course. I have some very pressing debts amounting to nearly $500.
"If you would not give me this (I can see you smile.) If you would only loan it to me, I will give you a note for it and pay back some if not all, and any interest you want. There is no one here I can borrow from. I have no security to offer. My security to you is that I am your daughter and you know that I am honest and would pay you back. I have never had a fair chance to break even with this mad world, and if it is in your power to give me a chance you ought to give it to me if you care for me in the least, you will help your daughter, lovingly, Winifred."
Winifred said last night she had never received a reply even to this letter.
"I was up against it or I wouldn't have written him," she said. "But any way, it didn't do any good."
News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.
Click to enlarge.
Heide Divorce Revealed
Cruelty Charged by Mother of Winifred Westover Hart in Complaint Filed in 1904
Los Angeles Times | March 16, 1923, pg II-21
A yellowing divorce complaint, exhumed from its hiding place in the files of Alameda county today furnishes an interesting sequel to the denouement precipitated by Thomas C. Heide of San Francisco, in his statement that he and not Clyde Westover, a scenario writer, is the father of Winifred Westover Hart, wife of "Bill" Hart, filmdom's leading exponent of "hip artillery."
"Bill Hart's story is almost my story and mine is not a pleasant one," is the assertion of the former mining engineer now living in poverty and obscurity in the Bay City.
"I pray to God that my father never treated my mother like Bill Hart treated me," was Winifred Westover Hart's answer to her father's declaration.
The divorce complaint, filed July 14, 1904, tells details of the Heides' matrimonial strife which make "Bill" Hart, if his wife's assertion is correct, something else than a cinema hero. Cruelty, non-support and desertion are the causes of action enumerated in the complaint signed by Sophie Heide, Mrs. Hart's mother.
According to the complaint, Mrs. Hart's father often beat his wife in the presence of their 6-year-old daughter. On Christmas Day, 1902, the document sets out, Hr. Heide cursed, punched and kicked his wife as his answer to her question as to what he was going to give her for a Christmas gift.
Opprobrious epithets, as vulgar as they are unprintable, uncouth mannerisms, "smutty and indecent and vulgar stories" caused the former Mrs. Heide "great mortification, humiliation, worry, mental and physical pain, anguish and suffering," the complaint avers.
At the time the complaint was filed, Winifred Helena Heide Westover Hart was a 6-year-old girl. She is now 25, and soon it is expected, she will file a divorce complaint in which William S. Hart will be named as defendant on grounds which she has not as yet made known.
Heide's story intimated "too much mother-in-law" as the cause of his daughter's shattered romance with the cinema star.
"He hasn't seen me for more than ten years. How can he say that?" was his former wife's comment on Heide's diagnosis of his daughter's marital ills.
In what ways the matrimonial woes of the houses of Hart and Heide; parallel each other in view of the contents of the divorce complaint filed by Heide's former wife and his own assertions of their coincidence is now a matter of interested conjecture in Hollywood.
News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.