William Surrey Hart was an American silent film actor, screenwriter, director and producer.
Hart was born in Newburgh, New York; to James Howard Hart and Katherine Diédricht Hart. William had 2 brothers and 4 sisters. His father was of Irish ancestry, and his mother was of German heritage. In his twenties, Hart began his acting career on stage and would not consider acting in movies until he was 49 years of age. He toured and traveled extensively while trying to make a name for himself as an actor, and for a time coached shows at the Asheville Opera House around year 1900. His family had moved to Asheville but after his youngest sister Lotta died of typhoid fever they all left together for Brooklyn until William went back on tour.
A successful Shakespearean actor on Broadway who had worked with Margaret Mather and other stars, he appeared in the original 1899 stage production of Ben-Hur.
Hart went on to become one of the first great stars of the motion picture western. Fascinated by the Old West, he acquired Billy the Kid's ?six shooters? and was a friend of legendary lawmen Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. He entered films in 1914 where, after playing supporting roles in two short films, he achieved stardom as the lead in the feature The Bargain. Hart was particularly interested in making realistic western films. His films are noted for their authentic costumes and props, as well as Hart's extraordinary acting ability, honed on Shakespearean theater stages in the United States and England.