Simanaitis Says

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HOPALONG HOPPED ALONG IN LIFE TOO

HOPALONG CASSIDY MAKES regular appearances among other cowboys on SiriusXM’s ”Radio Classics.” I recall him too as a frequent star of Saturday matinee westerns when I was growing up.

Always dressed in black, always behaving in a courtly manner, Hoppy rescued many a western maiden with nary a kiss in return. (Unlike the Cisco Kid, whose adventures invariably included a sappy “Oh, Cisco” sigh from the heroine.) 

Actor William Boyd portrayed Hopalong Cassidy in 66 movies from 1935 through 1948, many released later to TV, and in a radio show running from 1948 to 1952, with frequent “Radio Classics” rebroadcasts now. 

Indeed, William Boyd’s career had its hopping along as well.

William Lawrence Boyd, 1895–1972, American film actor and entrepreneur. Boyd felt a commitment to American youth. He died, age 77, from complications related to Parkinson’s disease and congestive heart failure. Image c. 1950.

A Silent Film Star. After California stints as orange picker, tool dresser, and car salesman, Boyd found work in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1920 comedy Why Change Your Wife? Gloria Swanson starred; Boyd was uncredited as Naval Officer at Hotel.

Wikipedia says, before long, “his easy charm, charisma, and intense good-looks” earned Boyd star status. By the time of his starring in DeMille’s 1926 The Volga Boatman, Boyd was making $100,000 a year. 

To put this in perspective, think $1.5 mil today.

Seventeen roles in three years, all credited by then, included one in The Flying Fool, 1929, a transitional flick released both in silent and talkie form. (Aviatrix Pancho Barnes performed some of the stunt flying.)

A Bump on the Trail. In 1931, Boyd’s career encountered a significant bump caused by another actor with the same name. William “Stage” Boyd had legitimate stage background, but he also had bad habits. As described by Wikipedia, “William ‘Stage’ Boyd’s arrests for alcohol possession (during Prohibition) and drug possession damaged his career and that of the other William Boyd. Many newspapers reported the arrests but published photos of the wrong William Boyd, who lost his studio contract with RKO.”

By the time the dust settled, our William Boyd was virtually broke and without a job. For a few years, he was credited in films as “Bill Boyd” to prevent being mistaken for the other fellow.

Stardom Resumed, This Time on the Saddle. Wikipedia writes, “In 1935, Boyd was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but he asked to be considered for the title role and won it.”

Hop-Along Cassidy, 1935, starring William Boyd, based on a 1912 novel by Clarence E. Mulford. The movie was later reissued as shown.

Wikipedia continues, “Although Boyd ‘never branded a cow or mended a fence, cannot bulldog a steer’ and disliked Western music, he became indelibly associated with the Hopalong character.”

Indeed, Boyd did more; he transformed the character. 

Mulford’s Original Hop-Along. As described in Wikipedia, Clarence E. Mulford’s pulp magazine Hop-Along, originated in 1904, was “rude, dangerous, and rough-talking. He had a wooden leg which caused him to walk with a little ‘hop,’ hence the nickname.”

Hopalong Takes Command, oil on canvas, 1905, by Frank Schoonover. Image from the Delaware Art Museum.

Hardly the Hoppy we know today.

Boyd’s Hoppy Foresight. By 1948, many saw Hoppy as old hat. Wisely, though, Boyd mortgaged almost everything he owned to buy rights as well as the film backlog for $350,000. 

Even more wisely, he approached a local NBC TV station with one of his older movies. Received so well, it encouraged the network to ask for more, and Boyd released the entire catalog. 

By 1950, Boyd appeared on the covers of Life, Look, and Time. His business was burgeoning into Hoppy watches, trading cards, comic books, cowboy outfits, and the radio show that prompted today’s SimanaitisSays

Another DeMille Offer. In 1952, Cecil B. DeMille was casting his remake of The Ten Commandments and asked Boyd to portray Moses. Boyd said no, feeling that Hoppy would make it impossible for audiences to accept him as Moses. 

Another wise decision by Boyd and an opportunity for Charlton Heston. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

13 comments on “HOPALONG HOPPED ALONG IN LIFE TOO

  1. Pingback: HOPALONG HOPPED ALONG IN LIFE TOO – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  2. Bob DuBois
    April 4, 2021

    Hopalong Cassidy movies were a staple in our household. Sometime in the late 40’s/early 50’s, Barbara Ann Baking Co., a major SoCal bread company out of Los Angeles, sponsored a Hopalong Cassidy movie every Sunday night on an L.A. tv station. Since my Dad was a delivery driver for Barbara Ann, there was no way we would not faithfully watch the movies! Although probably “B” grade movies, we enjoyed them as though they were all Oscar winners.

  3. Jack Mason
    April 4, 2021

    As I recall, the “Oh, Cisco” in the Cisco Kid flicks usually emanated from his sidekick Pancho – probably in response to an amorous heroine.

    • simanaitissays
      April 4, 2021

      Yes, I recall that too, often followed by “Oh, Pancho…”

  4. don dina
    April 16, 2021

    The naming of Hopalong Cassidy occurs in the movie “Hopalong Cassidy Enters.” In the story Boyd’s character is named “Bill Cassidy”. He is wounded in the leg and “Bill Cassidy” limps throughout the remainder if the story. Also cast in the movie is George “Gabby” Hayes as “Uncle Ben”. “Bill” tells “”Uncle Ben” he can still “hop along” and “Uncle Ben” keeps referring to “Bill” thereafter, as “Hopalong”.

  5. don dina
    April 17, 2021

    As they said on Monte Python’s Flying Circus, “Now for something completely different.” What caught my eye about this site was your last name. I associate ‘Simanaitis’ with car magazines. I started reading ROAD & TRACK, SPORTS CARS ILLUSTRATED, CAR AND DRIVER, SPORTS CARS GRAPHIC, etc. in the early Sixties when stationed in Europe with the US army. I read Dennis Simanaitis then … or if the time frame is too early, I read you later in the ‘States in one of those magazines. (Maybe Autoweek?) Glad to see you are still keeping your hand in (on your own site)and still kicking.

    • simanaitissays
      April 17, 2021

      Hi, Don,
      Yep, that’s me, though the 60s were too early (a budding mathematician back then). R&T from ‘79 into 2012.
      Thanks for the recollection.

      • don j dina
        April 19, 2021

        In my mind at least, you are among pretty heavy company. I loved Henry R. Manny III (three sticks) as I was new to European racing and cars and his witty articles in R&T describing Continental racing were much looked forward to. I especially recall his reporting on ‘bellowing’ Alfa Romeos. I include you with Manney, Jerry Titus, Paul Frere, Tom McCahill, Eoin Young, Rob Walker, and of course Ken Purdy. Wow, ’79 to 2012, that is a whole career. Congratulations, sir.

      • simanaitissays
        April 19, 2021

        Thanks, Don, for your kind words. I am honored (and feel humble) to be included among these guys.

  6. don j dina
    April 28, 2021

    Finally, Dennis, a person who can answer a question that has been bugging me for decades. As we speak I notice an ad announcing the June 2021 issue of R&T is now on sale. I understand the reality of lead time but why not be a little bit more realistic and call the issue the May 2021 issue?

    • simanaitissays
      April 28, 2021

      Of course, I’m the wrong person to ask. Magazines traditionally advance-date to benefit shelf life. Agreed, two monrhs is ridiculous. (Maybe they’s bragging they’ll still be around….)

      • don j dina
        April 29, 2021

        Shelf life = sales = $$$. Of course, how naïve of me … which reminds me of one of my Favorite Lines From The Movies. In film LE MANS after the first driving stint Stahler and Delaney run into each other behind the pits, Stahler opines that the press is playing-up the competition between himself and Delaney. Delaney, the American says, “But it’s money.” Stahler, the Continental says, “That’s American.” Re: “bragging they’ll still be around …” Ha, though R&T seems to be pretty robust. Thanks for your opinion.

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