Hopalong Cassidy PhotoThe Hero in Black

Hats off to Hopalong Cassidy

The Hero in Black

The life, career, and accomplishments of William Boyd as cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy were truly astounding. Presented here - in no particular order - are some facts and trivia about the 'Cowboy in Black'. I hope you enjoy reading this tribute as much as I enjoyed compiling it.

Hopalong Cassidy and William Boyd were familiar names during the 1940's and 50's. The hero in black rode across the plains of the old west and into living rooms across America in his fight for law and order. Whenever a bad guy needed a lesson taught Hopalong Cassidy was there to do the job. Boyd didn't sing, dance, or play football - he was merely - everybody's favorite cowboy...Hoppy!

Cassidy on Life magazine coverBy 1944 William Boyd had made 54 very popular Hopalong Cassidy films, but by the end of the decade his star began to fade. Then a newfangled gadget called television arrived to save the day. The result was a significant financial windfall to Boyd, who soon emerged as one of the most popular Hollywood cowboy heroes ever. His popularity was astounding. He received thousands of fan letters each week and endless requests to make public appearances.
By the mid 1950's, Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy was everywhere, even on the covers of popular magazines such as Life, Look, Time and TV Guide.

Boyd truly loved the kids and met them at circuses, rodeos, hospitals and personal appearance tours. To satisfy their appetite he opened up Hoppyland; America's first fictional character theme park. This was several years before Disneyland opened.

Hoppy on Topper
The year before William Boyd retired, he made 40 Cassidy episodes in as many weeks and one more world tour. Completing that tour, he put his horse out to pasture, hung up his guns, took off his boots, said adios to his alter ego, and retired to Palm Desert CA. In 1968 he had surgery to remove a tumor and from then on, refused all interviews and photograph requests.

Facts and Trivia:

Young William Boyd- Boyd was forced to drop out of school when his parents died while he was still in his teens. Over the next few years he worked as a grocery clerk, surveyor, oil field hand, orange packer, car salesman and a security guard, before finding his way to Hollywood in 1919.

- William Boyd's acting career started with silent movies and by the mid 20's he had become a big time screen idol , earning over $100,000 a year. This was a huge sum of money in that era.

- The Cassidy character starts out as "Bill" Cassidy, but he acquires his
Gabby Hayes and Hopalong Cassidy nickname after he is wounded in the leg during a gunfight. When asked about his wound, he responds with something like "I'll manage to hop along".

- In an early movie Hoppy kissed Evelyn Brent on the forehead as she was dying. This is the only romantic scene for Hopalong in any of his many adventures.

- Two of Hollywood's greatest names - Clark Gable and Robert Mitchum - got their first big breaks in movies playing bearded villains in westerns along side William Boyd.

William Boyd and Grace Bradley Wedding- Three other Hollywood notables that at one time rode with Boyd aka Hopalong Cassidy, where George 'Gabby' Hayes, Jimmy Rogers - the son of Will Rogers, and George Reeves of Superman fame.

- Boyd was very happily married to actress Grace Bradley in 1937. They adored each other and continued together until Boyd's death in 1972. They resided on their California ranch which was apply named 'Hoppy's Nest'. Their only offspring, a son, unfortunately died in infancy.

Hoppy and his horse Topper- Shortly after he married Grace Bradley, the Hopalong Cassidy character acquired a new white stallion. Bill asked his new wife to name the horse. At that time, Grace was reading a series of books called "Topper" and she decided to name the horse after her favorite book. That's how Hoppy's magnificent white horse, Topper, got his name!

- After the end of WWII, Boyd sold almost everything he owned in order to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy films and character. He then formed his own production company, and resurrected the western cinema hero.

Hopalong Cassidy collectibles- William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy took the concept of product endorsements by famous Hollywood celebrities to new heights in the 1950s. He endorsed over 2400 products, mostly aimed at kids. To the delight of the manufacturers anything with the Hoppy name on it was gobbled up by his adoring fans.

- Every since 1991, in Boyd's hometown of Cambridge, Ohio the town hosts a huge Hopalong Cassidy Festival.

Hoppy on the set of Gunsmoke- In addition to his many western films, Boyd also recorded over 100 radio shows as the Cassidy character in the 1940s an 50s.

- Boyd was very loyal to those that contributed to his success. When he retired, he turned over his production company to CBS, who was about to start shooting a new western series called 'Gunsmoke', with the stipulation that they continue to employ his entire crew, thus preventing any of his colleagues from being out of work.

- For his contribution to the motion picture industry, William Boyd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1734 Vine Street.

Hopalong with kid fan- Bill was no Hollywood phony. He was a genuine human being and a regular guy. He never talked down to anyone. He genuinely loved the kids, and was as thrilled by all the attention they doted on him. He was quoted as saying, "I love it, really. These kids, after all, are my greatest admirers, and critics, too!"

- Boyd was Cecil B. DeMille's first choice, ahead of Charlton Heston, for Moses in 'The Ten Commandments' but he turned the role down, fearing the Hopalong Cassidy identification would hurt the movie.

Hoppyland train- On May 27, 1951, Hoppyland, opened its doors to hoards of screaming, happy children. It was a theme park devoted to all things Hopalong Cassidy. It was located in Venice California, just 25 miles west of Anaheim - where Disneyland would stand a few years later. Hoppyland boasted nearly 100 acres of rides and attractions, including picnic grounds, baseball diamonds, horseshoe pitching, a lake for swimming and boating, and nearly twenty rides. There was also a special kiddie land area that featured live pony rides.

HoppyLand ticket- In 1999, then Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio, and the Ohio General Assembly, designated route 800 in Hendrysburg as "William 'Hopalong Cassidy' Boyd Memorial Highay."

- After his surgery In 1968 to remove a tumor from a lymph gland, Boyd refused all interviews and photograph requests, preferring his many fans to remember him as he was when he rode off the stage.

- In 1995, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Ok.

On Sept. 12th, 1972 William Boyd aka Hopalong Cassidy rode off into the sunset.

Hoppy on Topper

Happy Trails, Hoppy...until we meet again!

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