You know what I remember most about Hopalong Cassidy? Not his horse "Topper", even though I was a real horse nut when I was a kid. Here goes - it was his hat! Remember that big, black hat? Hoppy's hat was bigger and taller than any of the other cowboy's hats!
So where did this old TV cowboy come from?
Long before the TV show ever began in 1945, there was a 1935 movie written by Clarence E. Mulford that was called "Hop-Along Cassidy". William Boyd won the title role but the original crusty, rough-living, hard-drinking cowpoke character was recreated as a non-smoking, non-drinking, non-swearing hero. This fellow was really the inspiration for the character that we all loved on TV.
The new Hopalong Cassidy was a far cry from that gimpy-legged cowboy from Mulford's early stories. He was a true Knight of the West! And he looked the part, too, dressed all in black with that big black hat covering most of his silver white hair.
Just like a Knight, he rode a big, beautiful white horse (outfitted with black saddle and bridle), and together they were quite a sight as they chased the villain to his doom every week! And, as usual, Hoppy did all of that without getting his duds dirty or losing that big hat!
The Adventures of Hopalong Cassidy (who was played by William Boyd) was shown on New York television as early as 1945, but the regular TV series that we all remember began in 1949 and ended in 1951. Those were the shows with the funny, bearded Gabby Hayes as his sidekick.
Gabby Hayes was probably the most famous sidekick in Western movies during the 1930's and 1940's, playing opposite Randolph Scott, Roy Rogers, Wild Bill Elliott and, of course, Hopalong Cassidy in more than 40 cowboy dramas.
In 1952 and 1953 William Boyd had a new sidekick (Edgar Buchanan) and made a whole new series of original TV films. Those were shown in syndication for many years.
WILLIAM BOYD (that was his real name!) was born June 5, 1895 in Ohio, the son of a day laborer. After his father died, William moved to California and worked various jobs such as orange picker, auto salesman, surveyor, and as a film "extra" which gave him his start in the movies in the 1920's.
Before he became the cowboy star that we all loved, he had a reputation as a "party animal" who drank way too much and really loved the ladies! But a very odd mistake in 1931 changed his life. There was another actor named William Boyd who was older than our (future) Hoppy. This older William Boyd was arrested on a "morals" charge and, before the identity was confirmed, newspapermen who assumed it was our William Boyd ran his picture along with a story of the arrest. Because of his reputation, they assumed it was the younger William Boyd. It ruined his reputation as an actor and he drowned his sorrows by drinking even more. His career went to pot because no one would hire him. After 3 years, he sobered up and landed the role of Hopalong Cassidy! He quit drinking, smoking, and partying and made a vow to help strengthen his "friends" (as he called his young fans).
William Boyd was smart enough to spend $350,000 to buy the rights to the character of Hopalong, and the film series. He released these films to television in 1949 where they became extremely popular and began the long-running genre of Westerns on TV. He also licensed merchandise like Hoppy watches, cowboy outfits, dishes, etc. (as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry did) and became quite wealthy. His high standards caused him to refuse to license any product that he viewed as unsuitable or dangerous, and he made no personal appearances at which his "friends" (fans) would be charged admission.
He appeared as Hopalong Cassidy on numerous national magazine covers, including "Look" in August of 1950 and "Time" in November of 1950. William also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted posthumously into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1995.
He was married 5 times (Laura Maynard, Ruth Miller, Elinor Fair, Dorothy Sebastian, and Grace Bradley). He had only 1 son, with wife Elinor Fair, who died at just 9 months of age.
William Boyd died in Laguna Beach, California from complications of Parkinson's disease and heart failure on September 12, 1972 at the age of 77, survived by his fifth wife Grace Bradley Boyd.
GEORGE "GABBY" HAYES died of cardiovascular disease in Burbank, CA in 1969 at the age of 83. He was married, but had no children.
So what do you remember most about Hoppy? Please share your memories with us!
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Family of Hopalong Fans
My brother was named Cassidy and I was named Cassilene both named after Hopalong Cassidy. Family of Hopalong fans!!!!
Hopalong was my favorite cowboy!
I wanted a Hopalong bicycle.... Black and white with saddle bags and streamers on the handlebars!
I'll never forget his laugh. Not rated yet
Boyd's characterization of Hopalong Cassidy was a wonderful mix of bravado and humility. He could best any man with his guns or his fists, yet he would …
white horse, two colts and dark clothes Not rated yet
Dear fans, Sorry, my english is not perfect, but i remember Hopalong Cassidy's white horse, two colt revolvers and dark-blue clothes. For a long,long …
Telling us what to do Not rated yet
At the end of each show Hoppy would tell us the right thing to do, ie. brush our teeth, wash with plenty soap and water, help mom with the chores, go to …
Pocket Knife Not rated yet
Approx 1949 or 1950, in Tucson AZ during a rodeo parade in downtown Tucson, Hoppy, on his horse, stopped in front of my Dad and me. He mentioned my red …
happy memories Not rated yet
I saw Hopalong as a child for the first time on a television in a hardware store. The manger of that store allowed the local children to come and sit on …
VISITED ME IN HOSPITAL WITH BROKEN LEG IN TRACTION Not rated yet
MY MOTHER ARRANGED IT. I WAS IN AWE, TOTALLY UNEXPECTED. THAT WAS IN 1958. MY ALL TIME FAVORITE COWBOY WAS GABBY HAYES. AT THE COW PALACE I WENT …
His Black outfit, white horse, and two six shooters. Not rated yet
I remember Hoppy always had a bit of a smile if he wasn't outright laughing. He would talk of his fans, calling them his little pardners, more times than …
Saturday mornings Not rated yet
Saturday mornings... couldn't wait! I was glued to that 10" screen with Hoppy, Gabby Hays, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans.
Childhood excitement Not rated yet
Hoppy came to the Apple Blossom Festival parade in Winchester,Va, in 1952. He was grand marshall; as a five year old I could hardly wait for him to come …
My hero Not rated yet
Hoppy's movies often included humor, usually 2 sidekicks such as Russell Hayden and Andy Clyde, a good cowboy plot where he was the hero, an attractive …
His black outfit Not rated yet
I just loved the way Hoppy dressed. The all black outfit was great!
Hoppy was a real hero! Not rated yet
There were so many great episodes, I just loved the program! Hopalong and Gabby - what great partners they made! How I wish we still had these old time …
Hoppy: Kindness And Love Not rated yet
Everything about William Boyd as Hoppy is memorable. But, if I had to pick out one thing, it would be the kindness and love he gave back to the fans that …
A Real Hero in the True Sense Not rated yet
His good guy image. It was pure and real. There was never any hard knock down fist fights; and being the good guy, he always saved the day. He was very …
WHEN HE CAME TO MY HOME TOWN Not rated yet
WHEN MY BROTHER BOB, WAS A VERY YOUNG HOPPY, HOPPY RODE INTO UTICA, N.Y. HOPPY LIFTED BOB UP AND PLACED HIM NEXT TO HIM ON THE SADDLE. HOPPY RODE WITH …
his friendly laugh Not rated yet
Hoppy always saved the day, and you could ALWAYS TRUST HIM!
first tv show Not rated yet
Hopalong Cassidy was the first televisipn show I saw when TV first came out in Fairbanks, Alaska. And it was on the first tv our family owned, around …
All the funny jokes and acts that he put on Not rated yet
I really enjoyed all Hoppy's great movies and there were a lot of funny episodes in his TV show.
Great family show Not rated yet
I remember watching Hopalong Cassidy with my wife and kids back in the 60. He was the only cowboy who asked for a glass of milk at the bar.
My first hero Not rated yet
There was nothing like the excitement in my small Missouri town when a new Hopalong Cassidy movie was coming to the local movie house! Our big sisters …
My Very First Crush Not rated yet
Hopalong Cassidy was my very first crush. I was 5. He was a man in his 60s. How's that for a May-December crush? My child's mind mistook his silver …
Memories of Hoppy Not rated yet
I didn't have a television set in the early years when Hoppy was on TV. You would see his photo on cookie boxes, bread labels, and various merchandise. …
Parade Lead Not rated yet
One of my best memories is watching "Hoppy" lead the Thanksgiving day parade sometime in the 50s.