After nearly 40 years of riding across millions of American TV and movie screens, the cowboy actor William Boyd, best known for his role as Hopalong Cassidy, dies on this day in 1972 at the age of 77. In tribute here’s a flash look back at Boyd and the iconic Hopalong Cassidy.
William Boyd became the first cowboy actor to make the transition from movies to Television with the premiere of the “Hopalong Cassidy” TV series in 1949. Despite the fact that the networks wanted little to do with what they thought was a fading genre “Hopalong” became the seventh most popular show on TV and merchandise based on the characters and show sold like hotcakes. The program would also usher in a long array of Western shows that audiences loved.
Boyd and Hopalong were so popular that there was even an amusement park, Hoppyland named for the character, which opened on May 26, 1951 in Venice, California.
Hopalong Cassidy was created in 1904 by Clarence E. Mulford, who wrote a series of popular short stories and many novels based on the character. Those resulted in more than 60 popular “B” Westerns produced independently and distributed by the studios throughout the 1930s and 1940s.
In all media incarnations Hopalong along with his loyal horse, Topper righted wrongs, fought against evil and saved innocents from distress.
No tribute would be complete without some old-time radio shows (if I can help it). Hopalong Cassidy began his radio career as a regular player when the Mutual Broadcasting System began broadcasting a radio version of “Hopalong Cassidy” in January 1950; at the end of September, the show moved to CBS Radio, where it ran into 1952. Enjoy the following programs starring the most famous hero of them all and his entertaining side-kick, California played by Andy Clyde.
“The Rainmaker of Eagle Mountain”
“The Mystery of Skull Valley”
“The Phantom Bandito”
“Hoppy Takes a Chance”
I post this as a basic shout out to an American icon and the talent who brought him to life. But the complete story behind how Boyd and Hoppy came to be beloved figures in media is an interesting one so I strongly recommend you visit the Radio Spirits blog for the complete, darn tootin’ story.
William Boyd (June 5, 1895 – September 12, 1972)