Hopalong Cassidy

 

William Boyd – Hopalong Cassidy:  1895 – 1972:

Born in Ohio in 1895 and raised in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, William Boyd arrived in Hollywood around 1918.  He became a full-fledged leading man during the silent era, and his best work from that period included many films for Cecil B. deMille.

But roles had been tough to find during the early to mid 1930s.  Stories and rumors generally mention: that Boyd looked too old due to his prematurely grey hair; and that Boyd was a womanizer and liked parties and alcohol.

In the mid 1930s, Harry “Pop” Sherman convinced Paramount to release a series of westerns based on the Hopalong Cassidy novels and short stories authored by Clarence E. Mulford.  Forty year old William Boyd was given the lead of Hopalong Cassidy.

The first in the new series, HOP-A-LONG CASSIDY (Paramount, 1935) had Boyd being helped by James Ellison, a handsome fellah and pretty good actor who portrayed Hoppy's saddle pal 'Johnny Nelson'. 

The Cassidy films, particularly the 1935-1941 Paramount releases, are a definite notch or two above the typical B western, and the production quality and higher budgets are immediately apparent.  Plus, the scripting and plots were good, the photography was superb, and about half were filmed at scenic Lone Pine, California.  Additionally, the running times were much longer than the normal 55-60 minute B western  movies.

When the Hopalong Cassidy series ended in the 1950s, Boyd purchased the rights to the Hopalong films and character.  He also formed his own production company to resurrect the Cassidy cinema adventures.

When TV came, the Hopalong movies were edited down to about 54 minutes to fit both film and commercials into a one hour time slot.  For the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons, there were 52 half-hour Hoppy adventures.  A dozen were created (condensed) from the later United Artists films with Andy Clyde and Rand Brooks. And 40 brand new “made for TV” half hour Hoppy shows were shown.

In addition to TV, Boyd did circuses, rodeos, personal appearance tours, hospital visits, et al.  He brought the Hoppy series to radio ... he opened up his own Hoppyland theme park ... and merchandising included hats, gunbelts, lunch buckets, clothing and more.  There was also a long running series of comic books.  He was on the covers of magazines such as Life, Look and TV Guide

   

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1.  The Painted Desert (1931) Bill Boyd and Clark Gable

This is Bill Boyd before he became Hopalong Cassidy.

Western partners Jeff (J. Farrell MacDonald) and Cash (William Farnum) find a baby boy in an otherwise deserted emigrants camp, and clash over which is to be "father". 

They are still bitterly feuding years later when they own adjacent ranches. 

Bill, the foundling whom Cash has raised to young manhood, wants to end the feud and extends an olive branch toward Jeff, who now has a lovely daughter. 

But during a mining venture, the bitterness escalates


Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) deals with a fake Baron and Sue Willard (Jan Clayton) who claims to be Colonel Rufe White's niece of White's Ranch.


3.  Three Men From Texas (1940) - Hopalong Cassidy:

This 31st entry of the 66 films in the Hopalong Cassidy series marks the first of 35 consecutive appearances, in the remaining films of the series, of  comedian Andy Clyde in the role of "California Carlson".  

This film finds local officers in an outlaw-infested town in California helpless to cope with the situation and a citizens committee comes to Texas and appeals to the Texas Rangers for help in organizing the forces of law and order. Captain Andrews of the Rangers offers the assignment to Hopalong Cassidy and Lucky Jenkins (Russell Hayden), but Cassidy, whose period of service in the Rangers is almost over, refuses. The as-usual impetuous Lucky takes the job alone. While on patrol duty, Cassidy is following the trail of a large herd of rustled horses and discovers the hide-out of the Bruce Morgan gang... 


4.  Border Patrol (1943) – Hopalong Cassidy:

Hoppy, California and Johnny are Texas Rangers trying to end a scheme which smuggles Mexicans into the United States to become essentially slaves in a silver mine owned by Orestes Krebs. The three are captured, sentenced to hang, and then escape. They free the slaves and capture the bad guys.

5.  Lumberjack (1944) – Hopalong Cassidy:

Julie's husband has been murdered and land agents want her to sign away her property rights. Hoppy warns against this but she does so anyway. It looks as though she will be unable to deliver the timber called for in her agreement. Hoppy has to make the lumber deal happened and solve the murder.

6a. Hopalong Cassidy Rides Again (1937) part 1 - On a cattle drive Hoppy, camp cook Windy, companion Lucky, and young Artie Peters encounter an eccentric professor. The professor professes to be searching for the evolutionary missing link, but in reality he is a cattle rustler who uses his dynamite to scatter the cattle in order capture some of them. Hoppy and Bar 20 guys ultimately capture the professor.

6b. Hopalong Cassidy Rides Again part 2 

7a. Hopalong Cassidy Silver on the Sage (1939) part 1 - Hoppy goes undercover as a gambler from the East when Bar 20 cattle are stolen by unknown rustlers. Brennan/Talbot are twin brothers (one a casino owner, the other a rancher) and Hoppy believes they provide alibis for each other while one is out committing crimes. Hoppy gets a job in the casino to learn more but is exposed when a gambling gunslinger notices him.

7b. Hopalong Cassidy Silver on the Sage part 2

8a. Hopalong Cassidy - Hidden Gold (1940) part 1 - Hoppy and Lucky confront a gang of outlaws which has been ravaging stagecoaches and gold mines. The final gunfight is at Ed Colby's mine.

8b. Hopalong Cassidy - Hidden Gold part 2  

9.  Doomed Caravan (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy - In old California, as a favor to a mine owner friend, ranch hand Hopalong Cassidy, his sidekick, Lucky Jenkins, and other ranch hands escort a load of gold bullion safely to Crescent City. When they deliver the gold to Jane Travers, owner of the Crescent City Freight Company, she informs "Hoppy" that unidentified outlaws have burned several of her storehouses and have robbed her wagon train shipments. Although she has called for U.S. troopers to guard her next shipment, Hoppy agrees to ride along as extra insurance. Hoppy becomes suspicious of the troopers when they arrive because of their motley uniforms and behavior, and tells Jane that he and his men will not ride along with her after all. 

10.  LEATHER BURNERS (1943) Hopalong Cassidy -  As rustled cattle have mysteriously disappeared, Johnny sends for his friend Hoppy, Hoppy arrives and immediately suspects Dan Slack. Realizing his telegram about Slack was intercepted, he locks up the operator Lafe knowing he can escape. Tailing Lafe he finds a secret entrance to a mine and inside finds the missing cattle. But Slack's men also find him just as the cattle are stampeded through the mine shaft.  [Added]


11.  Rustlers' Valley (1937) Hopalong Cassidy - Hoppy clears Lucky on a charge of bank robbery and foils the plot of a crooked lawyer to rustle a herd of pedigree cattle and take over the valley.  [Added]

12. Call of the Prairie (1936) - Hopalong CassidyHoppy returns to find Johnny (James Ellison) in trouble. Buck Peters has been shot by Porter who made it look like Johnny did it. When Johnny flees he runs into Linda. He takes a liking to her only to learn her father Shanghai (George Hayes) is one of Porter's gang. Going after Shanghai, he gets captured by the gang and Porter now plans to kill him. But Hoppy is nearby and Johnny will get unexpected help from Shanghai.     [Added]

13.  Stagecoach War (1940) Hopalong Cassidy - A stage-line owner is about to lose a lucrative Wells Fargo contract after his driver is shot in a holdup. The crime opens a door for Neal Holt (Harvey Stephens), who is not only a rival stage-line operator, but also the former boyfriend of Jeff's daughter, Shirle.  Hopalong" Cassidy, "Lucky" Jenkins and "Speedy" are driving a herd of Bar-20 mustangs to Bluesky, to be delivered to Jeff Chapman, operator of a stagecoach line. They come upon a stagecoach, which has just been looted of silver bullion by "Smiley" and his singing outlaws. The Bar-20 men give first aid to Jeff, who was shot during the robbery, and "Lucky" drives the stagecoach to town. There, "Lucky" is hard smitten by Jeff's daughter, Shirley, but she is in love with Neal Holt, who also has designs on her father's mail-carrying contract. Holt's foreman, "Twister" Maxwell, secretly works with "Smiley" and his gang, tipping them off on gold and silver shipments. Hold and Cassidy get into an argument over the merits of the Bar-20 mustangs versus Holt's pure-bred Morgans and the end result is a match race, with the stage contract as the stake.   [Added]

14.  Outlaws of the Desert (1941) Hopalong Cassidy, Johnny Nelson and California, ranch hands at the Bar-20, agree to help out neighboring rancher Charles Grant by accompanying him and his wife and daughter, Jane and Susan, to Arabia to buy stallions for the cavalry. During a perilous trek across the Arabian desert, led by their Arabian guide Yussuf, Hoppy, Johnny and California come to the aid of a camel train that is being raided, which has the same destination as they do, the Sheik Suleiman's encampment. After Hoppy presents his commission and gifts from the Grants to the sheik, Suleiman, who refuses to sell any Arabian horses, presents two horses to Hoppy as a thank you for saving his camel train. When Hoppy returns to town, he discovers that naïve Susan Grant has befriended a couple named Marie and Nicki Karitza, who claim to be brother and sister, and that while Nicki was out scouting horses with Charles, they were accosted and Charles was kidnapped. Hoppy insists on trying to find Jim before paying the $50,000 ransom.   [Added]

15. In Old Mexico (1938) - Some years before, a vicious criminal and master of disguise known as 'The Fox' is captured by Rurales Colonel Gonzalez and Hoppy working undercover. When 'The Fox' escapes from prison, he vows to exact vengeance from the two lawmen. He lures Cassidy south of the border with a forged letter from Gonzalez's father and murders Gonzalez in cold blood. Aiding 'The Fox' in his plans is his sister Janet, to whom the chivalrous Hoppy finds himself attracted.     [Added]

16Sunset Trail (1939) - Keller buys Marsh's cattle and then murders him to retrieve the money. But Ann Marsh remembered some of the serial numbers and this is the clue that Hoppy needs. He arrives posing as a dude. He also poses as a novice poker player and this brings in a few of the stolen bills. When he realizes, Keller is the one he is after, he wins back all the money at the poker table. He escapes from Keller's saloon but Keller and his men head out after him.    [Added]

17.  TexasTrail (1937) - The United States Army needs horses for the Spanish-American war but all attempts to get wild horses from the Western plains has failed as the gathered herds have been taken by rustlers. Colonel Whitely instructs Major McCready to secure the services of Hopalong Cassidy who, meanwhile, has been training his men as a volunteer force. While disappointed at having to work as a civilian, Cassidy answers the call to the flag and with the help of Lucky Jenkins, Windy Halliday, Smokey and the other cowhands, rounds up a herd of 500 wild horses. Black Jack Carson and his henchmen Hawks, Shorty and Brad steal the horses and capture Cassidy and his men. With the help of Boots, the Colonel's son, and Barbara Allen, Lucky's sweetheart, Cassidy manages to escape, regain the horses and capture Carson and his men.    [Added]

18. North of the Rio Grande 1937 This entry into the Hopalong Cassidy series proves to be an interesting one. Directed by Nate Watt, the film is a character study and is successful in this objective. Nate Watt only directed 7 Cassidy films, more's the pity as he really managed to get under the character's skins more than any other director. All of his Hoppy films are slow in pace, very atmospheric, more adult than the usual series films , and very strong on the principle characters involved. This film features a typical downbeat Nate Watt opening. Hoppy's brother Buddy has been murdered ( he was in a previous Hoppy film ). Hoppy, Lucky and Windy set out to investigate "The Lone Wolf", a bandit and mastermind behind many robberies in the town, plus the instigator of Buddy's murder. Stephen Morris (aka Morris Ankrum ) is the villain of the piece. Lee J. Cobb is in a small part. The female lead, as in most Watt films is far stronger than usually portrayed in a Hoppy film. Bernadene Hayes has a real charm and really enhances the film. There is an obvious bond between her character and Hoppy, this is nice for a change from the Lucky character's usually silly romances. The final scene is beautifully acted by Boyd and Hayes, watch their eyes as they both convey their true feelings. Another beautifully directed sequence has Hoppy and Faro Annie (Hayes) dancing in the saloon whilst Windy plays the piano. Hayes sings "When Irish eyes are smiling ". This is beautifully done and it is obvious to any viewer Boyd is thoroughly enjoying the change of pace. There is a cracking finale with the villain and Windy on board a runaway train and again a poignant scene when Hoppy and Lucky believe Windy to be dead. This is not the finest Cassidy, indeed not Nate Watt's best but it has moments of originality and sheer bliss that should not be missed.     [Added]


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