Welcome to Awakenings

Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Monday, September 12, 2016

You okay, Hoppy?

This Day in (Old West) History: September 12, 1972


Movie Still
Hoppy and California

Movie Still
Lucky and Hoppy

Movie Still
Hoppy and Windy

Ah-h-h! Nostalgia at its finest and completely irreplaceable...that's the Westerns! The advent of motion pictures, the senses of cinema, brought history to life, especially back in the days of the ol' West. The rugged mountainous terrain, a rough-and-tumble dusty life, travel by foot, horseback, covered wagon or stagecoach, and the sound of the swinging saloon doors reverberating as they whipped open...Enter the tough cowboy with a huge chip on his shoulder.

William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy
The great West opened its doors to legend after legend passed along from one generation to another first through novels, then, the silver screen made visits to the wild, rambunctious West possible without having to actually travel the distance across the country. Of course with the cinema came opportunities for actors and actresses of the day to strut their stuff through historic places of the American West. One such actor is highlighted on this day: William Lawrence Boyd, aka Hopalong Cassidy (June 5, 1895 – September 12, 1972). 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

It was in the mid-30s that brought William Boyd truly into the spotlight during a time when roles had been tough to find. Destiny stepped in for Boyd was already in his 40s at this time and on top of that prematurely grey. Rumor spread that he was too old but apparently rumor was what rumor is...gossip of the busiest nature! That is firmly validated since sixty-six motion picture films and 52 half hour NBC productions cast the same actor as the leading 'cowboy' to hop along the dusty trails.

The evolution of the Hopalong Cassidy films is indeed interesting as "Hoppy" moved up and down the movie ladder of success. Read MORE about William Boyd and Hopalong Cassidy pre- and post-war eras. In the post-WWII years, film production costs skyrocketed, people's movie tastes and habits were changing, and the B Western was fading. The new-fangled gadget known as television brought the wild, wild West directly into the home and was a significant boost for Boyd's career.

Below are a few clips to bring nostalgia and enjoyment to any afternoon. "Hoppy" and his white horse, Topper, usually traveled through the west with two companions—one young and trouble-prone with a weakness for damsels in distress, the other comically awkward and outspoken. 

The later years...
His [Hopalong Cassidy] popularity was astounding. He received 15 thousand fan letters a week. He received endless and persistent requests from individuals and international organizations to make public appearances. He made two worldwide tours while NBC pressed him to continue production. The stress was tremendous. He was in his sixties by this time, and he personally felt that the Hoppy character could not be properly portrayed at this age. He was also feeling the pressure of being before the cameras month after month. The year before he retired, he made 40 Hoppy episodes in as many weeks and made one more tour around the world for the Newsboys' Association.
Completing that tour, he put his horse Topper out to pasture, hung up his guns, took off his boots, and said adios to HOPALONG CASSIDY, his alter ego. Boyd was reluctant to retire because of his loyal fans and the knowledge that his large production crew would be put out of work. Fortunately, CBS was about to start shooting the series, GUNSMOKE, and Boyd was able to turn over his company to that network, assuring employment for his entire crew.
You okay, Hoppy? I should say so! Many kids who grew up in the late 40s and early 50s owe some of their personal values and beliefs to William Boyd.  That's his greatest accomplishment. 
 The good guy who wore a black hat!

A Bit of "Hoppy" Trivia...
  • In the first film, Hopalong Cassidy (then spelled "Hop-along") got his name after being shot in the leg.
  • Hopalong's "drink of choice" was the nonalcoholic sarsaparilla. 
Related Articles:
Grace Bradley Remembered (Mrs. Hopalong Cassidy)