Enter Hopalong Cassidy

 

“Hop-Along Cassidy” (aka “Hopalong Cassidy Enters”) was the first of 66 features starring William Boyd as Hoppy. One of the most successful and best written of the “B” western series, it was to run from 1935 to 1948.

As written by Clarence E. Mulford, Cassidy was a crude, crusty ranch hand and definitely not intended as a Saturday Matinee hero. In fact, character actor James Gleason, who looked nothing like a hero was apparently first offered the part.

Boyd, who had been around Hollywood since the early 20s and had fallen from grace, ultimately was cast in the part. It was decided between himself and producer Harry “Pop” Sherman that Boyd would not play the character as written.

In this first entry in the series, Boyd plays the character with a few rough edges, all of which would disappear in future films. He starts out as “Bill” Cassidy but acquires his nickname “Hopalong” when is wounded in the leg and is forced to hop along with the aid of a cane.

The story involves two competing ranchers, Buck Peters of the Bar-20 (Charles Middleton) and Meeker (Robert Warwick) arguing over the open range land for their cattle. Meeker’s foreman known as Pecos Jack (Kenneth Thompson) is behind a plot to set the two ranches against each other while stealing their cattle, changing their brands and selling them off for himself.

In this first entry in the series the traditional trio comprises Hoppy, Johnny Nelson (James Ellison) and Red Connors (Frank McGlynn Jr.). George Hayes by this time had evolved into the character he would play for the rest of his career. In this picture he plays a ranch hand named “Uncle Ben”. Although still not using the name “Gabby”, he would appear later in the series as the grizzled sidekick “Windy Halliday”.

Also in the cast are Paula Stone as Mary Meeker, Ellison’s love interest, Willie Fung as the Meeker’s Chinese cook, who provides most of the comic relief, and veterans John Merton and Franlyn Farnum in other roles.

Charles Middleton would achieve some measure of fame as “Ming the Merciless” in the Flash Gordon serials. The character of Red Connors would be resurrected in the Hopalong Cassidy TV series of the 50s with Edgar Buchanan playing the part.