When talk of a man of vision comes up we seldom think of Hopalong Cassidy. But William Boyd who played the western cowboy in the movies and early television was a man of vision.
This came to mind when I read a Newsday article by Diane Werts this week. Back before television was even known by the masses, William Boyd saw the possibilities for more income from his films and was the first to write up such a contract. His old Hoppy films of the 1940s and 30-minute TV series of the 1950s made him a lot more money than working on the Bar-20 ranch.
Hopalong Cassidy was Aunt Mae’s favorite movie cowboy. My mother liked Hoot Gibson and William S. Hart among others. (The other day TCM had a 1930s western starring Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard and Bob Steele all in the same movie. It must have been a barnburner back then.) Tom Mix was another favorite of our family. When I was a boy Pastor Karl Moore took some of us boys to the Tom Mix Circus. Tom and his horse Tony were not in Brownwood that trip so we missed seeing the star.
Long before my time director James Cruze filmed an epic Western in 1923 titled “The Covered Wagon.” It was filmed on-location, a strange thing to do in those early days. John Ford became a legend in making Westerns. His scenes of Monument Valley have always made me want to see that country for real. He put it in every film he could. He even had parts of Monument Valley outside Lordsburg, New Mexico, when he shot “Stagecoach.” (Monument Valley is in Utah and Arizona.)
As good as Tim McCoy, Randolph Scott, Buck Jones, Johnny Mac Brown and Harry Carey were, none compared with William Boyd’s Hopalong Cassidy. I never cared for Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. The only singing cowboy I like was Tex Ritter.
Clarence E. Mulford created Hoppy in the 1920s and of his twenty-eight western novels, dozens of these are still in print.
Paramount Pictures made 34 Hoppy pictures and United Artists produced 31. All with Boyd as Hoppy. Historians of such trivia say Hollywood has never had one man play the same character is as many features.
Now, the good news I gained from the Newsday article. The Infinity Entertainment company has done a superb digital restoration of the Hopalong Cassidy films. A 12-disc DVD set of the complete 1949-53 Western half-hour “Hopalong Cassidy” programs. It also includes some of the earlier movie features of Hoppy and his sidekicks.
These Infinity Entertainment productions are not to be confused with the cheap discs at the drug store or Dollar Store. Toward the end of the article was the bad news. The 12-disc box set sells for $80.
But you can get the Spike Jones TV shows with a CD bonus of his radio shows for only $50. There was an orchestra that knew how to play real entertaining music. (I should note here that none of the above is to be considered as endorsement for these products as to their safety. I also have no stock or options with Infinity Entertainment.)
Hope your Thanksgiving was a blessed experience. It is for me when I consider all God’s blessings on us. (Which includes old-time radio and westerns being revived.)
Britt Towery, an usher for the Lyric Theater (1943-45), and earlier an avid Saturday double-feature addict at the Queen Theater, writes opinions every Friday. His e-mailis email@example.com.