Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Old Time Radio: HOPALONG CASSIDY


I can’t honestly say that HOPALONG CASSIDY was the first western I ever saw, but apparently he must have made some sort of impression on me quite early. According to both my parents, I would run around the house yelling “Hoppy!” when I was about three years old. Somewhere I have an old photograph of me dressed up as a cowboy, about that age. My first childhood accident (from which I still have a small scar on my nose, which shows where it was split) was from a fall down a flight of stairs caused by my tripping on the gun holster you can see me wearing in the picture. (I promise to dig that out and scan it one of these days!)

I also don’t recall the last time I saw a film featuring William Boyd in his most famous role. I’m going to guess that it may have been more than twenty years ago, and even that might be a decade off. Encore Western channel broadcasts plenty of Roy Rogers & Gene Autry, along with other western B-movies stars, but I haven’t seen a single Hoppy film since we subscribed to the service.

Anyway, after Boyd was already known for the role he was smart enough to actually buy up the films and appeared in the black & silver outfit for just about the rest of his life. While Roy & Gene were basically playing fictionalized versions of themselves, Boyd, was probably better known as the character than by his own name. At least, he didn’t have to spend his later years fighting to wear a mask, like his fellow TV westerner Clayton Moore.

Since it’s been so long since I saw Boyd on the screen I can’t say for sure how much the character he portrays in the radio show compares or differs from the film version. I doubt very much, since Boyd was very careful to maintain control of the character, which made him fairly well off in later years, I assume. Unlike Roy, Gene and the LONE RANGER, it wasn’t unheard of (pardon the expression) for the radio Hoppy to actually kill someone in a gunfight or while they were taking part in an illegal activity (he kills at least one bank robber in the shows I have listened to recently). Be interesting to see what Hoppy’s body count was in those 60 + films and 40 episodes of hit television program (where actor Edgar Buchanan {Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction} played his sidekick, “Red Connors”).

In the radio program actor Andy Clyde portrays “California Carlson”, a character he also played in dozens of the Hopalong movies. Clyde began his career in his native Scotland before coming to the U.S. to work with the Mack Sennett studio. During most of he later career he basically played the same gruff, old timer whether with Boyd or in other western films. He remained acting until about a year before his death in 1967, playing the reoccurring character “Cully Wilson” in the series LASSIE.

As with GUNSMOKE you can find these OTR programs available at your local library, on Amazon and over on LIVE 365 Internet radio, among other places.
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