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William Boyd (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Boyd
Boyd c. 1925
Born(1895-06-05)June 5, 1895
DiedSeptember 12, 1972(1972-09-12) (aged 77)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery
Other namesHoppy, Hopalong Cassidy
Occupation(s)Actor, movie producer, director
Years active1918–1954
Height6 ft (183 cm)
Laura Maynard
(m. 1917; div. 1921)
(m. 1921; div. 1924)
(m. 1926; div. 1929)
(m. 1930; div. 1936)
(m. 1937⁠–⁠1972)

William Lawrence Boyd (June 5, 1895 – September 12, 1972) was an American film actor who is known for portraying the cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy.

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Boyd and "Miss Josephine" in 1931

Boyd was born in Hendrysburg, Ohio and reared in Cambridge, Ohio and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lived from 1909 to 1913.[1] He was the son of day laborer Charles William Boyd and his wife Lida (née Wilkens). Following his father's death, Boyd moved to California and worked as an orange picker, surveyor, tool dresser and auto salesman.[2]

In Hollywood, Boyd found work as an extra in Why Change Your Wife? and other films. During World War I, he enlisted in the army but was exempt from military service because of a heart condition. More prominent film roles followed, including his breakout role as Jack Moreland in Cecil B. DeMille's The Road to Yesterday (1925), which earned critical praise. DeMille soon cast him as the leading man in the highly acclaimed silent drama film The Volga Boatman. another critical success, and with Boyd now firmly established as a matinee idol and romantic leading man, he began earning an annual salary of $100,000. He acted in DeMille's The King of Kings (1927) and Skyscraper (1928), as well as D.W. Griffith's Lady of the Pavements (1929).[3]

Radio Pictures ended Boyd's contract in 1931 when his photo was mistakenly run in a newspaper story about the arrest of another actor, William "Stage" Boyd, on gambling and liquor charges. Although the newspaper apologized, explaining the mistake in the following day's newspaper, Boyd said, "The damage was already done." Boyd was virtually destitute and without a job,[4][5] and for several years, he was credited in films as Bill Boyd to prevent being mistaken for the other William Boyd.

Hopalong Cassidy

In 1935, Boyd was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but he asked to be considered for the title role and won it.[6] The original character of Hopalong Cassidy, written by Clarence E. Mulford for pulp magazines, was changed from a hard-drinking, rough-living, redheaded wrangler to a cowboy hero who did not smoke, swear or drink alcohol (he drank sarsaparilla) and who would allow the villain to start fights. Although Boyd "never branded a cow or mended a fence, cannot bulldog a steer" and disliked Western music, he became indelibly associated with the Hopalong character and, as with the cowboy stars Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, gained lasting fame in the Western film genre.[4][3]

The films were typically more polished and impressive than were the usual low-budget programmed Westerns, with superior outdoor photography and recognizable supporting players familiar from major Hollywood films. Big-city theaters, many of which usually would not normally rent Westerns, noticed the high quality of the productions and permitted the series more exposure than they did for other Westerns. Paramount Pictures released the films through 1941 and United Artists produced them from 1943.

Producer Harry "Pop" Sherman wanted to create more ambitious epics and abandoned the Hopalong Cassidy franchise. Boyd, determined to keep the series alive, produced the last 12 Cassidy features himself on noticeably lower budgets. By this time, interest in the character had waned, and with far fewer theaters still showing the films, the series ended in 1948.

Boyd insisted on purchasing the rights to all of the Hopalong Cassidy films. Sherman no longer cared about the property, as he believed that Boyd's appeal, as well as that of his films, had waned. Boyd sold or mortgaged almost all of his possessions to meet Sherman's price of $350,000 for the rights and the film catalog.[7]

Hoppy rides again

Boyd in Chicago promoting a TV show (1950)

In 1948 Boyd, now regarded as a cowboy star of the past with his fortunes at their lowest, brought a print of one of his older films to the local NBC television station and offered it at a nominal rental, hoping for new exposure. The film was received so well that NBC asked for more, and within months Boyd released the entire library. The films became very popular and began the long-running genre of Westerns on television. Boyd's desperate gamble made him one of the first national television stars and restored his fortune. As did Rogers and Autry, Boyd licensed merchandise, including products such as Hopalong Cassidy watches, trash cans, cups, dishes, Topps trading cards, a comic strip, comic books, cowboy outfits, home-movie digests of his Paramount releases via Castle Films and a new Hopalong Cassidy radio show that ran from 1948 to 1952.[8]

Boyd identified with his character, often dressing as a cowboy in public. He was concerned about children and refused to license his name for products that he considered unsuitable or dangerous, and he declined personal appearances at which children would be charged admission.[4][9]

Boyd appeared as Hopalong Cassidy on the cover of numerous national magazines, including Look (August 29, 1950) [10] and Time (November 27, 1950).[4] For Thanksgiving in 1950, he led the Carolinas' Carrousel Parade in Charlotte, North Carolina, with attracted an estimated crowd of 500,000, the largest in the parade's history.[11][better source needed]

Boyd had a cameo role as himself in Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 circus epic The Greatest Show on Earth. DeMille reportedly asked Boyd to take the role of Moses in his remake of The Ten Commandments, but Boyd felt that his identification with the Cassidy character would make it impossible for audiences to accept him as Moses.[3]

Personal life

Boyd and Dorothy Sebastian in the film His First Command (1929)

Boyd was married five times, first to wealthy Massachusetts heiress Laura Maynes, then to the actresses Ruth Miller, Elinor Fair, Dorothy Sebastian and Grace Bradley. His only son William Wallace Boyd, whose mother was Miller, died of pertussis at the age of nine months. After his retirement from the screen, Boyd invested time and money in real estate and moved to Palm Desert, California. He refused interviews and photographs in later years in order to not taint his memory as a screen idol.[citation needed]

Boyd was a lifelong Republican and supported the campaign of Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.[12]

For his contributions to the film industry, Boyd has a motion-picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1734 Vine Street.[13] In 1995, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.[14]

In 1972, Boyd died from complications related to Parkinson's disease and congestive heart failure.[1] He was survived by his fifth wife, Grace Bradley Boyd, who died in 2010. He is buried at the Sanctuary of Guiding Love alcove in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale).[15]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b "Onetime Tulsan William Boyd, Famed As 'Hoppy,' Dies At 77 :: Tulsa and Oklahoma History Collection". Retrieved February 5, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Hall, Joan H. (1996). Through the Doors of the Mission Inn. Riverside, California: Highgrove Press. pp. 113–116. ISBN 0-9631618-2-2. He found a part-time job at the Mission Inn and enjoyed showing the guests some of the scenic sights in Riverside.
  3. ^ a b c "". Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Kiddies in the Old Corral". Time. November 27, 1950.
  5. ^ "William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy". Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  6. ^ Obituary. Variety, September 20, 1972.
  7. ^ "Tele Topics" (PDF). Radio Daily. June 13, 1950. p. 7. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  8. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 328–330. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  9. ^ Reed, Robert (2008)."Bubble Gum Cards Brought Big Fun in Their Day". Antique Trader, July 16, 2008.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Carolinas' Carrousel Parade History. Accessed 2014-03-29.
  12. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, p. 34, Ideal Publishers
  13. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame - William Boyd". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  14. ^ "William (Hopalong Cassidy) Boyd - Great Western Performers". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved June 16, 2024.
  15. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2. McFarland & Company (2016) ISBN 0786479922

Further reading

  • Boyd, Grace Bradley; Cochran, Michael (2008) Hopalong Cassidy: An American Legend. York, Pennsylvania: Gemstone. ISBN 978-1-60360-066-8.
This page was last edited on 17 July 2024, at 11:39
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