William Boyd

William Boyd
Los Angeles Times


William Boyd
Film: West side of the 1700 block of Vine Street
Born June 5, 1895 in Henrysburg, OH
Died Sept. 12, 1972 in South Coast Medical Center, CA

Actor William Boyd portrayed Hopalong Cassidy, the silver-haired paragon of Western virtue, in 92 motion picture and television films.

As the ageless Hoppy, Boyd rode his horse, Topper, across the range for a quarter of a century. On the screen, he never smoked, drank, swore or made love to women. He always tried to capture rustlers rather than shoot them and he always let the villain draw first when a showdown was inevitable.

Boyd made his last Hoppy film in 1953, then faded into retirement, having made millions of dollars from television and advertising rights.

Boyd came to Hollywood in 1915. His first job was as a chauffeur.

After several bit parts, he caught the attention of Cecil B. DeMille who liked his wavy white hair and his snappy clothes. DeMille put him under a $30-a-week contract.

Appearing in such films as "The Volga Boatman" and "King of Kings," Boyd became something of a romantic hero in the 1920s.

In 1931, a case of mistaken identity plunged Boyd's career into darkness. A Broadway actor, also named William Boyd, was arrested at a drinking and gambling party. Newspapers the next day published the Hollywood Boyd's picture in error. Apologies were also published, but his career seemed ended.

He was a has-been in 1935 when a Paramount producer offered him a part as Hopalong Cassidy in a series of cowboy films based on the novels of Clarence Mulford.

In Mulford's works, Hoppy was an ornery cuss who spit tobacco juice, cursed, drank whiskey and walked with a limp. Boyd talked the producer into altering Hoppy's character 180 degrees.

The Hopalong movies enjoyed box office success. With television, Hoppy became a household word. His sudden resurgence of popularity spawned a Hoppy radio show and a comic strip.

In the years before his death he refused to talk to the press. "I'm not the man people remember as Hopalong Cassidy," he told one prospective interviewer. "I don't want to tamper with their memories."

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