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Book Review

Hopalong Cassidy: An American Legend
by Grace Bradley Boyd and Michael Cochran.
Gemstone Publishing Inc., 2008. 368 pages.

This big and beautifully illustrated book is a wonderful tribute to one of the most beloved cowboy film stars from the past.

Hopalong Cassidy was played by William Lawrence Boyd for the entire run from the mid-1930s to the 1950s in movies, on radio and TV, children records and for his personal appearances everywhere.

It was the longest span of any fictional character played by the same actor.

His popularity grew to an incredible intensity in the early 1950s known as "Hoppymania" and
William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy was the first multi-million dollar merchandising name on television.

This book is told mostly through the memories of his widow, Grace Bradley Boyd, an accomplished concert pianist, Broadway dancer and Hollywood actress. She has written a fascinating portrait about her late husband's long film career. William Boyd was one of the most charitable of actors, visiting countless children in hospitals, making appearances in department stores, parades and one of the featured guests at the Cole Bros. Circus. During the late 1940s and early '50s he seemed to be everywhere.

The book starts off with a short personal Preface by former US President Bill Clinton and includes a nice photo of him in his Hoppy outfit from 1951.

Next is the Introduction, titled "The Legacy of Hopalong Cassidy," by co-author Michael Cochran with his brother and publisher, Russ Cochran. Their summary of the importance of Hopalong Cassidy is right on target, as they write:

Hoppymania, a tidal wave of universal popularity, swept through every city, town and crossroads to make Hoppy the most admired, recognized and respected personality in the nation, if not the world. Total impact on the national economy was incalculable, as was the power of his positive influence. As the living embodiment of fearless justice, common sense and benevolent fair play, he set a standard of conduct emulated by millions, youth and adults alike.

There is also a thoughtful Foreword written by singer-songwriter Don McLean, known for such popular songs like "American Pie," "And I Love You So," and "Vincent." He writes with much insight about the appeal of the Hopalong Cassidy. For example:

These early movies had a profound impact on me. They still, today, rank as the best western films ever made for adults. The close ups. The powerful death scenes. The inevitable, yet restrained, use of deadly violence. The rough characters with giant voices and burned-out faces. The beautiful locations, the sunlight, the riding scenes, the moonlight, and darkness, Hoppy climbing through open windows in the moonlight. All this said to kids, 'Get outside! Dream! Fantasize! Dress-up, and climb in somebody's window - tonight!

Strangely, being a musician, McLean doesn't mention any of the songs in the Hoppy movies. Perhaps he didn't remember any of them from his youth.

There are twenty-nine chapters in the book that tell about the lives of Grace Bradley Boyd and William Boyd. She writes with directness and candor about her own life as well as her husband's life and career. Her knowledge of the many details of their travels over the years is remarkable.

But even with her amazing memory, there are a few errors
that have slipped by. One concerns the film, NORTH OF THE RIO GRANDE (1937), on page 158 where she writes:

There's a beautifully directed scene where Hoppy, undercover as a train robber, dances with Annie while Windy plays and sings When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. It's not the kind of thing you'd expect to see in a non-musical B-Western, especially not in a Hopalong Cassidy picture, but it was touching.

Actually, Windy (played by George "Gabby" Hayes) doesn't play the piano though he is supposed to in the story, and he doesn't sing either. The song is sung with great warmth and feeling by Bernadene Hayes, who plays Faro Annie in the film. She was originally a radio singer in Chicago. This Irish song is not the only one heard in a Hoppy movie. There are many others. I have put together a list of them and came up with over 40 songs in Hoppy films between 1935 and 1947. And the film scores for Hoppy films were also of the highest caliber, including those by John Leipold and Victor Young, who later composed the memorable score for SHANE.

Music was an essential part of these Hoppy B-Westerns, even though William Boyd didn't care much for including songs in his films, as Grace Boyd mentions in the book. Hoppy was no singing cowboy, but there were actors in his movies who were also fine singers, including Eddie Dean, Brad King, and Jimmy Wakely.

In the book there are many stunning photos in color and black & white, including movie posters, movie stills, and candid shots of Grace and William Boyd. These are credited at the back of the book.

But the many photos of Hoppy kids are NOT credited or even identified in the book. One of these photos appears at the bottom
of page 300 as shown here...

This kid is someone I've known my whole life. That's actually little Me acting as Hoppy's deputy, the picture taken on the family backyard fence in Bloomfield, New Jersey in 1950. But there is no identification of this photo or any other photos of Hoppy kids, which is inconsiderate for such a prestigious publisher.

It is too bad that the photo of Hoppy Look-A-Likes on the last page of the book has none of them identified. They deserve credit for their fine authentic outfits and work on behalf of spreading Hoppy's good name.

The last photo in the book shows the wonderful Grace Bradley Boyd with Laura Bates, who has done so much to preserve William Boyd's life in his boyhood home of Cambridge, Ohio and she is also the longtime editor of the fan club newsletter, HOPPY TALK, along with the assistance of Fred Romary as associate editor. These people have done so much to keep William Boyd's life and film career alive and for that everyone should be grateful.

Hopalong Cassidy: An American Legend will stand as the best account of William Boyd's life and career because it was co-writeen by the person who knew him best, his widow and most trusted friend, Grace Bradley Boyd.

The book has a rather steep list price and there is also a much more expensive limited edition signed by the authors, with a cover of real leather. But the book itself is the real treasure, crammed full of wonderful rare photos plus the personal stories told by Grace Bradley Boyd.

Hopalong Cassidy was tops with his fans and this terrific book celebrates his legacy and illustrates how William Boyd should be remembered for his fine acting ability and his charitable work with children.

Hoppymania lives on in this milestone book!

It deserves to be in every Hoppy fan's collection.

--Roger Hall, 24 October 2008


Order your copy of the book at this link: 

Hopalong Cassidy: An American Legend
by Grace Bradley Boyd and Michael Cochran.

A Tribute To Grace Bradley Boyd (1913-2010)

For more information, go to

Hopalong Cassidy Music

Read all about the 16th Annual Hopalong Cassidy Festival
held in Cambridge, Ohio

click here


See a photo gallery from the 2006 Hopalong Cassidy Festival

click here




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