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Most early fifties TV shows that I have recently viewed have proved to
be much less than I remembered--THE LONE RANGER, SUPERMAN, THE CISCO
KID, MR AND MRS NORTH, RAMAR OF THE JUNGLE--the list is pretty long.
They were for the most part cheaply produced and not very well acted,
except for the leads. Therefore I did not come to the HOPALONG CASSIDY
series expecting anything more than just another kiddie show. Some
episodes may indeed be ordinary, and realism is not aided by Hoppy's
all black but still gaudy outfit. But watching several episodes, I have
been pleasantly surprised. This show was certainly a couple of notches
above most of its contemporaries in quality. Outdoor scenes were filmed
outdoors. The acting is often high grade. Boyd as Hoppy was both
charismatic and a good actor. Edgar Buchanan, an A list character
actor, was capable of providing both comic relief and dramatic support.
Other early television pairings, even Clayton Moore and Jay
Silverheels, or Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carillo, were not this
accomplished. Their skill, plus good writing, lifted several episodes.
A few top episodes I have viewed:
1. "Grubstake"--A terrific half-hour mystery. Prospector Percy Helton has struck gold. He was grubstaked by five partners. Two have been murdered. A third is Red. Who is the murderer? There is a slew of suspects in a movie level cast--Christopher Dark, Michael Fox, Robert Paquin, and Timothy Carey(!). Gladys George steals the show as a flighty landlady engaged in a humorous romance with old codger Helton. The solution to the mystery is first rate.
2. "The Feud"--Two ranchers are bitter enemies. The son of one is murdered from ambush. Suspician naturally falls on his old enemy, B stalwart Steve Darrell, but foreman Hugh Beaumont, soon to become Beaver's dad, is the culprit. He is having an affair with Darrell's wife and hopes to get both her and the ranch when Darrell is lynched for the murder. There are some bitter scenes between the jealous Darrell and his unfaithful wife, and even a hot and heavy one between the woman and Beaumont. Perhaps not original, but certainly an adult slant compared to a typical Lone Ranger or Gene or Roy plot.
3. "Lawless Legacy"--An ordinary plot, but given a big lift by Lone Ranger on vacation Clayton Moore as a vicious murderer.
While Boyd certainly plays the knight on a white steed to the hilt, and occasionally shoots guns out of the bad guys' hands, he also shoots to kill more often than not, and is surprisingly callous a couple of times when pumping info from a dying heavy.
All in all, well worth a look.
It's a show business legend how Bill Boyd had a miraculous comeback
when television started showing his old Hopalong Cassidy films. Back in
the early Fifties the whole country was Hoppy conscious. Boyd made out
like a bandit with all the merchandising because he had invested his
last dollar into buying the rights from producer Harry Sherman of all
his old films.
Television wasn't too careful with what they did back in the day and to fit various program lengths and formats, the old Hoppy films got quite a butchering. But the public clamor for more of Hoppy resulted in this three year television series.
For the show, Boyd dropped his standard two companion format of one young cowboy and one grizzled old timer. Instead he got Edgar Buchanan who played Red Connors. As I remember back in the day Buchanan was one oafish sidekick, more laughs and trouble than Pancho gave the Cisco Kid. It was Buchanan's first venture into series television, later on he became famous as Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction.
There was also a lot of voice over narration by Boyd. He was a United States Marshal and his job as foreman of the Bar 20 ranch had also gone by the boards. But he was the same white knight on the white charger of the plains.
One of your bloggers makes the comment that the Hopalong Cassidy films began running on television as early as 1945. Obviously they haven't done their research because (1) television sets were not put on the market for public use until 1947 and Boyd did not begin running his films until mid summer of 1948. Boyd was still making theatrical pictures in 1944, and then went on tour with Cole Brothers Circus for two seasons until 1946, when he began producing his own series for United Artists. These films co-starred Andy Clyde and Rand Brooks. When the series ended, Boyd hocked everything he had to gain the rights to Hopalong Cassidy. His old movies began running on NBC in June, 1948. The statement that Hoppy movies were being seen on television originally came from a video documentary on early television cowboys, featuring Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When you realize that this series was done over sixty years ago you realize just how well it was done. At least I think so. The acting is very good, the action occurs often, the plots are usually okay. Why this show only lasted two seasons is something I don't understand. William Boyd is Hopalong Cassidy, a good guy's good guy. He seems to travel around the west with his two sidekicks, California and the always looking for romance, Lucky. Even though there reference's to the Bar20 ranch. Where ever they go they right the wrongs, always taking the side of the right or the weak. There is humor in this series in every episode but you need to follow the dialogue. They use the same character actors in the episodes and they usually play the type of good or bad role but occasionally they get to switch. I really enjoyed watching the entire series.
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