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William Boyd Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (5)  | Trade Mark (2)  | Trivia (20)  | Personal Quotes (9)  | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Born in Hendrysburg, Ohio, USA
Died in Laguna Beach, California, USA  (Parkinson's disease and heart failure)
Birth NameWilliam Lawrence Boyd
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The son of a day laborer, William Boyd moved with his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he was seven. His parents died while he was in his early teens, forcing him to quit school and take such jobs as a grocery clerk, surveyor and oil field worker. He went to Hollywood in 1919, already gray-haired. His first role was as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's Why Change Your Wife? (1920). He bought some fancy clothes, caught DeMille's eye and got the romantic lead in The Volga Boatman (1926), quickly becoming a matinée idol and earning upwards of $100,000 a year. However, with the end of silent movies, Boyd was without a contract, couldn't find work and was going broke. By mistake his picture was run in a newspaper story about the arrest of another actor with a similar name (William 'Stage' Boyd) on gambling, liquor and morals charges, and that hurt his career even more. In 1935 he was offered the lead role in Hop-a-Long Cassidy (1935) (named because of a limp caused by an earlier bullet wound). He changed the original pulp-fiction character to its opposite, made sure that "Hoppy" didn't smoke, drink, chew tobacco or swear, rarely kissed a girl and let the bad guy draw first. By 1943 he had made 54 "Hoppies" for his original producer, Harry Sherman; after Sherman dropped the series, Boyd produced and starred in 12 more on his own. The series was wildly popular, and all recouped at least double their production costs. In 1948 Boyd, in a savvy and precedent-setting move, bought the rights to all his pictures (he had to sell his ranch to raise the money) just as TV was looking for Saturday morning Western fare. He marketed all sorts of "Hoppy" products (lunch boxes, toy guns, cowboy hats, etc.) and received royalties from comic books, radio and records. He retired to Palm Desert, California, in 1953. In 1968 he had surgery to remove a tumor from a lymph gland and from then on refused all interview and photograph requests.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (5)

Grace Bradley (5 June 1937 - 12 September 1972) ( his death)
Dorothy Sebastian (19 December 1930 - 30 May 1936) ( divorced)
Elinor Fair (13 January 1926 - 16 November 1929) ( divorced) ( 1 child)
Ruth Miller (24 September 1921 - 1924) ( divorced)
Laura M. Maynes (6 February 1917 - 1921) ( divorced)

Trade Mark (2)

Expressive blue eyes
Prematurely silver-gray hair

Trivia (20)

Boyd was Cecil B. DeMille's first choice for Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956). Boyd turned the role down, fearing the Hopalong Cassidy identification would hurt the movie.
Hopalong Cassidy's beautiful white horse was named "Topper".
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Sacred Promise.
After buying the rights to all of his films, he secured the rights to the name "Hopalong Cassidy" and formed a company called "Hopalong Cassidy Productions".
Star of the syndicated radio show "Hopalong Cassidy" (1950-1952). The shows were actually recorded between 1948 and 1950.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1995.
Television talk-show host Johnny Carson told a story of how, in the mid-1960s, he met Boyd on a plane while flying cross-country. He asked Boyd, who hadn't made any public appearances in many years, if he would like to come on Carson's show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962). Boyd politely declined, and when Carson asked why, Boyd replied that he thought it would be too much of a jolt for kids--even though they were now adults--who had grown up seeing Hoppy as a tall, strong young cowboy hero to see him as the old man that Boyd now was.
The "Hoppies" launched the formula "Trio Western." Boyd was 40 years old when the series started. He got a younger partner to play the romantic leads James Ellison the only singing cowboy in the series, Russell Hayden, Brad King, Jay Kirby, Jimmy Rogers,George Reeves(only in "Bar 20") and Rand Brooks) and a second, usually older, partner for comic relief George Hayes known as "Gabby" playing Windy Holiday, (Britt Wood, Andy Clyde as California Carlson) and Edgar Buchanan as Red Connnors (as a duo with "Hoppy" in TV series).
There is a Hopalong Cassidy Museum located in Cambridge, Ohio.
His career was derailed in the early 1930s when he was mistakenly identified as having been arrested for public drunkenness after his picture was mistakenly used in articles about the arrest. In fact, the culprit was William 'Stage' Boyd, an actor who later portrayed the villain in the serial The Lost City (1935).
His only child, a son by second wife Ruth Miller, died in infancy.
William Boyd lived in a cabin in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine while he made some of the Hoppy movies. It is also where he and his wife Grace spent their honeymoon. That same cabin, now known as "Hoppy Cabin", was used in 6 Hopalong Cassidy movies. It is easily recognized by the stone well in front of the house.
Appears as Hopalong Cassidy, with Topper the Horse, on a 44¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Early TV Memories issue honoring Hopalong Cassidy (1952), issued 11 August 2009.
Attended Mercersburg (Pa.) Academy preparatory school.
He received 15 thousand fan letters every week.
In 1938, an America-wide poll conducted by The Showmen's Trade Review revealed Hopalong Cassidy as the screen's favorite outdoor action hero.
In a shrewd business move, Boyd gambled big when he leveraged nearly everything he owned to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy film library and name. The decision would prove valuable beyond any estimate. With the advent of television Hopalong Cassidy films were broadcast and the character became massively popular. But the release of Cassidy films was only Boyd's initial step. In 1950 a Hopalong Cassidy tin lunch box was made by Aladdin Industries, and was the first lunch box to bear a licensed image. The subsequent frenzy for Hopalong Cassidy merchandise led to more than 100 companies manufacturing more than $70 million dollars worth of Hopalong Cassidy products. It is estimated that more than 2500 products were merchandised under the Hopalong Cassidy name, or the name "Hoppy's Favorite". Products were not only marketed to kids, such as Cassidy western outfits, six-guns & holsters, lunch boxes, toys, and much more, there were also products marketed to adults such as motor oil, tires, eggs, and milk. No other celebrity had utilized merchandising on the level of William Boyd, and he took this responsibility seriously. Boyd selected Hoppy merchandising very carefully, and certain products were not endorsed because Boyd did not think them appropriate. One of the most interesting of Boyd's merchandising refusals was bubble gum, which was never endorsed by Boyd as he did not approve of it.
Film studio executive Joseph Schenck pronounced William Boyd's widely acclaimed voice as the finest he had ever heard in films.
During the production of Suicide Fleet (1931), William Boyd and several other actors performed an unscheduled rescue at sea when a launch exploded off the Coronado Islands in the Pacific. Nine men, members of the film expedition, were in the launch when its gas tanks blew up, throwing all into the water. Two of the men were slightly burned, but William Boyd, James Gleason, and Robert Armstrong quickly took action and plunged into the ocean to rescue their assistants.
In stark contrast to the character of Hopalong Cassidy as a confirmed bachelor, William Boyd was married five times.

Personal Quotes (9)

[on his fondness for his many fans] Sometimes I can feel hands all over me when I get home. But they do it because they're Hoppy's friends.
I've tried to make Hoppy a plain and simple man in manners and dress. Hoppy isn't a flashy character. He isn't illiterate. Nor is he smart-alecky. He doesn't use big words or bad words. After all, I felt that Hoppy might be looked up to and that children might try to pattern their lives after the man. If Hoppy said 'ain't' and 'reckon' and that-away', all the kids might start saying the same things.
[in an interview with Motion Picture Classic magazine, April 1926) Got my strength swinging a sledge-hammer ten hours a day in the oil fields. I was sixteen. I began to work when I was twelve, when my father died, but the oil-field was the hardest job I ever had. I used to get so tired. But I wouldn't let it tear me down because I had too much spirit. It wasn't going to beat me! I think any boy who wants to grow up into a he-man ought to go out and get himself kicked around all over the place and fight and struggle and endure - that is, if he has spirit. If he hasn't, he'll go under.
[on first hearing of Cecil B. De Mille in the early 1920s] I didn't know who Mr. De Mille was - he might have been the janitor at Lasky's - that was how ignorant I was then!
[in an interview with Motion Picture Classic magazine, April 1926] I've always worked. I didn't care what kind of job it was, but I tried to get one that would take me among educated people so that I could learn by listening to them talk. That's the way I got all the education I have. Associating with people who knew things helped a lot. I wanted to know so desperately that I couldn't help remembering.
[In an interview for Picture Play magazine in 1927] I pity any one interviewing me. For there's nothing to say. I've never been to college, and never had a cruel father who commanded me to keep out of pictures. There's neither a family crest nor illustrious relatives.
[in a 1940 interview for Paramount Pictures, speaking about his recently turning down an offer of $4,500 for Topper, his horse] Topper has saved my life on more than one occasion and is just as important to these pictures as I am. He is not for sale at any price. Eventually, he will be pensioned and turned out to spend his final years as he desires. But I figure, barring accident, that he is good for at least two more years in Hopalongs.
[on the The Volga Boatman] When I was getting ready for 'The Volga Boatman', I was worried about what to do with him. I had read the script and knew he was a Russian peasant, and I'd read Russian stories - Tolstoy - and Russian history, and I thought I knew what was back of this fellow, all the centuries of oppression and injustice - the revolt he felt inside. Victor Varconi played the other male role, which made mine more difficult, since he and I are about the same height, build and coloring. Varconi was an officer and would, of course, play it straight, I must be 'character'. First, I decided against wearing a wig and had my hair curled. I had misgivings about that, afraid it would weaken my face, but it didn't. And then, the very night before we began to shoot, the thing came to me. I was walking up and down in my room, like this - [he paced the length of the dressing room, three strides taking him from one wall to the other, and suddenly stopped, standing with his head lowered a trifle, looking up from under sullen lids, a figure tense and yet quiet, as of terrific power held in leash.] There! It came like that. I saw him in the mirror and recognized him.
[In an interview with Motion Picture in which he cheerfully stated he didn't know the first thing about being an actor] If they ever cast me as anything but Bill Boyd, I'm done.

Salary (3)

The Leatherneck (1929) $2,500 /week
The Painted Desert (1931) $2,500 /week
Hop-a-Long Cassidy (1935) $5,000

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