As originally created by author Clarence E. Mulford, Bill 'Hopalong' Cassidy, the star of twenty-eight pulp fiction novels, was a rude, hard-living, tough-talking, wrangler of the old Wild West who got his nickname after being shot in the leg. On screen he was an entirely different character. Reserved and well spoken, with a fine sense of fair play who did not smoke, drink or swear and who always let the bad guy start the fight. The drink of his choice was the nonalcoholic sarsaparilla.
In 1935, actor William Boyd was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but boldly asked for the title role which he was given. The film series eventually ended in 1947 after 66 films, with Boyd producing the last 12.
Anticipating television's rise, Boyd had the prescience of mind to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character, books and films. They didn't come cheap-but his $350,000 investment was paid back handsomely. In 1949, he released the low-budget films to television, and the first network Western television series became a sensation almost immediately. The following year alone, Boyd earned an estimated $800,000 from the telecasts, merchandise and endorsements. More than 100 companies sold Hopalong Cassidy products, including children's dinnerware, pillows, roller skates, soap, wristwatches, and jackknives.
Hopalong Cassidy was also featured on the first child's lunchbox to bear a commercial image. The success of the show and tie-ins inspired several juvenile TV Westerns, including The Gene Autry Show and The Roy Rogers Show. With all the movies finally released to television original made-for-TV episodes were filmed from 1952 to 1954. Hoppy was still owner of the Bar 20 Ranch and his sidekick, Red Connors, was the perfect foil for Cassidy, who, unlike most cowboys heroes, dressed all in black and, with snow-white hair, cut quite a figure atop his horse Topper. On June 7, 2011, Timeless Media Group released Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Series on DVD in Region 1. The 6-disc set features all 52 episodes of the series restored and remastered.
Published on December 21st, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.