Wednesday, July 24, 2019

LEGENDS OF WESTERN CINEMA WEEK: Post 4 of 5, "Hop-a-Long" Cassidy

The LEGENDS OF WESTERN CINEMA WEEK is an online celebration running from July 21 - 27. It is hosted by Heidi of Along the Brandywine, Olivia of Meanwhile, in Rivendell and Hamlette's Soliloquy.

William Boyd
1895 - 1972

"Hopalong Cassidy was a combination of irresponsibility, humor, good nature, love of fighting, and nonchalance when face to face with danger. His most prominent attribute was that of always getting into trouble without any intention of so doing; in fact, he was much aggrieved and surprised when it came. It seemed as though when any "bad man" desired to add to his reputation he invariably selected Hopalong as the means (a fact due, perhaps, to the perversity of things in general). Bad men became scarce soon after Hopalong became a fixture in any locality. He had been crippled some years before in a successful attempt to prevent the assassination of a friend, Sheriff Harris of Albuquerque, and he still possessed a limp."
- Clarence E. Mulford, Bar 20, 1906

Mulford's creation of Hopalong Cassidy was a grizzled old cowpoke far removed from the handsome actor William Boyd who portrayed the character so successfully and nobly on screen. The disparity between Hoppy on the page and Hoppy on the screen did not hamper the success of both the author and the filmmakers. Mulford continued to write his detailed and action-filled stories into the 1940s. Louis L'Amour took up the mantle in the 1950s for Bantam.

Paramount Studios released the first Hopalong Cassidy picture in July of 1935. Doris Schroeder and Harrison Jacobs adapted the 1910 Mulford novel, Hopalong Cassidy. The team would write over a dozen films in the series. Howard Bretherton directed the first three and would film ten overall. The three films discussed here were all photographed by Oscar winner (The Quiet Man) Archie Stout.

Charles Middleton, William Boyd

Bill Cassidy is returning to the Bar 20 ranch much to the delight of owner Buck Peters (Charles Middleton), Red Connors (Frank McGlynn Jr.), and old Uncle Ben (George "Gabby" Hayes) who is something of a father figure to Bill. Newer ranch hand Johnny Nelson (Jimmy Ellison) is rather put out about this Cassidy fellow whom everyone praises so much. Johnny thinks of himself as the top hand around these parts and he's going to let Cassidy know it! Johnny's rash personality often finds him the trouble he is seeking. Johnny will spend much of his introduction to Bill Cassidy apologizing.

Buck Peters is butting heads with neighbouring rancher Jim Meeker (Robert Warwick) over water rights and grazing land. Neither man is aware that they are being played by a gang of rustlers with Meeker's foreman Jack Anthony (Kenneth Thomson) stirring up trouble between the two camps.

Kenneth Thomson, Robert Warwick, Paula Stone, Jimmy Ellison

Johnny and pretty Mary Meeker (Paula Stone) fight and flirt their way toward a relationship. Things get truly tense when Johnny shows up at a Meeker party and gets into a fight with the crooked foreman Anthony. Johnny is accused of killing a Meeker cowboy and the cry goes out to "string him up". If Cassidy and Red hadn't been looking out for him, Johnny would have been a goner. Cassidy is wounded in the melee but patched up by Uncle Ben. From thereon, Bill declares he can "hop along with the best of them."

William Boyd, George "Gabby" Hayes

Red and Bill investigate and uncover the rustler's scheme. Knowing they are being played and proving it are two different things. It is Uncle Ben who discovers where the outlaws are hiding themselves and the cattle, but he is with the Meeker foreman at the time and pays with his life after bravely getting to Hoppy with the vital clue. This leads to an exhilarating scene of horsemen gathering and racing to the exciting finale where truth prevails and there is justice for Uncle Ben.

Now that things have been settled Buck Peters is once again on the move, planning to relocate to Wyoming. Johnny rides off leaving Mary on the ranch rather than have Hoppy and Red get into trouble without him.

Released in October of 1935, The Eagle's Brood was based on the 1930 novel Hopalong Cassidy and the Eagle's Brood. The outlaw El Toro (William Farnum) has not crossed the border in many years, but there is still a price on his head and he strikes fear in the hearts of many. One such man with a reason to fear El Toro is Big Henry (Addison Richards). Henry and his gang have murdered El Toro's son and daughter-in-law for the gold they were delivering to a bank. The bad men did not realize that they had left El Toro's young grandson alive as a witness.

William Boyd, Joan Woodbury

Dolores (Joan Woodbury), Big Henry's girlfriend who dances in his saloon has come across the youngster and understands the danger he faces. Dolores hides young Pablo and writes to El Toro. Crossing the border to reach his grandson El Toro saves the life of Sheriff Bill "Hopalong" Cassidy. Cassidy is beholden to El Toro and realizes the outlaw is too famous to be able to save his grandson. Hoppy promises to deliver the lad to El Toro to repay his debt. Hoppy's deputy Johnny Nelson (Jimmy Ellison) impetuously follows Hoppy on his quest.
William Boyd, George "Gabby" Hayes

Big Henry's minions include Paul Fix, who played nothing but weasels during this time in his career but would grow into the respected Micah Torrence on The Rifleman. George "Gabby" Hayes is featured as a bartender named Spike. Spike maintains an effort to remain neutral in Big Henry's battles, but his heart is in the right place which will do him no good when it comes to the final shootout. 

In melodramatic fashion, reminiscent of Nancy in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, our dancing Dolores's efforts to return Pablo safely to his grandfather without giving up the gang results in her murder. There will be more twists and turns and bloodshed before the reunion of the grateful old outlaw and his orphaned grandson.

Doris Schroeder's script was based on characters created by Clarence E. Mulford for this November 1935 release. We bring the gang back to Buck Peters (J.P. McGowan) Bar 20 ranch where Buck's sister Clarissa (Ethel Wales) brings some maiden lady bossiness to the group. Hoppy and Red avoid Clarissa's orders when a rancher named Arnold writes for help with rustlers led by the mysterious "Nevada." Johnny is particularly asked not to come along as Mr. Arnold's daughter Margaret (Jean Rouverol) has soured on this former sweetheart. Johnny doesn't believe it and heads into trouble regardless. Margaret has been to school in Boston and her tastes have changed. She wants the comforts of city life and a neighbouring dude, George Purdue (Harry Worth) is promising those things.

Jean Rouverol, Jimmy Ellison

Red and Johnny remain at the Arnold ranch while Hoppy heads into the mountains in an effort to scope out the outlaws. Disguised as a gambler and calling himself Tex Riley, Hoppy teams up with an old-time prospector called "Windy" (George "Gabby" Hayes). Finding a stranger to regale with tall tales, Windy likes to relate his exploits with the famous Hopalong Cassidy.

William Boyd, Harry Worth

The easterner Purdue is (surprise!) the rustler Nevada. He is an interesting villain for a B western, with an obsessive admiration for Napoleon to augment his plans to have the biggest cattle ranch in the state. Purdue finds it particularly galling that he should have a rival in a common ranch hand such as Johnny. Among Nevada's crew, we find the ubiquitous 1930s minion Paul Fix. Al St. John plays a doomed outlaw named Cinco who invites the callousness of his boss.

Having determined the identity and hideout of the rustlers, Hoppy signals the Arnold ranch and justice can be served. In this outing, the chase begins with the riders preparations to take out after the crooks. The lack of a score makes the sequence quite effective, but you won't be missing the stirring chase music as that will come in time. Johnny, rushing into things ahead of Hoppy's signal, gets himself captured and requires rescuing. It's a good thing Jimmy Ellison is so good looking because Johnny can get rather annoying at times.

George "Gabby" Hayes, William Boyd, Paul Fix

Outlaw Herb Layton (Joe Rickson) gets the last word on Purdue/Nevada who proves himself a coward in the face of his own destruction. Happily, after the deaths of Spike and Uncle Ben in our previous movies, Gabby Hayes' character of Windy lives and joins up with Hoppy to return to the Bar 20. "I'll be with ya' till the durn thing blows up!"


The above publicity from Paramount shows how seriously the studio considered future Oscar winner James Gleason for the role of Cassidy. The wiry Gleason could play ornery as easily as he could play lovable, but in the luckiest break of his career, William Boyd was given the role. He made Hoppy an upstanding man of honour and an idol for generations of popcorn-munching munchkins.


  1. Very interesting!! I definitely have to check these out. Content wise would you say they're great for ages under 10 too? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Definitely fine for youngsters. My viewing of the movies today is tinged with nostalgia for the early viewings of my childhood.

  2. I remember JAMES GLEASON from A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN with DOROTHY MCGUIRE, PEGGY ANN GARNER and JOAN BLONDELL. Also you mentioned GEORGE BARNES was the cameraman on those two JESSE JAMES movies (from yesterday). BARNES and BLONDELL were once married but they were already divorced by the time he did those movies. We have mentioned before that Joan was in the show HERE COME THE BRIDES.

    1. Again, you drew a neat circle around the far flung information in my posts.

  3. Aww - my Dad loves Hopalong Cassidy and my siblings and I bought the TV show for him!

    1. That's so nice of you to get the shows for your dad. They are well-paced and entertaining, and cheer me considerably.

  4. I just remembered in CAUSE FOR ALARM with LORETTA YOUNG that the little neighbor boy would play HOPALONG CASSIDY and say his bike was a horse. That was cute! Also BARRY SULLIVAN was in the movie as ELLENS husband GEORGE Z. JONES. This was in 1951. I read on somebody elses blog that you have a retro crush on Barry Sullivan. I like his work in movies. He worked with big-name actresses including CLAUDETTE COLBERT in TEXAS LADY.

    1. If I watch Cause for Alarm with Barry's psycho hubby, I must pair it with something like Jeopardy where Barry played a "good guy" husband to Barbara Stanwyck.

      Barry Sullivan is excellent in westerns. He gives a terrific performance as the villain in Seven Ways from Sundown. He was in one of my favourite episodes of The Virginian, Woman from White Wing. When I was a kid, Barry Sullivan starred in a series called The Road West. It was short-lived but made an impression on me.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on these "Hoppy" films and am glad to belatedly catch up with the post. I've seen the first couple films here but still need to see BAR 20 RIDES AGAIN. I've managed to record them all and recently went through and numbered a bunch of the early titles so I can watch them in order! Really looking forward to catching more.

    Best wishes,

    1. Laura, I'm so pleased you enjoyed this piece. I'm crazy about Bar 20 Rides Again and hope it makes your fave list.

  6. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks alot! ดูหนังออนไลน์



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