Saturday, June 5, 2010
William Lawrence Boyd (June 5, 1895–September 12, 1972)
William Lawrence Boyd (June 5, 1895–September 12, 1972) was an American film actor best known for portraying Hopalong Cassidy.
In 1935 he was offered the lead role in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy. He changed the original pulp fiction character, written by Clarence E. Mulford, from a whiskey-guzzling wrangler to a cowboy hero who did not smoke, drink or swear and who always let the bad guy start the fight. Boyd would be indelibly associated with the Hopalong Cassidy character and he gained lasting fame in the Western film genre because of it. Both Clark Gable and Robert Mitchum got their first big break in movies playing villains in westerns starring Boyd.
Anticipating television's rise Boyd purchased the rights to the character of Hopalong and the 66 Hopalong Cassidy movies. In 1949 he released the films to television where they became extremely popular and began the long-running genre of westerns on television. Along with other cowboy figures such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, Boyd licensed merchandise including such products as Hopalong Cassidy watches, cups and dishes, comic books and cowboy outfits. Boyd identified with his character, often dressing as a cowboy in public, and used his fame and fortune to meet with children around the world. The Hopalong Cassidy films remain available for broadcast and are on DVD in restored form.
Boyd appeared as Hopalong Cassidy on the cover of numerous national magazines, including the August 29, 1950 issue of Look and the November 27, 1950 issue of Time.
Boyd had a cameo as himself in Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth.
Since 1991, the Friends of Hoppy Fan Club has held the Hopalong Cassidy Festival in Cambridge, Ohio, near Boyd's birthplace.