George Francis 'Gabby' Hayes (May 7, 1885 – February 9, 1969) was an American actor. He was best known for his numerous appearances in western movies as the colorful sidekick to the leading man. (Not to be confused with British character actor George Hayes [1888-1967], who made a few movies in the U.S.)
Hayes married Olive E. Ireland, daughter of a New Jersey glass finisher, on March 4, 1914. She joined him in vaudeville, performing under the name Dorothy Earle (not to be confused with film actress/writer Dorothy Earle). She convinced him in 1929 to try his luck in motion pictures, and the couple moved to Los Angeles. They remained together until her death July 5, 1957. The couple had no children.
Hayes, in real life an intelligent, well groomed, and articulate man, was cast as a grizzled codger who uttered phrases like "consarn it", "yer durn tootin", "durn persnickety female", and "young whippersnapper".
Hayes played the part of Windy Halliday, the sidekick to Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd), from 1935 to 1939. In 1939, Hayes left Paramount Pictures in a dispute over his salary and moved to Republic Pictures. Paramount held the rights to the name Windy Halliday, so a new nickname was created for Hayes' character; Gabby. As Gabby Whitaker, Hayes appeared in more than 40 pictures between 1939 and 1946, usually with Roy Rogers but also with Gene Autry or Bill Elliot, often working under the directorship of Joseph Kane.
Hayes was also repeatedly cast as a sidekick to western icons Randolph Scott (6 times) and John Wayne (approx. 20 times). In fact, Wayne and Hayes made numerous films together in the very early 1930s with Hayes playing "straight" pre-sidekick roles, and sometimes even the villain. Hayes became a popular performer and consistently appeared among the ten favorite actors in polls taken of movie-goers of the period. He appeared in either or both the Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice Magazine lists of Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars for twelve straight years and a thirteenth time in 1954, four years after his last movie.
The western film genre declined in the late 1940s and Hayes made his last film appearance in The Cariboo Trail (1950). He moved to television and hosted The Gabby Hayes Show, a western series, from 1950 to 1954, and a new version in 1956. He introduced the show, often while whittling on a piece of wood and would sometimes throw in some tall stories. Half way through the show he would say something else and at the end too but he did not appear as an active character in the stories themselves. When the series ended he retired from show business. He lent his name to a comic book series and to a children's summer camp in New York.
Gabby was also immortalized once again in the Simpsons episode where Milhouse becomes "Fallout Boy," the producer of the film comments that Milhouse is "..going to be big, Gabby Hayes big!"
Additionally, every year in April at the beginning of fishing season in Pennsylvania, the Gabby Hayes Memorial Fishing Tournament is held. The first tournament was held in 1969, the year of Hayes's death.