Hopalong Cassidy is a cowboy-hero, created in 1904 by Clarence E. Mulford and appearing in a series of popular stories and novels. In print, the character appears as a rude, rough-talking 'galoot'. Beginning in 1935, the character, played by William Boyd, was transformed into the clean-cut hero of a series of 66 immensely popular films, only a few of which were based on Mulford's works. Mulford actually rewrote his earlier stories to fit the movie conception, and these led in turn to a comic book series modeled after the films.
The juvenile lead was played by James Ellison, Russell Hayden, or Rand Brooks. Gabby Hayes originally played Cassidy's grizzled sidekick Windy Halliday. After Hayes left the series due to a salary dispute with producer Harry Sherman, he was replaced by comedian Britt Wood as Speedy McGinnis, and finally by veteran movie comedian Andy Clyde as California Carlson. Clyde, the most durable of the sidekicks, remained with the series until it ended.
The Hopalong Cassidy pictures were filmed not by movie studios, but by independent producers who released the films through the studios. Most of the "Hoppies," as the films were known, were distributed by Paramount Pictures to highly favorable returns, and were noted for their fast action and excellent outdoor photography (usually by Russell Harlan). Harry Sherman was anxious to make more ambitious movies and tried to cancel the Cassidy series, but popular demand forced Sherman to go back into production, this time for United Artists release. Sherman gave up the series once and for all in 1944, but star William Boyd wanted to keep it going. To do this, he gambled his entire future on Hopalong Cassidy, mortgaging virtually everything he owned to buy both the character rights from Mulford and the backlog of movies from Sherman.
The TV exposure started a huge merchandising boom, and Boyd made millions in licensing and endorsement deals. The Mutual Broadcasting System began broadcasting a radio version of Hopalong Cassidy, with Andy Clyde as the sidekick, in January 1950; at the end of September, the show moved to CBS Radio, where it ran into 1952. Also in 1950, Hopalong Cassidy was featured on the first lunch box to bear an image, causing sales for Aladdin Industries to jump from 50,000 units sold the previous year to 600,000 units sold. Hopalong Cassidy also appeared on the cover of national magazines, such as Look, Life and Time. In stores, there was a line of Hopalong Cassidy children's dinnerware, as well as Hopalong Cassidy roller skates, Hopalong Cassidy soap, Hopalong Cassidy wristwatches, and Hopalong Cassidy jackknives. There was also a new demand for Hopalong Cassidy features in movie theaters, and Boyd licensed reissue distributor Film Classics to make new film prints and advertising accessories. Another 1950 enterprise saw the home-movie company Castle Films manufacturing condensed versions of the Paramounts for 16mm and 8mm projectors; they were sold through 1966.
Boyd began work on a separate series of half-hour westerns made especially for television. Edgar Buchanan was the new sidekick, Red Connors. The theme music for the TV show was written by veteran songwriters Nacio Herb Brown (music) and L. Wolfe Gilbert (lyrics). The show ranked number 7 in the 1949 Nielsen ratings. The success of the show and tie-ins inspired several juvenile TV Westerns, including The Gene Autry Show and The Roy Rogers Show.
Boyd's company devoted to Hopalong Cassidy (U. S. Television Office) is still active and has released many of the features to DVD, many of them in sparkling prints prepared by Film Classics.
There have been a number of museum displays of Hopalong Cassidy. The major display is at the Autry Center at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. 15 miles east of Wichita KS at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper was the Hopalong Cassidy Museum. This museum was dedicated to the heroic image of Hopalong Cassidy. Unfortunately the Museum and its contents were auctioned on 24 Aug 2007, due to the failure of the its parent company Wild West World.
Caro, Joseph, CCN Publishing "Hopalong Cassidy Collectibles" 1,300 color photos and item conditions. 1998, Amazon.com Caro, Joseph -"Collectors Guide to Hopalong Cassidy Memorabilia" 1991 (out of print)