William Boyd was an actor in motion pictures, radio and television. He was best known in his role as a westerner named Hopalong Cassidy.
Hopalong Cassidy was a character in western novels written by Clarence Mulford during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Because of the popularity of the books, Paramount Studios made thirty-four films based on the character. United Artists then assumed production of the Hopalong Cassidy films and completed an additional thirty-one films. Beginning in 1950, several of the films were shortened for television. An additional fifty-two half hour programs were produced to continue the television program's run.
Actor William "Bill" Boyd played Hopalong Cassidy in the films and in all of the television episodes. Born in Hendrysburg, Ohio on June 5, 1895, Boyd spent much of his youth in Cambridge, Ohio. When Boyd was thirteen years old, his family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father died in a construction mishap, and Boyd took several positions, including car salesman and oilrig worker, to help support his family.
By the early 1920s, Boyd had arrived in Hollywood, California, where he began making silent films for Cecil B. DeMille. After a relatively successful movie career, Boyd was cast as Hopalong Cassidy in 1935. At first, Hopalong Cassidy only appeared in movies, but by the early 1950s, Boyd began to play the character on radio and television programs. At the height of popularity of the television show, Boyd received more than fifteen thousand fan letters per week. He made three world tours to promote the Hopalong Cassidy program. On one occasion, more than one million people came to see him at a public appearance.
Hopalong Cassidy was a true hero for many children during the first half of the twentieth century. Time Magazine declared, "Boyd made Hoppy a veritable Galahad of the range, a soft spoken paragon who did not smoke, drink or kiss girls, who tried to capture the rustlers instead of shooting them, and who always let the villain draw first if gunplay was inevitable." Boyd wanted children to respect Cassidy. He hoped that children would learn good morals from the Cassidy television programs and movies. Boyd helped create one of the most popular television and movie characters in history. William Boyd died in 1972.
- Keller, David Neal. "Hero in a Black Hat: Hopalong Cassidy." Timeline (January, March 2008): 2-19.