Hopalong Cassidy in the Saddle Again

LiveAuctionTalk.com:  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of PBA Galleries.

Time Magazine described cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy as having a semi-mystical relationship with kids.

William Boyd played Hopalong Cassidy in 66 films before bringing his character to TV in 1950.  Call it romantic fantasy but as a kid growing up in the inner-city of Pittsburgh Hoppy’s cowboy life made perfect sense. 

When you’ve got parents saying what a wonderful guy Hoppy is, what the hell do you do?  You’ve got to be a wonderful guy
— Hopalong Cassidy

Smokey skies and row houses couldn’t begin to compare to the life this 20th century knight of the plains lived.

Roaming around a landscape big enough to house dinosaurs, the open range and its promise of unlimited possibility was “pie-in-the-sky” at its best to me. 

I know the real story of the American West is more matter-of-fact but the fantasy is what sticks--even now some 50 years later.  With their ten-gallon hats and smiles full of teeth characters like Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans brought the fantasy to life. 

Hoppy alone received 15,000 fan letters a week, equally divided between boys and girls. And the guy never even strummed a guitar.   

Hoppy was one of those mythic characters that comes along every now and then, kinda like Superman. 

We understand they’re not real but we don’t really mind.

Before playing Hopalong Cassidy, William Boyd’s ambition was to be a car salesman.  Talk about a turn of events.

The story goes that Boyd had a reputation in Hollywood for being a boozer, womanizer and general rabble-rouser.  Producers were afraid to hire him. 

When he took the role in 1935 he was so inspired by the nobility of the Hopalong Cassidy character, he cleaned up his act.   He stayed faithful to his fourth wife, quit smoking, and never drank anything stronger than white wine.    

“When you’ve got parents saying what a wonderful guy Hoppy is, what the hell do you do?  You’ve got to be a wonderful guy,” he said.

When Boyd first took the role as the cowboy legend he was terrible with horses.  Topper, his magnificent white steed, in his black-and-silver parade bridle-and-saddle never shared top billing with the cowboy icon but was a star nonetheless because he chauffeured “the man” around.    

Hopalong Cassidy was a bachelor who never kissed a girl on screen but could spit tobacco juice almost as accurately as he could shoot his pearl-handed 45s. 

Unlike most good guys this good guy dressed in black.  I figure it was a fashion statement meant to mess with our heads.

In the end, Boyd brought the Hopalong Cassidy series to radio, comic books and to a theme park.  He also made appearances in circuses, rodeos, and hospital visits.

By the time he hung up his spurs, Hopalong Cassidy brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people.

On Jan 21, PBA Galleries offered the Gene Gammel Collection of Cowboy Toys and Memorabilia Part 1 at auction.  Gammel, a retired Senior Master Sergeant in the Police Department obviously loved Hoppy too.

Hopalong Cassidy

Cowboy hat; black felt; Hoppy logo; “Bar 20,” circa 1950s;  $60.

Mechanical Shooting Gallery; lithographed tin wind up toy; original box; 1950;  $156.

Wristwatch; child’s, original packaging, instructions and registration card; circa 1950s;  $192.

Wood burning and coloring sets; includes three Hoppy wood burning sets, two complete, one incomplete; coloring outfit complete; Hoppy crayon and stencil set complete; all in original boxes; circa 1950s;  $240.

Outfit and latex mask; three Hoppy cowboy outfits in original boxes; each includes shirt, pants; one costume includes holster and plastic gun; also latex mask in original box; circa 1950;  $390.    

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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