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William Boyd (actor)

William Boyd (actor)

American actor
The basics
Occupations Actor
Countries United States of America
Gender male
Birth June 5, 1895 (Ohio)
Death September 12, 1972 (Laguna Beach)
Spouse: Elinor FairDorothy SebastianGrace BradleyRuth Miller
Authority IMDB id ISNI id Library of congress id NNDB id VIAF id
The details

William Lawrence Boyd (June 5, 1895 – September 12, 1972) was an American film actor known for portraying the cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy.


Boyd was born in Hendrysburg, Ohio, and reared in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hwe was the son of a day laborer, Charles William Boyd, and his wife, the former Lida Wilkens. Following his father's death, he moved to California and worked as an orange picker, surveyor, tool dresser and auto salesman.

In Hollywood, he found work as an extra in Why Change Your Wife? and other films. During World War I, he enlisted in the army but was exempt from military service because of a "weak heart". More prominent film roles followed, and he became famous as a leading man in silent film romances, earning an annual salary of $100,000. He was the lead actor in Cecil B. DeMille's The Volga Boatman (1926) and acted in DeMille's extravaganza The King of Kings (in which he played Simon of Cyrene, helping Jesus carry the cross) and DeMille's Skyscraper (1928). He then appeared in D.W. Griffith's Lady of the Pavements (1929).

Radio Pictures ended Boyd's contract in 1931 when his picture was mistakenly run in a newspaper story about the arrest of another actor, William "Stage" Boyd, on gambling and liquor charges. Although the newspaper apologized, explaining the mistake in the following day's newspaper, Boyd said, "the damage was already done." Ironically, William "Stage" Boyd died in 1935, the same year William L. Boyd became Hopalong Cassidy, the role that led to his enduring fame. But at the time in 1931, Boyd was now virtually broke and without a job, and for a few years he was credited in films as "Bill Boyd" to prevent being mistaken for the other William Boyd.

Hopalong Cassidy

In 1935, Boyd was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but he asked to be considered for the title role and won it. The original character of Hopalong Cassidy character, written by Clarence E. Mulford for pulp magazines, was changed from a hard-drinking, rough-living red-headed wrangler to a cowboy hero who did not smoke, swear, or drink alcohol (his drink of choice being sarsaparilla) and who always let the bad guy start the fight. Although Boyd "never branded a cow or mended a fence, cannot bulldog a steer" and disliked Western music, he became indelibly associated with the Hopalong character and, like the cowboy stars Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, gained lasting fame in the Western film genre.

The films were more polished and impressive than the usual low-budget "program westerns." The Hopalong Cassidy adventures usually boasted superior outdoor photography of scenic locations and "name" supporting players familiar from major Hollywood films. Big-city theaters, which usually wouldn't play Westerns, noticed the high quality of the productions and gave the series more exposure than other cowboy films could hope for. Paramount Pictures released the films through 1941. United Artists produced them from 1943.

The producer Harry "Pop" Sherman wanted to make more ambitious epics and abandoned the Hopalong Cassidy franchise. Boyd, determined to keep it alive, produced the last 12 Cassidy features himself on noticeably lower budgets. By this time, interest in the character had waned, and with far fewer theaters still showing the films, the series ended in 1948.

Boyd insisted on buying the rights to all of the Hopalong Cassidy films. Harry Sherman no longer cared about the property—he thought both the films and the star were played out—and regarded Boyd's all-consuming interest with skepticism. Boyd was so single-minded about his mission that he sold or mortgaged almost everything he owned to meet Sherman's price of $350,000 for the rights and the film backlog.

In 1948 Boyd, now regarded as a washed-up cowboy star and with his fortunes at their lowest ebb, brought a print of one of his older pictures to the local NBC television station and offered it at a nominal rental, hoping for new exposure. The film was received so well that NBC asked for more, and within months Boyd released the entire library to the national network. They became extremely popular and began the long-running genre of Westerns on television. Boyd's desperate gamble paid off, making him the first national TV star and restoring his personal fortune. Like Rogers and Autry, Boyd licensed much merchandise, including such products as Hopalong Cassidy watches, trash cans, cups, dishes, Topps trading cards, a comic strip, comic books, cowboy outfits, home-movie digests of his Paramount releases via Castle Films, and a new Hopalong Cassidy radio show, which ran from 1948 to 1952.

The actor identified with his character, often dressing as a cowboy in public. Although Boyd's portrayal of Hopalong made him very wealthy, he believed that it was his duty to help strengthen his "friends" – America's youth. The actor refused to license his name for products he viewed as unsuitable or dangerous and turned down personal appearances at which his "friends" would be charged admission.

Boyd appeared as Hopalong Cassidy on the cover of numerous national magazines, including Look (August 29, 1950) and Time (November 27, 1950). For Thanksgiving in 1950, he led the Carolinas' Carrousel Parade in Charlotte, North Carolina, and drew an estimated crowd of 500,000 persons, the largest in the parade's history.

Boyd had a cameo role as himself in Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth. DeMille reportedly asked Boyd to take the role of Moses in his remake of The Ten Commandments, but Boyd felt his identification with the Cassidy character would make it impossible for audiences to accept him as Moses.

Personal life

Boyd was married five times, first to Laura Maynard and then to the actresses Ruth Miller, Elinor Fair, Dorothy Sebastian and Grace Bradley. A son, by his third wife, Elinor Fair, died aged 9 months. Following his retirement from the screen, Boyd invested both time and money in real estate and moved to Palm Desert, California. He refused interviews and photographs in later years, preferring not to disillusion his millions of fans who remembered him as a screen idol.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1734 Vine Street. In 1995, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The inner sleeve of the original American Pie album by Don McLean featured a free verse poem written by McLean about Boyd, with a picture of Boyd in full Hopalong regalia. This sleeve was removed within a year of the album's release. The words to this poem appear on a plaque at the hospital where Boyd died.

At his death in 1972, he was survived by his fifth wife, the actress Grace Bradley Boyd, who died on September 21, 2010, on her 97th birthday.


Hopalong Cassidy, TV series (1952–1954) - Hopalong Cassidy

"Little Smokey: The True Story of America's Forest Fire Preventin' Bear", short film (1953) - Hopalong Cassidy (narrator)

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) - Hopalong Cassidy

Strange Gamble (1948) - Hopalong Cassidy

False Paradise (1948) - Hopalong Cassidy

Borrowed Trouble (1948) - Hopalong Cassidy

Sinister Journey (1948) - Hopalong Cassidy

The Dead Don't Dream (1948) - Hopalong Cassidy

Silent Conflict (1948) - Hopalong Cassidy

Hoppy's Holiday (1947) - Hopalong Cassidy

The Marauders (1947) - Hopalong Cassidy

Dangerous Venture (1947) - Hopalong Cassidy

Unexpected Guest (1947) - Hopalong Cassidy

Fool's Gold (1946) - Hopalong Cassidy

The Devil's Playground (1946) - Hopalong Cassidy

Forty Thieves (1944) - Hopalong Cassidy

Mystery Man (1944) - Hopalong Cassidy

Lumberjack (1944) - Hopalong Cassidy

Texas Masquerade (1944) - Hopalong Cassidy

Riders of the Deadline (1943) - Hopalong Cassidy

False Colors (1943) - Hopalong Cassidy

Bar 20 (1943) - Hopalong Cassidy

Colt Comrades (1943) - Hopalong Cassidy

Leather Burners (1943) - Hopalong Cassidy

Border Patrol (1943) - Hopalong Cassidy

Hoppy Serves a Writ (1943) - Hopalong Cassidy

Lost Canyon (1942) - Hopalong Cassidy

Undercover Man (1942) - Hopalong Cassidy

Secrets of the Wasteland (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Outlaws of the Desert (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Twilight on the Trail (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Riders of the Timberline (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Stick to Your Guns (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Wide Open Town (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Pirates on Horseback (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Border Vigilantes (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

In Old Colorado (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Doomed Caravan (1941) - Hopalong Cassidy

Three Men from Texas (1940) - Hopalong Cassidy

Stagecoach War (1940) - Hopalong Cassidy

Hidden Gold (1940) - Hopalong Cassidy

The Showdown (1940) - Hopalong Cassidy

Santa Fe Marshal (1940) - Hopalong Cassidy

Law of the Pampas (1939) - Hopalong Cassidy

Range War (1939) - Hopalong Cassidy

Renegade Trail (1939) - Hopalong Cassidy

Silver on the Sage (1939) - Hopalong Cassidy

The Frontiersmen (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

In Old Mexico (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

Sunset Trail (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

Pride of the West (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

Bar 20 Justice (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

Heart of Arizona (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

Cassidy of Bar 20 (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

Partners of the Plains (1938) - Hopalong Cassidy

Texas Trail (1937) - Hopalong Cassidy

Hopalong Rides Again (1937) - Hopalong Cassidy

Rustlers' Valley (1937) - Hopalong Cassidy

North of the Rio Grande (1937) - Hopalong Cassidy

Hills of Old Wyoming (1937) - Hopalong Cassidy

Borderland (1937) - Hopalong Cassidy

Trail Dust (1936) - Hopalong Cassidy

Hopalong Cassidy Returns (1936) - Hopalong Cassidy

Go-Get-'Em-Haines (1936) - Steve Haines

Burning Gold (1936) - Jim Thornton

Federal Agent (1936) - Bob Woods

Three on the Trail (1936) - Hopalong Cassidy

Call of the Prairie (1936) - Hopalong Cassidy

Heart of the West (1936) - Hopalong Cassidy

Bar 20 Rides Again (1935) - Hopalong Cassidy

Racing Luck (1935) - Dan Morgan

The Eagle's Brood (1935) - Bill Hopalong Cassidy

Hop-Along Cassidy (1935) - Bill Hopalong Cassidy

Port of Lost Dreams (1934) - Lars Christensen

Cheaters (1934) - Steve Morris

Emergency Call (1933) - Joe Bradley

Lucky Devils (1933) - Skipper Clark

Men of America (1932) - Jim Parker

Flaming Gold (1932) - Dan Manton

Carnival Boat (1932) - Buck Gannon

Suicide Fleet (1932) - Baltimore Clark

The Big Gamble (1931) - Alan Beckwith

Beyond Victory (1931) - Sergeant Bill Thatcher

The Painted Desert (1931) - Bill Holbrook

Officer O'Brien (1930) - Bill O'Brien

His First Command (1929) - Terry Culver

High Voltage (1929) - Bill

The Flying Fool (1929) - Bill Taylor

The Leatherneck (1929) - William Calhoun

Lady of the Pavements (1929) - Count Karl Von Arnim

Power (1928) - Husky

The Cop (1928) - Pete Smith

Skyscraper (1928) - Blondy

The Night Flyer (1928) - Jim Bradley

Dress Parade (1927) - Vic Donovan

Two Arabian Knights (1927) - W. Daingerfield Phelps III

The King of Kings (1927) - Simon of Cyrene

The Yankee Clipper (1927) - Captain Hal Winslow

Wolves of the Air (1927) - Jerry Tanner

Jim, the Conqueror (1926) - Jim Burgess

Her Man o' War (1926) - Jim Sanderson

The Last Frontier (1926) - Tom Kirby

Eve's Leaves (1926) - Bill Stanley

The Volga Boatman (1926) - Feodor

Steel Preferred (1925) - Wally Gay

The Road to Yesterday (1925) - Jack Moreland

The Midshipman (1925) - Spud

Forty Winks (1925) - Lt. Gerald Hugh Butterworth

Feet of Clay (1924) - uncredited role

Tarnish (1924) - Bill

Changing Husbands (1924) - Conrad Bradshaw

Triumph (1924) - uncredited role

Enemies of Children (1923) - uncredited role

The Temple of Venus (1923) - Stanley Dale

Adam's Rib (1923) - uncredited role as a party guest

Michael O'Halloran (1923) - Douglas Bruce

The Young Rajah (1922) - Stephen Van Kovert

Manslaughter (1922) - uncredited role

On the High Seas (1922) - Dick Deveraux

Nice People (1922) - Oliver Comstock

Bobbed Hair (1922) - Dick Barton

Moran of the Lady Letty (1922) - uncredited role

Saturday Night (1922) - uncredited role

Fool's Paradise (1921) - uncredited role

Exit the Vamp (1921) - Robert Pitts

After the Show (1921) - uncredited role

The Affairs of Anatol (1921) - uncredited role

Moonlight and Honeysuckle (1921) - Robert V. Courtney

A Wise Fool (1921) - Gerard Fynes

Brewster's Millions (1921) - Harrison

Forbidden Fruit (1921) - uncredited role as billiards player

Paying the Piper (1921) - uncredited role

The Junklings (1921) - Dan Stuart

The Life of the Party (1920) - uncredited role as one of Leary's office staff

A City Sparrow (1920) - Hughie Ray

Something to Think About (1920) - uncredited

The City of Masks (1920) - Carpenter

Why Change Your Wife? (1920) - uncredited role as naval officer at hotel

The Six Best Sellers (1920) - Holsappel, uncredited role

Was He Guilty? (1919) - uncredited role

Old Wives for New (1918) - uncredited role as an extra

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