WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

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Donald Binks
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WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by Donald Binks » Thu Feb 08, 2018 4:41 pm

I was watching William Boyd in a picture the other day and I remembered how I used to like his Hopalong Cassidy pictures when I was a boy. I also remembered seeing him when he came to Melbourne many years back.

Well, I researched that last point on Google and came across an article in the Melbourne "Age" back in 2013 recalling that event. It was in 1954. I had no idea it was that long ago! (Time flies when you're having fun!).

Anyway here is the article as written by John Elder.

Image

"At the bottom of the world, the stars have always burnt bright - especially in the days when they rarely came calling.

In November 1954, two years before television was switched on in Australia, and when the Saturday afternoon movie matinee was every kid's dream, a visit by a Hollywood cowboy was enough to spark a riot, pilgrimages through the desert and the Melbourne council's ban on a parade, fearing the city wouldn't survive.

All this for Hopalong Cassidy, a man whose real name isn't widely remembered (William Boyd) and who in many ways was well past his prime when he landed on our shores. His movies were first released in the 1930s and '40s, but still got a regular airing.

Melbourne researcher Derham Groves is writing a book to ensure this hysterical episode in Australia's cultural history isn't lost - and he's hoping to hear from the children, now in their 60s and 70s, who were taken to see Hopalong drive a Land Rover around Albert Park, ride a horse down Lonsdale Street, or be part of a melee in an overcrowded circus tent.

''It's incredible to think that 60,000 people turned up at Albert Park to see him drive a truck. He wasn't a singer, and wasn't performing in a show. It was just Hopalong making an appearance - and that was enough to bring out these huge crowds,'' says Dr Groves, a senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Melbourne and an expert in long-ago stars venturing Down Under. He previously published a book in the US about the 1939 visit to Australia ''by the drop-dead gorgeous Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong''.

The Hopalong tour came at a time when the world was suffering a polio epidemic, and Boyd was raising money for children crippled by the disease and visiting sick kids in hospitals. The Queen had visited that year, and no one was allowed to shake her hand and flowers had to be placed on the ground to ensure she wasn't infected.

''This was two years before Jonas Salk came up with the vaccine, and people were very frightened. But Hopalong was hugging people, very affectionate. He had a big heart,'' Dr Groves says.

Boyd had been fund-raising in England - where he didn't draw huge crowds - and after the island-hopping flight, he decided to take a few days' rest in Darwin. Somehow word got out, and Aboriginal stockmen, dressed in their Hollywood cowboy clothes, rode up to 500 kilometres to see him.

''Because of the racist laws that were happening at the time, there was only one day of the week when there wasn't a curfew, and that was Wednesday, when they showed cowboy movies … so they all knew Hopalong and they just idolised him.''

In Melbourne, the idolatry was insane. One of Boyd's gigs was a 3AW broadcast from a circus tent: 4000 people bought tickets but 12,000 turned up. While the ticket-holders lined up to get into the tent, the gatecrashers were sneaking their children under the canvas. ''Hopalong was pushed to the back of the tent. He called for calm, but they were trying to take his clothes off,'' says Dr Groves.

The police were overwhelmed, and the circus had to deploy two of its elephants to bring the riot under control.

Dr Groves has already heard from several people who met Hopalong, including this recollection from Robert McMahon, who was a 13-year-old boy living in St Augustine's orphanage in Geelong when his hero paid a visit.

''The kids at the orphanage saw him at the movies once a week … but to get so close to him was something … I can still see his eyes and look that you could not forget … He had a place in his heart, I felt, about children and orphanages.

''I can remember shaking his hand, and I went 'bang bang' with the gun he gave me, and most of all … that smile he had, he never seemed to lose it, as I can remember him in the movies … I thought it the biggest thing that ever happened to me, to be given that one chance in my life is as good as it gets. It was so big. Everybody all over Melbourne was talking about him weeks later, even years later.''

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Re: WHEN HOPPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by Brooksie » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:11 pm

My father's parents took him out to see him arrive at Mascot (now Kingsford-Smith) Airport in Sydney. My Dad was not much more than five years old at the time, and yet he still remembers the aeroplane, complete with a star on the side.
Last edited by Brooksie on Thu Feb 08, 2018 11:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Donald Binks
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Re: WHEN HOPPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by Donald Binks » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:15 pm

Brooksie wrote:My father's parents took him out to see him arrive Mascot (now Kingsford-Smith) Airport in Sydney. My Dad was not much more than five years old at the time, and yet he still remembers the aeroplane, complete with a star on the side.
My distinct memory of him is when he rode his horse down one of Melbourne's city streets!
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Re: WHEN HOPPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by Rick Lanham » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:17 pm

I think the shows were on late Saturday afternoons where I lived.

I'm sure I saw as many as possible. I'm glad to read this article where Hoppy
seems as kind as I hoped he was.

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Re: WHEN HOPPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by ClayKing » Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:58 pm

How timely! The Starz Western channel has just begun broadcasting the TV series here in the U.S. I haven't seen any Hoppy TV shows since they were first broadcast, so I'll have to check it out. I recall reading that Boyd was very serious about being a positive role model for children.
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Re: WHEN HOPPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by bobfells » Thu Feb 08, 2018 9:55 pm

I understand that Boyd was quite sincere in his love for kids. It is a sign of how times have changed to see all those children brandishing guns!
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Re: WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by MaryGH » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:32 am

William Boyd made a few Hopalong Cassidy film with Tom Tyler, "Border Vigilantes" and "Riders of the Timberline".

I also have in my book collection, a few first editions, "Hopalong Cassidy's Protege" and "Hopalong Cassidy Takes Cards" by his creator, Clarence E. Mulford.

Like Tom, William was indeed a positive role model for children, both made movies that were considered good, clean entertainment.
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Re: WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by cowhandpete » Fri Feb 09, 2018 7:28 am

Such a wonderful story, Donald.

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Re: WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by drednm » Fri Feb 09, 2018 7:33 am

When I was a small kid I had a Hopalong Cassidy bedroom set that included a bedspread and a rug. There were sand brown in color with a dark red rope design and a image of Hoppy and the horse. Why I had these I have no idea. I have no memory of ever watching him on TV, but I do remember watching Roy Rogers and singing that damned song. The bedroom ensemble turned to dust many years ago.
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Re: WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by bobfells » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:23 am

Another recollection, Boyd was a friend of Bing Crosby and appeared on Bing's radio show over the years. In an early appearance in 1941 he is "Bill Boyd" but by the late 40s he's identified only as Hopalong Cassidy.

I understand that in his later years he was afflicted with Parkinson's and lost a great deal of weight. He consented to an interview but didn't allow a photo to be taken. He told the interviewer that he wanted people to remember him the way he used to be.
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Re: WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by greta de groat » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:27 am

When Clara Kimball Young was down on her luck in the 1930s playing small parts in B films, she had pretty good roles in three Hopalong Cassidy films.

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Re: WHEN HOPALONG CASSIDY CAME TO TOWN

Unread post by Brooksie » Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:09 pm

When Cinecon screened Eve's Leaves (1926) a few years back, in which Boyd is the male lead alongside Leatrice Joy, we were all very impressed by his deft handling of chopsticks in a sequence where he eats a Chinese meal. Probably not a very common skill in 1926 Hollywood - although who knows?

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