”Like all heroic tales, the story is an intertwining of many lives, including Grace Bradley, a 12 year-old girl who fell in love with a charismatic silent film star and ten years later fulfilled her childhood vow to marry him, and William Boyd, a fading actor inspired by love and gratitude to dedicate his life to the character that became a beacon to the world.”
William Boyd, playboy, social drunk and womanizer transforms into the honest, straight-shootin’ dedicated role model in the role of Hopalong Cassidy.A fading career as an obscure B-Movie, urbane, romantic leading man; revitalized by a role in contradiction to his life at that point. Hopalong represented an affirmation of American myth, the element of redemption and part of a cultural iconography with a twist. He was white haired and wore black and was reserved and well spoken.Unusual, since to that time in American culture, black was associated with mourning and Italian fascism.
A meditative type of warrior within a context of fast action and the vagaries of the wild west in the new world; highlighted by excellent outdoor photography by Russell Harlan.
”The strength of this commercial empire, however, rested with the character Hopalong Cassidy and the values he personified on the TV screen. Astride his pure white horse, Topper, the silver-haired Cassidy was a puritanical figure whose crusade for justice was always accomplished with understated flair. Hoppy never smoked or chewed tobacco. When he entered a saloon he avoided alcohol and usually ordered sarsaparilla. When he spoke with his guns drawn on a desperado, he was grammatically efficient. “Drop them guns on the ground unless you’re gonna use ‘em,” and “Alright, Johnny, tie ‘em up. They’re through for the day” were authoritative and typically terse orders from Hopalong Cassidy…Hoppy was all business. No woman ever won his heart. In fact, in all his films Cassidy kissed a woman only once, and she was on her deathbed at the time.”
Boyd mortgaged everything he owned to buy the character rights and backlog of movies in making the switch to then new network television. for which the series became the first networked t.v series and made his risk worthwhile as he made millions on his gamble on cross merchandising, licensing and derivative products from lunch boxes to jack knives. This established a new marketing pattern based on television popularity and appeal to the youth market carefully exploited by the Beatles in the 1960′s.
Ironically, German born intellectual Herbert Marcuse was described by fellow intellectual Theodor Adorno as a devoted and loyal fan of Hopalong Cassidy, about the only form of popular entertainment to which attracted any interest on his part. Marcuse, known as the ”father of the new left”, was a philosopher, social theorist and political activist.” His theory of “one-dimensional” society provided critical perspectives on contemporary capitalist and state communist societies and his notion of “the great refusal” won him renown as a theorist of revolutionary change and “liberation from the affluent society.” Consequently, he became one of the most influential intellectuals in the United States during the 1960s and into the 1970s.”
Marcuse developed a theory of ”surplus repression” in society while simultaneously sketching the outlines of a non-repressive society. Marcuse argued that other elements in Freud’s theory suggested that the unconscious contained evidence of an instinctual drive towards happiness and freedom.
” This evidence is articulated, Marcuse suggests, in daydreams, works of art, philosophy, and other cultural products. Based on this reading of Freud and study of an emancipatory tradition of philosophy and culture, Marcuse sketched the outlines of a non-repressive civilization which would involve libidinal and non-alienated labor, play, free and open sexuality, and production of a society and culture which would further freedom and happiness. His vision of liberation anticipated many of the values of the 1960s counterculture and helped Marcuse to become a major intellectual and political influence during that decade.”
Its hard to determine whether in Hopalong, Marcuse was attracted to the notion of myth and origin of America, a new system of archetypes within what could be referred to as a community of communication within a republic of mass culture. The symbols, myths and cultural narrative of the Old West, as metaphor for biblical immemorial pst now reaching out to an audience in the form of a blurred and not quite distinct future.
NO MATTER HOW SCARY LIFE GOT I COULD DEPEND ON YOU
YOU HAD THAT EASY SMILE AND WHITE, WAVY HAIR
YOU WERE MY FAVORITE FATHER FIGURE WITH TWO GUNS BLAZING
NOT EVEN VICTOR JORY COULD STAND UP TO THOSE 44-40′S YOU PACKED
AND THAT STALLION YOU RODE, I THINK HIS NAME WAS TOPPER
HE WAS SO BEAUTIFUL AND WHITE HE EVEN CAME WHEN YOU WHISTLED
I’VE ALWAYS LIKED BLACK AND I LOVED YOUR CLOTHES
BLACK HAT, BLACK PANTS AND SHIRT
SILVER SPURS AND TWO GUNS IN BLACK HOLSTERS WITH PEARLY WHITE HANDLES
BLACK AND WHITE, THAT WAS YOU HOPPY
THE BAD MEN FELL THE GOOD GUYS LIVED ON
THE LADIES TOUCHED YOUR HAND BUT NEVER KISSED
WHENEVER JOHN CARRADINE ASKED A QUESTION YOU’D SAY
“THAT COMES UNDER THE HEADING OF MY BUSINESS” THEN YOU’D CALL FOR ANOTHER SARSPARILLA
I BELIEVED IN YOU SO MUCH THAT I’D TAKE MY STETSON
OFF AND PUT IT OVER MY HEART WHENEVER ANYBODY DIED
MY HAT’S OFF TO YOU, HOPPY
SAY GOOD-BYE TO ALL THE BOYS AT THE BAR-20
THE BLACK AND WHITE DAYS ARE OVER
SO LONG HOPALONG CASSIDY.
Copyright 1971 Don McLean. Used by permission of Don McLean.