: [In an interview with Motion Picture in which he cheerfully stated he didn't know the first thing about being an actor] If they ever cast me as anything but Bill Boyd, I'm done.
William Lawrence Boyd was an American film actor who is best known for portraying the cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy.
The son of a day laborer, William Boyd moved with his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he was seven. His parents died while he was in his early teens, forcing him to quit school and take such jobs as a grocery clerk, surveyor and oil field worker.
He went to Hollywood in 1919, already gray-haired. His first role was as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's Why Change Your Wife? (1920). He bought some fancy clothes, caught DeMille's eye and got the romantic lead in The Volga Boatman (1926), quickly becoming a matinée idol and earning upwards of $100,000 a year.
However, with the end of silent movies, Boyd was without a contract, couldn't find work and was going broke. By mistake his picture was run in a newspaper story about the arrest of another actor with a similar name (William 'Stage' Boyd) on gambling, liquor and morals charges, and that hurt his career even more.
In 1935 he was offered the lead role in Hop-a-Long Cassidy (1935) (named because of a limp caused by an earlier bullet wound). He changed the original pulp-fiction character to its opposite, made sure that "Hoppy" didn't smoke, drink, chew tobacco or swear, rarely kissed a girl and let the bad guy draw first.
William Boyd lived in a cabin in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine while he made some of the Hoppy movies. It is also where he and his wife Grace spent their honeymoon. That same cabin, now known as "Hoppy Cabin", was used in 6 Hopalong Cassidy movies. It is easily recognized by the stone well in front of the house.
In 1948 Boyd, in a savvy and precedent-setting move, bought the rights to all his pictures (he had to sell his ranch to raise the money) just as TV was looking for Saturday morning Western fare. He marketed all sorts of "Hoppy" products (lunch boxes, toy guns, cowboy hats, etc.) and received royalties from comic books, radio and records.
During the production of Suicide Fleet (1931), William Boyd and several other actors performed an unscheduled rescue at sea when a launch exploded off the Coronado Islands in the Pacific. Nine men, members of the film expedition, were in the launch when its gas tanks blew up, throwing all into the water. Two of the men were slightly burned, but William Boyd, James Gleason, and Robert Armstrong quickly took action and plunged into the ocean to rescue their assistants.
He retired to Palm Desert, California, in 1953. In 1968 he had surgery to remove a tumor from a lymph gland and from then on refused all interview and photograph requests.