Hopalong Cassidy: A True American Icon [2 Discs] [DVD]
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Hills of Old Wyoming
Hills of Old Wyoming was the 10th entry in the "Hopalong Cassidy" series, and at 79 minutes one of the longest of the batch (beaten out only by the 82-minute Borderland). William Boyd and George "Gabby" Hayes are back as Hoppy and Windy, but handsome sidekick Johnny Nelson (James Ellison) has been replaced by Lucky Jenkins (Russell Hayden, who remained with the series until 1941). The plot focuses on an Indian reservation where the residents are being victimized by villainous deputy Andrews (Stephen Morris, aka Morris Ankrum). Fomenting a range war between Indians and cattlemen for his own profit, Andrews is foiled by Hoppy and company. Former silent screen star Clara Kimball Young is given a few moments to shine in the minor role of Ma Hutchins. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bar 20 Rides Again
Bar 20 Rides Again was the 3rd of William Boyd's Hopalong Cassidy flicks. As with most early entries in the Cassidy series, the film is longer than usual, with emphasis on dialogue and situation for the first 2/3 of the picture. This time, Hoppy runs up against cattle rustlers, headed by Harry Worth, a land baron with a Napoleonic complex. Had the film been made a few years later, Worth would have been depicted a sagebrush Hitler. The slowness of early reels is compensated for with a thrilling "race to the rescue" climax. Boyd's sidekicks in Bar 20 Rides Again are George Hayes (not yet "Gabby", but "Windy") and Jimmy Ellison; leading lady Jean Rouverol later became a prolific writer of children's books. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hopalong Cassidy Enters
Filmed in two weeks at Red Rock Canyon and Lone Pine, California, Hop-Along Cassidy was the opener of one of the best -- and most fondly remembered -- B-Western series of all time. Former silent screen star William Boyd regained his lost fame playing the prematurely gray, black-clad hero of pulp-writer Clarence E. Mulford's Bar 20 stories, with young Paramount contract player James Ellison as handsome sidekick Johnny Nelson and Charles Middleton (in a surprisingly low-key performance) as Cassidy's old friend, Buck Peters. Bill Cassidy arrives at the Bar-20 ranch in the middle of a range war with the neighboring Meeker spread. Old man Meeker (Robert Warwick) has been driving his cattle onto Bar-20 land for water against Buck's wishes. Cattle begin to disappear from both ranches and a couple of Meeker cowboys are shot. Meeker blames the Bar-20 crew but his daughter Mary (Paula Stone), who is in love with Johnny Nelson, believes in their innocence. Looking out for the headstrong Johnny, Cassidy is shot in the leg, thus acquiring his famous nickname of "Hop-Along." Bar-20 oldtimer Uncle Ben (George "Gabby" Hayes) discovers that cattle from both ranches have their brands altered and the two ranches band together to trap a vicious gang of rustlers lead by Meeker's unscrupulous foreman Pecos Jack Anthony (Kenneth Thomson). In the ensuing war, Uncle Ben is killed by Anthony but "Hop-Along" manages to catch the killer, whom he drives off a cliff to his death. With the Dance of the Furies from Gluck's Orfeo et Euridice underscoring the climactic ride, Hop-Along Cassidy proved a fast-paced, well-acted opener to the series. George "Gabby" Hayes, whose contribution to this success was vital, returned in the next entry, The Eagle's Brood (1935), as as a bartender, finally finding his true place in the "Hopalong Cassidy" oeuvre as Windy, Hopalong's grizzled old windbag of a sidekick, in the third film, Bar 20 Rides Again. Producer Sherman left Paramount in 1942 in favor of United Artists where the "Hopalong" series continued to flourish until 1948. Boyd then bought the rights to the films and re-edited them for television. The 1949-1951 Hopalong Cassidy series was so popular that Boyd filmed 52 new half-hour episodes for the 1952-1954 seasons. Hop-Along Cassidy, the initial "Hopalong" feature, is usually shown today under its re-release title, Hopalong Cassidy Enters. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Cassidy of Bar 20
Hopalong Cassidy gallops to the rescue once again in this seventh entry in the long-running series. This time the trouble begins when bad-guys begin harassing the townsfolk. In desperation, Hoppy's former gal sends him a plea for help. With guns a-blazing, he gets there just in time to round 'em up and throw 'em in the hoosegow. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Heart of the West
Based on Clarence E. Mulford's Mesquite Jenkins, Tumbleweed from 1932, Heart of the West addresses the issue of fences on the hitherto free range. Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) and Johnny Nelson (James Ellison) have been hired to head a cattle drive by Trumbull (Sidney Blackmer), but then learn that their would-be employer is waging a war against young rancher Jim Jordan (Charles Martin). The latter is erecting fences on his part of the range in order to keep his cattle pure. At first, Hoppy is less than willing to accept Jim's offer of a job, but he agrees once it becomes clear that Trumbull has been using Jim's Black Valley as a safe conduit for cattle rustlings. Heart of the West, which came complete with a title song by Sam Coslow and Victor Young, was partially filmed along California's Kern River. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Call of the Prairie
Hopalong Cassidy's young sidekick, Johnny Nelson, is falsely accused of robbing the Bar 20 in this the fourth installment of the long-running Western series. Nelson (James Ellison) had left the ranch in high dudgeon over a perceived slight and fallen in with a gang headed by Shanghai (George Hayes) and Sam Porter (Al Bridge). Since the gang's aim is to rob the Bar 20, Johnny's sudden appearance is seen as a golden opportunity. The youngster is drugged and his easily identifiable neckerchief prominently displayed as the gang unsuccessfully attempts to rob the ranch safe, wounding owner Buck Peters (Howard H.Lang) in the process. When Hoppy (William Boyd) learns of Johnny's assumed culpability, he vows to bring the youngster to justice. Johnny, meanwhile, has managed to escape the gang and is holed up on a spread belonging to innocent Linda McHenry (Muriel Evans), who, unbeknownst to him, is Shanghai's daughter. He is found there by Porter who concocts a devilish plan to kill the boy and establish an alibi for himself at the same time. Luckily, Cassidy arrives to save his young friend in the nick of time and the gang is finally hunted down. Shanghai, who has decided to go straight, is shot in a struggle with Porter, but survives to clear Johnny of any wrongdoing in the attempted robbery. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Heart of Arizona
Hopalong Cassidy meets Belle Starr in this rather somber entry in the long-running Western series. Belle (Natalie Moorhead) is being released after serving a five-year prison sentence for standing by her outlaw husband, Sam. The sheriff (John Beach) wants to drop her off in a Nogales dancehall (read: brothel), but Hoppy (William Boyd) forces him to let her go back to her ranch. Meanwhile, back at the Bar 20, all is not well. Ranch hand Twister (Leo McMahon) is conspiring with Belle's foreman, Dan Ringo (Alden Chase), to rustle the Bar 20 cattle and Lucky (Russell Hayden) is blamed. Wounded in the resulting melee, Lucky is cared for by Belle and her daughter, Jacqueline (Dorothy Short), while Hoppy and Windy (George "Gabby" Hayes) investigate the goings-on. Trimmer Windler (Lane Chandler) is suspected to be behind the rustlings, but there is no proof and the slippery villain is free to conspire with Ringo to steal Belle's herd. Hoppy's trap to catch the rustlers backfires when the sheriff is murdered. Soon he, Belle, and Jacqueline find themselves outnumbered by the gang. While Ringo promises to let the women go unharmed if Hoppy surrenders, a fearless Belle, her guns blazing, goes up against him alone and is mortally wounded. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Texas Trail
The "Hopalong Cassidy" series closed out 1937 with its 14th entry, Texas Trail. No surprises in the cast: William Boyd is Hoppy,George "Gabby" Hayes is Windy, and Russell Hayden is Lucky. This time the story takes place during the time of the Spanish American war, when the U.S. army was rounding up as many horses as possible. Hoppy and his pals are hired to deliver an equestrian shipment to the government, a task made difficult by a vicious gang of horse thieves. When things get too hot for our heroes, the Cavalry comes riding to the rescue (a particularly well-photographed sequence, courtesy of the talented Russell Harlan). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Rustler's Valley
After several overlong "Hopalong Cassidy" westerns, Rustler's Valley brings things back under control with a short-and-sweet running time of 58 minutes. William Boyd, George "Gabby" Hayes and Russell Hayden are back respectively as Hoppy, Windy and Lucky. This time, a powerful railroad tycoon frames an innocent young man on a robbery charge. The villain is in cahoots with an equally unscrupulous lawyer, played by Stephen Morris (better known as Morris Ankrum). With Hopalong Cassidy on the job, however, the baddies are foiled in near-record time. Of interest is the fact that the rail baron is played by 26-year-old Group Theatre veteran Lee J. Cobb, a full decade before his stage triumph in Death of a Salesman. Rustler's Valley comes to a thrilling climax as a rock-slide wipes out the remaining villains, a sequence later excerpted in toto in the 1942 Hopalong Cassidy oater Lost Canyon. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

An above-average "Hopalong Cassidy" series entry, Borderland has Hoppy (William Boyd) going undercover as a bandit in a tough Mexican border town in order to trap a notorious bandit known only as The Fox. Not even sidekicks Johnny Nelson (James Ellison) and Windy (George "Gabby" Hayes) are in on the scheme, concocted jointly by Mexican Army Colonel Gonzales (Trevor Bardette) and Texas Ranger Major Stafford (Earle Hodgins). Lodging with widowed Grace Rand (Nora Lane) and her small daughter, Molly (Charlene Wyatt), both of whom he abuses in order to protect his cover, Hoppy learns that The Fox (Stephen Morris aka Morris Ankrum) is himself performing a bit of masquerade, in this case as a halfwit known as Loco. Windy, however, innocently spills the beans and is promptly kidnapped along with Molly. Chased by Hoppy, who is himself tailed by the villain's henchmen, Gonzales' troops, and a wounded Johnny Nelson, The Fox (alias Loco) escapes to his secret hideaway, a cabin stocked with dynamite. There, Hoppy catches up with him and in an exciting finale keeps the master villain at bay until help arrives. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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