14 May 2000 | gwryter-2
Mulford gets his lumps in this classic parody of Hopalong Cassidy.
Francis Nevins in his book, The Films of Hopalong Cassidy, suggests that Sunset Trail has its roots in the rantings of Clarence E. Mulford, creator of the Cassidy saga. The Eastern author frequently voiced his disgust over the realization of his cowboy hero in the movies. Things were a might more personal in 1930's Hollywood than they are today, and someone took a notion to teach Mulford a thing or two about the movies. The result is the wonderful Hopalong parody, Sunset Trail.
Mulford is merrily satirized in the character of E. Prescott Furbush, an author of western novels. Furbush, who never having been west of Flatbush, nevertheless has gained fame recording the deeds of the western desperado, Deadeye Dan. After years of fashioning fairy tales, the little fussbudget books a stay at a dude ranch to savor the `real' West. But his antics pale beside those of another dude, William H. Cassidy, or Harold, as he's known among the other guests at the ranch.
Hoppy has been sent to deal with land grabbers and assumes the identity of the inept Easterner, Harold, as cover. Forget the plot; it's predictable. What is not routine is Bill Boyd's performance. There is a swagger in his walk and a gleam in his eye reminiscent of the sharp-dressed, high-living Boyd of the 1920's. He deftly handles the comedy and energetically pokes fun at the Cassidy image. One of the most outstanding moments comes when Harold offers to compare surgical scars with a female guest who has been regaling Furbush with tales of her poor health.
This episode may not appeal to everyone's sense of humor, but for me it is a final glimpse of Bill Boyd, being as wickedly funny as he is handsome before he permanently transformed himself into the stalwart cowboy hero.