Most early fifties TV shows that I have recently viewed have proved to be much less than I remembered--THE LONE RANGER, SUPERMAN, THE CISCO KID, MR AND MRS NORTH, RAMAR OF THE JUNGLE--the list is pretty long. They were for the most part cheaply produced and not very well acted, except for the leads. Therefore I did not come to the HOPALONG CASSIDY series expecting anything more than just another kiddie show. Some episodes may indeed be ordinary, and realism is not aided by Hoppy's all black but still gaudy outfit. But watching several episodes, I have been pleasantly surprised. This show was certainly a couple of notches above most of its contemporaries in quality. Outdoor scenes were filmed outdoors. The acting is often high grade. Boyd as Hoppy was both charismatic and a good actor. Edgar Buchanan, an A list character actor, was capable of providing both comic relief and dramatic support. Other early television pairings, even Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, or Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carillo, were not this accomplished. Their skill, plus good writing, lifted several episodes.
A few top episodes I have viewed:
1. "Grubstake"--A terrific half-hour mystery. Prospector Percy Helton has struck gold. He was grubstaked by five partners. Two have been murdered. A third is Red. Who is the murderer? There is a slew of suspects in a movie level cast--Christopher Dark, Michael Fox, Robert Paquin, and Timothy Carey(!). Gladys George steals the show as a flighty landlady engaged in a humorous romance with old codger Helton. The solution to the mystery is first rate.
2. "The Feud"--Two ranchers are bitter enemies. The son of one is murdered from ambush. Suspician naturally falls on his old enemy, B stalwart Steve Darrell, but foreman Hugh Beaumont, soon to become Beaver's dad, is the culprit. He is having an affair with Darrell's wife and hopes to get both her and the ranch when Darrell is lynched for the murder. There are some bitter scenes between the jealous Darrell and his unfaithful wife, and even a hot and heavy one between the woman and Beaumont. Perhaps not original, but certainly an adult slant compared to a typical Lone Ranger or Gene or Roy plot.
3. "Lawless Legacy"--An ordinary plot, but given a big lift by Lone Ranger on vacation Clayton Moore as a vicious murderer.
While Boyd certainly plays the knight on a white steed to the hilt, and occasionally shoots guns out of the bad guys' hands, he also shoots to kill more often than not, and is surprisingly callous a couple of times when pumping info from a dying heavy.
All in all, well worth a look.
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