(This is a look-back review...I was thinking about it, so I thought I'd repost!)
It, ladies and gentleman, is the birthday of one of my favourite actors; the man behind the legendary Hopalong Cassidy, William Boyd! Well, as most people already know the storied history of that great cowboy character, I thought I'd talk about one of his early, pre-Hoppy jobs.
It was a toss-up between two films, actually. The first that occurred to me was the fan-tastic 1929 talkie High Voltage, with a young and nubile (and not yet famous) Carole Lombard. It was indeed a struggle! High Voltage is one of my fave early talkies, a Pathe' production, and Boyd really is against type in it...or against the type that would come a decade or so later.
In the end, the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille-produced silent picture won the day. Why? Well, because it's Bill Boyd in a silent movie! It's one of those rare and wonderful moments, when you see an actor that, over your lifetime, has become somewhat of a chum, then you see him in a cool, and completely different context. Pure magic. Actually, that's a great way to describe Bill Boyd in general. Magical. That grin lights up a room (or a saloon, or a prairie), and he seems like the sort of chap that one could depend on in a righteous scrap.
The Yankee Clipper Starts in England, and Queen Victoria, still quite young (played by the lovely Julia Faye, a bit player who had a small role in my last birthday review, Gary Cooper's North West Mounted Police HERE), gives the Lord Huntington a mandate: beat the Americans to China, and secure the tea trade of the powerful Chinese merchant, Louqua (wonderfully played by James Wang). Of course, his nibs takes on the challenge; his ship, the Lord of the Isles, can surely conquer any snail-like tub that the Americans can produce!
Apparently the US President at the time, Zachary Taylor, has other plans. He enlists the aid of Boston shipbuilding legend Thomas Winslow for the job, with his stalwart son Hal (played by our birthday boy William Boyd) as the skipper. The Winslows have a secret weapon in the new-made ship, The Yankee Clipper! The president shakes hands with the duo; after all, those Bostoners know a little something about the British and the tea trade, wot?
Both ships charge toward their Celestial (HERE) destinies, with a little surprise in store; Lord Huntington has brought his beautiful daughter, Lady Jocelyn Huntington (played by the aptly-named Elinor Fair) on the trip. Her Ladyship is affianced to a British 'gentleman' living in China, a slimy toff, whose predatory sexual dalliance with the innocent Chinese girl, Wing Toy, shows us his true dastardly nature from the start. The Lord of the Isles does indeed make it to China first, but our Yankee Clipper was hot on it's proverbial tail. As the American ship pulls into dock, the crews and passengers on both ships eye each other, hooting and hollering.
Our jaunty captain Hal sees the luminous Lady Huntington through the lens of his nautical telescope, and folks, that's all she wrote! The race is certainly on, but from that moment it has little to do with ocean vessels!
I thought that The Yankee clipper was amazing. It had the typical melodrama that one looks forward to in a silent, but it also had an excellent sense of humour. William Boyd was good as one would expect, but honestly, I thought he went over and above requirements here. He was a very charismatic presence in every scene, and it seems obvious to me that everyone must have been aware that they had a future star on their hands. His character had depth far beyond the 'written' outline, for sure; Boyd interjected little bits of genius in every scene. The way he smiled, stood, grimaced, shook hands...all worth watching for their own sake.
To me, this was the perfect choice with which to celebrate William Boyd's birthday.
Not to ignore Hoppy on this special occasion, here's something special for Mr. Boyd's birthday! A 1951 episode of the Hopalong Cassidy radio show! Hoppy was Williams Boyd's bread and butter for the bulk of his adult life; movies, radio, comics, pulps, TV, the whole nine! Enjoy...it's a good'un!
This amazing feature is just one of several on the collection Under Full Sail: Silent Cinema on the High Seas. This is worth every dime; every print is crisp, and the theme just can't be beat.
You can buy it HERE for a very good price!