Thursday, October 27, 2011
Paula Stone: Hoppy's first leading lady
Paula Stone became Hopalong Cassidy's very first leading lady. Or, more correctly, she was the nominal leading lady in the very first Hopalong Cassidy western. Realizing that he was no longer in the first bloom of youth, William Boyd usually relied on his younger sidekicks to provide the romantic interest for the girls, a for B-westerns somewhat unusual delegation of roles that began with the very first entry, Hop-Along Cassidy (aka Hopalong Cassidy Returns; 1935). Here, the newest, and youngest, Bar 20 ranch hand, Johnny Nelson (James Ellison), falls for Mary Meeker, the daughter of fellow rancher Robert Warwick. Mary is of course obstinate at first but then falls for the handsome Johnny who, when all is said and done, nevertheless decides to remain with the Bar 20 and his newly found admiration for Hoppy. This is all really subordinate to the main plot in which nasty Kenneth Thomson actually kills the comedy relief, Uncle Ben. The latter is played by none other than George Hayes in his soon to be patented “young whippersnapper” style, and the death of the character comes as quite a shock. Hayes, of course, returned to the series as Windy in Bar 20 Rides Again (1935), “Uncle Ben,” really, by any other name, and remained as Hoppy's grizzled old sidekick until offered a salary by Republic Pictures that Harry “Pop” Sherman couldn't, or rather wouldn't meet.
The daughter of veteran vaudevillian and character star Fred Stone, Paula Stone (1912-1997) made her screen debut in Hop-Along Cassidy and remained in the film industry until the end of the decade, after which she went into radio and touring in such plays as “You Can't Take It With You” and “Idiot's Delight.” Her first husband (married 1939) was orchestra leader Duke Daly. She made two additional B-Westerns in 1936, Treachery Rides the Range and Trailin' West, both for Warner Bros. and starring baritone Dick Foran.