I’ve just learned that brave, beautiful Grace Bradley Boyd has passed away, having just celebrated her 97th birthday. This remarkable woman led an incredible life, from the time she entered show business in her teens, to the day she married the man she’d idolized on the screen, William Boyd, to the years she spent in her 80s and 90s teaching other senior citizens Tai Chi near her home in Orange County, California. The year before last, pop culture guru Russ Cochran published a long-awaited book about the Boyds that finally told—
—the whole story. (I’ve reprinted my 2008 review below.) I also interviewed Grace about her film career in Issue 6 of my newsletter, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy. (click HERE for information) and she was, as always, candid and colorful.
Devoted admirer Rita Maenner has built a website for, and about, Grace, where you can read more about her and see a large gallery of photos. www.gracebradleyboyd.webs.com It’s still a work in progress, but it’s well worth visiting.
Grace touched many lives during her 97 years, and I know I’m not the only one who will miss her.
Original 2008 column:
I LOVE HOPPY
One of the joys of my life has been getting to know Grace Bradley Boyd, the effervescent and indefatigable nonagenarian who spent thirty-five years married to William Boyd—better known as Hopalong Cassidy. The first time I heard her relate the saga of how she developed a serious schoolgirl crush on him, then went on meet and marry him, I had tears in my eyes. It’s an incredible story.
Now Grace has set her story—and Bill’s—down in print, as part of an elaborate and impressive coffee-table book called Hopalong Cassidy: An American Legend. Lifelong pop-culture guru Russ Cochran has produced a physically beautiful book that belongs in every film buff’s library. His brother Michael spent the last two years working with Grace (who’s now 94) to craft a first-rate text that is accompanied by eye-popping personal photos, movie stills, posters, and original artwork. You’ll see everything from Hoppy’s original gun rig to the schoolbook on which Brooklyn-born Grace etched Bill Boyd’s name on the spine—along with original one-sheet posters for every one of the Hopalong Cassidy features...as well as original paintings for the covers of Clarence E. Mulford’s novels, generous samples of Hoppy merchandise, and private photo-album glimpses of Grace and Bill’s life away from the movies.
The book boasts two introductions: one by President Bill Clinton (including a snapshot of him as a young boy wearing a Hoppy outfit!) and another, even more eloquent, by songwriter Don McLean (with a childhood photo of him in his cowboy getup).
I can’t say enough about this book: Grace’s text is candid and revealing, about herself and her husband (he was married four times before he met Grace, the true love of his life). The chronicle of the Hopalong Cassidy series, season by season, is equally informative.
To purchase the book, you can call 1-800-322-7978 or go to www.russcochran.com. It’s well worth the $75 price tag. And if you’re feeling flush, you can order a special limited edition signed by Grace Bradley Boyd. There are only 1,000 of these and here’s Russ’s description of the book itself: “Bound completely in the highest quality cowhide and foil stamped with three different colored dies, the pattern embossed on the leather duplicates exactly the pattern of the leather carving on the actual holsters worn by William Boyd in his portrayal of Hopalong Cassidy. The edges of the pages are silver gilded, and the spine contains five "hubs" and silver embossing. The back cover of this very special edition is an embossed design copied exactly from Hoppy's original holsters, full size. A real sterling silver heart is embedded into the back cover; this heart is an exact replica of the silver hearts on the original holsters.”