An "Okie" whose parents died when he was a child, William Boyd became a manual laborer before breaking into the movies in 1919 as an extra in Cecil B. De Mille's Why Change Your Wife? He soon became one of De Mille's favorite actors and was cast as an unassuming leading man in comedies and swashbuckling adventure films. Boyd continued his success in the sound era, but was hurt when a scandal hit another actor named "William Boyd" and the public confused the two. His career took off in 1935 when he began to appear in "Hopalong Cassidy" films (based on the Clarence E. Mulford stories of the Old West), beginning with Hop-A-Long Cassidy and eventually amounting to 66 episodes, the final twelve of which Boyd produced. Cassidy, dressed in black and mounted on his famous horse Topper, was a clean-living good guy who didn't smoke, drink, or swear, and hardly ever kissed the heroine; the character became an enormous hero to millions of American boys, and Boyd bought the rights to it. With the breakthrough of TV in the early 50s, Boyd began to reap huge profits from the character as the old shows found a new audience and by-products began to be produced and sold; he played Cassidy the rest of his life, even into genial, gray-haired old age. Ultimately, William Boyd Enterprises was sold for $8 million. Boyd was married four times and divorced three, each time to an actress: Ruth Miller, Elinor Fair, Dorothy Sebastian, and Grace Bradley.
by Rovi biography