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Saddle Pals & Sidekicks

(From Old Corral collection)

(Courtesy of Bill McCann)

Above - Gabby comic #1
from Fawcett in 1948.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - the members of the original "Hoppy team" - from L-to-R are Jimmy Ellison, George Hayes and William Boyd.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Hayes is probably best remembered as the sidekick to Roy Rogers. He was Roy's helper in 41 films - their first was SOUTHWARD HO (Republic, 1939) and last pairing was HELDORADO (Republic, 1946).

George Francis Hayes

1885 - 1969

George Hayes was born in Wellsville, New York on May 7, 1885, and during his teen years, he joined some traveling shows. Burlesque and vaudeville work followed.  He married Olive Ireland in 1914, and the two would be together for over forty years, until her death in 1957. Gabby and Olive had no children.

They wound up in Hollywood at the close of the silent film era, and Hayes found some bit parts and minor supporting roles.

When sound films arrived, he began doing bit and character parts, including a variety of roles as a baddie, father of the heroine, et al in 1930s vintage sagebrush yarns with John Wayne, Bob Steele, Rex Bell, others. In some jobs, he was clean-shaven, while in others, he was a bearded, tobacco-chewing codger.

Sometimes, he was on the wrong side of the law. In John Wayne's THE STAR PACKER (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934), Hayes was sweet Uncle Matt Matlock but he also wore black as the mysterious outlaw 'The Shadow'. Hayes did it again in Wayne's RANDY RIDES ALONE (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934) when he was both Marvin Black and 'Matt the Mute'. He also was a no-good versus Bob Steele, and a couple good examples are THE BRAND OF HATE (A. W. Hackel/Supreme, 1934) and SMOKEY SMITH (Hackel/Supreme, 1935).

His first major role was portraying 'Windy Haliday', the sidekick to Hopalong Cassidy at Paramount. This took a while to happen and Hayes played some different characters in the initial Hoppy films - he was 'Uncle Ben' in HOPALONG CASSIDY (Paramount, 1935); 'Spike' in THE EAGLES BROOD (Paramount, 1935); 'Windy' in BAR 20 RIDES AGAIN (Paramount, 1935); and 'Shanghai' in CALL OF THE PRAIRIE (Paramount, 1936).

THREE ON THE TRAIL (Paramount, 1936) was Gabby's first as 'Windy Halliday', and he would continue that role through THE RENEGADE TRAIL (Paramount, 1939). The total number of Hoppy films in which Hayes appeared is twenty two. However, the number of Hoppys in which Hayes played 'Windy Halliday' is eighteen.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Bob Steele, George Hayes and Frank Ball in a crop from a lobby card from GALLOPING ROMEO (Monogram, 1933).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above are George Hayes and William Boyd (as Hopalong Cassidy) in a crop from a lobby card from BAR 20 JUSTICE (Paramount, 1938).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above are Roy and Gabby Hayes in a lobby card from JESSE JAMES AT BAY (Republic, 1941). This was the last of Roy's "historical westerns" and in this film, he had a dual role as Gabby's pal Jesse James and Clint Burns.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are Pat Brady, Roy, Gabby Hayes and a box of nitroglycerene in a lobby card from SONS OF THE PIONEERS (Republic, 1942).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above are Hayes and Wild Bill Elliott in a lobby card from BORDERTOWN GUN FIGHTERS (Republic, 1943).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a 1954 re-release lobby card from DON'T FENCE ME IN (Republic, 1945), one of the best of Roy and Gabby's films. From left to right are Hugh Farr, Karl Farr, Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer, Dale Evans, Ken Carson and Gabby Hayes. This film includes Cole Porter's hit song "Don't Fence Me In" as well as a great rendition of "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" by the Sons of the Pioneers. Dale Evans is a newspaper reporter out to do a story on 'Wildcat Kelly', a legendary outlaw who has been dead for decades. Dale discovers that 'Wildcat Kelly' is Gabby Hayes, who faked his death years ago and changed his ways from outlawry to honest citizen.

In 1939, Hayes switched to Republic Pictures and his first sidekick role with Roy Rogers was in SOUTHWARD HO (Republic, 1939).  He did 41 films with Roy Rogers, but these were separated into two bunches - in between, Hayes was the saddle pal to Wild Bill Elliott in his 1943 - 1944 series of eight, as well as the first two Red Ryder oaters (which also starred Elliott).  During his Republic days, Hayes generally had a screen name of 'Gabby Whittaker'.  His last film with Roy was HELDORADO (Republic, 1946).

In the 1950s, Gabby had his own NBC TV program, appropriately titled THE GABBY HAYES SHOW, in which he'd introduce/moderate old B westerns that were cut down to about a half-hour length.  Gabby's show was nominated for an Emmy award in 1952, but the winner was the BEANY AND CECIL show.  Circa 1954, Gabby also did a stint as the host of THE HOWDY DOODY TV show (when Buffalo Bob Smith was recuperating from a heart attack).  In the late 1940s through 1950s, Gabby had his own comic book series for Charlton and Fawcett. Also in the 1950s, he had a "Summer camp" ranch for the kids in New York state (brochures and photos of the ranch are at Jerry Waite's Gabby Hayes website - link at the bottom of this page).

Gabby had some great sayings that always gave me a chuckle - there were "yer durn tootin'", "durn persnickety female", "young whipper snapper" and "Yessiree Bob".

Les Adams has Hayes identified in about 190 sound era films, and that total includes 146 westerns and a couple of serials. Can't recall Hayes doing serials? He had bits as a dirigible passenger and a doctor in THE LOST JUNGLE (Mascot, 1934) as well as a meaty role in THE LOST CITY (1935). His work at Republic Pictures, which amounted to 68 films, occurred during the period from 1935 - 1947 - and as mentioned above, most of these were doing sidekick duty to Roy Rogers and Wild Bill Elliott. Hayes also worked in some non-westerns and A grade films. A good example is in the Gary Cooper MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (Frank Capra/Columbia, 1936) in which a relatively clean-shaven George Hayes is the spokesman for a group of poor farmers and delivers a nice "thank you" message to Cooper/Deeds.

Gabby also did some radio work, including several years on post World War II episodes of THE ROY ROGERS SHOW which ran over the Mutual Broadcasting Network. Additionally, the Andrews Sisters' EIGHT-TO-THE-BAR RANCH was broadcast from 1944 - 1946 on ABC, and the premise of the show had singing sisters Patty, Maxene and LaVerne running a fictional dude ranch. Gabby was a regular guest.

Though he often portrayed a cranky and crotchety oldtimer on film, in real life Hayes was the exact opposite - serious, well read, well dressed.  He was also well liked by all that knew him and worked with him ... and to this day, he remains as one of the most recognized and remembered players of the B western. At the 2006 Golden Boot Awards ceremony, there was a special tribute to George 'Gabby' Hayes. Pretty good legacy.

Hayes was hospitalized for a week at St. Joseph's Hospital, Burbank, California, and passed away there on February 9, 1969 from a heart ailment.

You may want to visit the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral, and then check the California Death Index. There you will find a record for: George F. Hayes, born 5/7/1885, Mother's maiden name of Morrison, and he passed away on 2/9/1969. There is a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

Hayes was an important asset to the western film and theater ticket sales.  The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s.  With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars.  In most cases, the winners were what you would expect - Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc. Hayes and Smiley Burnette were the two sidekicks that consistently placed in these polls, though Hayes' rankings was generally a bit higher than Smiley. However, Burnette was ranked in one or both polls for more years (Smiley was ranked for fourteen consecutive years from 1939 - 1952).

Popularity Rankings of George 'Gabby' Hayes
Hayes' highest rating shown in this color
Year Motion Picture Herald
Poll Ranking
Boxoffice Poll
1941 . 10th
1942 . 9th
1943 4th No poll conducted
1944 4th 8th
1945 2nd 4th
1946 4th 3rd
1947 5th 5th
1948 4th 3rd
1949 3rd 3rd
1950 3rd 3rd
1951 10th 3rd
1952 6th .
1953 . .
1954 5th .

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are Ken Maynard, 'Tarzan' and Hayes in IN OLD SANTA FE (Mascot, 1934). Hayes played Ken's sidekick 'Cactus', and loses Tarzan in a fixed horse race.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above are Hoot Gibson and George Hayes in a scene from Gibson's SWIFTY (Walter Futter/Diversion, 1935).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a lobby card and a crop showing from left to right: Lucile Browne, William Farnum, Bob Steele, Archie Ricks, James Flavin, and George Hayes in THE BRAND OF HATE (A. W. Hackel/Supreme, 1934). James Flavin and Lucile Browne were husband and wife in real life. In this, Hayes is an outlaw and Flavin and Ricks play his outlaw sons.

(From Old Corral collection)

In this duotone lobby card from SMOKEY SMITH (Hackel/Supreme, 1935), Bob Steele is on the roof, ready to spring into action, and below is an unbearded George Hayes. In front of Hayes and wearing the flat brimmed hat is Warner Richmond and to the right is Tex Phelps.This oater showed Richmond at his nastiest - to get his hands on a ring, he shoots off the finger of Steele's father (kindly ol' Horace Carpenter). And Richmond also throws lye in George Hayes' face. This was another film in which Hayes plays a no-good.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Buck Jones on Silver chats with Hayes, and in the right background is Frank LaRue.  From THE THROWBACK (Universal, 1935).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - leading lady Anne Jeffreys with Wild Bill Elliott and George 'Gabby' Hayes during Elliott's initial film series at Republic Pictures in 1943 - 1944.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Bill Elliott on Sonny during his first series at Republic Pictures in 1943 - 1944, and his sidekick was Gabby 'Gabby' Hayes (who rode several horses by the names of Eddie, Calico and Blossom). Hayes also worked with Elliott in the first couple of Red Ryder films, and then returned as the helper to Roy Rogers.

Gabby Links

 Want more info on Hayes' movie roles with Roy Rogers, Wild Bill Elliott and Hoppy? Click HERE for the filmography on Roy which notes the films in which Hayes appeared - look in the column marked 'Sidekick'. And click HERE for the filmography on Wild Bill Elliott and click HERE for the Hopalong Cassidy filmography where you can also check the Sidekick column.

 Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Gabby Hayes:

The Town of Willing, New York website has a photo gallery on Gabby, including an 1890 school photo:

GCD, the Grand Comic Book Database, has covers for Gabby's Charlton and Fawcett comic books:
Fawcett covers from 1948 - 1953:
Charlton covers from 1954 - 1957:

During 1999, the American Film Institute (AFI) conducted a poll to determine the 'Greatest American Screen Legends'. Not many of our cowboy heroes and heroines made the final cut, but you can see the list of the names in the poll ... such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, William Boyd ... and Gabby Hayes ... in pdf format:

Jim Tipton's Find-A-Grave website has a picture of the grave markers for Hayes and his wife Olive E. Ireland who are interred next to each other at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California:

Jerry Waite's Gabby Hayes website had images of the covers and backs of many of Gabby's Fawcett and Charlton comic books ... and a bunch of Gabby sound bytes. Jerry also had Hayes' obituary, brochures and photo of the Gabby Hayes Ranch which was a Summer camp type operation in the 1950s for the kids, and info on Gabby's 1950s TV show on NBC and ABC. But when I checked in February, 2019, the website was no longer working:

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