Hopalong Cassidy is a pretty interesting case; it started out as a series of novels featuring a cowboy who was… how do we put this… a wee bit uncouth. Then, in 1935, they made a movie featuring a morally upright version of the character.
A movie that was so successful, they made sixty-six of them. Not without reason; they were well-made action movies for their time and the outdoor photography actually holds up even today. And when that petered out, the star, William Boyd, shelled out for the rights and approached the TV networks. This was in 1948, by the way, when nobody was sure TV was going to catch on.
Well, Hopalong did. Boy, did he ever. Hopalong was the first modern merchandising bulldozer, moving $70 million in merchandise alone. He had the first mug on a lunchbox. The series was so popular, it spawned a radio series, relaunched the film series, and it’s actually active to this day, releasing the features onto DVD. We won’t be surprised if a gritty reboot is in the works.
Some franchises get done in by changing times. Some franchises get done in by changing tastes. And some franchises get done in because they’re almost painfully racist. You get one guess where Mr. Moto falls.
Mr. Moto, an agent for the Japanese government (…yeah), is a polite, well-educated man who goes around solving mysteries, and for a while, he was a pretty big deal. He got serialized in major magazines, had eight movies, and generally proved that people like Asians written and performed by white people just a little too much.
Back in the ‘30s, one of the few jobs a woman could hold if she wanted a career that didn’t involve prostitution or cooking was being a reporter, and a lot of young women were inspired by none other than Torchy Blaine. Torchy, who seems to have sprung full from the mind of a hack screenwriter, had a brief but shining moment in pop culture, with nine movies in three years, usually involving some sort of play on the word “blonde”.
Basically, Torchy was that amazing thing you never find in cops in the movies; competent. She solved the murder before her idiot boyfriend the police detective figured it out, and then he gets all the credit while Torchy gets the story.
Look, it was the thirties, feminism hadn’t been invented yet.
Yes, he does sound like a bad Batman villain, but in fact, “The Whistler” was the main character in one of the most popular radio series that ever hit the airwaves. Basically, the Whistler was kind of a living, more musical Cryptkeeper, overlooking criminals as they either missed a pretty important detail or were just too stupid to pull off their crimes. It was so popular it ran until right in the middle of the TV explosion in 1955, and actually spawned a long-running film noir franchise directed by horror legend William Castle and starring the unfortunately named but highly talented Richard Dix, playing a different role in each movie. The movies occasionally pop up on Turner Classic Movies, but if you’d like to get an idea of what the big deal was, there are a bunch of episodes right here.
- - Ma and Pa Kettle: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTI0MDQ3NjIzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODAzNTM3._V1._SX475_SY386_.jpg
- - Nero Wolfe: http://www.jabootu.com/images/nero.jpg
- - Sleepaway Camp: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/512JTYV0EZL.jpg
- - Billy Jack: http://bohemianboomer.com/images/uploads/2010/07/billy-jack.jpg
- - The Lone Wolf: http://www.autographsmovieposters.com/6%20sheets%202/Lone_Wolf_6sht.jpg
- - Hopalong Cassidy: http://www.impawards.com/1936/posters/hopalong_cassidy_returns.jpg
- - Mr. Moto: http://www.mysteryfile.com/blogImg508/Moto-LC.jpg
- - Torchy Blaine: http://wpcontent.answcdn.com/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/67/Glenda_Farrell_in_Smart_Blonde_trailer.jpg/220px-Glenda_Farrell_in_Smart_Blonde_trailer.jpg