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Happy Birthday, Andy Clyde!


The actor who entertained fans on radio, television and in the movies as Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick California Carlson was born on this date one hundred and twenty-two years ago in Blairgowrie, Scotland.  Yes, Andrew Allan Clyde was what California would call a “furriner”…and was born into a show business family.  His father was actor-producer-manager John Clyde, and his siblings David and Jean developed a flair for the buskin as well.  Andy Clyde first came to the U.S. in 1912 as part of a touring company (at the invitation of his friend James Finlayson, who you know as the bald-headed, mustachioed foil in many a Laurel & Hardy comedy) and by 1920 he was ready to establish permanent residency.

clyde11By 1922, Andy had established himself as a hard-working comedian at the studio run by none other than the “King of Comedy” himself, Mack Sennett.  Clyde worked in tandem with many of Sennett’s star funsters including Harry Langdon and Ben Turpin, and enjoyed a fairly successful collaboration with Australian-born Billy Bevan, appearing in such classic slapstick outings as Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925), Ice Cold Cocos (1926), and Wandering Willies (1926).  Because Mack was notoriously tight with a buck, Andy would eventually move up through the ranks to become the studio’s most popular comic…owing to the fact that Sennett’s other stars eventually deserted him for a more lucrative payday.

clyde5We would be remiss if we didn’t stress that once Andy obtained his “promotion,” he demonstrated that he was worthy of his rise in the ranks due to his invaluable comic talents.  While at Sennett, Clyde developed an onscreen persona of an elderly character with a drooping mustache, grey wig and spectacles (which went under a variety of names, but the most frequent was “Pop” Martin).  The characterization was so popular—allowing the comedian to play everything from crackpot scientists to wealthy eccentrics—that when Andy had a dispute over salary with Sennett in 1932 (the studio was experiencing financial trouble) Mack attempted to ape Andy’s “old man” character with actor Irving Bacon.  Audiences saw through the charade immediately…but by that time Andy had moved on to Educational Pictures (Sennett’s former distributor).

clyde8Andy Clyde was hired by director-producer Jules White to join the fledgling comedy two-reel shorts department at the Columbia Pictures studio in 1934, a mirth-making factory that audiences know today as the home of The Three Stooges.  Clyde was second only to Moe, Larry and Curly (and Shemp and Joe) in longevity at Columbia; his last two-reel comedy, Pardon My Nightshirt, was released in 1956.  Although the Columbia comedy shorts echoed many of those produced in the halcyon Mack Sennett slapstick days, Andy had matured enough as a movie comedian that he was able to use subtler methods (a mere lift of the eyebrow and a plaintive “My oh my oh my!”) to convulse audiences.  He starred in some truly first-rate shorts, among them Old Sawbones (1935), It Always Happens (1935), Caught in the Act (1936) and The Peppery Salt (1936).  Clyde was also making inroads as a much-in-demand character actor, lending support in features such as Million Dollar Legs (1932), The Little Minister (1934), Annie Oakley (1935) and It’s a Wonderful World (1939).

clyde2It was Andy’s work with William Boyd—known to movie audiences as motion picture cowboy Hopalong Cassidy—that remains his long-lasting legacy.  Beginning with Three Men in Texas in 1940, Clyde played California Carlson in 35 additional B-Westerns, ending with Strange Gamble in 1948.  Andy revived the character in the Hopalong Cassidy radio series (produced for Commodore Productions between 1948 and 1950).  Six of the Hopalong TV episodes (edited versions of feature film westerns) featured the California character.  Andy’s expert sidekick skills also came in handy when Monogram hired him to be the comic relief in a B-picture series featuring Whip Wilson beginning in 1949; Clyde appeared in an even dozen of the Wilson oaters before he left and was replaced by Fuzzy Knight.

clyde9With B-Westerns riding off into the sunset and the market for two-reel comedies drying up, Andy Clyde brought his talents to the small screen.  He had recurring roles on such television programs as Circus Boy, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, The Tall Man and No Time for Sergeants; and guest starred on the likes of The Texan, The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke and Dr. Kildare.  His best remembered TV roles were that of George MacMichael, the next-door neighbor of Grandpappy Amos McCoy (Walter Brennan) on the long-running sitcom The Real McCoys, and Cully Wilson, a kindly farmer and neighbor of the Martin family on Lassie.  (It was Cully who inherited the famous collie dog at the beginning of the 1964-65 season when the Martins hightailed it off to Australia…until the farmer had a heart attack that paved the way for Lassie to take up with the U.S. Forestry Service.)  Clyde’s last television appearance was on an episode of Lassie in the following season (he played a different character, Ben Adams).  He passed away at the age of 75 on May 18, 1967.

19684Radio Spirits invites you to doff your ten-gallon hat in honor of Andy’s birthday and check him out on two CD collections of Hopalong Cassidy broadcasts: Cowtown Troubleshooters and Out from the Bar 20.  On a personal note…I’d like to salute the man who made my early childhood days of staring at a black-and-white TV a memorable and enjoyable experience, full of laughter and love.

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