An essential player in Hollywood westerns was the leading man’s sidekick, and many sidekicks became just as famous as their starring partners: Andy Devine was Jingles to Wild Bill Hickock, Pat Buttram and Smiley Burnette were both sidekicks to Gene Autry, Jay Silverheels was Tonto to the Lone Ranger, Leo Carillo was Pancho to the Cisco Kid. The top sidekick was, of course, Gabby Hayes, born May 7, 1885. Through the 1930s and 1940s, he was sidekick to Hopalong Cassidy in 18 films and to Roy Rogers in 41.
The third of seven children, George Francis Hayes was born in an upstate New York hotel owned by his father. As a young man, he worked in a circus and played semi-pro baseball while a teenager. He ran away from home at 17, and joined a touring stock company. He married Olive Ireland in 1914 and the duo enjoyed a successful vaudeville career. Although he had retired in his 40s, he lost money in the 1929 stock market crash, and he felt the need to work again. He and his wife moved to California and he began his movie career, taking various roles until finally settling into a Western career.
Hayes first gained fame as Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick Windy Halliday in many films between 1936-39. He left the Cassidy films in a salary dispute and was legally prevented from using the name “Windy.” So “Gabby” Hayes was born. He gained fame as a sidekick to stars such as John Wayne, Randolph Scott, and, of course, Roy Rogers – beginning with Southward Ho in 1939 and ending with Heldorado in 1946.
Offstage Hayes was the complete opposite of his screen persona – an elegant bon vivant, man-about-town and connoisseur. He died in 1969. On the subject of his movies: “I hate ’em. Really can’t stand ’em. They always are the same. You have so few plots – the stagecoach holdup, the rustlers, the mortgage gag, the mine setting and the retired gunslinger.”
“You’re a good-looking boy: you’ve big, broad shoulders. But he’s a man. And it takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man.” — High Noon
“There are only two things that are better than a gun: a Swiss watch and a woman from anywhere. Ever had a good… Swiss watch?” — Red River
“A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an ax, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.” –Shane
“You don’t look like the noble defender of poor defenseless widows. But then again, I don’t look like a poor defenseless widow.” –Once Upon a Time in the West
Everybody Loves Saturday Night, Part 4: War and Peace at Naughty Nora’s
Necker Lincoln was certain his nose was broken. He was halfway to Naughty Nora’s before the bleeding stopped. It just wasn’t right. Sure, he had called Marie’s momma a rhinoceros, but that was no reason for the woman to beat up on him. After slapping him some, Marie had tossed him from the porch of their house to the wet ground. And the mud and blood made him look as though he had – well, been in a fight.
“Daylight come and me wan . . .” Naughty Nora’s hushed as Necker entered. Prisoners and captors alike looked at him in awe.
“Are you back from the front?” asked Nora.
“What?” Necker responded.
“The battle,” said Billy. “Tell us of the battle.”
“The battle?” said Necker, a little confused. Then he studied his own appearance. “Oh, the battle. I guess it didn’t go too well.”
“Oh my God,” wailed Billy. “The bloody, bitter tragedy. The agony of defeat.”
Maurice, who had not been singing, who had been sitting in a corner, dwelling on the infamy of such a big country as the United States picking on their little country – all the while lubricating his thoughts with a bottle of rum – stood and shouted: “kill all the prisoners!”
“Wait a minute, Maurice,” said the still reasonable Everette.
“Yes, wait a minute, Maurice,” echoed Estelle who, with all eyes now on her, regretted having spoken out of turn.
“Tell us more about the battle, Necker,” Everette urged. “Were we badly outnumbered?”
“Yes,” said Everette. “How many of the enemy were there?”
Necker grinned sheepishly. “There was just Ma – ”
Estelle was the first to hear the same low rumble they had heard earlier. She hurried to the window, and the others followed, everyone crowding to see what was happening. Once again, the great tank crept down Christopher Columbus Boulevard, this time from the opposite direction. As Her Majesty’s Royal Militia marched into sight, Estelle counted them, all 37 of them, followed by an even larger entourage than before. And they pulled a cart piled high with fish.
“Our glorious army has returned,” shouted Billy. “We have won the war.”
“We have defeated the Americans,” chanted Maurice, jumping up and down. The two men ran out to follow the parade.
“The war is over,” said Nora. “Peace is here. We hold no grudges. A round of drinks on the house.”
Then, just as suddenly as they had disappeared, the lights returned, bathing Naughty Nora’s with a kind of normalcy, with a peace on earth, good will to all. The jukebox kicked back to life. Estelle looked around. Tourists and locals had returned to laughing conversation. Penelope was flirting with the French hippy. Sidney Smith sat down at Estelle’s table and resumed staring at her breasts. “What the hell,” she said with a sigh, as she leaned back in her chair and sipped her rum.
The jukebox sang: “Everybody, everybody. Everybody loves Saturday Night.”
Everybody Loves Saturday Night is one of the 15 stories from Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean, available as an ebook or in a print edition with real pages and everything.