- HAYES, George S. “Gabby”
- (1885–1969)For most older fans of Westerns, Gabby Hayes epitomized what a cowboy hero’s sidekick was all about. Gray haired, bewhiskered, toothless, and prone to saying plenty of “Gosh, darns”—this pretty well sums up Hayes’s role in over 200 Westerns. He actually began his career playing the heavy and occasionally appeared as the villain well after the sidekick roles began. As a heavy he was usually clean shaven and was billed as George Hayes. Despite his on-screen persona as a comic old-timer, Hayes in real life cultivated an opposite image—a man of educated, sophisticated tastes. For that reason, perhaps, Hayes commonly played a character who suddenly becomes rich and then, in the next scene, dresses up and carries on snobbish airs, as in Bad Man of Deadwood (1941).The character of Gabby Hayes evolved over a period of years. Early on George Hayes appeared opposite Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, and John Wayne, but he had yet to find a very distinct persona. Later he became Windy Holiday for several Hopalong Cassidy pictures, and the Gabby Hayes look started to take shape. Then he teamed with Roy Rogers, beginning in Wall Street Cowboy (1939), and became Gabby Whittaker, Rogers’s sidekick, through 1946. Throughout the 1940s Hayes was ranked as one of the top-ten Western money makers by Motion Picture Herald. Raymond E. White notes, “While Hayes’ popularity was based on ‘Gabby,’it was also tied to Roy Rogers. The two actors made more than 40 films together, and in the stories ‘Gabby’ Hayes enlarged upon Roy Rogers’ role as a Western hero, often attributing superhuman qualities to him. Hayes enhancement of Rogers’ heroic attributes in the films in turn amplified Rogers off-screen image as an American Cowboy Hero” (Yoggy 1998, 84).George Hayes did play in several AWesterns. His best acting performance was in Cecil B. DeMille’sThe Plainsman(1936). After the end of the B Western era, like others he turned to television Westerns and even had his own show for several years. For a time he advertised Popsicle treats, making a prominent popping noise with his mouth.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.