Today’s Happy Trails post is about George Hayes, better known as Gabby. Roy and Dale were both close friends with Gabby starting with their years at Republic until his death in 1969. Gabby was a former Shakespearian actor who developed his role as a crabby old coot playing Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick Windy Halliday. He left Paramount Pictures in 1939 over a salary dispute and was hired by Republic. Since the Windy Halliday nickname was owned by Paramount, Gabby was given a new film name: Gabby Whitaker. He had roles in films starring John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Gene Autry, and Wild Bill Elliot. Gabby also played Roy Rogers’ sidekick in 42 films. Gabby quit acting in films in 1950, although he continued to appear in his own television show, The Gabby Hayes Show, from 1950 to 1954, and then again in 1956.
Although Gabby was portrayed as disliking women in films (them dag-nabbed persnickety women!), he adored his wife. When Gabby’s wife of 43 years died in 1956, the man was heartbroken. Gabby didn’t really care what the director said about his acting, but if Mrs. Hayes had one bad thing to say, his day was ruined! In Happy Trails: Our Life Story Roy recalls doing a radio program with Gabby. During a break, Gabby called his wife to see if she liked what she heard. Apparently she had something bad to say because Gabby sank down on the ground like a knife had been stabbed into his heart. He adored his wife and the fact that they didn’t have any kids only compounded his grief. He spent a lot of time at the Rogers house, hanging out with Dale and the kids. Roy recalls another time while they were sitting around the dinner table. The kids were fussing and fighting and generally making a racket, and tears started rolling down Gabby’s cheeks. Roy and Dale asked him what was wrong, and he replied that, “…you don’t know how lucky you are [to have kids]…”
Roy often said that Gabby was like a father, friend, and brother all in one. he was also a great a memorable actor. With his ingenious lines and dialect that only he could do perfectly, he could walk into a scene and steal it quicker than you could blink. Dale once told him that in order to get the attention away from Gabby, she was going to hike her skirt up above her knees. he just laughed and told her that he’d “…do the darndest take you’ve ever seen.” Dale never did try that stunt.
Gabby could be serious, he could also be funny. In the films he was always watching out for Roy, for good or bad results. He was constantly warning the young cowboy away from the women – though it never worked. Often times Gabby would bring help just when Roy needed it most or even save his life (as in The Arizona Kid and Young Bill Hickok). Other times, it would be Roy who rescued his pal (i.e. Lights of Old Santa Fe). Sometimes Gabby would end up watching after the lady too, though that didn’t really happen until Dale joined the team. After Dale came, the lady’s character was always getting in trouble, and really needed someone to look after her while Roy was settling with the villains.
The films mentioned above and others starring Roy and Gabby can be found in my Roy Rogers Store as instant videos and DVDs.
Who here has a favorite scene/film with Gabby? Share it with the rest of us! Just write the film title, year (if you know it), and short summary below in the comments.