George "Gabby" Hayes

George Francis "Gabby" Hayes (May 7, 1885 – February 9, 1969), was an American actor. He began as something of a leading man and a character player, but he was best known for his numerous appearances in B-Western film series as the bewhiskered, cantankerous, woman-hating, but ever-loyal and brave comic sidekick of the cowboy stars Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers.

George "Gabby" Hayes
Hayes in 1953
George Francis Hayes

(1885-05-07)May 7, 1885
DiedFebruary 9, 1969(1969-02-09) (aged 83)
Years active1902–1956
Olive E. Ireland (m. 19141957)

Early years

Hayes was born the third of seven children in his father's hotel, the Hayes Hotel, in Stannards, New York, a hamlet just outside Wellsville, New York. (Hayes always gave Wellsville as his birthplace, but legally he was born in Stannards).[1][2] He was the son of Elizabeth Morrison and Clark Hayes. His uncle, on his mother's side of the family, was George F. Morrison, vice president of General Electric. Despite his later association with westerns, Hayes did not come from a cowboy background; he did not know how to ride a horse until he was in his forties and had to learn for film roles.

His father, Clark Hayes, operated the Hayes Hotel in Stannards and was also involved in oil production. George Hayes grew up in Stannards and attended Stannards School.[2] He played semiprofessional baseball while in high school. He ran away from home in 1902, at 17, joined a stock company, apparently traveled for a time with a circus, and became a successful vaudevillian.

Hayes married Olive E. Ireland, the daughter of a New Jersey glass finisher, on March 4, 1914. She joined him in vaudeville, performing under the name Dorothy Earle (not to be confused with film actress and writer Dorothy Earle). Hayes had become so successful that by 1928, at age 43, he was able to retire to a home on Long Island in Baldwin, New York. He lost all his savings the next year in the 1929 stock-market crash. Olive persuaded her husband to try his luck in films, and the couple moved to Los Angeles. They remained together until her death on July 5, 1957. The couple had no children.

His siblings included his brothers, William W. Hayes, Morrison Hayes, Clark B. Hayes, and his sisters, Nellie Elizabeth Hayes Ebeling and Harriet "Hattie" Elizabeth Hayes Allen.[3] His brother, Morrison Hayes, a Corporal in the United States Army, was killed in action on July 19, 1918, during World War I in France and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the war.[4]

Film career

After his move to Los Angeles, according to later interviews, Hayes had a chance meeting with the producer Trem Carr (originally Tremlet C. Carr), who liked his look and gave him 30 roles over the next six years. In his early career, Hayes was cast in a variety of roles, including villains, and occasionally played two roles in a single film. He found a niche in the growing genre of Western films, many of which were series with recurring characters. Ironically, Hayes would admit he had never been a big fan of Westerns.

Hayes, in real life an intelligent, well-groomed and articulate man, was often cast as a grizzled codger who uttered phrases such as "consarn it", "yer durn tootin'", "dadgummit", "durn persnickety female", and "young whippersnapper."

From 1935 to 1939, Hayes played the part of Windy Halliday, the humorous "codger" sidekick of Hopalong Cassidy (played by William Boyd). In 1939, Hayes left that role at Paramount Pictures, in a dispute over his salary. and moved to Republic Pictures. Since Paramount held the rights to the name Windy Halliday, they renamed him Gabby Whitaker, in virtually the same role. As Gabby, he appeared in more than 40 films between 1939 and 1946, usually with Roy Rogers (44 times), but also with Gene Autry (7) and Wild Bill Elliott (14), often working under the directorship of Joseph Kane (34).

Hayes was also repeatedly cast as a sidekick of the Western stars Randolph Scott (six times) and John Wayne (15 times, some as straight or villainous characters). Hayes played Wayne's sidekick in Raoul Walsh's Dark Command (1940), which featured Roy Rogers in a supporting role. Hayes became a popular performer and consistently appeared among the 10 favorite actors in polls taken of moviegoers of the period. He appeared in either one or both the Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice Magazine lists of Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars for 12 straight years and a 13th time in 1954, four years after his last film.

The Western film genre declined in the late 1940s, and Hayes made his last film appearance in The Cariboo Trail (1950). He moved to television and hosted The Gabby Hayes Show, a Western series, from 1950 to 1954 on NBC and, in a new version in 1956, on ABC. He introduced the show, often while whittling on a piece of wood, and would sometimes throw in a tall tale. Halfway through the show, he would say something else, and at the end of the show, also, but he did not appear as an active character in the stories. When the series ended, Hayes retired from show business. He lent his name to a comic book series, "Gabby Hayes Western" comics, published by Fawcett Publications from November 1948 until January 1957, and to a children's summer camp in New York.


Following his wife's death on July 5, 1957, Hayes lived in and managed a 10-unit apartment building he owned in North Hollywood, California. At the beginning of 1969, he entered Saint Joseph Hospital in Burbank, California, for treatment of cardiovascular disease. He died there on February 9, 1969, at the age of 83. He is interred in the Forest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.


Two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame commemorate Hayes's work in the entertainment industry: one for his contribution to radio, at 6427 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for his contribution to television, at 1724 Vine Street. In 2000, he was posthumously inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Homage was paid to Hayes in a different way in the 1974 satirical Western Blazing Saddles. The actor and director Jack Starrett, credited as Claude Ennis Starrett, Jr., played a Hayes-like character. In keeping with a running joke in the movie, the character is called Gabby Johnson. After Johnson delivers a rousing, though partially unintelligible speech to the townspeople, David Huddleston's character stands up to say, "Now, who can argue with that?!", and proclaims it "authentic frontier gibberish."[5]

In the animated film Toy Story 2, the character Stinky Pete the Prospector, voiced by Kelsey Grammer, is modeled after Hayes.[6] In the film's fictional universe, he is a toy version of a character on the marionette television western Woody's Roundup, where he is a colorful comic relief character. In contrast, the toy is intelligent and well spoken, a reference to Hayes's contrasting real-life and film personas.

Hayes inspired the Doppio Rhum character in Captain Miki, an Italian comic series. Hayes has also been portrayed in impressions by Fred LaBour (Too Slim), during Riders in the Sky performances. In a Mighty Carson Art Players sketch on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson impersonated Gabby Hayes in a sketch with Roy Rogers. This sketch has appeared on Carson's syndicated series Carson's Comedy Classics, which features highlights from his years as The Tonight Show host.

Hayes was mentioned in The Simpsons episode "Radioactive Man", in which Milhouse becomes Radioactive Man's sidekick, Fallout Boy; the director of the film comments that Milhouse is "going to be big, Gabby Hayes big!"[7]

Every year in early July, from 1983 through 1989, "Gabby Hayes Days" were celebrated in Wellsville, New York. The event featured a street sale, square dancing, and Hayes look-alike contests for adults and children. This celebration was eventually merged into the mid-July Wellsville Balloon Rally and gradually disappeared. A street is also named after him in Wellsville, Gabby Hayes Lane.[2][8][9]

Since April, 1969, a band of fishermen has traveled to Kettle Creek, Potter County, Pennsylvania, for the "Gabby Hayes Memorial Trout Fishing Tournament". These men, known as Gabby Guys, gather annually to celebrate the opening day of the trout fishing season and the memory of Hayes. In April 2019, they will celebrate their fifty year anniversary, which will also mark 50 years since Hayes' passing.[10]

Partial filmography

Comic book appearances

  • Gabby Hayes Adventure Comics 1 (1953, Toby Press)
  • Gabby Hayes Western 1–59 (1948–1957, Fawcett Publications)
  • Gabby Hayes Western 50–111 (1951–1955, L. Miller black-and-white reprints of Fawcett Comics)
  • Gabby Hayes Mini Comics, 5 issues (1951, Quaker Oats giveaway)


  1. Wellsville Daily Reporter, 17 September 1966
  2. "Photo Gallery: Town of Willing, NY". p. 1. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  3. "Gabby Hayes (7 May 1885–9 Feb 1969)". Find a Grave. Find a Grave. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  4. "Morrison Hayes (1895-1918)". Allegany County Historical Society. Allegany County Historical Society. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  5. "Authentic Frontier Gibberish". YouTube.
  6. "The Toys Are Back in Town". SFgate. 24 November 1999. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  7. "07x02 - Radioactive Man - The Simpsons Transcripts - Forever Dreaming". Retrieved 2017-06-06.
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