American character actor
George Francis Hayes was born May 7, 1885 in Wellsville, New York. He was the third child of seven in his family. His father Clark Hayes was a hotel operator and was also in the oil business.
Young George Hayes played semi-professional baseball while still in high school. He ran away from home in 1902 at the age of 17. He worked for a stock company, a circus, and became a vaudevillian. His success as a vaudeville performer was such that he could afford to retire in 1928 at the age of 43. He retired to a home on Long Island located at Baldwin, New York. His retirement was just in time for the stock market crash of 1929 in which he lost most of his money, forcing George to return to performing.
George Hayes had married Olive E. Ireland on March 4, 1914. She worked with him in vaudeville under the stage name Dorothy Earle. It was his wife who convinced George Hayes to try his hand at films. The couple moved to Los Angeles to further that decision. George and Olive Hayes remained wed until her death July 5, 1957. They had no children.
After arriving in Los Angeles, George had a chance encounter with producer Trem Carr who liked his look and subsequently cast him in thirty roles over the next 6 years. Hayes played various roles including that of villain until he finally found his niche. He alternated between clean shaven roles and the familiar whiskered old coot. Though he admittedly was not fond of western films, that didn't stop him from becoming a regular player in them. George Hayes never had ridden a horse until he was forced to learn to ride for his movie roles.
George Hayes was an intelligent, dapper, and well spoken man who found himself being cast as a gruff old codger in the movies. He was Hopalong Cassidy's sidekick for Paramount Pictures from 1935 until 1939, playing the part of Windy Halliday. George jumped ship in a salary dispute in 1939 to Republic Pictures where he had to take on a new name, as the name Windy Halliday was the property of Paramount. This forced the creation of 'Gabby' Hayes, who appeared in over 40 films from 1939 to 1946. He is famous for peppering his speech with 'con sarn it','goldurned whippersnapper', and 'durn persnikety female'. His colorful speech made him a favorite of western movie fans. Gabby Hayes was still the sidekick, this time to such cowboy actors as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Wild Bill Elliott. George Hayes had also worked with such stars as John Wayne and Randolph Scott from the early '30's. He was perennially chosen as one of the Top Ten Money-making Western Stars during the period, claiming that title for 12 straight years and for a 13th time in 1954, four years after his final film appearance in the 1950 film Cariboo Trail.George Hayes' career spanned over 2 decades (1929 to 1950) in which he is credited with appearing in almost 200 films.
George saw the decline in the popularity of western films and made the move to television. He was the star of The Gabby Hayes Show, a children's western series that ran from 1950 through 1954, and which made a return in 1956. After that series ended George 'Gabby' Hayes retired again. He lent his name to a comic book series and also to a summer camp for children located in New York. His wife Olive passed away in 1957, and he lived from that point in a 10 unit apartment building he owned and managed in North Hollywood, California.
George 'Gabby' Hayes entered St. John Hospital in Burbank, California in early 1969 for treatment of cardiovascular disease. He passed away there on February 9, 1969 at the age of 83. His grave is at the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
George 'Gabby' Hayes has two stars to commemorate his career. He has one to honor his work in radio located at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 6427 Hollywood Blvd. His second star is at 1724 Vine Street for his work in television. He was inducted posthumously in 2000 into the Western Performer's Hall of Fame in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.