Roy Rogers (series)
Synopsis of Movie
“Happy trails to you…”
More than just another B-movie singing cowboy, Roy Rogers was a folksy, straight-shooting western hero, as virtuous as he was heroic and as well-groomed as he was well-spoken. Through more than 100 feature films, a career in radio and television, and years of personal appearances, Rogers more than earned his studio-given title, ‘King of the Cowboys.’ Together with his wife Dale Evans, the ‘Queen of the Sagebrush,’ and Trigger, ‘The Smartest Horse in the Movies,’ Roy left a legacy like few other movie cowboys before or since, and for a time, he was the biggest star on the planet.
Born Leonard Slye, Rogers first entered the movie biz as a member of his singing group, the Sons of the Pioneers. Starting with 1935’s The Old Homestead, the Sons of the Pioneers lent their smooth voices to many a movie western, but it wasn’t until Republic Pictures star Gene Autry went on strike in 1938 that Roy got a chance at solo stardom. Hoping to put pressure on their biggest star, Republic set up a competing “singing cowboy” series with Rogers.
Under Western Stars, Rogers’ first starring role, cast Roy as a U.S. Congressman, sent by his hometown folks to seek federal relief from the “Dust Bowl” conditions of the 1930’s. Like most of Roy’s work, the film featured plenty of prairie ballads to balance out the drama, including “When a Cowboy Sings a Song” and the Oscar-nominated “Dust.” The movie also featured a magnificent palomino stallion named Trigger (formerly Golden Cloud), who had already made his movie debut as Maid Marian’s horse in that same year’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. With Roy and Trigger in the spotlight, Under Western Stars was a smash hit, and Republic had its new second star.
In his early films, Roy frequently starred as historical characters, taking the lead in movies like Billy the Kid Returns, Days of Jesse James, Young Buffalo Bill and Young Bill Hickock, but by the early 1940’s, the public just wanted to see plain old Roy. Not that the star was ever without a trusty sidekick, a beautiful gal or his trusty steed. Trigger appeared in every single one of Roy’s movies, and his second bananas were always first rate: George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Andy Devine, Smiley Burnette, Gordon Jones, Pat Brady and others.
Several ladies came into Roy’s on-screen life in those early films as well, from Mary Hart to Penny Edwards to Jane Frazee to Pauline Moore, but the singing cowboy’s most famous partner (on-screen and off) was without a doubt Dale Evans. Dale first joined Roy in 1944’s The Cowboy and the Señorita, playing the cousin to the heir of a coveted gold mine. Roy, naturally, saved the day, and a permanent partnership was born. Roy’s first wife, Arlene, passed away in 1946, and Roy and Dale were married a year later.
Roy’s movie persona had always been popular with audiences, but his early work (including the memorable Carson City Kid, wherein Roy hunts down the killer of his younger brother) was still only the second half of Republic’s western lineup. By 1942, however, Roy was number one with a bullet. Gene Autry had gone off to fly for the Army Air Corps in World War II, and Republic spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting their remaining cowboy, Roy Rogers. Starting with 1942’s Heart of the Golden West (a battle between cattle driver Roy and a gang of rustlers hired by the greedy Ross Lambert), Republic lavished larger budgets and wider releases on its new #1 cowboy, and Roy became one of the most famous faces in the movies.
In a 1943 film, Republic tagged Roy as King of the Cowboys, and the name stuck. Roy was one of the only B-western stars whose movies played to A-movie crowds in A-movie theaters. Throughout the 1940’s, Roy continued to star in up to eight films per year, including smash hits like 1945’s Don’t Fence Me In, 1946’s My Pal Trigger and 1949’s Susanna Pass.
Roy’s final Republic film came in 1951. By the time Pals of the Golden West hit theaters, the star was already in a legal battle with the studio over whether or not his films could be shown on television. Roy planned to start a TV show of his own, and he was afraid that airing the highly popular Republic films would leave no room for a new series. Roy won the first legal skirmish, and by the time Republic won on appeal, The Roy Rogers Show was already a television institution.
Roy focused primarily on his television show after 1951, returning for only a handful of features. The King of the Cowboys made a pair of guest appearances in two Bob Hope comedy westerns, Son of Paleface and Alias Jesse James, playing himself both times. In 1975, Roy filmed his final starring role, playing ranch hand Mackintosh in the modern-day western Mackintosh and T.J.
Aside from these few films, Roy and Dale largely retired from show business after The Roy Rogers Show went off the air. Instead, the two worked for a variety of humanitarian causes and on the establishment of The Roy Rogers – Dale Evans Museum in Victorville, California, where visitors can come to remember (or to learn for the first time) what it meant to be a cowboy back in the days when the good guys wore white, horses were movie stars, and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were King and Queen of the American West.
Movie Release History1935 - The Old Homestead
1938 - Under Western Stars
1942 - Heart of the Golden West
1943 - King of the Cowboys
1944 - The Cowboy and the Señorita
1945 - Don't Fence Me In
1946 - My Pal Trigger
1949 - Susanna Pass
1951 - Pals of the Golden West
1975 - Mackintosh and T.J.
Movie Sub Categorieslive-action
CastRoy Rogers Himself, Various
Dale Evans Herself, Various
George 'Gabby' Hayes Himself, Various
Various Andy Devine
Various Smiley Burnette
Various Gordon Jones
Various Pat Brady
Various Mary Hart
Various Penny Edwards
Various Jane Frazee
Various Pauline Moore
Various Sally Payne
Various Estelita Rodriguez