Cowboys of the Silver Screen ~ ROY ROGERS

With the issuance of the “Cowboys of the Silver Screen” stamps, the U.S. Postal Service honors four extraordinary performers who helped make the American Western a popular form of entertainment. Film stars from the silent era through the singing era are featured on the stamps: William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. The stamps go on sale April 17.

Cowboys_Stamps

Roy Rogers was so much more than an extraordinary performer. Born Leonard Slye on November 5, 1911, on a quiet street in Cincinnati, Ohio, whroy-rogersere Cinergy Field, home of the Reds, now stands; “right where second base is now” according to Roy.

Though Roy was city born, he was farm raised. His family bought a small farm near Duck Run, OH, when Roy was seven. On Saturday nights, Roy was the musical entertainment, singing, yodeling, and playing mandolin while the family and their neighbors danced. His yodeling abilities were self-taught, and he, his mother, and sisters used the musical form to communicate when they worked in different areas of the farm.

The Roy Rogers we know best was a silver screen cowboy who sang his way to stardom. He always played the Western hero, with a warm smile, good character, and strong values.

Thanks to Gene Autry and his wildly successful films, every movie studio in Hollywood wanted a singing cowboy. Columbia Pictures signed the Sons Sons of the Pioneers_CMHFof the Pioneers to appear in a series of westerns. Here, give ’em a listen.

Sons of the Pioneers ~ Tumbling Tumbleweeds, written by band member Bob Nolan

When Gene Autry, who’d grown unhappy with his contract with Republic Pictures, threatened not to report for the start of his next film,  Republic held auditions for another singing cowboy, just in case. Roy heard about the auditions: “I saddled my guitar the next morning and went out there, but I couldn’t get in because I didn’t have an appointment. So I waited around until the extras began coming back from lunch, and I got on the opposite side of the crowd of people and came in with them…” It worked, and Republic signed him to a sever year contract. And when Autry left the studio, they put Len Slye, who had been renamed Roy Rogers, into the lead role in Under Western Stars. When the film was released in April 1938, it became an immediate hit, and Roy Rogers was a star.Roy Rogers and Trigger

In preparation for filming of Under Western Stars, several of the stables that provided horses to Republic brought their best lead horses to the studio so Roy could select a mount. The third horse Roy got on was a beautiful golden palomino that handled smoothly and reacted quickly to commands. Roy used to say “he could turn on a dime and give you change.” Roy named him Trigger, and the horse became synonymous with Roy Rogers.

As Roy’s popularity grew he never failed to give Trigger credit for much of his success. Roy was proud of the fact that through more than 80 films, 101 episodes of his television series, and countless personal appearances, Trigger never fell.

Trigger wasn’t his only sidekick. Smiley Burnette was Roy’s sidekick in his first two films, followed by Raymond Hatton, who worked with him in three films. Early in 1939, Gabby Hayes was cast as Roy’s sidekick in Southward Ho. Although Gabby had already made a number of films with John Wayne and William (Hopalong Cassidy) Boyd, he is probably best remembered today for the many films he made with Roy Rogers.

Roy Rogers & Gabby Hayes ~ We’re Not Comin Out Tonight

In 1943 Roy was voted the #1 Western star at the box office, and Republic began billing him as the King of the Cowboys. A few months later he made a guest appearance in the Warner Bros. all-star wartime musical film Hollywood Canteen, in which he and the Pioneers introduced the Cole Porter song Don’t Fence Me In.

Here’s another one I think you’ll enjoy: Roy Rogers & Sons of the Pioneers ~ Cowboy Ham and Eggs 

Dale_EvansBy 1944, Roy had starred in 39 films and had worked with almost as many leading ladies. Then the studio cast Dale Evans in The Cowboy And The Senorita. The immediate chemistry between Roy and Dale lit up the silver screen. Dale’s intelligence, strong will, beauty and talent earned her the moniker “the queen of the West.”

Did you know that Happy Trails to You, the song that became a Roy Rogers trademark, was written by Dale? Here are the two of them singing it together: Happy Trails to You

 Children across America who grew up on The Roy Rogers Show wanted to be just like him and tried to live by the Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules:Roy & Dale

  1. Be neat and clean.
  2. Be courteous and polite.
  3. Always obey your parents.
  4. Protect the weak and help them.
  5. Be brave, but never take chances.
  6. Study hard and learn all you can.
  7. Be kind to animals and care for them.
  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
  9. Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.
  10. Always respect our flag and our country.

Roy Rogers died on July 6, 1998, at the age of 86. Although Roy was a huge success in show business, he remained a down-to-earth country boy that Americans couldn’t help but admire. “Roy Rogers was a man who unashamedly loved his God, his family, and his country. He was that rare public figure who was just the same on screen as he was off. He just wouldn’t have known how to be anything else.”    — from Happy Trails: The Life of Roy Rogers by Laurence Zwisohn  (www.royrogers.com/roy_rogers_bio.html)

It’s Home Sweet Home to Me

Roy Rogers

“Goodbye, good luck, and may the good Lord take a likin’ to ya.”  – Roy Rogers

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History, Texas, cowboys, horses—these are a few of Tracy’s favorite things. Check out her westerns at www.TracyGarrett.com.

31 thoughts on “Cowboys of the Silver Screen ~ ROY ROGERS”

  1. Tracey, i loved this!

    This has been such a fun week and i’ve learned so much about these four old time cowboys. It also filled me with sadness knowing that today’s children lack the kind of heroes we grew up with. Can you imagine an entertainer today telling children to love God and respect our flag?

  2. Wonderful post, Tracy! I’m feeling all sentimental right now. My kids grew up in a much different world, one filled with Mario Brothers and the Terminator. Roy sure was a nice guy.

  3. Just look at the face of Roy Rogers. Look into those eyes. What do you see? Everything the “King of the Cowboys” should be. Gentleman cowboy. On screen and off, a fine example for all men to emulate. Women sighed over him, and kids wanted to grow up to be “just like Roy”. When he and Dale sang together, their harmony was so sweet and pure! While they suffered many tragedies in their personal lives, they remained true to their faith and strong ethical beliefs. Just like beautiful Trigger, memories of Roy and Dale have a golden glow.

  4. Tracy, what a great post! Since 1939, on the site where the second town in the Texas Panhandle was situation, Tascosa, is the well known Cal Farley’s Boy’s Ranch. Farley provide “the boy nobody wanted” with “a shirttail to hang to” with the help of many ranch friends and supporters, including Roy Rogers. Ever since I can remember, and I go back a lot of years LOL, he and his wife, Dale Evans, donated a pair of boots for Christmas to every boy who lived there. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to come to Amarillo to present the boots themselves. It’s now a boy’s and girl’s facility. The tradition goes on but with private funding. Needless say, Roy Rogers is a true Texas hero, although he wasn’t from here. I’m going to do a blog on the wild and wooly days of Ol’ Tascosa in May.

  5. Thanks for sharing those great old songs with us, Tracy. Even though I’m a child of the 80s, I love music from the 40s.

    I loved Roy’s Rules. I could easily see how a young boy following such rules could grow up into an honor-minded cowboy who followed Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code.

  6. This has been a fun week. I didn’t know that the USPS was honoring these “cowboys.” In today’s society, I miss role models like Roy Rogers who set a good example for kids. Our whole society was the better for it. Didn’t Roy and Dale adopt many children too? So it wasn’t all for show.

  7. I’ve been enjoying reading about the silver screen cowboys, but you definitely saved the best for last. Roy Rogers and Clayton Moore (Lone Ranger) have always been my faves and sadly they don’t make heroes like them (and Dale Evans) anymore. People who led by example and kept their private life to themselves. I miss them so much but at least we’ve got recordings so we’ll not soon forge them.

  8. Good morning, all! Its a beautiful sunny day here at the lake–and my dog didn’t want to come back in so I could get to work. 🙂

    Margaret, that message is still being put out there, but the niche in which you hear it is much smaller, unfortunately.

  9. Vicki, that’s what struck me more than anything else when doing this research: Roy was a nice man. He honored his commitments, never forgot the people who’d helped him… A genuinely nice man.

    Virginia, you summed him up beautifully!

  10. Phyliss, I’ve heard of Tascosa. Anyone who’s lived in Texas for any time has heard of the famous ranch. But I didn’t know about Roy and Dale’s involvement. Thanks! I look forward to your blog on the place.

  11. Karen, I guess I know these songs because I love old westerns–and my parents loved Roy & Dale, too.

    Lyn, you’re correct. Roy & Arline (his first wife) adopted a little girl and had two more, a girl and a boy. Arline died from complications of childbirth. Roy & Dale had a daughter, who was born with Downs Syndrome and only lived a short two years. They adopted three more children, plus took on a ward whom they considered their daughter. Sadly, one daughter was killed in a church bus accident, and a son died in his sleep while stationed with the Army in Germany.

  12. Just taking a moment to share with you: I married
    “Roy Rogers.” (Sorry, Dale!) Yes, I was surprised,
    too! As a youngster, Honey played cowboys with all
    the neighborhood boys but he always had to be Roy.
    In fact, he wouldn’t answer if anyone called him
    by anything other than Roy. Even at home, he was Roy! I didn’t hear this story until after Honey and I were married. I asked him who it was that I had married, Ken or Roy? His answer after thinking for a second was: “Both.” So there you have it, I married Roy Rogers!

    Pat Cochran

  13. Hi Tracy, oh I can hear Happy trails in my head right now. And I agree so with Margaret. The same day “Kick Ass” is released with a 12-year old saying unspeakable profanity, the judge in Wisconsin rules National Day of Prayer is unconstituional! Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Enough soapbox.

    As a little girl, I recall reading Angel Unaware, Dale’s inspirational book about the brief life of their only natural child, a little girl born with Down Syndrom. I found it again cleaning out my mom’s old house. Bawl my eyes out each time.

    What a lovely man he was, with a lovely wife. We do need heroes like that again. Thanks, Tracy. oxoxoxox

  14. Tracey–Thanks for the biopic on Roy Rogers. What a hero! What a man! I so admire the “big” names in Hollywood who kept their private life private and stayed true to their wife. Charleton Heston was another favorite hero of mine because he also stayed married to the same gal. (Patrick Swayze too.) I had heard rumors of Roy and Dale’s benevolence–glad to know it wasn’t rumors. Very nice post!

  15. Tracy, I used to pretend I was Dale Evans when I was growing up. I had such a crush on Roy Rogers and I knew since he worshipped Dale, he’d like me too. And I loved his horse! Such a beautiful animal.

    Phyliss, I didn’t know about Roy’s connection with Cal Farley’s Ranch. How neat! But I’m not surprised by their generosity. They loved children. It’s so sad that their baby daughter died when she was very young. And I know they adopted some children. Roy and Dale had such giving hearts.

  16. I don’t think we ever missed an episode of the Roy Rogers Show. The Sons Of The Pioneers were favorites of mine, even before I knew he sang with them. One of their albums was one of my first records. Guess I’m showing my age. There were some good Western TV series back then. Have watched them since and they are truly so “bad” but they were good at the time.
    His Riders Club Rules are just as good today as they were then.

  17. Patricia, when I first heard the Sons of the Pioneers, I knew I really liked the music. Now, with a decade of training, I know just how talented those musicians were.

  18. Loved the post. I am a real fan of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Recently I found out that my father worked at a old west showin South Dakota as a young man, and worked with Roy, often eating lunch in the mess with him. The show was kind of a fair like show, I think. As Dad ages, I am finding out so much more about his life than I ever knew.

  19. I don’t think we ever missed an episode of the Roy Rogers Show. The Sons Of The Pioneers were favorites of mine, even before I knew he sang with them. One of their albums was one of my first records. Guess I’m showing my age. There were some good Western TV series back then. Have watched them since and they are truly so “bad” but they were good at the time.
    His Riders Club Rules are just as good today as they were then.

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