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Western Stars of the Past: Roy Rogers

26 Feb

 

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1989.

Roy Rogers was born as Leonard Franklin Skye November 5, 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He claimed to have been born at second base at Riverfront Stadium since he lived on the site of the stadium early in his life. He joined the Sons of the Pioneers singing group and changed his name to Dick Weston.

He appeared in many of his early movies as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers starting in 1935.  Then he received his big break when Gene Autry walked off the set of a movie he was making and Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers for the first time in a starring role in Under Western Stars in 1938.

Rogers had been married twice before marrying Dale Evans. He was married to Lucille Ascolese from 1933-1935 and married in 1936 to Grace Wilkins who died in 1946 due to complications after giving birth to Roy “Dusty” Rogers Jr.

Dale Evans appeared in her first movie with Rogers in Cowboy and the Senorita in 1944. They would marry after the death of his wife in 1947 and remained married till the death of Rogers in 1998.

In addition to appearing in movies he also could be heard on old time radio for ten years in the 40’s and 50’s. One of the most important old time radio sellers online lists only 77 shows remaining from the ten year run for sale.

He bought his famous horse Trigger in 1938 according to Wikipedia and he trained Trigger to do 60 tricks since he had grew up training animals. B-westerns.com contends that he bought Trigger in 1943 for $2,500. The 1943 date is probably the accurate one since B-westerns.com has seen the bill of sale.

His last credited appearance as Roy Rogers was in the 1951 movie Pals of the Golden West in which he portrayed a border patrolman.

The Roy Rogers television series aired from 1951-1957 and 100 episodes were filmed. When I think of cowboy western stars that appeared on television his show is the one I remember best.

Mackintosh and T.J. released in 1975 would be his last movie appearance. He played a ranch hand and a drifter since by now he was in his 60’s.

He played himself in his last television appearance on The Fall Guy in 1984.

Fourteen years later Rogers died of congestive heart failure on July 8, 1998 in Apple Valley, California at the age of 86. Three years later his wife Dale Evans died at the age of 88.

Gravesites of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

It was interesting to see on the graves the birth names of  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans along with their birth names.

Not only were they were radio, television and movie stars they were also excellent role models who personified America at its best.

Roy Rogers is shown in this photo after getting out of his motorboat on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana and would stay at Hotel Bentley that night.

I was there the day Roy Rogers arrived in Alexandria. We must have known ahead of time he was coming because we were there when he arrived. I can remember my mom taking photos of the event.

Hotel Bentley was in its heyday then and was on the other side of the Red River levee so Rogers had a short walk to the hotel.

The world lost two of my favorite people in Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Their memory will live on though through the old time radio shows, movies and the Roy Rogers television shows they left behind.

 

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