Queen of the West Wednesday, Chapter Four

Chapter Four. “I’m in Love with a Guy Who Flies in the Sky”: The Path to Hollywood Stardom

On August 24, 1941, the Chicago Tribune announced that Dale Evans, “the Chicago girl who has had considerable success in both radio and night clubs,” would make a guest appearance on one of WGN’s evening shows to sing “More Than You Know.”

(WGN Radio headquarters, 1935.)

A lot changed in Dale Evans’s life between the mid-1930s and the beginning of the 1940s. While she once identified with the sentiment of “I Can’t Get Started,” she finally moved ahead with her career, moving from Dallas to Chicago. Dale became so well-known in the Windy City that locals embraced her as one of their own, a “Chicago girl.” She sang on WGN and WBBM, appeared at swanky nightclubs with popular bands, and even toured for a while with a nationally known big band. All of these performances laid the foundation for the next step in Dale’s career, which she assumed would be Broadway.

But the next big opportunity came knocking from the other coast: Hollywood, California. Dale Evans arrived there in the late summer of 1941, with a one-year film studio contract. Instead of becoming a theater star, she would become a movie star.

The backlot at 20th Century Fox, circa 1940s

(Twentieth Century-Fox back lot, c. 1940s.)

As Dale prepared for her screen debut, the film project was put on hold. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into World War II. Over the next months, Dale scrambled to make sure her big break didn’t fall to pieces.