Queen of the West Wednesday Doubleheader, Chapters Nine and Ten

Chapter Nine. “Happy Trails”: Becoming a Television Star

After Dale Evans gave birth to her daughter Robin, attendants wheeled her out of the delivery room.

It was August 26, 1950, and the Queen of the West and the King of the Cowboys had a new baby girl. But the joy the parents felt was soon overshadowed by concern. Robin Elizabeth Rogers–Dale and Roy planned to nickname her Stormy–was diagnosed with Down syndrome and with an inoperable heart problem. Doctors were not optimistic about Robin’s future, but the loving parents took their baby home, determined to prove the medical experts wrong.

As Dale Evans worried about her daughter’s health, she and Roy embarked on another project together: a televised version of The Roy Rogers Show, a thirty-minute contemporary Western that ran on NBC from 1951-1957. The song Dale had written for their radio show, “Happy Trails,” now became the theme song for their small-screen show.

Chapter Ten. Angel Unaware: Faith and Celebrity

Dale grieved over Robin’s death but had no time to wallow.

Robin Rogers died two days before her second birthday. Dale Evans held herself together through work. She and Roy were scheduled to appear at the World’s Championship Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in about four weeks, a major event they could not afford to cancel.

https://dygtyjqp7pi0m.cloudfront.net/i/23208/21367945_3.jpg?v=8D1F8D91EF2C950

Despite their hectic schedule in New York City, Dale found time to write about Robin. She penned her first book, Angel Unaware, published by the Fleming H. Revell Company in 1953. It quickly became a bestseller, and Dale donated the proceeds to charity.

And another bonus on this double edition of Queen of the West Wednesday, historian and writer Pamela Toler has featured me in her Women’s History Month blog series called Talking About Women’s History. I answered three questions about Queen of the West and asked Pamela a question about women’s history.

Queen of the West Wednesday, Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight. “Queen of the Westerns”: Holding on to Movie Stardom

Right after the nuptial-sealing kiss, Art Rush announced, “What a way to start a wedding—with the house on fire!”

The Archivist: Roy-al wedding, Oklahoma style

(Oklahoman archives photo)

On a snowy New Year’s Eve of 1947, Dale Evans married Roy Rogers at the Oklahoma ranch home of friends. The nervous groom may have started a small wastebasket fire with a still-lit cigarette butt while he waited for the wedding to begin. But Roy and his best man (and long-time agent) Art Rush put it out quickly and were only a few minutes late to the ceremony.

Dale Evans not only became a wife again, but she also became a mother to Roy’s three young children. Her son Tommy was now a college student; it had been twenty years since she had taken care of a little one. And being a stepmother proved more challenging than being a teenage mother.

Roy Rogers And Dale Evans High Resolution Stock Photography and Images -  Alamy

Dale also faced a setback in her career. Herbert Yates, head of Republic, disapproved of Roy Rogers marrying his costar, but he couldn’t do anything to punish one of his biggest box office draws. So, as Walter Winchell reported shortly after the wedding, Dale “got a nice wedding present from Republic Studios, which also employs her groom. She got fired.”

Dale Evans had no intention of giving up what she had worked so hard to achieve. Until she could make her way back to the silver screen, she found opportunities to cultivate her Western image, including launching her own comic book, which identified her as “Queen of the Westerns.”

Dale Evans Comics #1 VG/FN 5.0 1948 | eBay

That nickname, or some variation of it, would follow Dale Evans the rest of her life.

Queen of the West Wednesday, Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven. “It’s Not the First Love”: Romance with Roy Rogers

Dale Evans attended Arline Rogers’s funeral on November 6, 1946, one of six hundred mourners at the Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

Roy and wife Arline at home with nine week old Linda Lou and 3 year old Cheryl. Note the painting of Trigger (or is it Little Trigger?) on the wall done by famous Danish western painter Olaf Wieghorst. It was painted by Wieghorst before he became famous. He'd been a policeman in New York City which is where Roy met the artist during one of his early Madison Square Garden appearances. The painting was sold after Roy and Dale's deaths at a High Noon auction in Mesa, Arizona for $25,000. (Thanks to Bobby Copeland, Mike Johnson, Leo Pando.)

(Roy Rogers, Arline Rogers, and their two daughters, baby Linda Lou and three-year-old Cheryl, 1943)

Days after giving birth to their son, Roy Rogers, Jr., thirty-one-year-old Arline died from a blood clot in her brain. Roy found himself a widower with three young children to care for. He spent some time at home with them and hired staff to watch over them when he returned to work by the end of the month.

Dale Evans and Roy Rogers performed together on a radio show, the Saturday Night Roundup, and in live performances in and around Los Angeles during the late fall and early winter. “Once more, Roy and I were together most of our waking hours,” Dale later recalled.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans" (ca. 1947). Postcard F-112, po… | Flickr

(Dale Evans and Roy Rogers at a public appearance, 1947)

Now, they were both unattached, and rumors of romance began almost immediately. It was a tricky public relations situation for Republic Pictures, which supported the professional pairing of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers but not a personal one. This provided Dale with the unexpected (and longed-for) opportunity to return to non-Western films.

The Trespasser poster.jpg(Republic Pictures)

But also unexpected: Dale’s feelings for Roy. 1947 would bring major changes to her life.

 

Queen of the West Wednesday, Chapter Six

Chapter Six. The Big Show-Off: Hollywood Glamour Girl or Cowgirl?

In February 1944, Republic cast Dale Evans in The Yellow Rose of Texas, another Roy Rogers film.

Movie Posters:Miscellaneous, The Yellow Rose of Texas (Republic 1944) One Sheet (27"X41") Roy
Rogers' "Texas" related titles are considered to be some of...

The movie theater poster illustrates why Dale wanted to avoid appearing in Roy Rogers’s movies. Note the top billing in the upper right-hand corner: Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys, and Trigger, Smartest Horse in the Movies. Dale’s name was placed at the bottom, below the studio’s name and logo. A horse received a more prominent credit than she did, though her image was more dominantly placed.

Dale worried about this. She doubted she could achieve the stardom she worked so hard for by appearing in westerns. Male actors were the big names in cowboy movies, not women. So Dale hoped her pairing with Roy Rogers in The Cowboy and the Senorita would be a one-time thing. But Herbert Yates, studio head at Republic, believed he found the ideal partner for his popular singing cowboy. Yates knew Dale was unhappy. She told him so, her agent told him so. He didn’t care; he had her under contract. If she didn’t appear in the movies he assigned her to, he would suspend her and she wouldn’t work at all. And to become a star, Dale needed to work.

Dale Evans was in an impossible professional situation. The only thing that made it bearable was her pleasant working relationship with Roy Rogers.

(historyinink.com)

Another Television Tale From 2912

Last month, I talked about my Saturday morning television viewing when I was a child in the 1960s. My siblings and I almost always opted for cartoons, but occasionally we would watch reruns of The Roy Rogers Show, which was how I first discovered Dale Evans.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in The Roy Rogers Show

(From the episode “Desert Fugitives,” via RoyRogersWorld.com.)

And then there were Sunday afternoons. For those of us growing up in the Chicago area in the 1960s and 1970s, this meant Family Classics, hosted by Frazier Thomas, who also delighted us weekday afternoons with his Garfield Goose show. Family Classics aired on WGN, back when it was a local television station, channel 9.

Craigs Lost Chicago | Chicago history, Chicago, Chicago pictures

(craigslostchicago.com)

Family Classics was all about movies. Thomas selected one from the WGN library that he considered family friendly, then edited it to remove portions he believed might frighten young children. Mostly I remember watching these movies in the winter, when it was too dark and too cold to do much of anything else in the late afternoon. Our mother would be cooking dinner in the kitchen, and I think what worried us most is that she would call us to the table before the movie was over. But that rarely happened. Our parents trusted Thomas’s choices, considered these good movies, and once started, usually allowed us to watch to the end.

(TV Guide ad)

Yes, I remember watching Sink the Bismarck, and for a while we could all sing its theme song, too. I first saw Boys Town and Heidi on Family Classics, both of which gave me glimpses of childhoods totally different from mine. The show introduced me to science fiction: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Time Machine. (Because of Thomas’s editing, it was many years before I learned what those Morlocks were up to.) At Christmas time, we turned on Family Classics to watch A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, and Hans Christian Anderson.

Poster for the 1960 film The Time Machine.jpg

And there was Lassie Come Home. I didn’t like this as much as the Lassie television show, especially the seasons with young Timmy and his kind mother, played by June Lockhart. My mother told me that when I was very young, I cried when the credits rolled at the end. That theme music always sounded so mournful to me, and Lassie looked so sad, sitting there all alone. The animal movie I really looked forward to was Snowfire, about a girl who lives on a ranch and tells everyone she has befriended a wild white stallion that locals believe is dangerous. It was great family drama, complete with a beautiful horse.

Snowfire (1957) - IMDb

(IMDb)

Frazier Thomas and his Family Classics introduced me to movies, and I’ve been a fan ever since. (I prefer them uncut and uncensored now.) Cold, dark, winter afternoons remind me of the warmth Family Classics brought into our house. And I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of having the same kind of cozy library Thomas had for his books.