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.


Queen of the West Wednesday, Chapter Five

Chapter Five. The Cowboy and the Senorita: Rising Star at Republic Pictures

In a fit of pique, Dale Evans severed her relationship with Art Rush and signed with Danny Winkler, a friend of Joe Rivkin and an agent long associated with Myron Selznick’s firm.

Dale Evans - ca.1942
Pic Source: @cjubarrington (Twitter)

(Dale Evans c. 1942)

Dale had not even been in Hollywood for a year and a half, and she was already on her third agent. Losing Joe Rivkin, who brought her out there in the first place, had been out of her control. With the United States at war, Rivkin signed up for military service. He recommended that Dale talk to Art Rush about representation. Rush had worked for RCA Victor Records before opening his own talent agency in 1939, with some high-profile singers/actors signing on.

Front entrance to the Hollywood Canteen, Vine St., Hollywood, 1942

(Hollywood Canteen on Vine Street, 1942)

Though Dale Evans and Art Rush initially worked well together, it only took a few months for her to conclude that he was not paying adequate attention to her career. She accused him of spending all his time promoting his favorite client, his rising star, the singing cowboy Roy Rogers. Dale had nothing against Roy. Rush had introduced the two of them when they both appeared at an Army air base in California to perform for the troops. Dale liked Roy, found him “a very real person.” But she had no intention of playing second fiddle to him with Art Rush. So Dale fired Rush and moved on to her third agent.

In early 1943, Danny Winkler arranged an audition at Republic Pictures. Dale Evans wowed everyone at the small studio, and she was hired. Ironically, Roy Rogers was also under contract there, one of the studio’s biggest “B”-movie stars. And in another twist, Dale’s career at Republic did not really take off until she was featured in 1944’s The Cowboy and the Senorita–with Roy Rogers.

Cowboy and the Senorita (1944) movie poster

This was not what Dale Evans envisioned for her Hollywood stardom. She had to figure out what to do about it.

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.