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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


King Of The Cowboys



Can taste for singing cowboys be acquired past childhood? I didn't care for them then, but do now, in full knowledge that's going at it in reverse. But who's even discussing SC's anymore? Roy and Gene are stuff of waning nostalgia and estate auctions. Running them to an audience wouldn't even occur to me, yet both please, even in admitted solitude. Roy's been heaping served of late at Rancho Greenbriar, courtesy Republic waves off Netflix. It's easy to dismiss cowboys short of watching them. You figure on knowing their game and being too sophisticated to play, then one smacks the unexpected over complacency's fence and digs get underway for more. There's been six Roys so far this week and I'm still at it. Burnout's got to come, but hopefully not before spilling impressions here. Hang it all, he was likeable, could ride, sang better than Gene, and punched like demons (especially on rougher William Witney directed occasion). My loss comes of missing Roy during his 40's peak, first exposure being instead to spangles and guitar-strumming amidst TV variety he and Dale called 60/70's home. Had he really stuffed his horse to rear up eternally for visitors at the Roy Rogers Museum? The dog too? Both these were sold recently. Can't imagine to who. My ceilings are too low for Trigger, and prospect of a taxadermied Bullet holding night vigil would be just another word for Sleep No More.




We never had a Roy Rogers Restaurant around here. Was their food good? His celebrity hung on a long time for someone no longer doing movies. I seldom watched RR's TV show, playing as it did on CBS Saturdays behind preferred Heckle/Jeckle and such. Mixing up horse, dog and vehicle names vexed me. Buttermilk was Dale's mount, though I keep wanting to think the Jeep's name was Clarabelle, but wasn't that a dummy on Howdy Doody? ... no wait, she ... no, he ... was a clown. Uninspiring too was Roy and Dale happy trailing while theatre and other vid westerns got rugged beyond hope you'd vest in Rogers' family-friendly brand. I'd got to thinking they were for little kids before I was eight. Vintage movie Roys to balance scale were lopped to uniform 53 minutes, no matter original running times, Trucolor ones in black-and-white only. TV wrecked this star's feature legacy. A shame Rogers never bought up negatives like Autry and Bill Boyd so he could save what he'd poured fifteen years of effort into. Roy would admit being performer first, businessman second, this a polar opposite to go-get-it Gene.




These Republic westerns run a pockmarked trail. Many that were shortened remain so. Some of the Roys they color-shot exist only in B/W. I don't know of so many casualties among any other (largely) 40's made group. Bunches went Public Domain and are sold accordingly by varied DVD labels. Complete prints of otherwise hacked titles became available thanks to collector efforts. A single Rogers starring feature can be had on DVD via Republic library owners, Bells Of Coronado, not his best, but nicely representative of the Trucolor run. Ones I looked at came off meaner mold cast by directing William Witney. He was for making fists connect with hardened postwar attitudes. No way could you call Roy a noir westerner, but who dreamed we'd see him outnumbered and brutally beaten by Dave Sharpe's outlaw band in Bells Of San Angelo? --- a painful enough scene for me to watch, so imagine effect on 1948 small fry. I'll bet fans appreciated Roy ushering them onto toughened ground, his a kid's preview for Anthony Mann-ed up westerns to come.




No cowboy got so much animal assist as Rogers. Horses and especially dogs crowd every frame. It's hounds to rescue of Roy in Bells Of San Angelo. Bullet goes fang and claw against Grant Withers' "bad" Doberman in Spoilers Of The Plains, while Trigger vanquishes a renegade horse in thrall of Under California Stars outlawry. Oft-occasion find Rogers patting dogs at length, his clear love for animals give shows a warmth unique to this star's output. Down Dakota Way takes time to explain symptoms of hoof-and-mouth disease, while Twilight In The Sierras has Roy taking extended care of gunshot Trigger. I regret the encroaching cynicism that made all this passé. There's community and cheer about these westerns that would not survive them. Rogers even did a Trucolor prologue for Saturday matinees, The Cowboy's Prayer, asking theatres-full to bow heads with he and Trigger. What I'd not give to have been on hand for crowd reaction to this charming, and sincerely felt, couple of minutes (it's on You Tube). Republic spent generously on Roy even after reducing budgets and applying stock footage to other series. The party ended in 1951 when Rogers left Republic and set up televising tents. DVD's of good quality can be had on PD-RR from The Roan Group, VCI, and Sinister Cinema. Paramount-owned Republics stream through Netflix and more continue to be added.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Lane said...

Nobody, not even John Wayne, ever sat a horse like Roy Rogers. A staple shot of his movies -- in fact the shot introducing him on every episode of his TV series -- was a trucking shot of Roy riding Trigger at a full-out gallop; they must be traveling 40 mph. Just look how steady Roy is in the saddle. You could balance a dime on the brim of his hat.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nelly bell/nellie belle was the jeep's name

7:53 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

"My ceilings are too low for Trigger, and prospect of a taxadermied Bullet holding night vigil would be just another word for Sleep No More."
LOL! :o))

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Mark R. Hill said...

I figured this article was going to lead in to this piece of news:

http://www.mania.com/roy-rogers-trilogy-coming_article_115677.html

ROY ROGERS Trilogy Coming
Roy Rogers will ride onto the silver screen again.

By Jarrod Sarafin June 15, 2009
Source: Variety

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
© Roy Rogers Entertainment Group

Can a revised Roy Rogers on the silver screen re-capture the glory of yesteryear? The 821 Entertainment Group and Roy Rogers Family Entertainment Corp. hope so because they're planning to have the heroic Rogers ride again in a King of the Cowboys film trilogy along with other medium launches such as animated TV, interactive game and merchandising efforts.

Instead of releasing the new films as the traditional western we remember, 821's CEO Eric Geadelmann says the plan is to mix the Roy Rogers brand name with "a family fantasy adventure. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger are quintessential figures of America, and we will introduce this franchise to a new audience while capitalizing on the millions of Roy Rogers fans worldwide."

Gaedelmann said Rogers was the personification of the heartland and family values that 821 Entertainment was formed to produce and finance films on. The top Western box office star from 1943-1954, Rogers made more than 88 films with Evans and Trigger; produced and starred in 100 episodes of his own TV show; and appeared on more than 400 licensed items, with 120 million comic books sold.

Can Roy Rogers find his glory once again with today's audience?

1:22 AM  
Anonymous dbenson said...

Perhaps Roy's strongest film legacy is "Son of Paleface", one of the best western comedies of all time.

Roy and Trigger cheerfully go about their usual heroics, in on the joke but unruffled by Hope's snark and Jane Russell's sex. The movie itself treats Roy with affection and respect, and Roy gets his laughs without betraying his fans.

3:10 AM  
OpenID fiftieswesterns said...

Another nice Rogers DVD is the only one Republic/Artisan has released — Bells Of Coronado. It's uncut and the Trucolor looks good.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Dugan said...

I'm glad someone brought up "Son of Paleface" I always loved Bob Hope and Roy Rogers and thought they were a better comedy team than Hope and Crosby. Roy was the ultimate straight man for Hope and Hope was the ultimate straight man for Trigger.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous John said...

You must see EYES OF TEXAS (1948).
Roy takes a beating and whipping from Grant Withers and his gang that must have shocked the little ones back in '48. It's one of William Witney's best but is only available in its black and white version. The Netflix version is uncut and looks pretty good.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

I'm a huge fan of Roy (and westerns in general). Heck, I was probably the only 30 year old who cried when he died about 10 years back! He's easy on the eyes, has a sweet voice, and seems like a nice guy. It's a type of affability and easy charm that is sadly missing.....

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Dan In Missouri said...

I loved Roy Rogers as a child and watched his movies and TV shows and enjoyed them very much.
I have to admit that as an adult I have made it through a TV show or two, but it is painful, and I can't make it through a feature movie.
I continue to be a fan.
I admire Rogers for his loyalty to the fans right up until his death. I regret never writing him as he was famous for signing autographs well into retirement.

I also admire his business ability. He and Autry marketed themselves well and invested their money well. (Autry of course is the clear winner in the money sweepstakes.)

The cowboy pictures were low budgets films rented to theatres for tiny flat fees. The money was made through lunch boxes, appearances and owning his TV shows. My first watch was a Roy Rogers watch.

Well into the 1980's NTA was renting theatres some of Roy's titles for less than a hundred bucks.

Dan in Missouri

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

BTW, the food was pretty good at his restaurants. Best chocolate shakes around.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

Dan's mention of the lunchboxes reminds me: about ten years ago on eBay there was an item I'd have loved to be able to bid on, but the price soared swiftly out of my range. It was a 1950s Roy Rogers lunchbox in near-mint condition with the thermos intact (a rarity right there) -- and here's the capper: both the box and the thermos were personally autographed by Roy and Dale. I think it wound up going for about $5,000.

4:06 PM  

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