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.