Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Christmas Album: Roy and Dale

Our Eighteenth day on the Holiday hike finds us encountering two of Santa Claus' more likable Western trail hands, Dale Evans, who appears to be enumerating her Christmas wishes on her hand, and Roy Rogers, the somewhat overwhelmed-looking Santa. Born in 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio, (which makes this viewer wonder once more what drove so many great cinematic cowpokes from the big city to the wide open spaces), Leonard Slye aka Roy Rogers felt hemmed in by the factory jobs that loomed in his future, and struggled to help his family throughout the Great Depression, experiencing the hardships described in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath first hand. After drifting out to the Los Angeles area, Roy realized how much happiness he had brought his fellow travellers around the campfires of the destitute. Eventually, Rogers, his brother Stanley Slye and a cousin began to make appearances as the Slye Brothers in the early '30s, which evolved into the Sons of the Pioneers, the singing group that had hits with such songs as "Cool Water" & "Tumbling Tumbleweeds". Rogers' screen debut, under his original name of Slye, was in a 1935 Gene Autry film. After a contract dispute between Republic Pictures and Autry, he was rechristened Roy Rogers and given a chance to star in Under Western Stars (1938).

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