Roy Rogers Turns 100

roy-rogers_lone-pine-film-festival_ulitmate-collection_days-of-jesse-jamesRoy Rogers would have turned 100 on November 5, 2011.

To pay special tribute to this milestone year, California’s Lone Pine Film Festival will host the “Roy Rogers Round-Up and Rodeo” on October 7-9. Attendees will have the chance to meet Roy and Dale’s daughter, Cheryl, see Rogers’ dressing room trailer, watch some of his flicks and take a tour of the Alabama Hills, where so many Rogers movies were shot.

You really have to hand it to Roy, who was born Leonard Slye in 1911. Not to disparage his senior star, Gene Autry, who helped create the formula for Republic’s singing cowboy pictures, but Rogers had a few things going for him that Autry lacked. Rogers was prettier, lighter, more comfortable as an action figure and, as a former member of the Sons of the Pioneers, could sing as well as, if not better than, Autry.

Autry, of course, was the better businessman; for that reason, and others, we have the Autry Museum in Los Angeles and a great many nicely remastered Autry pictures available for purchase. In contrast, most Rogers movies are public domain, which means they get released by anyone wishing to invest a few bucks and a little time. But glitches and scratches and rough prints don’t seem to hurt these films much; they are fine, short, tremendously watchable movies.

A good recent box set of his films is Bridgestone’s Roy Rogers: The Ultimate Collection. For $50, you’ll get seven discs, 28 movies and 30 hours of film. One of the films is 1939’s Days of Jesse James. On True West’s YouTube Gallery, you can watch a shoot-out clip from the flick.

In his Jesse James movie book (see True West Book of the Month), Johnny D. Boggs notes that history buffs should get a kick out of Capt. Worthington’s attack on the James farm; it’s based on the 1875 Pinkerton raid—although James’s mother and stepbrother survive the attack better than history records.

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