the hollywood cowboy roy rogers -- 9/07/18

Today's selection -- from Conversations with Classic Film Stars by James Bawden and Ron Miller. Roy Rogers, whose real name was Leonard Slye, was one of the top movie, radio, and television stars of the 1940s and 1950s. He played a cowboy, and the plots of his films and shows were simple and predictable, with the good guy always coming out on top. He epitomized the clean-living and virtuous American hero that defined American values in that period. In 1975, the journalist Ron Miller had the chance to interview him:

"MILLER: Though your career boomed overnight after your first star­ring feature, Under Western Stars, in 1938, you were far from an overnight sensation because you'd been around Hollywood, trying to make a living, for quite a few years already. Was that a rough time for you?

"ROGERS: When I look back, I wouldn't take back anything. Our family went through the Depression. We didn't have much, but we had food. I'm just thankful I came along at that time, hard times and all. If you don't have hard times, you don't know how to enjoy the good times. I didn't think about going into show business when I first came out here to visit my older sister. That was the last thing on my mind. I stayed out here four months, then went back home, but when I got there winter was coming on, so I turned around, hitchhiked back to California, and I've been here ever since.

"MILLER: When you look in the mirror today, do you see Roy Rogers or Leonard Slye?

"ROGERS: I say, that's me -- Leonard Slye. My mom never could call me Roy. She'd always call me Leonard. I finally had to change it legally when the kids started coming along. But I guess I'm like Popeye. I yam what I yam and that's what I yam. ...

"MILLER: What do you think of today's western stars?

"ROGERS: I like Clint [Eastwood], but I think he gets too much killing in his films and that's not too good.

"MILLER: Though you had some pretty good-looking leading ladies in your movies, including Dale, you didn't go in much for kissing them on-screen.

"ROGERS: Well, I kissed Jean Porter in 1944. Then I started getting tons of letters from little boys, saying, 'Leave that mushy stuff out of the pic­tures!' So we just never had the leading guy get into that stuff because we were trying to create a good image for the kids. ...

"MILLER: After you had become Republic's number one box office star and earned millions for the studio, the public started growing tired of sing­ing cowboy movies and you finally left Republic. ... You finally tackled a serious dramatic role as a character who wasn't named Roy Rogers in your final movie, Mackintosh and T.J. Did you ever consider doing something like that earlier in your career?

"ROGERS: I never got a chance to do anything like that before. Old Man Yates wanted me to do [a remake of] The Front Page. He brought the script to me and I said, 'Mr. Yates, I can't do that!' He wanted me to play the stinker who drank whisky and smoked cigarettes. I told him I couldn't do it because I'm playing a clean-living guy in my cowboy series and it would screw up everything I'd done at Republic. He said, 'What do you mean you can't do it? You're under contract to me. You have to do it! I'll just get another cowboy, put him on Trigger, and we'll just go on with the series without you.' And I said, 'No, you can't do that. I own Trigger!' "



James Bawden and Ronald G. Miller


Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era


University Press of Kentucky


Copyright 2016 by The University of Kentucky


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