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Roy Rogers
Birth certificate name:
Leonard Frank Sly
Real name is often noted as:
Leonard Franklin Slye
1911-1998

William Boyd
Real name:
William Lawrence Boyd
1895-1972

Gene Autry
Real name is often noted as:
Orvon Gene Autry
But Gene's real name may be:
Orvon Grover Autry
1907-1998


Click HERE for Gene Autry's filmography ... click HERE for the filmography on Roy Rogers.  Both include the names of their sidekicks and leading ladies.  (The filmography on William Boyd and the Hopalong Cassidy films is in the Boyd/Hoppy section of the Old Corral.)


Generally regarded as the most popular of the B western movie cowboys are Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and William 'Hopalong Cassidy' Boyd --- two singin' cowboys and a mature 'man of the west' who wore black (but in reality, it was dark blue).

These three are the cinema cowboys of legend.  They rode the silver screen over a half century ago ... and decades from now, our grandkids and great grandkids may be talking about them when discussing the history of film, radio and TV.

While there is a section on the Old Corral devoted to William Boyd and the Hopalong Cassidy films and character, I've purposely stayed away from webpages on Autry and Rogers for one simple reason --- there are tons of videotapes, books, articles and websites devoted to them.  My concentration will continue to be on those cowboys who have received little or no coverage on the Internet and deserve some mention and praise (such as Johnny Mack Brown, Fred Scott, Eddie Dean, Sunset Carson and many others who rode the dusty cinema trails).

While these three men were unique personalities and from differing backgrounds, their careers had some remarkable similarities:

Autry and Rogers did records, and Gene was clearly the most successful in this medium by rating in the Billboard Singles Sales Chart with hits such as "Here Comes Santa Claus" (in 1947 and 1948), "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (in 1949, 1950 and 1951), "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" (in 1950 and 1951), and "Frosty The Snowman" (in 1950 and 1951). Gene had over two dozen "charted" tunes, and one of his earliest was "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" which became a success after his performances in THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (Mascot, 1935) and his first starrer for Republic Pictures, TUMBLING TUMBLEWEEDS (1935). Roy Rogers had 9 "charted" songs between 1938 and 1975, the last being "Hoppy, Gene and Me" and his first was "Hi Yo Silver" which was popularized due to the radio program and the THE LONE RANGER (1938) Republic serial. (For specifics on Gene and Roy's record hits, go to your library and see if they have copies of the Billboard charted hits books authored by Joel Whitburn.)

Autry amassed the largest "empire" of the three: he owned TV and radio stations as well as the California Angels baseball team. And in addition to his own weekly TV program, Gene's Flying A Production company made 1950s shows such as THE RANGE RIDER, BUFFALO BILL JR., THE ADVENTURES OF ANNIE OAKLEY, more.

Autry is the only entertainer to have five stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame (for his work in movies, radio, records, television and live performances). Roy has three stars (for movies, television and radio). William Boyd has a single star for his work in motion pictures.

Many of us were lucky enough to see (and videotape) Roy and Gene's westerns when they were broadcast many years ago on the cable TV station The Nashville Network (TNN). Roy and Gene were there, along with friends and guests, and provided some great commentary and anecdotes about their life and films.

I have my personal likes with all three of these western performers: I prefer the Gene Autry Republic films from 1938-41 and much of his later Columbia work; most all of the Hoppy yarns done for Paramount through the early 1940s are topknotch with good stories, great locations and have the look/feel of an A grade movie; and I prefer the Roy Rogers films from about 1945 on.

From their films, we became familiar with George Hayes, initially as 'Windy' in the Hoppy adventures, and later as 'Gabby' with Roy Rogers and Bill Elliott at Republic; in addition to Gabby, Roy also got help from Bob Nolan, crazy Pat Brady, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Smiley Burnette, Andy Devine and 'Pinky' Lee; we laughed at the antics of Smiley Burnette and Pat Buttram in the Autry films; Russell Hayden, Jimmy Ellison, Rand Brooks, and several others were the trail pards to Hopalong Cassidy; Andy Clyde arrived to be the comedic pal to Hoppy; we heard some great singing groups like the Sons of the Pioneers, Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage, and the Cass County Boys; the heroines included Dale Evans, Penny Edwards and Mary Hart (Lynne Roberts) with Roy ... and there was June Storey, Fay McKenzie and Gail 'Annie Oakley' Davis with Gene; and who can forget our favorite movie horses, Trigger, Champion and Topper.

Great memories ... great films ... great movie cowboys!

As mentioned earlier, popularity polls were prevalent during the 1930s - 1950s, and were conducted by two Hollywood trade publications, the Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice.  Roy, Gene and William Boyd were consistently ranked among the Top Ten (or Top Five) cowboy stars.  Because of their popularity, they were the ones that brought in the $$$ for their film production companies ... and theater owners flocked to show their films ... and that caused them to be more popular ... and on, and on.

Autry's BELLS OF CAPISTRANO (Republic, 1942) began appearing on theater screens in September, 1942, and was his last film until after World War II. Sgt. Autry was in the U.S. Army Air Force, flying supplies in the China-India-Burma theater of war, and served for 4+ years. After the war, Gene returned to Republic to finish out his contract obligations in five new films, the first of which was SIOUX CITY SUE (Republic, 1946).  He then created his own production company and moved to Columbia Pictures for a new round of oaters.

William Hoppy Boyd was consistently ranked in the Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls.  But it was Gene and Roy who "slugged it out" for the top ratings.

Autry had been the #1 cowboy star in both polls for a bunch of years, and was again voted #1 for 1942.

With Gene's departure for World War II service, Republic passed the baton to Roy Rogers.  Roy's KING OF THE COWBOYS was released in April, 1943, and that became the official Rogers billing.  1942 was Gene's last #1 rating --- Rogers took over the crown in 1943, and would hold that #1 rating through the end of the B western genre in the early 1950s (with Autry coming in a consistent #2).  In the poll results below, note the ratings for Autry during the war years when he wasn't doing new cinema adventures --- Republic was re-releasing his earlier films and Gene remained popular and a money-maker for the studio.


Popularity Rankings of Autry, Rogers & Boyd
Year Motion Picture Herald
Poll Ranking
Boxoffice
Poll Ranking
1936 Gene Autry - 3rd
William Boyd - 4th
No Survey
1937 Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 3rd
1938 Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
1939 Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 3rd
Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 4th
1940 Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 3rd
Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 3rd
Roy Rogers - 5th
1941 Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 3rd
Gene Autry - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 5th
1942 Gene Autry - 1st
Roy Rogers - 2nd
William Boyd - 3rd
Gene Autry - 1st
Roy Rogers - 2nd
William Boyd - 3rd
1943 Roy Rogers - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
No Poll Conducted
1944 Roy Rogers - 1st
William Boyd - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 3rd
1945 Roy Rogers - 1st
William Boyd - 3rd
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 3rd
1946 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 3rd
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 5th
1947 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 3rd
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 4th
1948 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 5th
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 5th
1949 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 7th
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 5th
1950 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 5th
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 4th
1951 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
1952 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
William Boyd - 10th
Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
1953 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 2nd
Gene Autry - 3rd
1954 Roy Rogers - 1st
Gene Autry - 2nd
Roy Rogers - 2nd
Gene Autry - 3rd
1955 No Poll Conducted Roy Rogers - 2nd
Gene Autry - 5th


In addition to the Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice "western movie hero" rankings, Tinseltown had an ongoing poll to recognize their top box office stars and moneymakers. This was the Annual Top Ten MoneyMakers Poll from Quigley Publishing who were the publishers of the Exhibitor's Herald and the later Motion Picture Herald weekly tradepapers. During the 1930s and 40s, the winners included Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Cary Grant, Abbott & Costello, lots more. Gary Cooper made the list beginning in 1936 and John Wayne was ranked beginning in 1949.  Autry and Rogers were among the winners in this poll:


Gene and Roy in the Quigley Publishing Annual Top Ten MoneyMakers Poll
Gene Autry 1940 (4th place)
Gene Autry 1941 (6th place)
Gene Autry 1942 (7th place)
Roy Rogers 1945 (10th place)
Roy Rogers 1946 (10th place)
On the Hoppy-Gene-Roy links page that follows, you'll find a webpage at reelclassics that has a complete listing of the Quigley Publishing Annual Top Ten MoneyMakers Poll from 1932-1970.


Most of the info on the Old Corral about the contracts and salaries at Republic Pictures has been gleaned from Jack Mathis' excellent Republic Confidential, Volume 2, The Players (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1992), and I've given Jack credit in the Acknowledgements & Thanks page.  The Mathis book includes information on Roy and Gene's financial agreements with Republic, and following are some highlights:

Roy Rogers:

Gene Autry:


      



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