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(From Old Corral image collection)
Dale Evans

Real name:
Frances Octavia Smith

1912 - 2001



(Courtesy of Dale Crawford)

Above - Dale Crawford sandwiched between Roy and Dale at Iversons Ranch circa late 1980s.


Frances Octavia Smith was born October 31, 1912 in Texas.  But there's a bit of confusion or mystery with this, and I asked Bobby Copeland for some further info.  Bobby writes: "although Dale has always claimed, and her mother told her, that she was born Frances Octavia Smith on October 31, her birth certificate lists her birth date as October 30, and her name as Lucille Wood Smith. As a youngster she loved cowboys and her favorite was Tom Mix."

She began her career vocalizing on the radio in the late 1930s as well as being the resident songbird with a couple of big bands ... and she adopted the name of Dale Evans.  Dale also had a child and was on her third marriage (to Robert Dale Butts - more info below).  Her radio work included a season as the featured vocalist on the popular THE CHASE AND SANBORN HOUR (which starred Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy) as well doing tunes on the Jack Carson program. She was briefly under contract to 20th Century Fox, but all she got were bit parts and her contract wasn't renewed.

Herbert Yates, the boss at Republic Pictures, signed her to a term player contract and these agreements ran from April, 1943 through December, 1947.  In her early Republic contract days, Dale got some screen work including IN OLD OKLAHOMA (Republic, 1943), which starred John Wayne.

The story goes that Yates was much impressed with the broadway musical Oklahoma, and made the decision to enhance the Roy Rogers' westerns with lavish musical numbers ... basically adding a lot of singin' and dancin'. The first film pairing of Roy and Dale was THE COWBOY AND THE SENORITA (Republic, 1944), and their last was PALS OF THE GOLDEN WEST (Republic, 1951).  PALS was also Roy's finale at Republic.

Roy and Dale clicked on screen and off.  In many of their film collaborations, Dale played a heroine who was feisty, hot-headed, and independent.  And quite often during the early reels, she was cantankerous and abusive to poor ol' Roy.  She was definitely not the typical sagebrush heroine who had a few lines and was a passive figure in the background.  Dale's roles in the Rogers' films were often that of an author, newspaper writer, or the usual "gal/relative from back East who comes West".  Some examples of the comedic hijinks and interplay between the two follow:

In SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (Republic, 1944), Roy is almost run over by a car driven by Dale.  The pair wind up getting arrested and spend some time behind bars of a prison wagon.  And Roy gets Dale to agree to a date, but when he arrives to pick her up, down comes a bucket of water that was set by Dale.  In ALONG THE NAVAJO TRAIL (Republic, 1945), Roy has to rescue Dale from a dunking in a lake.  In RAINBOW OVER TEXAS (Republic, 1946), Dale gets pitched off a boat, makes it to shore, dons some mens clothing, and hides out in a railroad car where she is found by her idol, radio and recording star Roy Rogers.  In ROLL ON TEXAS MOON (Republic, 1946), Dale is in the water again, this time due to a car mishap, and Roy has to rescue her.

Dale and Roy were married on December 31, 1947. Roy had been married twice before. He married Lucile Ascolese on May 8, 1933 and the pair were divorced on June 8, 1936. Roy then married Arline Wilkins on June 14, 1936. Arline (not Arlene with an e) passed away on November 3, 1946. Dale was married in 1937 and divorced in 1946 from Republic musical director Robert Dale Butts.

From 1944-1951, Roy and Dale appeared together in 28 films - there was a yearlong break when Dale had a baby. (Want more info on the specific films and film titles in which Dale starred with Roy?  Click HERE for the filmography on Roy Rogers, and look under the column marked Leading Lady.)

When Roy exited Republic in 1951, he and Dale went into television production with their ROY ROGERS SHOW, and the popular series ran on NBC from 1952-1957 before going into reruns and syndication.  Dale also played herself during several years of the radio THE ROY ROGERS SHOW which was broadcast from 1944 - 1955 on NBC and Mutual (as best I can recall, songstress Pat Friday played Dale during some of the radio show run). Of course, there were all kinds of products carrying Roy and Dale's name and likeness. And they both had comic book series. Dale's movie career lasted about ten years and about 45 films, most of which were for Republic. Of those, 30 were westerns.

Dale Evans - and Monogram Pictures heroine/great rider Reno Browne/Blair - were the only B western heroines to have their own comic book series.

In real life, Roy and Dale wrote songs, created their own Museum in Victorville, California, adopted and raised a bunch of children, were most vocal about their Christian beliefs, and supported many charitable causes.  But there were some difficult times, including the death of several of their children.  Dale is also a prolific author, and probably her most remembered novel is Angel Unaware, the best seller which was about their daughter Robin.  Their theme song, "Happy Trails to You", was composed by Dale.

Overall, a classy lady ... and a classy couple that were appropriately billed as "The King of the Cowboys" and "Queen of the West".

Roy and Dale were among the first recipients of a Golden Boot award, and they received that recognition during the 1983 ceremonies. If you want more info, go to the Golden Boot Awards page on the Old Corral.

Dale Evans passed away on February 7, 2001.

The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s.  With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars.  In most cases, the winners were what you would expect --- Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc.  Dale Evans was ranked during her films with Roy, and was the only movie cowgirl to place among the Top Ten in these ratings.


Popularity Rankings of Dale Evans
Year Motion Picture Herald
Poll Ranking
Boxoffice Poll
Ranking
1947 9th .
1950 10th .
1951 9th 5th
1952 8th 4th
1953 . 6th
1954 . 6th
1955 . 6th



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, from L-to-R standing in the top row are Wild Bill Elliott, Allan Lane and Sunset Carson.  From L-to-R kneeling are Bob Livingston (laughing), Roy Rogers, Don 'Red' Barry and Dale Evans.  Lobby card from the Roy Rogers 'All-Star' western, BELLS OF ROSARITA (Republic, 1945).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card from the Roy and Dale starrer LIGHTS OF OLD SANTA FE (Republic, 1944).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Tom Keene (billed as Richard Powers), Dale Evans and Arthur Loft in a 1955 re-release lobby card from Roy's LIGHTS OF OLD SANTA FE (Republic, 1944).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above are Roy and Dale in a musical interlude from HOME IN OKLAHOMA (Republic, 1946).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - the title lobby card for the Trucolor SUSANNA PASS (Republic, 1949).


Above and below are a pair of title lobby cards showing Roy and Dale. Their first film pairing was in THE COWBOY AND THE SENORITA (Republic, 1944) and their last was PALS OF THE GOLDEN WEST (Republic, 1951). PALS was also Roy's finale at Republic. From 1944-1951, Roy and Dale appeared together in 28 films - there was a yearlong break when Dale had a baby. During Roy's last half dozen or so years at Republic, his most frequent ladies were Dale, Jane Frazee, and Penny Edwards.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - the title lobby card for the Trucolor DOWN DAKOTA WAY (Republic, 1949).




(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Dale, Roy, Reno Browne (Reno Blair) and Whip Wilson.  Based on the "Introducing Rex Allen" sign in the leftmost background, this has to be from 1950.  Dale Evans and Reno Browne/Blair were the only B western heroines to have their own comic book series.



(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer and Dave Twomey)
From left to right are Dave Twomey (Happy the Clown) and his son Kenny (as Koko the clown) with Dale Evans.


Texan Doug Bruton wrote the following tribute and remembrance on Dale Evans, and it was published in the local newspapers.  Thanks to Doug for permission to reprint.



Remembering Happy Trails with Queen of the West, Dale Evans
by Doug Bruton

I would like to pay tribute to a beautiful, talented, caring and Christian lady who was a big part of my childhood and an inspiration to all of the youngsters like myself who grew up watching the great B Western movies of the '40s. Her passing on Wednesday, February 7th, is a very sad occasion.

As a young boy, I lived for the times when I would go to the local theaters to watch the great Western stars ride the range each Saturday, sing their songs, beat up the bad guys and in only 60 minutes time, save the ranch and ride on to future adventures in following weeks. It was an unwritten code among us young wantabe cowboys that this was an all-male club, no girls allowed, except for window dressing.

There was one exception, however, and she was Frances Octavia Smith. Outside of 'Cactus' Jack Garner, Vice President of the United States during FDR's first term in office, she was the most famous person to come from Uvalde, Texas.

After starting out as a band vocalist and even working on Dallas radio, she moved to Hollywood , where, after a name change she began appearing in B Westerns and eventually became the leading lady for the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers. Though we were not too tolerant of what 'Gabby' Hayes would call 'dern persnickity wimmen', there was something different about this pretty lady from Texas. Not only did she fit in well with Roy and Trigger, she also held her own in the song category as well as the action. It didn't take long for us 'front row cowboys' to have a crush on this Texas songbird, and she also became an example for all the young cowgirls of my generation and a wonderful person to emulate.

Only someone under the age of 50 will not know that the person I have been referring to is the wonderful, lovely and gracious 'Queen of the West', Dale Evans. She was the perfect partner for Roy and together they rode and sung their way across the silver screens of our theaters in the '40s and into the TV screens of our homes in the '50s. Her life was a sterling example of Christian charity and courage under some very heartbreaking times in their 50 plus years as husband and wife.

It is very difficult for me to adequately express what sadness I feel at her passing and how another piece of my mot beautiful childhood memories has now become a part of history. Dale left us with so many memories --- her great films and shows with Roy, Trigger, Gabby, The Sons of the Pioneers, Pat Brady and Bullet; her great love for her family and children and her devotion to God.

She wrote many books and songs, but there is one song that everyone remembers best, and it became the signature theme for her and Roy. It also brought a smile to our faces and joy into our hearts as we sang along to the lilting strains of "Happy Trails".

Now it has brought some tears of sadness as well as a realization that Roy and Dale are again united and although we will miss them very much, there is a warmth knowing they are again riding those Happy Trails that gave us so many thrills, adventure, music and wonderful memories.

Happy trails to you Dale, until we meet again.

Doug Bruton
February, 2001


  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Dale Evans: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0262661/

The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans official website at royrogers.com is being rebuilt (when I last checked in July, 2013): http://www.royrogers.com/

Cheryl Rogers-Barnett is the adopted daughter of Roy Rogers and his first wife, Arline. Cheryl's website is at: http://cheryl-rogers.com/

The Happy Trails Childrens Foundation helps children in need: http://www.happytrails.org/

J. David Goldin's RadioGoldIndex website lists Dale in about 140 radio programs. When you get to the site, click "Start Here", then select "Search By Artist", then select E, then scroll down for Dale Evans radio credits: http://radiogoldindex.com/

Jerry Haendiges has an Old Time Radio (OTR) site which has a bunch of logs/listings of radio shows, and the log for THE ROY ROGERS SHOW is at: http://www.otrsite.com/logs/logr1014.htm

The Solid! website is an online encyclopedia of big band music and classic jazz, and they have a brief bio on Dale: http://www.parabrisas.com/d_evansd.php

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has information and pictures on the interment locations for Dale Evans and Roy Rogers at Sunset Hills Memorial Park, Apple Valley, California:
     For Dale: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=4218
     For Roy: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3206



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