We, the thirtysomethings that have gone from the age of transistors to digital everything, may be the last to truly be able to appreciate the contributions of Leonard Slye, better known as Roy Rogers. Rogers, who was the face of the American cowboy film, and whose TV show in the 1950s helped to raise Baby Boomers, is not only an American cowboy icon, a lot of people consider him the American cowboy icon. Riding a palomino horse named Trigger and always sporting the signature good guy white hat, with real life wife Dale Evans by his side for over fifty years, the man had a legendary career and life before passing away in 1998. He left a legacy of film and TV that will no doubt entertain generations to come.
So the fact that a production company titled 821 Entertainment is looking to bring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger back to the screen strikes me as just the least bit odd. But that’s exactly what’s going to happen as the company is planning a trilogy of King of the Cowboys flicks as part of an all new marketing blitz of the icon’s likeness involving TV, games and other merchandising. 821 Entertainment Group CEO Eric Geadelmann said that the planned films will “not be a biopic, and will not be a traditional Western, but rather a
family fantasy adventure. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger are
quintessential figures of America, and we will introduce this franchise
to a new audience while capitalizing on the millions of Roy Rogers fans
That description of the films seems a bit nebulous, I take it that one way or another, they’re looking to cast someone to play Rogers and Evans. If not, then does that mean some sort of unprecedented manipulation of his likeness? Are we talking live action, some sort of 3-D or animation? I don’t know. What I do wonder about though is that, aside from the Nashville or Branson, MO or Bible Belt sets, are there still audiences for the types of Westerns that Rogers embodied? Stories so cut and dry and villains so dastardly and heroes so squeaky clean that they probably wet-napped before getting onto their horses to form a posse and go after the bad guys.
Westerns have changed a whole hell of a lot since Rogers’ heyday. The daylight between Shine On, Harvest Moon and The Arizona Kid to Unforgiven and 3:10 To Yuma is pretty much as big as the sky under which Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers found themselves singing. Is this revitalization of his legacy going to involve some sort of compromise to adjust Rogers for a world that has changed by leaps and bounds just in the time that he’s been gone, to say nothing of his glory days?
Roy Rogers was well before my time, although he made his last real appearances in episodes of Wonder Woman and The Fall Guy when I was a kid that I do remember. While I don’t watch his films, I do respect the career the man had and the life that he lived. I question the appeal a “reboot” if that’s what you want to call it of that life and that career.