- (1912–2001)Born Lucille Wood Smith, in Uvalde, Texas, Dale Evans’s parents changed her name in infancy to Frances Octavia Smith.Evans began her entertainment career as a vocalist during the big band era, first performing on radio in Memphis, Tennessee, where she changed her name to Dale Evans. From Memphis she moved to Chicago and from there to New York, where she sang at the Coconut Grove nightclub.With her newfound celebrity, Evans was asked to audition for a role in Holiday Inn by 20th Century Fox. The role did not materialize but a one-year contract did, and Evans began playing minor roles in Fox films. Her popularity grew steadily, and she was given increasingly better roles. The ultimate turning point of her career came when she was cast as costar to Roy Rogers in Cowboy and the Senorita(1944). Herbert Yates of RepublicStudioshad seen the musical Oklahoma on Broadway and had the idea to change Rogers’s singing cowboy pictures to replicate Broadway musicals, and Evans fit the role. On New Year’s Eve 1947 she married Rogers, “the King of the Cowboys,” and thereafter she was known as “the Queen of the Cowgirls.”Onscreen, Dale Evans’s persona was that of a spunky, independent-minded woman out to make her way in the world, with or without the help of men. In Home in Oklahoma (1946), she played a reporter from back East who has come to investigate rumors that ranch owner Sam Talbot might have been murdered and not killed in a horse accident as assumed. In this film Rogers and Evans worked a common plot variation of the East versus West binary. The woman reporter is an easterner who comes West on a professional matter. The cowboy heromust show her that the West is a special place. Her eastern upbringing gets her into trouble because she cannot appreciate western ways. At the same time, however, she brings to the West the idea that a woman can be just as tough as a man in her own domain. Thus, she solves problems that thwart the westerners. Evans and Rogers worked this plot device repeatedly in the 28 movies they made together.Evans continued making non-Westerns up until their marriage in 1947. It was her fourth marriage, all others ending in divorce, and his second marriage, his first ending after his wife’s death. The Rogers built a large family through the years, and their personal tragedies became the subject of several inspirational memoirs.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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