Roy Rogers To Return

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The legendary “white hat” singing screen cowboy Roy Rogers will make his way back to screens in a trilogy of new films, says Variety. Which is weird, because he’s dead. A Nashville company, working in concert with the Roy Rogers Family Entertainment Corp, plans to bring a new ‘King of Cowboys’ film series to audiences alongside all the other modern merchandising accouterments: TV, video games, Burger King glasses, etc.

The plan isn’t for a biopic or traditional Western (i.e., I imagine, a classic Rogers/Evans white hat Western) but for a series of family adventure films. But even that seems odd; the days of the family Western as epitomized by the Roy Rogers movies of the ’40s and ’50s are long over. Not to say they don’t exist at all anymore, but the audience is hardly great. And even the most family-oriented films now have an awareness and touch of cynicism that runs counter to what the Roy Rogers persona was all about. How do you bring back the spirit of Rogers — and in fact, the character himself, without the actor — and not have it seem like unintentional comedy?

The Roy Rogers screen character was played by the real Roy Rogers, born Leonard Slye, who was massively popular from the early ’40s to the early ’50s (and continued on for decades after), working on screen with his wife Dale Evans, his horse Trigger and dog Bullet. Rogers died in 1998. He and Evans sang ‘Happy Trails’, written by Evans, to sign off each night of their radio and television show. So now…new actors are hired to play Rogers and Evans? Why not remake Duck Soup, with someone new playing Groucho? Rogers was a personality, and having someone appropriate that personality for the sake of new movies is crazy. But so is the idea that you can just slap the Roy Rogers name on things (which, frankly, might be better known to a lot of kids now thanks to the few remaining fast food restaurants than the actor) and have it be a success.

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