Roy Rogers, Real-Life Hero

I flipped the TV on today and one of the rerun channels was playing old Roy Rogers movies. My very first celebrity crush, Roy and his movies hold a very special place in my heart. I am the only Roy Rogers fan that I know. (Mama used to watch his movies with me; we were our own little fan club.) I find myself defending him and his movies every time the subject comes up. Seems like no one else appreciates his work.

Roy never played a villain. Or even a morally ambiguous hero. Straight-shooting, straight-talking, thoroughly on the up-and-up, Roy was your cookie-cutter white-hatted hero. And sometimes his movies had lame plots and corny dialogue. Through no fault of his, of course. And, sadly, most of the versions you can find today have been heavily edited. But they are still something incredibly special.

I don’t know if it can be put into words, but Roy Rogers had that indefinable something that set him apart from the rest. If he was anyone else, I’d say it was what’s referred to as “star quality;” but somehow that’s not the right term. In my book, he wasn’t a star. He was quite famous of course, an iconic screen cowboy, but not a star. At least not to me. I guess because he never really seemed like an actor. I don’t think he ever acted a day in his life. I think that every time he got in front of a camera he was just himself. Which is what makes him so incredible – he really was the hero he portrayed on screen. The innocent, boyishly charming, straightforward hero that a whole nation fell in love with.

This is what sets him apart from the crowd. Why his movies are still around when just about every other B-western from that era has been forgotten. The reason a Roy Rogers movie could rise above its low budget and sometimes poorly-written script to become a classic. Because he was a real-life hero. He was an inspiration to a whole country then and he’s still inspiring today. He embodies the best of what it means to be an American and a Christian. From his refusal to remove prayer from his shows to his and Dale’s opening their hearts and home to orphans. Roy Rogers is a real-life American hero – yesterday, today, and tomorrow too.

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