Dale Evans Biography

Actress, Television Personality, Film Actor/Film Actress, Singer, Television Actress, Film Actress, Songwriter (1912–2001)
Dale Evans was the longtime screen partner and wife of singing cowboy Roy Rogers. She wrote several hit songs, including "Happy Trails to You."


Born on October 31, 1912, in Uvalde, Texas, Dale Evans got her start singing on radio before appearing on film opposite Roy Rogers, the "King of the Cowboys." Eventually, they married and became one of Hollywood's best-loved couples. They appeared together on television for decades and were well known for their theme song, "Happy Trails to You," which Evans wrote. Known fondly as the "Queen of the West," Evans died of congestive heart failure in 2001.

Early Life

Actress and singer Dale Evans was born Frances Octavia Smith on October 31, 1912, in Uvalde, Texas. As a chlid, Evans dreamed of stardom, but the future "Queen of the West" struggled for many years before finding fame. Evans eloped with her high school sweetheart, Thomas Frederick Fox, when she was 14 years old. The marriage didn't last, and Evans ended up as a single mother of son Tom the following year. She got her start singing on the radio in Memphis, Tennessee. A radio station manager convinced her to take Dale Evans as her professional name.

Eventually moving to Chicago, Evans worked as a singer for big bands there. She also performed on a local radio station. After being discovered by a talent scout, Evans did a screen test for Paramount Pictures, which was considering casting her in Holiday Inn (1942) with Bing Crosby. She didn't get that part, but she soon landed a one-year contract with 20th Century Fox.

Evans appeared in the 1942 comedy Girl Trouble with Don Ameche and Billie Burke. She had parts in such musicals as Swing Your Partner (1943) and Hoosier Holiday (1943). Changing studios, Evans moved to Republic and appeared in her first western film, In Old Oklahoma (1943) (the film was later retitled The War of the Wildcats), opposite John Wayne. In 1944, she was cast in The Cowboy and the Señorita. Evans' leading man in that film was Roy Rogers, the rugged star of many well-known Westerns who had become known as the "King of the Cowboys."

Work With Roy Rogers

The Cowboy and the Señorita proved to be the start of one of Hollywood's most famous on-screen duos. Evans joined Rogers and his famous horse, Trigger, for The Yellow Rose of Texas (1944). The pair continued to work together, co-starring in a total of 28 films, including the 1946 productions My Pal Trigger, Rainbow Over Texas and Roll on Texas Moon. In addition to acting, Evans wrote and performed songs for many of her projects with Rogers.

Evans and Rogers also became inseparable off-screen as well. She divorced her third husband, the pianist Robert Dale Butts, in 1945. The following year, Rogers' wife Arline died after the birth of their third child (their second biological child), Roy Jr. Evans, and Rogers and Evans soon fell in love and were married in December 1947.

The "King of the Cowboys" and the "Queen of the West" enjoyed tremendous popularity on the big screen. They also had a hit television series, The Roy Rogers Show, which lasted from 1951 to 1957. The Western show usually closed with the couple's theme song, "Happy Trails to You," which Evans wrote.

Evans and Rogers tried to recapture their earlier television success with The Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Show in 1962, but the variety show only lasted a season. Still the public adored Evans and Rogers, and they appeared together on television throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The couple opened up a museum to share their collection of memorabilia in the late 1960s. The Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum, originally in Victorville, California, was moved to Branson, Missouri, in 2003. After more than 40 years in operation, the museum closed its doors in 2009.

Personal Life

When she married Rogers, Evans found herself with a new, larger family. In addition to her own son, Tom Fox, she became a stepmother to Roy Rogers Jr. and his two sisters, Linda and Cheryl. In 1950, Evans gave birth to her only biological child with Rogers, a daughter named Robin. Sadly, Robin died in 1952, shortly before her second birthday, of complications from Down syndrome.

Evans and Rogers adopted or fostered four other children, but they experienced two more wrenching losses in the next decade, as their daughter Deborah died in a bus accident in 1964 and their son John David (Sandy) choked to death while serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1965.

Writing Career

Evans compiled an impressive portfolio of songwriting credits, including the top-selling single "Aha, San Antone." She also made 30 children's records, most notably Happy Birthday, Gentle Savior, which featured her own songs. Deeply committed to her Christian faith, Evans also penned the 1955 gospel song "The Bible Tells Me So," which remains popular today.

Sharing her life experiences as well as her religious beliefs, Evans wrote numerous books over the years. She told the story of her beloved daughter Robin in 1953's Angel Unaware, a book that has been republished several times over the years. Evans also offered advice to others, from the very young in Cool It or Lose It (1972) to the senior set in Grandparents Can (1983). In 1994, Evans and Rogers published Happy Trails: Our Life Story, a memoir of their years together.

Final Years

Evans lost her husband Roy Rogers in 1998. He was 86 years old, and his death meant the end of one of the most famous relationships in pop culture. Evans herself struggled with health problems. She suffered a heart attack in 1992 and a stroke in 1996, but she remained active. In 1996, Evans began hosting her own show, A Date With Dale, on the religiously oriented Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Reflecting on her later life, Evans published the autobiography Rainbow on a Hard Trail in 1999. On February 7, 2001, she died at her home in Apple Valley, California, at the age of 88. Evans was laid to rest next to her late husband at the local cemetery.

She and her husband have remained a part of the national culture, living on as icons of the western films they helped make popular. They still have a devoted fan base, and Evans' stepson, Roy "Dusty" Rogers Jr., continues to perform Evans's songs and other western classics. And in 2012, the town of Apple Valley held a two-day celebration to mark the centennial anniversary of the famous western star's birth. Family members greeted fans and tours were given of the Rogers former residence as part of this special event.

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