Bells of San Angelo (1947)

Dir: William Witney – Cast: Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers), Trigger (Trigger), Dale Evans (Lee Madison), Andy Devine (Cookie), John McGuire, Fritz Leiber, Sons of the Pioneers – Screenplay: Sloan Nibley, from a story by Paul Gangelin

In this enjoyable action movie, his second in color, singing cowboy Roy Rogers is a border investigator called Roy Rogers (he usually played 'himself') on the trail of a group of smugglers, operating from a Silver Mine. He manages to expose the villains with the help of the sheriff and a female writer of western fiction – visiting the frontier to see what she’s writing about - played by his (then still future) wife Dale Evans.

This was the first so-called ‘violent’ Roy Rogers movie. Director Witney and screenwriter Nibley wanted to change the image of the singing cowboy, so there are a few bloody noses during the fistfights, and several villains are shot during the final shootout at the mine. Of course none of the violence will upset today’s viewers, but note that the film was attacked for it upon its initial release. At one point, halfway the movie, Rogers is seriously beaten up by the villains, a thing that shocked many of his fans. Critics were more pleased: the film was made shortly after WWII and many of them thought the upbeat, joyful atmosphere of the pre-war Rogers movies was no longer appropriate. In spite of all this, there are still quite a lot of songs, performed not only by Rogers and Dale Evans, but also by musical ensemble Sons of the Pioneers.

Bells of San Angelo turned out to be a good change of pace for Rogers. However, Sloan Nibley’s script is rather straightforward and the self-referential aspects – Rogers playing Rogers – aren't used to add a touch of self-parody (which would’ve been welcome) to either the story or Rogers performance. But then again: it would’ve been welcomed by us, contemporary fans of the man most probably liked to believe in what they saw. 

As a result, the film may seem a bit silly today, but director Witney keeps up the pace and Rogers is remarkably good in the fight scenes. The usual comic relief is delivered by Andy Devine; most people will know him from John Ford’s The Man who shot Liberty Valence, in which he was a particular nuisance as the ever-whining, ever-hungry sheriff Appleyard. In this movie he’s less irritating, but still always hungry (note the name Cookie), and not very funny.

ROY ROGERS, born Leonard Franklin Slye (1911 – 1998), appeared in over a hundred movies, often with his wife Dale Evans, his horse Trigger (a beautiful Palomino) and his dog Bullet (a German Sheperd). Most of the films provided Roy with a comical sidekick, usually Gabby Hayes or Pat Brady. Rogers and Evans also had a radio show, The Roy Rogers Show,; it was moved to television between 1951 and 1957. Along with Gene Autry, he is probably the most famous of the so-called Singing Cowboys. He was also called King of the Cowboys.


  1. Well done, Simon. I like it! I like this movie too. So funny.


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