QUEEN OF THE WEST: The Life and Times of Dale Evans, Theresa Kaminski

17 May, 2022

The first full-length biography of mid-twentieth century multi-faceted star Dale Evans, follows her career from small-town girl and radio singer to movie stardom with her life and screen partner Roy Rogers. Dale was an accomplished master of image and reinventing herself as the landscape changed under her. She began her career, trying to fit in, and was convinced to hide her early marriage and her son. She didn’t quite have the looks to make it as a bombshell, but musical westerns were the key. And when she partnered up with Roy Rogers, their on-screen chemistry transformed her into Queen of the West. Eventually the two married and Dale became one of the most famous working Moms in America as she blended family and work in the public eye.

Once married, Dale acknowledged her son Tommy while Roy had three children already. They had a child together who had Downs Syndrome and died before her 2nd birthday. They went on to adopt 4 additional children, becoming early advocates to change the perceptions of the developmentally disabled and for adoption. In her career, Dale continually reinvented herself. She began singing in small- and big-town radio stations in the 1920s, when this medium was still in its infancy. By the 1930s she had enough experience to move into a bigger market, and she appeared at glamourous Chicago nightclubs and toured major cities with a big band. Dale’s voice attracted the attention of a Hollywood agent in the early 1940s so off she went to California where she became a B-movie star. The following decade, she transitioned to television and co-starred in one of the most popular shows of the 1950s. Dale got in on the rapid spread of cable in the late 1970s and early 1980s, too. Charismatic Christian ministers like Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker launched religiously-themed stations that took off with cable viewers. In 1985, Dale began a talk show on the Trinity Broadcast Network that ran until 2001, the year she died.

Drawing from never-before-seen sources (especially business records and fan mail) at the newly-opened Roy Rogers-Dale Evans collections at the Autry Museum of the American West, Kaminski deftly charts the broad sweep of change in women’s lives over the twentieth century, against a backdrop comprised of the glitter of country music, the glamour of Hollywood, and the grit of the early television industry.

“Drawing from archival interviews and correspondences, Kaminski provides engrossing glimpses into the obstacles Evans faced on her road to fame—from her two left feet (“Frankly, I can’t even do a time step,” she admitted during one audition) to her fraught home life, which was especially painful during the brief life of her daughter Robin, who died of encephalitis as a toddler. The deeply humanizing result restores an oft-overlooked yet influential 20th-century celebrity to her rightful place in music history.” — Publishers Weekly