Today we highlight two VERY different stars who played cowboys.

Hello, everybody.  Classic movie guys Joe Morella and Frank Segers back to talk about perhaps the most famous star of cowboy films, Roy Rogers, and one of Frank’s favorites, Franco Nero.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on Nov. 5, 1911, Leonard Franklin Slye became Roy Rogers, and then became King of the Cowboys and even King of the West.

He is perhaps the most prominent and durable cowpoke in movie history — totally encapsulated by his cowboy roles. That’s all Rogers did. John Wayne, to cite another durable screen cowboy, played many other roles in his lengthy movie career.

Rogers was strictly a genial, sometimes singing but always straight-shooting cowboy who starred in nearly 120 movies and tv vehicles spanning nearly a half century. He certainly ranks right up there with the likes of Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy (aka William Boyd), and Lash LaRue.

Take 1945’s Utah, for example. It was a pretty typical Rogers picture. The plot was frivolously simple, something about a naive ranch owner from the East visiting her Western property for the first time, and being hookwinked in a real estate deal by wily locals.  

Supporting Rogers was his faithful horse Trigger, who appeared in all Roy’s pictures from 1938 until 1965, when the steed died at the ripe age of 33.  Also on hand was grizzled character actor George “Gabby” Hayes and, most importantly, Dale Evans as that naive ranch owner from the East.

This was two years before she and Roy began their 50-year-marriage, which ended in 1998 when Roy was felled by congestive heart problems.

Rogers is remembered today perhaps more for the chain of restaurants that he lent his name to rather than for his cowboy movie exploits. A shame since onscreen, the guy was so likable.

Italian actor Franco Nero has aged well and with great style. Without question he is best remembered by fans (such as Frank) of spaghetti westerns — those oaters filmed in Rome and in Spain in Sixties and the early 1970’s — for playing the title role in director Sergio Corbucci’s Django.

Nero is terrific as a coffin-dragging gunslinger violently mediating a nasty dispute between KKK members and Mexican bandits. Django is said to have influenced the creation of director Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming western, Django Unchained, which opens in December. (Nero puts in a guest appearance in a cameo role as a barfly.)

Who’s your favorite star of westerns?

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