Before posting my Saturday Theater tomorrow, I thought I’d touch on a related (and rather frustrating) topic. In 1951, Roy’s Republic contract was up for renewal. Roy was willing to sign on for another 7 years, but he wanted to have the television rights for his films. Home TV was just becoming popular and he thought it would be a way to earn an extra dime, and let the kids watch his films without going to the theater. Unfortunately for Roy, Herb Yates – head man of Republic – also saw the extra dime coming from TV. He said no, and then turned around and started selling the rights to Roy’s films to TV stations! Thankfully, Roy’s 1944 contract contained a clause giving Roy the rights to his name and likeness. With this clause, Roy was able to get a court order to make Mr. Yates stop selling the films. Eventually Mr. Yates was able to get a reversal, but not before Roy was well established in his own TV show: the Roy Rogers Show starring Roy, Trigger, Dale, Pat Brady, Bullet, Nellybelle, and Buttermilk. When Roy got the court order, you can be sure that meant the end of his career at Republic!
So what? Roy got his TV show, Mr. Yates got his extra dime, and I can still watch the films. What’s the big deal? Well, when Mr. Yates started selling Roy’s films to TV, he had to trim them to fit in a 60-minute TV slot with 6 minutes for commercials. Most of Roy’s films were anywhere from 64 to 79 minutes long, so Mr. Yates had to trim up to 25 minutes of film. The action couldn’t be trimmed – that would ruin the story – and most of the dialog was important to the plot as well. So what got trimmed? The music! Now you may be one of those people who would rather skip the songs and get to the action, but as I pointed out with my last It was Always the Music post, the music was very important to the plot. Often during a song, you get to see the villains doing something to try to further their plans. Or there will be a tidbit passed to Roy or one of the other good guys. An introduction will be made between two major characters, or someone will discover something important. Besides that, the music is there to provide a quiet moment before the action resumes. It gives the viewers time to process what they’ve seen and heard in preparation for the next big step.
So you see, the music is important, and it also just bugs me that Mr. Yates told Roy no and then turned around and trimmed the films and published them without Roy being able to have a say in what was cut. All that to say, when you are watching a Roy Rogers film, pay attention to how long it is. If it’s less than 60 minutes, you’ve got a cut version on your hands. On each of the film summaries, the time listed at the top of the summary is the uncut time.
The most frustrating part of this whole deal is that the uncut versions can be hard to find. The pieces of cut film were kept, but in separate boxes from the rest of the film. Years later, during a house-cleaning at Republic, the boxes were thrown out and the cut pieces lost. Some films can be found relatively easily in the uncut version, such as Apache Rose (1947), The Cowboy and the Senorita (1944), My Pal Trigger (1946), and Under Western Stars (1938). But others – such as Song of Arizona (1946), Robin Hood of Pecos (1941), and others – are extremely rare. It’s worth the money if you can find uncut copies.
So good luck film-hunting, and don’t forget the 60 minute rule: Less than 60, it’s been cut!