Keith Hunt - Trigger's Early Movies - Page Six   Restitution of All Things

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Trigger in Early Movies

Even while Roy Rogers was Riding him!

                        TRIGGER'S EARLY AND MAINLY 

                              UNKNOWN MOVIES

     I use "THE" in referring to the original Trigger, the horse
that Roy Rogers loved the most of all the horses he ever had in
his life or movie career.

     The great color movie THE GOLDEN STALLION shows THE Trigger
in all his glory. Filmed in 1949, Trigger would have been 15
years old. It is one of the few movies made with THE Trigger and
Little Trigger featured in a story created around them. Some have
claimed (and correctly from what I've discovered) where Trigger
and Little Trigger face each other at the end of the movie. In
that color film and that particular scene you can see very
clearly the color DIFFERENCE of the palomino shades of color
between the two horses. Trigger was a more red/bronze and Little
Trigger the classic "gold" color, that some say the Palomino
should be (though personally I much prefer THE original Trigger's

     Well, now to some interesting stories and facts about a
number of movies that THE Trigger was in at the beginning of his
movie life, which most have no knowledge about, or that he was
even in "other" movies other than those with Roy Rogers.

     Roy admitted during his latter life that THE Trigger was in
the movie "The Adventures of Robin Hood" staring Errol Flynn and
Olivia de Havilland (1938). He either did not know about, or did
not care to know about, or did not admit (maybe all three) that
THE Trigger was in many other movies before he finally bought
him. Remember, until Roy bought him in late 1943, Trigger was a
"rented" horse to the movie companies, by his owners which were
Hudkins Stables. 

     Leo Pando in his book "An Illustrated History of Trigger"
writes: "Trigger's first appearance in a movie may have been in
"The Adventures of Robin Hood" .... Much press has been devoted
to Trigger and his role as actress Olivia De Havilland's mount
... it is undoubtedly the most famous of his film appearances
without Roy Rogers and the only one ever officially acknowledged
by the King of the Cowboys" (page 103).

     The movies was a Warner Bros., 1938 release. Pando gives a
photo of one scene with Trigger - De Havilland and Errol Flynn.
Pando says it was in Technicolor and considered a classic. Warner
Bros., in 2003, issued a special edition DVD.

     Along with the restored version of the film, the special
edition included a documentary titled "Welcome to Sherwood
Forest." During the section on casting, Pando related, that Roy
Rogers fan and film historian Leonard Maltin points the palomino
as at the beginning of a long and distinguished  career and
describes Trigger as "one of the greatest horses in the history
of movies, and apparently, from all accounts, an exceptionally
smart horse." Maltin noted that the palomino was called Golden
Cloud. Pando says there are even a couple of behind-scene shots
of De Havilland on Trigger.
     Pando says Roy liked the story of Trigger appearing in "The
Adventures of Robin Hood" and repeated the story often.

     At the same time of Trigger being in the Robin Hood movie he
was also in "Under Western Stars" - Roy's first staring role
movie. The horse was in 1938 owned by Hudkins stables which
rented horses out to the movie industry.

     Pando next explains Trigger was briefly in "Cowboy from
Brooklyn" - a musical comedy which featured Dick Powell, Pat
O'Brien and Ronald Reagan - yes the Reagan who would become the
future U.S. President. Apparently, in one scene, with slow
motion, frame by frame, Trigger's distinctive blaze dropping on
the right side (as you would ride him) over his right nostril and
down to his lip, can be seen.  

     Trigger was also in Warner Bros., 1939 epic called "Juarez"
- Bette Davis was in this movie, as well as John Garfield, Claude
Rains. Paul Muni was the title character. Pando explains it was a
movie about Juarez, president of Mexico, who led the fight for
independence in the 1860s when France was trying to colonize it.
Pando explains the scene Trigger and his distinctive blaze can be
clearly seen.

     Pando gives "Shut My Big Mouth" (Columbia, 1942) where
Trigger is seen within the first two minutes in a brief sequence
with villain Buckskin (Victor Jory) riding him, fancy saddle and
A scene about 17 minutes later also shows Trigger, strikingly so
as the other horses are all bays. Pando does give some photos to
back all this up.

     Leo Pando says that one of Trigger's most important non-
"Trigger" roles, was in an obscure Chales Starret westerns titled
"Bad Men of the Hills (Columbia, 1942). Pando relates that
Trigger (not allowed to have screen credit or refer to him as
Trigger) was in the plot from the beginning, but he was not
"ridden" on screen but by a stuntman, in a brief early sequence.
In one scene Trigger turns towards the camera and because his
forelock was parted to one side you get a super shot of his wide
blaze up and over his left eye. There are a few other scenes
where Trigger's distinct blaze is clearly seen.  It is noted by
Pando that Trigger's mane was combed to the left side of his neck
(it naturally fell to the right), and he suggests that Hudkins
stables renting the horse out to Columbia, were trying to make a
deliberate effort to disguise what had become the most famous
horse in movies.

     This combing of the mane to the wrong-side of the natural
flow was also used in Rogers' movie "Trigger Jr." Pando gives a
photo from a scene (I have the movie in my collection) where THE
Trigger is wearing protective goggles, Roy standing to the horses
right (as you would right him)., Trigger Jr. is to the left of
THE Trigger (as you would ride him) with sidekick Gordon Jones to
the left side of Trigger Jr. What you see in this photo is that
Trigger Jr. had his mane combed to the right side, where in
reality the mane of that horse naturally fell to the left side of
his neck, as you would ride him. Sometimes other photos of Roy
and Trigger Jr. may have been "reversed" negative, to give the
appearance Trigger Jr. mane fell to the right, or other than
that, they deliberately combed his mane to the right side. For
what reason? Well we go back to this groove and mind-set of
making out at times the two horses were from the same pod, or as
we say, "two peas from the same pod." Later in life (maybe even
in those days) Roy admitted the two Triggers were not related to
each other at all. But this was all part of the contradictions
given out IF people were not paying attention. I have DVDs of Roy
with Trigger Jr. at horse shows etc. and it is just a fully known
fact that the mane of Trigger Jr. fell to the horses LEFT side,
not the right side, as did the mane of THE Trigger. I often
wondered why Roy at times would say that people often could not
tell the difference between the two horses. I guess they could
not if they were not observing carefully. Another huge difference
was that Trigger Jr. had FOUR very distinct white stockings on
his four legs, THE Trigger had anything but, only a white sock on
the right hind leg.

     Most today, if like me, have never heard of Charles Starret,
but he was a cowboy star that stuck around for more than a dozen
years, made 132 movies (way more that Roy Rogers) and what most
again do not know is that the SONS OF THE PIONEERS (from 1937 to
1941) acted and sang in 30 of Starret's movies. Roy was with the
Pioneers in the 1937 Starret movies, singing with them and
strumming guitar at times. Leo Pando gives us some photos. When
the Pioneers left to re-join Roy in 1941 Starret said, "Boy, they
left a big hole in my pictures when they went over to Republic to
join Roy Rogers in his series." This is all revealed, with
photos, in the book "The Sons of the Pioneers" by Bill O'Neal and
Fred Goodwin. A must book for all you loyal Sons of the Pioneers,
if you want to read about their history, published by Eakin
Press, Austin, Texas.

     The last movie Leo Pando gives comment on is the Columbia
movie "Silver City Raider (1943). It was the first in a series of
movies featuring Russell Hayden as the cowboy star of Columbia.
It is more than interesting to quote in full what Pando relates:

"As he had in "Bad Men of the Hills" director William A. Berk
used Trigger to maximum effect. It's obvious the cast and crew
knew they had a very special celebrity horse on the set and
featured him for all he was worth, taking every opportunity to
show him off. Trigger seemed to play a more pivotal role in
"Silver City Raiders" than he did in many of Rogers' own movies.
Almost all the running shots, from close up to medium, were
actually done by Trigger. It could be argued that the folks at
Columbia were having fun at Rogers' expense. It was one thing to
rent Trigger for use in period pieces like 'The Adventures of
Robin Hood' and 'Juarez' when Rogers was new to the movies, but
it was something else again to rent him to another cowboy star of
a B-western when Rogers was the number one western movie
cowboy....Seeing Hayden riding Trigger - and he did plenty of it
... Hayden was taller than Rogers, but not too big for Trigger.
Trigger did not make an appearance till about 30 minutes into
'Silver City Raiders' when Lucky Harlan decided to go to Santa Fe
for the official records that would save all the ranches in the
valley. For the ride to the train station he changed mounts. As
he dismounted from the dark sorrel he'd been riding since the
movie started, he removed the saddle and ordered one of his
saddle pals, 'Bring me Comanche.' Out came Trigger. Harlan
saddled him up and rode off. 
In a later sequence Harlan was riding fast over a hill on
'Comanche' when three bad guys started shooting. Harlan pulled
up, evaluated the situation and cued the horse to move on. He
spun to one side to shoot, then spun to the other side to take
off running. It was here that the palomino was featured in a nice
profile. Trigger never looked better.
Harlan eventually pulled up behind some rocks and started
returning fire with the horse looking over his shoulder. This is
the same shot used on a lobby card. It's a comic book cover shot
if ever there was one.
When Lucky Harlan returned from Santa Fe, his enemies were
waiting at the train station and got the drop on him. They forced
him at gunpoint into a barn where 'Comanche' was stabled. As they
commenced to threaten Harlan, the palomino backs out of his
stall, knocking down one of the thugs and giving Harlan the
opportunity to relieve him of his gun. Finally in control, Harlan
ordered his adversaries to bring his horse out of his stall and
saddle him up. The palomino was placed centre stage.
In the next scene, Harlan was on his horse, riding down a road
with a bad guy on each side. Trigger was prancing like he was
leading a parade! Bob Wills caught up to them and they all
continued. By the time Harlan and company reached town, Russel
Hayden was back on the sorrel he began the movie on. It was odd
for a B-western cowboy star to begin a movie with one horse and
end it with another.
As B-westerns go, 'Silver City Raiders' is pretty good. Bob Wills
and the Texas Playboys provide great musical interludes and
there's plenty of action. It's certainly on par with some of the
King of the Cowboy's movies, except that even riding Trigger,
Russel Hayden was no Roy Rogers" ("An Illustrated History of
Trigger," pages 108-110). 

     Leo Pando gives us a great photo of Trigger as Comanche and
Russel Hayden, in the Columbia picture of 1943.

     Pando goes on to expound on "movies about Trigger" such as
"The Golden Stallion" - movies where the theme was around the
horse himself. He expertly tells about the different scenes where
it was either THE Trigger, Little Trigger, or Trigger Jr. that
were used.

     For all fans of THE Trigger as well as the two other
"Triggers" this book from Leo Pando (The Illustrated History of
Trigger) is a must have. It's only a shame there were no COLOR
photos in the book. 


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