Actress and singer Dale Evans was born Frances Octavia Smith on October 31, 1912, in Uvalde, Texas. As a chlid, Evans dreamed of stardom, but the future “Queen of the West” struggled for many years before finding fame. Evans eloped with her high school sweetheart, Thomas Frederick Fox, when she was 14 years old. The marriage didn’t last, and Evans ended up as a single mother of son Tom the following year. She got her start singing on the radio in Memphis, Tennessee. A radio station manager convinced her to take Dale Evans as her professional name.
Eventually moving to Chicago, Evans worked as a singer for big bands there. She also performed on a local radio station. After being discovered by a talent scout, Evans did a screen test for Paramount Pictures, which was considering casting her in Holiday Inn (1942) with Bing Crosby. She didn’t get that part, but she soon landed a one-year contract with 20th Century Fox.
Evans appeared in the 1942 comedy Girl Trouble with Don Ameche and Billie Burke. She had parts in such musicals as Swing Your Partner (1943) and Hoosier Holiday (1943). Changing studios, Evans moved to Republic and appeared in her first western film, In Old Oklahoma (1943) (the film was later retitled The War of the Wildcats), opposite John Wayne. In 1944, she was cast in The Cowboy and the Señorita. Evans’ leading man in that film was Roy Rogers, the rugged star of many well-known Westerns who had become known as the “King of the Cowboys.”