Oklahoma native Will Rogers brought his folksy brand of humor to audiences all around the world. Working in a variety of media, he was one of the most popular and influential comedians of his time. It started simply for him, almost as if by a fluke, when his cowboy skills captured the attention of a New York City audience. They wanted more and never stopped wanting more.
Will started with roping tricks but quickly branched out to more topical commentary. His act became a main attraction in vaudeville. He was then hired by Ziegfeld and became part of more prominent stage shows on Broadway. During this time Will also wrote humorous essays in newspapers and started appearing on radio. His easy-going verbal wit made him well-known and led to a movie contract with producer Samuel Goldwyn.
Will’s silent films with Goldwyn, as well as other films for producer Hal Roach in the 1920s, did not showcase the humorist at his best. It wasn’t until Fox signed him and he began making talkies that he would come to dominate motion pictures. From 1930 to 1935, he was one of the highest paid and most successful movie stars in Hollywood. His clean moral tone during the precode years made him an anomaly. Some of his best-loved movies were directed by his friend John Ford.
In addition to his work on radio and the screen, Will was also noted for his love of aviation. Unfortunately in August 1935, his private plane crashed in Alaska, and he was killed. His last two films were released posthumously. Years later his son Will Rogers Jr. played him in a Warner Brothers biopic about his life and phenomenal career.
- young as you feel (1930); fox; comedy; fifi d’orsay; 78 mins.
- ambassador bill (1931); fox; comedy; marguerite churchill; 70 mins.
- down to earth (1932); fox; comedy; dorothy jordan; 79 mins.
- too busy to work (1932); fox; comedy; dick powell; 76 mins.
- business and pleasure (1932); fox; comedy; joel mccrea; 77 mins.
- state fair (1933); fox; comedy drama; janet gaynor; 97 mins.
- handy andy (1934); fox; comedy; robert taylor; 83 mins.
- judge priest (1934); fox; comedy drama; stepin fetchit; 80 mins.
- steamboat round the bend (1935); fox; comedy; anne shirley; 82 mins.
- the story of will rogers (1952); warners; biographical comedy drama; will rogers jr. ; 109 mins.