Happy birthday Will Rogers!

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Will Rogers (November 4, 1879—August 15, 1935) was an American vaudeville performer, film actor, and columnist. He was one of the best known performers of the 1920s and 1930s. He was known for his political wit and ability to improvise.

will_rogers_portrait_2_448_640Rogers was born in Oologah, Oklahoma to Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher. He was part Cherokee, with both of his parents having some Cherokee ancestry. His father was a prominent Cherokee judge and politician.

Rogers dropped out of college after 10th grade. Before long, he and a friend traveled to Argentina with aspirations to become gauchos, or ranch owners. He continued to travel for a few more months before returning to the United States, where he landed a job as a trick roper in "Texas Jack's Wild West Circus."

He went on to perform as a trick roper in Australia, where he honed his skills and added a pony. He returned to the United States again in 1904 and decided to lend his talents to vaudeville. (Image source)

Rogers got his start in New York City in an incident at Madison Square Garden. A wild steer broke loose and headed for the crowds, but Rogers was able to corral the animal away from audience members. The event came out in the newspapers and soon Rogers was signed to appear with his pony at Victoria Roof. He spent the next decade appearing in vaudeville shows around the city.

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In 1915, Rogers began to appear in Florenz Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic, a variety review at Ziegfeld's New Amsterdam Theatre. Soon, he was moved to the more popular Ziegfeld Follies. Through his performances at Follies, he made a name for himself as an expert improviser and witty commentator.

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By 1918, Rogers was discovered by Hollywood. He appeared in Laughing Bill Hyde (1918), then three films with director Rob Wagner: Two Wagons Both Covered, Going to Congress and Our Congressman, all in 1924. He went on to make a total of 48 silent films before switching to sound. Some of his most notable sound films include They Had to See Paris (1929), Dr. Bull (1933), David Harum (1934).

In addition to becoming a well-regarded actor, he was a shrewd political commentator and he lent this skill to newspapers in the form of a column called "Will Rogers Says" for The Saturday Evening Post. He also wrote the column "Slipping the Lariat Over." (Image source)

He was famous for his one liners. Some included: "I have never yet met a man that I dident like," "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for," "I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts," and "Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

Rogers was an avid aviation enthusiast. He planned to take a trip to explore Alaska and on August 15, 1935, his plane crashed and he died on impact. His death was mourned by many.

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Selected performances

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 04 November 2014
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