American Original: A Life of Will Rogers

By Ray Robinson | Go to book overview

Introduction

In August 1935, Will Rogers, a one-man wrecking crew against pretense and pomposity, died in a plane crash in a remote outpost of Alaska. The newspapers of that day treated the sudden death of this American folk figure as a national calamity—rarely have so many spoken and written words of praise gushed forth about a departed private citizen. The Irish-born American tenor John McCormack accurately reflected the temper of his adopted land when he said that "a smile had disappeared from the lips of America and her eyes are suffused with tears."

Rogers wasn't a president, a crooner, a handsome screen lover, a victorious general, or a prodigious home-run hitter. Yet he had earned such eulogies through the seeming sweetness of his personality, his downright horse sense, his compassion, and a mischievous sense of humor; he rarely showed even a smidgen of ill will. He was an optimist in a world that had already seen millions of unemployed Americans shivering through the long winters of the country's most serious crisis since the Civil War.

From 1915 to 1935, Will had been America's foremost cracker-barrel philosopher, a congenial mixture of Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, and the garru

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American Original: A Life of Will Rogers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • American Original - A Life of Will Ragers *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • American Original *
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Indian "Problem" 7
  • 2 - Civil War 14
  • 3 - Childhood 21
  • 4 - Roamin' Free 33
  • 5 - A New Century 47
  • 6 - Home Again—for a Minute 62
  • 7 - Vaudeville Days 74
  • 8 - Will Marries Betty 87
  • 9 - Best Pal 104
  • 10 - Mr. Ziegfeld 115
  • 11 - The Celluloid Coast 128
  • 12 - Kidding the Famous 143
  • 13 - Travelin' Man 161
  • 14 - The Ranch 189
  • 15 - "I Was Never Sorry Movies Started to Talk" 202
  • 16 - Political Adventures 229
  • 17 - The Last Flight 243
  • Appendix A - Postmortems 261
  • Appendix B - More Wit and Wisdom 265
  • Index 271
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