American Original: A Life of Will Rogers

By Ray Robinson | Go to book overview

12

Kidding the Famous

Each generation of Americans has suffered from its share of cockeyed beliefs, absurdities, and humbuggeries, many of which have become fair game for critics tempted to ridicule them. Will was one of those who had joined the voluble club of critics and persistent conversationalists, which included people like Heywood Broun, Herbert Bayard Swope, politician Al Smith, Irvin S. Cobb, Alexander Woollcott, and theatre analyst George Jean Nathan. These gentlemen were an all-American talking team, and Will was one of them.

As he approached nis task, Will's penchant for being relatively noncombative, even when he delivered messages that were scornful, accounted for much of his rising popularity. He challenged clichés, truisms, and stereotypes (even though he went along with some), poking away merrily at supposedly sacrosanct institutions. He specialized in the polite but sly insult, which became his chief weapon in dealing with the high and mighty.

By the early 1920s, Will had already achieved considerable renown as a kidder and needler of the famous. Although he acknowledged that he was always anxious stepping up to the dais to perform his verbal chastising of

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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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