Vaulting to the top of the talkie industry in the 1930s, in a rumpled business suit that had replaced his usual cowboy garb, Will was right up there alongside other screen icons—from Wally Beery, who never bothered to tuck in his shirt, to the irrepressible Shirley Temple.
Still, despite all of his renown, Will refused to ignore the real world in which he lived. He appreciated the fact that he was one of the few fortunate ones, a millionaire in a time of endless lines of unemployed. As the black clouds of misery hung over the country, Will was much taken with the charismatic new leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A Democrat with a voice charged with conviction and strength, FDR had become a hero of the radio age. He spoke in arch, cultivated tones, with a pronounced Harvard accent— qualities that normally would have given Will ammunition for sly ridicule. Recognizing that this was a crucial moment in American history, Will refused to be sour or malicious about FDR, although he had openly expressed disgust at the ineptitude of President Hoover.
In the summer of 1932, during the worst period of the depression, thousands of World War I veterans descended on Washington. They came from