Regional Literature and Will Rogers: Film Redeems A Literary Form

By Rollins, Peter C.; Menig, Harry W. | Literature/Film Quarterly, Winter 1975 | Go to article overview

Regional Literature and Will Rogers: Film Redeems A Literary Form


Rollins, Peter C., Menig, Harry W., Literature/Film Quarterly


Will Rogers is not usually associated with questions of literary form or literary consciousness. Yet his relationship as a humorist to American regional literature poses some interesting questions for students of film and literature because almost all of Rogers' films were adapted from works of the regional genre. The first section of this paper will explore the "mind" of the Saturday Evening Post in order to determine why regional literature remained a staple for this popular weekly as late as the second and third decades of the twentieth century. Our study has led us to read the regional novels, the Post regional stories, and the screenplays written from these literary sources. We have then watched the Rogers films closely - with heartening results. Much of the basic setting, plot, and dialogue for Will Rogers' films were borrowed without modification from literary sources. These portraits of American life were nostalgic and politically conservative. Many included derogatory stereotypes of racial minorities. Yet when Rogers appeared on the set. he injected into these films messages about American life which were more relevant and humane than those to be found in either the original stories or the final shooting scripts. It is often said that Will Rogers paid little attention to the scripts for his films. It is more likely that he dropped lines out of his prepared parts and improvised from his journalism while the cameras rolled because he found the official lines to be repugnant. Whatever the reasons for changing the lines and developing scenes to suit his own taste, the result of Rogers' extemporaneous editing was to break the conservative mold prepared for him. For this reason, rather than being forced to relate the process by which literary classics have been vitiated by Hollywood, we are happy to report that the second section of this paper will describe an unusual case in which film redeems a literary form. 1

The "Mind" of the Saturday Evening Post and The Post School of Regional Fiction

When Cyrus Curtis purchased the Saturday Evening Post in 1899. he installed an ambitious editor who vowed "to interpret America to itself."2 Indeed. George Horace Lorimer from 1899 to 1936 developed a magazine which one historian has said "had more influence on the cultural life of America" than any other periodical.3 Yet for all its claims to being "the dominant and representative American publication" of the 1920's and 1930's, the Post contained a highly selective portrait of American life.4 Most significantly, big business, big labor, and the immigrant were perceived by the Post as threats to "native," middle-class Americans whose roots were (supposedly) deeply planted in genuine cultural soil. 5

The Post was especially reactionary on the immigration issue, for Lorimer was a firm believer in the pseudo-scientific racial theories popularized during the twenties by Theodore Lothrop Stoddard, Madison Grant, and Max Nordau.6 For Lorimer. these proponents of Nordic superiority had supplied Americans with "a trustworthy key and codebook to the underlying mysteries of bolshevism. snydicalism, the Age of Jazz, the silly season of politics and the devastating epidemic of fool ideas" which had swept America after the European war.7 In Lorimer's eyes, only a few. select races could live up to the high standards of American citizenship. Through editorials and non-fiction articles, Lorimer's Post helped to sway public opinion in favor of the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924, a law which remained in force until the son of immigrants became President in 1961 .

The Post worked hard to fight one ineluctable tide of political change. In May, 1936, Lorimer announced to his readers that "There is one issue and only one issue before the country today - the New Deal and all its works, public and private, and its threat to the fundamentals of government and society."8 Without encouragement from the candidate, the Post voluntarily mounted a campaign for the cause of Herbert Hoover. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Regional Literature and Will Rogers: Film Redeems A Literary Form
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.