American Original: A Life of Will Rogers

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Apr 25, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 320 pages
Hailed by The New York Times as "America's Aristophanes," Will Rogers was one of this century's most astute and beloved humorists. If as he often remarked, he never met a man he didn't like, it is also true that Rogers never met a man he didn't like to make fun of. Everyone from congressmen and Presidents to Hollywood movie moguls and wealthy industrialists bore the brunt of his gently lacerating wit--and seemed, mostly, to be charmed in the process. So popular did Rogers become--through dozens of films, a daily column that ran for nine years in newspapers across the country, and countless lectures and stage performances--that he was often urged to run for Congress and even the Presidency. Upon receiving a mock appointment as Congressman-at-Large for the whole United States, Rogers protested, "I regret the disgrace that's been thrust upon me here tonight. I've tried to live my whole life so that I would never become a congressman." In American Original, Ray Robinson chronicles the trajectory of Will Rogers' remarkable life. Written with engaging immediacy and filled with a wealth of delightful anecdotes, this lively portrait follows Rogers from his childhood in the Indian Territory of what is now Oklahoma, to his first spellbinding lariat performances in the Wild West shows (where he would often lasso prominent audience members and drag them on stage), to his stardom in vaudeville and the Ziegfeld Follies, to his early silent movies and the later "talkies," and finally to his astonishing influence as a "cowboy philosopher" columnist read by over 40 million Americans. Far more than other biographers, Robinson excels at conveying Rogers' impact as a political commentator ("I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.") and his great success as an actor in Hollywood, where he was the leading star of Fox Films. And along the way, Robinson paints a vibrant portrait of one of America's most colorful eras. We follow the early evolution of modern entertainment, enjoy vivid snapshots of W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Florenz Ziegfeld, Eddie Cantor, Samuel Goldwyn, Shirley Temple, and John Ford, and, perhaps most important, witness the major political events of the era through Will Rogers' uniquely perceptive eyes. American Original succeeds most appealingly in bringing Will Rogers before us with all the spontaneity, intimacy, and honesty of a live performance. In it we are given front row seats to the life of a character unabashedly American and unforgettably original.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

AMERICAN ORIGINAL: A Life of Will Rogers

User Review  - Kirkus

A veteran sportswriter (Matty, 1993, etc.) goes a bit afield with still another biography of all-star entertainer Will Rogers. He was simply a natural. With his vaunted wit, Rogers (18791935 ... Read full review

American original: a life of Will Rogers

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The name of Will Rogers does not excite people today as it once did. One has to be older and in a reminiscent mood, or younger and in a curious mood, to be interested in reading a biography of the ... Read full review

Contents

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 Againfor a Minute
62
7 Vaudeville Days
74
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
Postmortems
261

8 Will Marries Betty
87
9 Best Pal
104
10 Mr Ziegfeld
115
More Wit and Wisdom
265
Index
271
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page vi - Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.

About the author (1996)

Ray Robinson is a veteran magazine editor and sportswriter. He is the author of the widely acclaimed biography, Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in His Time, Oh,Baby, I Love It!, with Tim McCarver, and Matty: An American Hero. He lives in New York City.

Bibliographic information