Alanna Nash
September 03, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Will Rogers, Performer: An Illustrated Biography With a Filmography

Current Status
In Season
Movies, Biography

We gave it a B

Will Rogers, the great Okie humorist and columnist, died in a plane crash in 1935, but the old cowboy still gets a good-natured resurrection every now and then, most recently on Broadway with The Will Rogers Follies. Invariably, the folksy Rogers is celebrated for his savvy social and political commentaries. What’s generally forgotten is his substantial career as a performer. He parlayed a talent as a trick roper into vaudeville and the Ziegfeld Follies, breaking into silent movies in 1918 and going on to make 21 ”squawkies,” as he called them, becoming America’s top box office draw in 1934. Will Rogers, Performer: An Illustrated Biography with a Filmography is long on facts and short on analysis, but shows that Rogers was as sharp about Hollywood as he was about everything else. ”An adapter,” he said, ”is one who wants to bet you won’t recognize your own story. Original writers are men who have good enough lawyers to protect them from plagiarism.”

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