One of the most famous actors and authors in Hollywood in the ‘20s was of Cherokee descent. Will Rogers—actor, writer, and vaudeville performer—won the hearts of the masses with his wit, lasso skills, and humorous commentaries on several political and social issues. He was often called “Oklahoma’s favorite son.”
This “Indian Cowboy” was born William Penn Adair Rogers on November 4, 1879, in what used to be Cherokee Territory but is now known as Oologah, Oklahoma. He was of mixed race, but more closely identified as Cherokee.
In Oklahoma, he grew up alongside fellow Native Americans and Anglo-American settlers who lived in the area. He was raised on the ranch where he was born. There, he lived, learned, and loved the ways of the Cowboy. He also learned how to lasso, a skill which he would eventually be known for at vaudeville circuits.
Will Rogers, the Cowboy
Rogers was only a teen when he left Oklahoma to join Wild West shows, which, in his time, were remarkably popular. In 1905, he performed the lasso act at a horse show in Madison Square Garden.
Being born and raised on a ranch proved to be beneficial for Rogers. Because of his impressive rope tricks and enthusiasm for the trade, people began to rave about how great his act was. As he became more successful, he decided to settle down in New York City and continue performing in vaudeville.
Later on, his silent act progressed with some ad-libbed patter after he discovered that his audience loved the Western drawl.
Will Rogers, the Broadway Star
Though this cowboy had already gained fame on the circuit, he continued to pursue a new platform for entertainment, Broadway. He debuted on Broadway in 1912 with The Wall Street Girl while he was still performing in vaudeville.
It would lead to more theatrical roles, though lesser known. But in 1915, Rogers caught the attention of producer Florenz Ziegfeld. Later that year, he was offered a role in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic, a faux 1920s cabaret that centered on the mysterious death of a silent-screen star named Ms. Thomas.
Rogers kept on reinventing his act to make it interesting for the audience. He often poked fun at public figures who went to his show and even added a little commentary on prominent political issues and current events. He would soon be known for his witty political one-liners.
In 1916, Rogers landed yet another role in one of Ziegfeld’s prestigious productions. Ziegfeld Follies was a series of lavish revues on Broadway that ran from 1907 to 1931. Rogers was part of the yearly production from 1916 to 1925.
Will Rogers, the Movie Star
From vaudeville to the theater, the Oklahoma-born cowboy had already achieved so much in one decade, but he didn’t stop there. In 1918, Rogers became a movie star. He kicked off his career with Laughing Bill Hyde, portraying the titular character of the film.
This was the first of the many films that he would star in, a number of which were from producer Sam Goldwyn. In addition, he appeared in comedies that he himself produced and ones created by Hal Roach, who is considered to be one of the pioneers in film comedy.
Two years after the birth of sound films, Rogers starred in his first talkie, They Had to See Paris. He fit perfectly into this new era of film. Some of his best talkies include the 1931 film adaptation of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee and the 1933 Pre-Code comedy-drama State Fair.
Will Rogers, the Writer
In the ‘30s, gone were the days where Rogers was perceived to be an uneducated country bumpkin. His career as a writer took off when he wrote a piece for the Saturday Evening Post, where he discussed current issues and expressed his views, which were influenced heavily by his small-town life. He quickly gained a national audience, and the column eventually became a weekly article and was published in the Sunday paper.
With his bias for the working class, Rogers became a voice for many Americans.
Rogers was an aviation enthusiast. Throughout his life, he explored the world from the skies. Unfortunately, during one of his trips, the plane that he was in crashed on takeoff near Point Barrow, Alaska on August 15, 1935.
The last two films that Rogers starred in were released posthumously in the same year. These were Steamboat ‘Round the Bend and In Old Kentucky.
Through the Roaring Twenties and especially during the Great Depression, Will Rogers never failed to lift everyone’s spirits with good comedy and a whole lot of optimism. His time on earth may have been cut short, but he left the world with a legacy rooted in compassion and laughter.
Here are the most famous Will Rogers quotes to inspire you to persevere through tough times:
Will Rogers Quotes
“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers
“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” – Will Rogers
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” – Will Rogers
“There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” – Will Rogers
“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers
“There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.” – Will Rogers
“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” – Will Rogers
“I never met a man that I didn’t like.” – Will Rogers
“Rumor travels faster, but it doesn’t stay put as long as truth.” – Will Rogers
“Common sense ain’t common.” – Will Rogers
“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today” – Will Rogers
“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces.” – Will Rogers
“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” – Will Rogers
“Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” – Will Rogers
“Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.” – Will Rogers
“When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.” – Will Rogers
“The minute you read something that you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.” – Will Rogers
“We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” – Will Rogers
“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” – Will Rogers
“The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.” – Will Rogers
“If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?” – Will Rogers
“If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out.” – Will Rogers
“A fool and his money are soon elected.” – Will Rogers
“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” – Will Rogers
“I’m not a real movie star. I’ve still got the same wife I started out with twenty-eight years ago.” – Will Rogers
“Always drink upstream from the herd.” – Will Rogers
“The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.” – Will Rogers
“If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.” – Will Rogers
“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” – Will Rogers
“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket.” – Will Rogers
“The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other.” – Will Rogers
“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know “why” I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – Will Rogers
“Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.” – Will Rogers
“It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” – Will Rogers
“An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.” – Will Rogers
“You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.” – Will Rogers
“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” – Will Rogers
“The difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” – Will Rogers
“I am not a member of any organized political party — I am a Democrat.” – Will Rogers
“If you feel the urge, don’t be afraid to go on a wild goose chase. What do you think wild geese are for anyway?” – Will Rogers
“The problem ain’t what people know. It’s what people know that ain’t so that’s the problem.” – Will Rogers
“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re actually paying for.” – Will Rogers
“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.” – Will Rogers
“There are men running governments who shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches.” – Will Rogers
“What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.” – Will Rogers
“There is no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” – Will Rogers
“The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.” – Will Rogers
“Lord, the money we do spend on Government and it’s not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago.”- Will Rogers
“It is better for someone to think you’re a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” – Will Rogers