The Story of Will Rogers

Overview

Will Rogers Jr. stars as his own father in this slow, sentimental biopic. The film begins with Rogers' days on his father's ranch in Indian Territory later Oklahoma. We see Will court his future wife, Betty Jane Wyman, just before he strikes out on his own as a rodeo performer. Attempting to break into vaudeville with a roping act, Will gets nowhere until he starts cracking extemporaneous jokes about current events. Using the newspapers as his "material," Will rises to the pinnacle of show business in the 1910s ...
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Overview

Will Rogers Jr. stars as his own father in this slow, sentimental biopic. The film begins with Rogers' days on his father's ranch in Indian Territory later Oklahoma. We see Will court his future wife, Betty Jane Wyman, just before he strikes out on his own as a rodeo performer. Attempting to break into vaudeville with a roping act, Will gets nowhere until he starts cracking extemporaneous jokes about current events. Using the newspapers as his "material," Will rises to the pinnacle of show business in the 1910s and '20s as a star comedian in Flo Ziegfeld's Follies. He matures into a devoted family man, a rancher, a film star, an aviation enthusiast, and America's unofficial goodwill ambassador. During the darkest days of the Depression, Rogers works long and hard on behalf of poverty-stricken farmers in his own home state and elsewhere. In 1935, Rogers joins his old pal Wiley Post Noah Beery Jr. for an airplane trip to Alaska -- from which he never returns. The Story of Will Rogers sticks to the facts, but the film is surprisingly dull and pedantic considering the director the usually vigorous Michael Curtiz and the fascinating subject matter.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Story of Will Rogers is an amiable and entertaining but somewhat pallid biopic. Modern audiences may very well have no familiarity with Rogers, who was one of the country's most beloved entertainers and whose death in an airplane accident occasioned national mourning. The film does a good job of presenting the man pretty much as he was, helped along by the dead-on performance of son Will Rogers Jr. Rogers Jr. has the lackadaisical drawl, the slack face that suddenly lights up, the friendly smile that defines the word "grin," and the cracker-barrel philosopher personality down pat. He's a tiny bit hesitant in some of his more dramatic moments, indicating that he was -- like his father -- more a personality than an actor per se. But if he falls short on occasion, it's still a striking performance that gives the picture the anchor it needs. When the script focuses on actual dialogue and routines from Rogers, things are fine. But when it pretends that it's telling the true story of Rogers rather than presenting another trite by-the-numbers biopic, it falls flat. Director Michael Curtiz is equally uneven, directing the film in fits and starts that are unusual for him. The supporting cast, especially Jane Wyman, is quite a lot of help. And the ending does bring a tear to the eye. If not a perfect tribute to a man who held a unique place in America's cultural history, it's still worth watching.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/16/2010
  • UPC: 883316237953
  • Original Release: 1952
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Time: 1:49:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 41,343

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Will Rogers Jr. Will Rogers
Jane Wyman Betty Rogers
Carl Benton Reid Clem Rogers
Eve Miller Cora Marshall
James Gleason Bert Lynn
Slim Pickens Dusty Donovan
Noah Beery Jr. Wiley Post
Mary Wickes Mrs. Foster
Steve Brodie Dave Marshall
Pinky Tomlin Orville James
Margaret Field Sally Rogers
Virgil "Slats" Taylor Art Frazer
Richard Kean Mr. Cavendish
Jay Silverheels Joe Arrow
William Forrest Flo Ziegfeld
Earl Lee Pres. Woodrow Wilson
Brian Daly Tom McSpadden
Eddie Cantor Himself
Monte Blue
Dub Taylor Actor
Tony Epper
Michael Gainey Younger Jimmy
Paul MacWilliams Dead-Eye Dick
Art Mix
Carol Nugent Young Mary
Bob Rose
Olan Soule Secretary
Technical Credits
Michael Curtiz Director
Milo Anderson Costumes/Costume Designer
Robert Arthur Producer
Folmar Blangsted Editor
Edward Carrere Art Director
Wilfrid M. Cline Cinematographer
Frank Davis Screenwriter
Joanne Marino Art Director
John C. Moffitt Screenwriter
Stanley Roberts Screenwriter
Betty Blake Rogers Original Story
Victor Young Score Composer
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