Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA354 October 6, 1929
WILL BUMS AROUND
Well all I know is just what I run into as I prowl around. I was a sitting around home after finishing an “Audible” and as it was to appear with a sort Ballyhoo opening why I figured I better kinder take to the woods till the effects kinder blew over.1
I wanted ’em to kinder fumigate around before I appeared in person back home. Well then the thought come where will I go. Now just offhand that is more of a problem than you would think. Here you are with some time on your hands, have to get out of town. But nowhere in particular to go. In fact you could go wherever you wanted, so where?
Well naturally my first thoughts was back to see the old Home folks back in Oklahoma. My Wife had just returned from a visit there with my folks and over into Arkansaw with hers. But I had not been there for, well since I was on my way from the Republican Convention in Kansas City to the other one in Houston last summer. The children were all getting started in school, which of course was her job anyhow and not mine getting them off, so I announced that Father for perhaps the first time in his life was just out for some travel, sun and amusement.
[NOTE:No photos included for these captions.]
Will Rogers relaxing while reading Homer Croy’s They Had to See Paris. Rogers starred in the 1929 motion picture based on the best selling novel.
Rogers and Fifi D’orsay in a scene from the film They Had to See Paris (Fox Film Corporation, 1929), based on the novel by Homer Croy.
Just think, going somewhere. Dident have to go at any certain time, dident have to make some Town to lecture the people out of anything on any certain night, dident have to make a Show at eight o’clock in New York. I just dident have to do nothing. Well of course my mind turned to Planes. Well the Western Air Express gets you further from Los Angeles in one day than any other, so I called ’em up and told ’em to reserve me a seat the following morning. (Oh I tell you I work fast when I decide to step out.) They told me we left for Kansas City at five o’clock in the morning. Well that’s pretty early to be woke up and shoved on an Aeroplane and it still dark, but I made it. And the Plane was full 10 or twelve people. There was some Boys and Girls on there that were going back to their homes who had made a ten thousand mile trip as the Guests of the Western Air Express Co. on their Planes. They had won a Song Title Contest, in their respective Citys all over the Country. I had always wondered what kind of people it was that answered Puzzles and entered all Newspaper contests. It was a kind of a mania that I couldent hardly see what would drive ’em to it. But do you know they was an awful normal bunch. Old ones, young ones, School Boys and men with good jobs. All had answered some add and sent in a Title for a song. You would have been surprised what a rational crowd it was, Awfully normal. One Girl in the bunch who tried to make love and DID to all the rest.
We had a fine trip, the Pilot in flying over where the accident was tried to point it out but was not able to find it.2
It was in a very bad territory and with a storm and a fog on, why you could see that it was an accident that could be accounted for in no way only by the elements. It was just one of those unfortunate things that had to happen like some are killed by Earthquakes and lightning. But it don’t mean that we are going to abolish either one of those.
I got off in Wichita at eight o’clock that same evening. Just think across the whole width of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and most of Kansas, and a corner of Oklahoma, all in one day. Staid there all night, then on a regular, organized line, on a regular daily schedule from there down to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and by the way saw more Planes and more Aerial activity there than at any field I have ever visited. Was met by my Sister and driven to her home in Chelsea.3
Well for the next few days I did nothing but just visit around with all my folks and old Cronies, made no dates, just get in the car and go see ’em. The family couldent get over the idea that there was not some place I had to rush to make a Lecture date every night.
I received a wire from my Wife from California saying the picture had opened and I could come home, that’s all the wire said. So you see we got two Comedians in the family. Left Tulsa in a fast single motored Lockhead Viga, with Oklahoma’s favorite Pilot Robert Cantwell, stopped at Fort Reno a beautiful old Fort that I had always wanted to see.4
They were having a big Polo tournament there, among the best Army teams and the best Civilian ones in the middle west. They are doing a great work there. It’s the Government Remount station and they are keeping up the breeding and caliber of our Army Horses and also of the whole country.
Next was an old Friend’s ranch away out in western Texas, where if it hadent been for Planes, I would never have been able to spare the time to make the trip. Then I degenerated down to the speed of a car. Another old Cowpuncher Cronie loaded me in his car, (as this Plane that had brought me out had gone back to Tulsa) and he and I drove from Amarillo Texas to Cimmaron New Mexico. We was half of one night, up at five o’clock and most of the day. Could have made it in a Plane in three hours. But did enjoy looking at all the ranches. Cattle was never fatter, and grass was never better.
The old Staked Plains that we used to think wouldent raise a thing but grass has farms all over it. But there is still some tremendous ranches, for lots of them have blocked up and bought outright big tracts of land. There is several of a Quarter and half million acres each. My friend had a big Horse ranch away up in the mountains and we rode and looked at horses and lots of wild game for two days. All this time I was just going where I wanted too, and doing what I wanted too. Had nowhere to go, or no particular time to get there. Finally I says I better go home, cause I got to make another one. So into Raton New Mex by car, then by train down to Albequrque where I would catch one of the transcontinental air lines into Los Angeles. Left Albequrque at eleven o’clock in the morning, landed at Los Angeles at four thirty. So I finished ten days of just Bumming. Course it was high class “Bumming” but it was bumming never the less.
1They Had to See Paris, Rogers’ first “talkie,” had its world premiere in Los Angeles on September 18, 1929.
2An airliner crashed in western New Mexico during a storm on September 8, 1929, killing all eight persons aboard.
3Sallie Clementine Rogers McSpadden, a sister of Will Rogers; wife of John Thomas “Tom” McSpadden, rancher of Chelsea, Oklahoma.
4Robert Westmoreland “Bobby” Cantwell, early Oklahoma aviator who flew as an executive pilot for oilmen and as a private transport flier.
WA355 October 13, 1929
THE CHANGING MOVIES
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. I got home a week ago from prowling around in the various states visiting relatives and old friends and what had been going on in Hollywood during my absence. My picture had opened amid no casualties and I had been practically forgiven for it; wasent bad enough to shoot or good enough to cheer. Went over to the studio and our general manager showed me the new “grandeur” screen.
That is you can’t take one old bed sheet and tack it up on the wall and throw some movies on it. This is a great big thing as broad as a Gettysburg painting that covers the whole of the opening of the theatre. It’s about two and a half times the width of the old screen. It has to be taken with a different camera and it has to be projected with a different projecting machine and the width of the film is just about twice what the other was.
They say it will speed up the movies as it will take in so much territory that it will do away with the old idea of continually cutting to a “close-up.” That when a scene is being played and there is a bunch of people that you will have to get over your “emotions” all at once and in the same picture, that they won’t cut to each of you in a close-up.
I sho will be glad of that for I sho do hate those close-ups. When those old wrinkles commence coming and the old mane is turning snowy, why we don’t want either cameras or people to commence to crowd us.
This broad screen thing looks like almost as big an innovation as the new talkies were. You just get twice as much to look at as you used to. Then the color thing is coming along fine, where they are going to get our natural complexion right in the camera, without artificial coloring after the film is taken.
Oh we are just getting so many new things that you almost have to go every night to get ’em. A theater no more than gets in one type of apparatus than it has to start installing another one. They have more workmen in the theaters now than they have audiences. Everybody that can speak above a whisper is out here to have their voice invoiced.
The old town is just a-humming. Broadway, New York, has moved out spats and dogs. This talking picture craze has got more actors out of New York than “Abie’s Irish Rose” did.1
They come thinking the screen actor can’t talk. Say, the screen actor can talk, but nobody ever listened to him before.
He has been speaking words in these things for years, but nobody heard him but the crew. You know, after all, talk is not exactly a new industry among any Americans. Talk was the best thing we did. And when a chance come along to record it for prosperity (posterity means people two weeks later), why, we just snapped at the chance.
I was over to the studio today and who do I run onto but little Ann Pennington.2
I hadent seen her in years since we used to work together in the “Follies.” She has collected more money off her knees than most people have off their heads. My wife always said that Ann was the only woman that had a child’s leg. So you see it’s not only me in the family that’s high on Ann’s underpinning.
Not only actors but writers are all out here. Ben Ames Williams, that you all have read after in the Saturday Evening Post so much, is here.3
He wrote the finest story it was ever my privilege to work in. That was one called “Jubilo,” where I played a tramp.
It was the only story ever made out here where there was no scenario made. We just shot the scenes from the various paragraphs in the story in the Saturday Evening Post. When we took a scene we just marked it off and went on the next.
I think, and he verified it, that it was the only story ever made that was absolutely filmed as it was written. Here is the big novelty to it: We dident change his main title either! They will film the Lord’s Supper and when it is made figure that that is not a good release title and not catchy enough, so it will be released under the heading, “A Red Hot Meal” or “The Gastronomical Orgy.”
I passed a theater down by the ranch the other night and we wanted to go in and had intended to, but what stared us in the face but something like “Fast Company” or some such idiotic title and we just drove on. A few days later the children got to talking about a good and funny picture they had seen, a baseball picture. I got to asking them about it. It was the one by Ring Lardner, the “Elmer, the Great” play, based on his famous stories of the rookie in baseball.4
Andy Tombs and I had done a sketch in the “Follies” of ’22 that Ring wrote that was the nucleus of this play.5
Well, here this thing called “Fast Company” and featuring some girl was nothing but “Elmer The Great.” Now I know that title they had drove out more people than it ever brought in.
So no matter what famous book you have read and want to see in the pictures, why you better start going into every theater you come to. Don’t look up at the title, for “Pationate Pal” may be just what you was looking for as “Romeo and Juliet” or “She Stoops to Conquer” may reach your corner labeled “Baby You Are a Wow.” Sometimes you just think there ain’t enough crazy titles to go round and that when they end, that will be the finish of pictures.
But really the whole business is flourishing and weddings were never more at a premium. Divorces permeate the air. High-powered roadsters are skitting here and yon. Beach houses are closed and the sand is covering up the old bottles. There will be little to recognize the old place in a few weeks. It and Wall Street are two businesses you can’t explain.
1Abie’s Irish Rose, one of the longest running plays in the history of Broadway theatrical productions. Anne Nichols wrote the comedy, which opened on May 23, 1922, and played before approximately two million theater-goers during its lengthy run.
2Anne Pennington, American dancer who often performed in the Ziegfeld Follies and who won fame as the dancer with the “dimpled knees.”
3Ben Ames Williams, American novelist and short story writer whose works include All the Brothers Were Valiant and Audacity.
4Ringgold Wilmer “Ring” Lardner, American humorist, novelist, playwright, and short story writer, famous for his baseball and other sports tales; author of Big Town, What of It?, and Round Up.
5Andrew “Andy” Tombes, American vaudevillian and motion picture character actor, active in the entertainment business until his retirement in 1955.