Will Rogers' Weekly Articles

April 5, 1931 - Current

April 5, 1931

HOOVER, CHAPLIN AND THE PRINCE GO TOURING

Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Well Mr Hoover got back from a part of the country he had never been in till he was President. It’s awful hard for Mr Hoover to find new places to go after election, for he has traveled so much.1 But he manages to find some. They was going to try a Battleship to see if it would work after they had had it renovated, so he just says, “Here is the time for me to get away from all this mess.”

So he picked him out a bunch of congenial friends, mostly standpat Republicans and joined the Navy and started seeing the World. It dident used to be hard to find some place for Coolidge to go where he had never been, all you had to do was just to suggest any one of the forty eight States outside of Vermont and Massachusetts, and he was all set for new territory.2

When he set sail for Black knolls of South Dakota, why that compared in importance to him to Hoover leaving for Mary Bird Land in the Anartic. Mr Coolidge did make Cuba one time. I was there at the time, and saw it and he got a great welcome too. But Mr Hoover went on and found the Virgin Islands. A good many people thought such a place as that was a myth, but he went there and found it really. People nowadays call these “Good will tours.” But you can’t get people’s good will nowadays unless you bring ‘em something. He took ‘em a speech but no donations. So outside of what fish he got on the trip, it’s kinder hard to figure out just the exact benefitiary results. He told ‘em that he wanted to give every one of them the same as we had up here. Well that depends on how well posted they are on what is happening to us, how they took that remark. In other words if they took him at his word, and wanted what we got, they would immediately ask for Red Cross relief. But I think it was a mighty fine trip for him to have taken, and it will do a lot of good. Roosevelt went down there when he was President, and everything he did was O K, so I know this must have been.3

Well what else we got? Did you ever read such a procession of acclaim as Charley Chaplin is making all over Europe?4 Why Charley don’t any more than land in a Country till the Prime Minister grabs him off to his home, like some Movie fan asking for an Autograph. Charley is pretty foxy though, and mighty well informed on affairs. He can talk and argue with them. He is a pretty rabid Socialist, and has made a pretty serious study of it.

One night a few years ago I was asked to introduce him at the Lambs Club in New York, that’s the most exclusive Actor organization. It was his first trip to New York in a good while and he was having some unfavorable Newspaper publicity at the time. Well I told them that in all my little years on the Stage and screen that I had only met one person that I could honestly call an “Artist,” every other person I ever saw, some one else could do what he was doing just as good, and that it was all a trick, and not real genius. But that Chaplin was all that these Real so called Artists was supposed to be. And he is, he is the only genius developed in the films since they started. Any of us can get “Artistic” and say we won’t work till noon, or won’t do this or that. But we are doing it on some firm’s money, but Chaplin can come on his set, and turn loose 500 people, tell ’em he will call ’em again some other time, and he is doing it on his dough. Art ain’t put on when you are paying for it out of your own pocket. He writes, directs, and acts the whole thing. Any one else making a picture there is at least a dozen people that are directly concerned in its success. Chaplin replaces all of them alone.

No, whether you like him or not, (and how you couldent I don’t know) but he is one of the few Geniuses developed during our time in any line. So all this Hooy is not wasted on some Bird that don’t deserve it. The Prince of Wales (who is quite a fellow himself, and done some prowling around the world) why a Zulu wouldent know him from Senator Borah although he is the best known man in the World.5 But the old Zulu would sure pick you out Charley in his Derby and big “Dogs.”

Say what’s going to happen to this wheat thing? The Government bought up a lot of last year’s crop, and now they got it, and here is coming along another new crop. Borah wants to give it to China to make rice out of. I would like to see it given to renter farmers in this Country to make bread out of. You’d be surprised if you knew how little those poor people had to live on that was issued by the Red Cross. They did marvelous work as usual the Red Cross, but what I mean is if the same thing come up again, I sure would like to see ‘em have enough more money so the issue of rations would be larger. Of course when you are getting Charity you can’t be the chooser, but it was barley enough to get along on. Now why can’t something be done with some of all this surplus wheat? We are going to have to charge that Farm board’s operations off as a loss anyhow it looks like now.6 Course I guess they did what they thought was right. But people can raise things faster in this Country than anybody can buy it, even the Government.

Say did you read in the papers about a bunch of Women up in British Columbia as a protest against high taxes, sit out in the open naked, and they wouldent put their clothes on? The authorities finally turned Sprayer that you use on trees, on ‘em. That may lead into quite a thing. Woman comes into the tax office nude, saying I won’t pay. Well they can’t search her and get anything. It sounds great. How far is it to British Columbia?

NOTE: Footnotes were missing from original document.

April 12, 1931

WILL PAYS HIGH TRIBUTE TO ROCKNE

Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Been so much calamity here the last week or so that it’s hard to dig much cheerful nourishment out of the news prints. Poor Knute Rockne so upset everybody that we just can’t get over it, especially those of us who had the good fortune to know him.1 The more you think of him the more remarkable he becomes. I used to go out on one night stand so called Concert Tours, and I always used to play South Bend, and there would be a bunch of the Boys down to my little Lecture. Well the minute I would hit town He would be down to the Hotel and I would be with him most of the day, go out to the school, and if it was anywhere around football time, I would see them work out, and when I say them, I mean them, there would be literally hundreds of ’em on all the teams together.

You know he dident just have the big team and the Scrubs, he had dozens of ’em, Domitory teams, class teams. Every kind of team, all but Fraternity teams, they don’t have them there. They have got some kind of a preparatory school there too I guess, for he showed me practicing one time a bunch of little kids, and he would show me how they had all his plays.

He said, “If some Coach was smart enough, he would come here and watch these little kids work out and he would get every play I’ve got. I have secret practice, to try out my new formations and there won’t seem to be a soul in the place, but you come out here the next day and you will see them running through the same ones I had the Varsity working on the day before. They sneak in here away ahead and hide in the most outlandish places, under the stands, the seats, and everywhere and they all try to copy my Stars, they try to walk like ’em, talk like ’em, copy all their little mannerisms. Two of them had a fight over which one was Struldrehr.2 I will always have pretty good material as long as they study the fine points of the game that early.”

Then down at the Theatre that night where I was playing I would get him up on the stage, and also all the team, and it would always be a great night and also day for me. Just to be around him was a treat. He had developed into one of the best after dinner Speakers in this country. He had a great fund of humor, and storys of real happenings and he had so much sincerity in his talks, he really made you believe it. I can easily understand how those Boys played their heads off for him. He sure did inspire confidence.

I think his greatest feat was his last game, that was out here with University of Southern California. Here we thought out here we had the greatest team that ever represented the coast, tremendous Stadium filled, Notre Dame hadent lost a game in two years, and this was their last, it was the last for a lot of their big Stars who were graduating. Rockne was touted to lose. The night before over the radio he admitted that he dident have much of a chance. “Savoldi is out; he was our mainstay.3 Then on the way out we lost our fullback by illness. We have gone through a tough season, and we just couldent stay on edge so long. The Boys had to have a let down. I have asked too much of them this season with the terrible schedule they had, and it just is not in human beings to keep up their pace till now. We have got to lose, and we want to lose to you in preference to anybody else. It’s a long train trip out here. It’s much warmer here than back home, and the heat is against the boys, but we will just give you the best we got. But I don’t possibly see how we can win, in the shape we are in.”

Now what other coach on earth could give such a straightforward talk as that, and not have every word swallowed hook, line and sinker? Then get this last line he gave us that night before, “Now there is going to be a lot of heart-aches tomorrow afternoon after that game. Great big strong young men are coming into the dressing rooms and break down and cry. But my boys can take it a little easier because they don’t expect to win, they have steeled themselvs to the defeat.”

Well here we are all packed in the stands, really pitying those poor boys from back there, and hoping that the California boys wouldent seriously hurt any of them running over them on the way to the goal posts. Well on the very first play California fumbled. Well from then on it was just too bad. You never saw a team beaten so cool and deliberate like. Notre Dame huddled for a change, and when they come out of it they would walk as slow to their places, and that got poor Cal’s goat. They finished by Notre Dame beating them 27-0. It wasent the score, it was the deliberate and mechanical way they did it, it was a machine doing things where the others were trying with their hands.

And here was a great thing he did, as each one of his Stars that would be taken out of the game in the last half and it was their last game for Notre Dame, he would jump up from the bench and go out and meet him and hug him, you could just see the affection that he had for each one, and it was conveyed to that whole audience. I will never forget when little Carideo, (perhaps the greatest field General that every played football) left the field.4 He had played a whale of a game, handled his team uncanny. There is a lot of drama in a player like that leaving the field for his last time as a College player. I think Rockne pulled him out just to get him that great hand as he left the Stadium. Well when old “Rock” went out and put his arms around that little Carideo and walked him off the field, it wasent an ovation, it was hurricane.

We dident know then what we was looking at. We thought it was the exit of another great Quarterback. But we was looking at the exit of Knute Rockne. He was hugging his last Player, fine young men all over the U.S. can feel back and cherish the hug they got on their last game from “Rock.” But it was little Carideo that got the last hug. Here he was right on the crest. He had beaten the Coast’s great team for a two year no defeat record for Notre Dame. But the whole of California loved him, for that night on the radio he apologized for the size of the score and said, “I had to make it big for Coach Jones will make it bigger than that against me next year.”5 He coached Notre Dame Stars in Charity games once or twice after that. But this was his last real Notre Dame scheduled game.

One lone Ranch Hand in Kansas was supposed to have been the sole witness to his passing. But that’s not so, eighty thousand of us saw his passing out, his last game, and it will stick with us through life.

1Knute Kenneth Rockne, football coach at the University of Notre Dame from 1918 to 1931. Personable and popular, Rockne compiled a record of 105 wins, 12 losses, and 5 ties with the Fighting Irish. He and seven other persons perished in an airplane crash in southeastern Kansas on March 31, 1931.
2Harry Stuhldreher, quarterback at the University of Notre Dame from 1922 to 1924 and member of the immortal “Four Horsemen.” Stuhldreher subsequently played professional football for one season and then coached collegiate football for several years.
3Joseph A. “Jumpin’ Joe” Savoldi, running back for the University of Notre Dame from 1928 to 1930. Savoldi, who played on two national championship teams, was expelled from school in 1930 for breaking university athletic rules against marriage.
4Frank F. Carideo, quarterback for Notre Dame from 1928 to 1930. A two-time unanimous All-American player, Carideo quarterbacked the 1929 and 1930 Irish teams, which Rockne considered his best. 5Howard Harding Jones, head football coach at the University of Southern California from 1925 until his death in 1940. His USC teams won two national titles and five Rose Bowl games.

April 19, 1931

WILL’S CAREER GETS IN HIS WAY

Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I prowl from here to there. Everytime I get a new picture finished why I kinder feel the itch to get out to some new place or make some sort of a little trip. Well, away a couple of weeks ago, we had finished, “As Young As You Feel,” based on George Ade’s old play, “Father And The Boys.”1

I was going to take a little trip off down in Central America, and then they kept me at home for fear there might be some retakes on it. You know when we get one made we then take them out and show ’em, sometimes at a couple of different towns to see if they are fit to release, and sometimes we have to change something to make some new scenes. So I couldent get away on my trip.

The way I had it planned I would have been in Managua, Nicaragua, on the day after the quake, was going to stop over and see what the Marines was doing down there, and I would have been on the spot for quite a little news, for they sure have had it down there.2

Well, we took the thing out and tried it in San Bernardino, California, and the customers giggled quite a bit, so that let me get away. They said, the director and the studio officials that they didn’t think we could make it any worse if we tried, so I jumped on the old aerial rattler, and left from there. Honest if people knew how fast and comfortable and safe it is on a Plane they would never travel any other way.

I left Los Angeles from over in San Fernando valley on the American Airways just at daybreak on Easter morning. They were having Easter sunrise service in the Hollywood Bowl. California goes in great for that Gag. Well it was so misty and foggy this morning, they might have got up before daylight and parked two miles away from the place. For I never saw as many cars in one place in my life. But they never had any sunrise service, for no one but an Aerial Magician could have told when the sun did rise on that day. Old California fell down on ’em. It was so misty and foggy that we dident think we could get away, but these Planes all have radio now, so they got word that there was fine weather all along the line.

You know this radio has made it mighty fine to find out about what’s ahead. You see it’s never the weather you take off in it’s the weather where you have to go through after you take off. I remember one trip on our late tour with Captain Frank Hawkes when we took off one day in a snow storm in New Mexico when you just couldent see a thing, not two hundred feet, and it was that way flying blind for the next hour, but he had heard before that it was clear in Albuquerque where we were going.3 So it’s how is the weather ahead of you than how it is where you are.

Well the Sunrise bunch dident get much started that day I am afraid. You know California can get more people into something free than any place on earth. Course that particular thing was a very meritorious cause, and is a good idea if you live in a country where you can depend on the weather. This thing is just a big boxed-in Canyon, that they call the Bowl, and they have had some mighty fine things there. It’s a sort of a Moses on the Mount idea. We out in Hollywood take all the Bible things and improve on ’em, make ’em bigger. Now Moses when he read his Amendments dident have thousands of cars parked around, and he dident advertise how many he could seat on the sage brush on the hillside. But we did out there. We just don’t go in for little things.

Now take the Lord’s supper that has never interested our Movie producers, for there was not enough Guests there. It was a Stag affair, and that wouldent mean much to the Producers. We did however put on the Prodigal Son’s return, course we changed the name on account of that one not being very well known and Hollywood called the Story, “Sonnyboy returns to his first love,” and the place they had him return to was bigger than all Judea combined. We just do ’em big out that way, and the eastern Tourist out there expect it. California can’t do anything natural, they won’t believe it.

But it’s a great old place, and we get as much fun out of it as if we believed it all ourselvs. Speaking of services and religious gatherings why we been missing Aimee lately.4 She is away off prowling around some place and we can’t hardly figure her out. Her church is running, but it without Aimee is like the modern girls without her lipstick, it just ain’t her at all.

With Aimee away for all this stretch, and Clara Bow on her best behavior and me behaving myself, why there just is not much scandal out there at all.5 Doug Fairbanks is over in India getting even with some tigers, but anybody that knows Doug knows that he never hunted in his life.6 He never shot anything, but if he can come back with some pictures with the right foot up on the neck of a dead tiger or elephant why it will be all right.

Mary is kinder ranting around.7 There is some club out there called the Mayfair, that has some sort of a shindig every week, and they put on fights, I mean impromptu fights, people get mad at each other after they get there, and they always open and close their dance with a fight. Well, we have all been shocked to death to find Mary among (not the fighters) but among the guests. She has a ringside table at every public brawl they have. Doug has got to come home and put her to work, keep her out of devilment.

Chick Sale is out our way.8 I am figuring with him to put me in one up at the ranch. He is working out the design now. You would be surprised the trade that he has, he has just practically quit acting, and is specializing entirely. It was too bad; he is a fine comedian, too, one of the best that ever left the stage.

But this new work is high class, and not hard. It’s mostly just consulting, and working out architectural plans. I wish I could hit on some side line that would stop me having to just keep digging away day after day. It’s certainly made a fortune for him. You would be surprised at his prices. He has an office in Hollywood and is doing practically all Beverly Hills work. You just have to have ’em done by Sales or they won’t be patronized. Luck guy.

1George Ade, Indiana humorist, newspaper columnist, author, and playwright; author of the plays The County Chairman, The College Widow, and Father and The Boys.
2The earthquake that struck Managua, Nicaragua, on March 31, 1931, took 1,450 lives. United States Army engineers and Marines stationed in Nicaragua rendered valuable service during the subsequent relief and clean-up operations. Rogers spent three days in Managua and personally contributed at least $5,000 to the relief cause.
3Francis Monroe “Frank” Hawks, American aviator who established numerous transcontinental and point-to-point speed records in the 1920s and 1930s. Hawks piloted Rogers through the Southwest on a benefit tour to raise money for the drought victims.
4For Aimee Semple McPherson see WA 429:N 4.
5Clara Bow, American film actress whose sexuality and vivaciousness made her one of the most popular stars of the 1920s.
6Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., American stage and screen actor famous for his agile acrobatics and flashy smile. He starred in numerous screen spectaculars during a successful, twenty-year film career.
7Mary Pickford, American motion picture actress who in the heyday of silent films won renown as “America’s Sweetheart”; wife of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
8Charles Partlow “Chic” Sale, American comedian, vaudevillian, motion picture actor, and writer; author of the bestselling book The Specialist.