1 April, 1934 - 24 June, 1934
HAVE YOU HAD A CRISIS TODAY?Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and I tell you we been scanning the papers mighty close here lately, for there has been what is known as a crisis a-hanging over our heads. Course not any one just great big crisis, but a lot of little crisises that all added togeather would build up into what might be called a good garden sized crisis.
Now take the threatened strikes. That alone could work it way up till it was just about on the verge of being a crisis. That would be the backbone. Then added to all that just hundreds of other little annoyances.
Take the air mail.1 That fits right snugly into its little niche in the crisis cloud. They keep saying they got a lot on all these various companys, but they havent told as much of it to the people as they ought to. I can accuse you and it makes awful big headlines, but if don’t start getting up in front of a boni fide judge and start delivering some testimony, why the general public is going to lose some of its hilarity for my charges.
Course that upset the whole country, turned brother against brother. Everybody had their minds made up just what should be done. Army lost some planes and some said they couldent fly. Well don’t get that idea in your head, for when it comes to taking off and going up and really fighting it out with some foreigner, I will take one of our boys.
Then come the strikes, as I was saying before. Well that was a blow to the President for he had just put the N.R.A. in for the sole purpose of telling industry how much they should pay to labor, and how many hours they should work. This was to apply whether you belonged to a union, or whether you belonged to the Elks. So that if you had a grievance with your boss, you took it to the N.R.A. and if after due investigation they found you were in the right, it was up to the government to see that your employers did right by you, and not be nessasary for you to strike. I mean that’s the way it looked to most of us. But now we find that the whole thing is more of a principal than a direct wrong.
But anyhow all these piling up at one time come awful near approaching the outskirts of a crisis. This of course all in addition to a strong demand to further lower the value of the dollar. They are trying to get that nine cents taken off it now. It’s 59. Well they claim that just brings on a lot of bookeeping, and that just to make it in round numbers the value of the dollar should be just fifty flat. Then as though that was not enough, along come the silver gang, and they want to make what is humorously called legal tender out of silver. But just as Mr Roosevelt found that he might be in a receptive mood to do it, why he finds that a lot of master minds among the rugged individuals has figured that he would make silver money, they had bought up a lot of it, or its equivalent, and they would profit tremendously by its being made real money, so he just fools those babies and don’t make it.
So you see how a few guys can crab a good idea, and make it hard on everybody. All this is typical crisis material. It just shows how many hardships a nation can handle and then come out on top.
Oh yes, then there is a lot of war possibilities too. You could get a war now by just going out and whooping right loud. But this fellow Roosevelt is a fellow that don’t seem to be crisis minded. He just passes one by, or a dozen all wrapped up as one big one, and he just smiles and thinks up some more initials to get us out of something. He will bob up some day with the P.E.O.C. the Permanent Elimination of Crisises. So everybody join the P.E.O.C. Not a crisis in a carload.
1Following the cancellation of all private air-mail contracts, the United States Army began carrying mail on domestic routes. The military, however, began the mail flights during one of the most severe storms of the year, shocking the nation with a series of crashes that took the lives of twelve fliers. Public sentiment forced the temporary cancellation of all air-mail service. Domestic airlines carried the first mail authorized under new contracts on May 8, 1934.
I’M STUDYING TO BE A STOOGEWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or see hither and thither. Fred Stone is out visiting me and we been having some high old times.1 Been playing a lot of benefits togeather. We have an act where I am the stooge.
You know what is a stooge? Well pretty near every business has a stooge but they don’t call ’em that. A lot of wives are stooges, and a lot of husbands are stooges. The stooge is kinder the joke of the pair. He or her might not exactly be dumb, but he is not what you would call right bright. He used to sit in the box in the theatre and ask the man on the stage questions, or as I say maby it’s the wife asks the husband questions, or maby he asks her.
Congress is a kind of a stooge. It asks all the people they investigate questions. Lindbergh kinder made the Senate look like a stooge.2 Austria now is undecided whether to be a stooge for Italy or Germany. Germany being the biggest, it will perhaps be stooge for her.
France has three or four little nations stooging for her, Poland, Checkoslovakia, Roumania, Jugo-slavia. They pay ’em for stooging. France furnishes ’em with ammunition, and a little cigarette money. England was the originator of stooges among nations. They always had Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, and a few others. You see a stooge is really as I say just the hired hand. He can only ask the questions that you have rehersed with him. Course he gets in a little joke of his own every once in awhile, but that’s only to sorter satisfy his vanity.
Now the Brain Trust is a stooge for Mr Roosevelt, and when they start investigating ’em they will see which one it was that told the Indiana pedagogue that what America needed was Vodka, whiskers, shirt tail worn outside, and divide money, wives or marbles with a comrade.3 Now we are going to have some fun when they start quizzing those stooges. They are all going to deny it, for nothing would scare a man worse than to be told he had to go where the thing he is advocating is practiced.
Then lots of folks have wondered just what all these vice presidents to banks, and to trust companys, and in fact to everything, they have wondered just what they are. Well they are stooges. It’s a kind of an inferior type, and the stooge naturally begins to realize it. Course he might think he is good, but he is never allowed to express it around people that are not stooges. They are very clannish. They kinder run togeather. They can’t get to associate with the big boys on even terms.
Of course there has been cases where the stooge worked his way from the stage box down onto the stage and transplanted the head man, but those cases are rare. Accident and death have helped ’em out several times, and sheer ability has stepped in and aided ’em in rare cases and pulled ’em out of the stooge class.
Al Smith used to be a stooge for Tammany Hall, then Al moved down and Tammany was the stooge for Al.4
Around about nomination time Franklyn Roosevelt was the stooge of the Democratic party, but he hadent been in a week till he had moved down on the stage and the Democratic party was playing the stooge. They was asking the questions and he had the answers. So you see the stooge plays quite a part in all walks of life. His activities are not just confined to the stage alone. So long live the stooge.
1Fred Andrew Stone, American vaudeville and musical comedy star; close friend of Will Rogers and the father of Dorothy Stone (see WA 574:N 4)
2For this and all further references to Charles A. Lindbergh see WA 559:N 2.
3Dr. William Albert Wirt, an Indiana educator, charged in late March 1934 that Roosevelt’s brain trust (see WA 564:N 1) was engaged in revolutionary activities. A subsequent congressional investigation found no basis for the accusations.
4For this and all further references to Al Smith see WA 560:N 5.
SHE WAS A THOROUGHBREDI wrote a little thing about ten days ago about Mrs Thomas Hitchcock, that wonderful character, marvelous horsewoman, and mother, sister, aunt and uncle of polo.1 I received many very complimentary approvals. It had been my very great good fortune to have known her for quite a good many years. I have been at their home many times, and I always had the greatest of admiration for her. I happened to be playing in the game about ten years ago when her youngest son Frankie had a very severe fall, laid unconscious for days and days.
It was the first game (a small tournament game) that the great Tommy Hitchcock had played with his young brother Frankie, and Frankie was a comer then. He looked like a coming second Tommy. How I happened to get into such company, I was dubbing around with a few old dogs, (ponies) and it was a twelve goal tournament at Meadowbrook on Long Island, that is a team couldent be more than twelve goals to enter. Tommy was ten himself, Frankie was only rated one goal then, and I believe it was Jimmy Mills, who has since become a great player, was the other kid, he was one.2
Well that made twelve right there, but the rules say you must have four mounted riders on each side, so they naturally had to get somebody with no rating at all. In other words they needed a person that was nothing. Tommy was a friend of mine and he asked me to be the fourth rider. They would rather not have had me, but as I say the rules say you must have 4. You see one of your side are as hard to run over as one on the other side, so my instructions were just to keep out of Tommy’s way. Well I spoiled a few of his shots, more than the fellows that was playing against him.
You see Mrs. Hitchcock always was coaching all the young boys she could gather up. After Tommy had graduated into the ranks of the mighty, she started in with another batch of youngsters, among them Frankie, and six or eight more, that are today the very backbone of America’s defense of the cups. Winston Guest, Raymond Guest, Mike Phipps, Billy Post, Stewart Iglehardt, Philip Iglehardt, Coacky Rathbourne, Jimmy Mills, Ebby Gerry, the Phipps boys, and a host of others, and she called ’em the Meadowlarks.3
Well she took me under her wing too. I was older than all of ’em put together, and the worst player in the bunch but I had lots of enthusiasm, but no distance, accuracy, or direction. I just charged in, and arrived there just about the time the ball had left.
They had their own polo field on their beautiful old estate, and by the way just about the prettiest and most horsey looking one on the whole island. I was running right behind Frankie when he and Buzzy Smith ran togeather.4 It was on the Cocoran field at Meadowbrook. Then I come to know her under real stress, as I had a place rented not far down the road, (I was playing in the Follies at nights) and I used to go up to see how Frankie was. Her courage was a household word among all that ever saw her ride, but to see that fine strong healthy youngest son of hers lay there day after day with no sign of returning consciousness, that was real courage. There was no excitement of the hunt, no yell to “Back that ball.” Just days of constant waiting, I think it was 17 or 18.
She was a grand soul, and if ever a person loved a horse it was her, she won’t go to Heaven in a chariot, she will go horseback, and she won’t holler for St. Peter to open that gate. I don’t care how high his gate is, she will give that horse his head and kick him, and she will sail right over that gate, and old Peter will phone up to the Lord’s main house, and say, “Look out, Lord, there is two thoroughbreds coming!”
1Louise Hitchcock (see WA 558:N 3) died on April 1, 1934, from injuries she suffered in a fall from a horse, Rogers eulogized her in his daily column of April 2. She was the mother of Tommy Hitchcock (see WA 558:N 1) and Francis “Frank” Hitchcock.
2James P. “Jimmy” Mills, American polo player who was a member of the Yale University team that won national collegiate titles in 1931 and 1932. He also played for the winning East squad in the East-West matches in 1934.
3For Winston F. C. Guest and Raymond R. Guest see WA 558:N 4;
for Michael G. Phipps see WA 558:N 6.
William “Billy” Post II, a leading American polo player of the 1930s; member of the national champion Princeton University team of 1930 and the victorious American team in the United States-Argentina competition in 1932.
Stewart Birrell Iglehart, American Banker, shipping executive, and sportsman. A ten- handicap polo player, Iglehart was one of the dominant players of the sport during the 1930s and 1940s.
Philip Lawrence Birrell Iglehart, American business executive and polo player; younger brother of Stewart Iglehart, Philip played on the National Open championship team in 1953.
Joseph Cornelius Rathborne, New Orleans banker, land developer, and oilman. Rathborne was a member of the United States polo team that competed against England in 1930 and against Argentina in 1932.
Elbridge Thomas Gerry, New York City investments banker and corporate board director. Gerry played on the Harvard University polo team that won the national collegiate title in 1929.
4For Cecil Smith see WA 558:N 2.
LAST ROUNDUP FOR A COWPUNCHERWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what happens here and there. Have lost some fine friends lately by death. Among them a few weeks ago, Charley Irwin, the old cowboy and cattleman from Cheyenne, any of you that ever went to see the big Cheyenne frontier show will remember Charley, he just about was the daddy of that great show.1 He had three daughters, and one son, the three daughters were wonderful relay riders. That’s when you ride one horse so far, then change in front of the grand stand to another horse, then race on around, generally making three changes. They were the champs at that, for he really had fast horses, and they really rode ’em.
It is absolutely the most exciting thing that has ever been invented when it is put on great, and they are all close finishing together. I have seen that old grand stand in Cheyenne just sway with cheers and excitement. It takes some real nerve, and skill to come in there at top speed and step off one of those old crazy thoroughbreds and keep your feet running and grab the horn on another saddle on another horse that is raring and plunging to go. Then there is the other riders and horses coming in and going out too, so you not only have to watch what you are doing, but what everybody else is doing. Then there is the men’s relay. They have to change saddles, but the girls just change horses.
His son Floyd, was at the time of his death just about the world’s champion cowboy. He was killed roping a steer the night before the opening of the great show there. It put a great melancholy spirit over the whole celebration that year, as Floyd was a great favorite.
C. B. Irwin become very large in his later days and devoted his time mostly to the race tracks where he kept a big stable of horses. Always at Tia Juana, Mexico in the winter, everybody knew him and everybody liked him, and he had the most wonderful wife in the world. Gosh what a great women is Mrs C. B. Irwin. And what she has had to stand for in thrills and spills with those girls and Floyd and Charley too, for he was the champion steer roper in the early days of the show.
Fred Stone (who is out here visiting me) was just talking of Charley tonight.2 Fred traveled with his show all one summer, and he took a company from Hollywood up to Irwin’s ranch out of Cheyenne and made a western picture along about 1919. And Fred, who will try anything, and will do it too, he wanted to learn to bulldog a steer. Well he went out to Charley’s ranch and if ever a man had a wilder coach to train under, I don’t know who it was. Big old wild steers right on the prairie and Irwin “hazing” him, and Fred on the other side of the steer, and Charley was to holler, “jump.” Well brother don’t think he wouldent holler it, and don’t think Fred Stone wouldent jump, if it had been an elephant. Well poor Charley is passed on, but I know he would die laughing and roll right over in his grave if he could hear Fred tell about it.
When they got to the Cheyenne show, and Fred had his company and cameras there, he was to get the stunt before the crowd and cameras. It was to be a part of his picture. Charley picked him a big salty steer, and brought him right down the race track in front of the grand stand and yelled, “jump.” Fred said he was so anxious to make good that he went clear over the steer, got up, caught his horse and Charley had the steer back again. Fred said he dident particularily want him, but Charley hollered, “jump” again. This time Fred said he caught him, but he knew the minute he did, that he had been right the first time by missing him. But, determined like, he got him down, being the only real honest to God actor from that day to this that ever bulldogged.
I know I never jumped off on one in my life. If Franklyn D Roosevelt was running along giving me the command to, “jump,” I would claim I dident hear him. I tried to “mug” a brahma calf down the other day, and he butted me in the stomach for three minutes before I could even get away from him.
Ah, old Cheyenne won’t seem the same. Every time I would step off an aeroplane there, (where they gas, and get meals) I would holler, “Where’s C. B.?” And if he was in the town he would be there. Before Cheyenne had a real aerial depot and I was going through one night on a mail plane, he brought me a big box of fried chicken that Mrs. Irwin had cooked. Gosh it was good. I eat all the way to Omaha. He was up to see me just before he was killed in the auto accident. Buddy Sterling who has charge of my horses was one of Charley’s main boys when he run all the shows and contests.3 He was like Floyd, he was a top hand at anything. He gave me a race mare, a young one, that he wanted to have Buddy break for polo. Charley had a great career. He was a real cowpuncher in his day, and the greatest spirit and best company that ever lived. That other world up there is going to hear a whoop at the gate and a yell saying, “Saint Peter, open up that main gate, for there is a real cowboy coming into the old home ranch. I am riding ‘Old Steamboat’ bareback, and using ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ for a pack horse. From now on this outfit is going to be wild, for I never worked with a tame one.”
1Charley Irwin (see WA 583:N 10) and his wife, Etta McGuilkin Irwin, had three daughters, Pauline, Joella, and Francis. They also had one natural son. Floyd Irwin, and one adopted son, Roy Kivett. All members of the family participated annually in the Frontier Days celebration at Cheyenne, Wyoming, and in other rodeos.
2For this and all further references to Fred Stone see WA 589:N 1.
3Buddy Sterling, stable foreman at the Rogers Ranch in Pacific Palisades, California.
I’M GOING TO TRY ACTING!Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see here. (Have to see it here, for lately I havent been anywhere else). Been a-keeping the Oklahoma nestor working pretty steady, been rehearsing with a show, I mean a stage show, that we are going to play out here at San Francisco and Los Angeles two or three weeks each, or till they get wise to us.
And say, you have to learn lines, not my lines, but Eugene O’Neil’s lines.1 He is that high brow writer, and I have quite a bit of trouble reading ’em, much less learning ’em. For instance, “So that’s where you drive the Tumbril from and piled poor old Pierpont in it.”
Now that is a sort of saying in there from Carlyle’s French revolution, but that word Tumbril, what you boys from the forks of the creek going to do with that?2 I couldent handle it. They say it means a kind of conveyance, a sort of an early day Ford, of the French revolutionary type. I imagine it’s sorter like an old buckboard, with the slats out.
Course this play “Ah Wilderness” is pretty sane outside of a few of those “Tumbrils.” It’s just a homely old family affair that’s laid around New England in 1906. It’s the play that is supposed to receive the Pulitzer Prize for the year. The Pulitzer Prize is the Kentucky Derby winner of the drama, and in the New York company Georgie Cohan made the hit of his life in it, but he can do more things, and do ’em well than any man on the American stage during our generation.3
He is a freak. For years and years he has written every word of his own musical shows, all the music, wrote the story, sang the songs, rehersed and staged all the dance, owned and managed the theatre the show played in, wrote the best songs during his time, then play a straight part in a straight play, then go on the radio and outdo all the radio performers.
Chaplin on the screen, and Cohan on the stage have been the two outstanding figures that those two types of entertainment have produced in the last twenty-five years. There just ain’t any more like them. By the way Charley is getting ready to make a picture. Charley getting ready to start is like a Mexican that’s going to do something “manyana” (tomorrow). He puts out one about every three or four years, and it makes more than all the others that the rest of us have been put out in the meantime. One of his pictures will play to more Chinamen than the next biggest stars will play to Americans. The Zulus know Charley better than Arkansaw knows Garbo.
And talking about public favorites, guess who popped in on us out here awhile back. Not a soul but “Whoa, Whoa, McIntire.”4 We have had the theatre owners of the country out here in a convention trying their best to get the movie producers to make some decent pictures for Tuscon, Tacoma, Winston Salem, and Muskogee, and not just try to make ’em for New York. Well they was an awful nice bunch headed by an old country boy from Columbus, Mississippi, that knew what it was all about.5 These are the fellows that have to stand at the door and hear the cussing as the folks pass out, and after all as they are the ones that pay us our salaries they did deserve some consideration. Well the movie producers give an awful good time. We dident give so terrible many good pictures but we fed ’em good, and at a big dinner one night at one of our big hotels, why who bobbed up with his and my good friend Will Hayes and his wife, but Whoa Whoa.6 He was in the only personally owned dress suit, and he did look great. I was the evening’s pest, the toastmaster. Is there nothing can be done to eliminate ’em? Even depression couldent stamp ’em out. And when I introduced Whoa Whoa, say he got the very biggest reception of the entire night, and that meant topping Marlene Deitrich, and all the stars we have out here.
By the way that’s the first time I had ever seen her or met her, and she seemed mighty nice. McIntyre’s charming wife was with him of course, and they all wanted to see and console her, and the sweetest thing of the evening was the sweetest faced elderly lady 82 years old, the McIntires’ aunt from Galopolis, Ohio, who they have with ’em on this trip.7 Say she looked better at 82 than some of our stars with their make up off.
On account of Whoa Whoa’s being in dress suit we missed his spats, but he had ’em on under his socks, and we missed his little bull dog, but he filled his dress suit pockets with enough grub from the banquet to feed the flea hound for a month. A lot of the movie folks to make an impression on the theatre owners retired early.
1Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, celebrated American playwright; awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1920, 1922, and 1928 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1936. In 1934 Rogers appeared in the West Coast production of O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness!, a rare dramatic role for the Oklahoman.
2Thomas Carlyle, Scottish essayist and historian whose French Revolution in 1837 established his reputation as one of the foremost men of letters.
3George Michael Cohan, American actor, playwright, and theatrical producer; composer of many popular, patriotic tunes and writer of the book, music, and lyrics of twenty musicals.
4For O. O. McIntyre see WA 566:N 5.
5Edward E. “Ed” Kuykendall, businessman and theatrical performer from Columbus, Mississippi, who served as president of Motion Picture Theatre Owners from 1933 through World War II.
6For Will H. Hays see WA 555:N 13; for Helen L. T. Hays see WA 555:N 14.
7McIntyre was married to the former Maybelle Hope Small of Gallipolis, Ohio. Kate McIntyre, elderly aunt of O. O. McIntyre with whom the columnist spent much of his childhood.
FAST RIDE DOWN THE MOUNTAINWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I overhear when folks finally get me stopped talking for a minute. Had some fun out here at old Uno E Dos Mortgages rancho, (first and second mortgage ranch) a couple of Sundays ago. O. O. McIntire and Irvin Cobb, and Will Hayes, Bill Hayes wife, and Odd’s wife, and Irvin’s daughter, (and a bright one too) and this elderly aunt of Odd’s I was telling you about last week and Mrs. Billie Burke Zeigfeld.1
Well to kinder make O. O. and Irvin feel like Paducah, Kentucky, sah, and Galopolis, Ohio, we hitched up a team of big grey mules to a three-seated hack, I took the ribbons, Cobb said, “There is where you should have been all these years telling those jokes to a span of grey mules.”
Well never mind what the Chamber of Commerce says, this is at heart a dry mountainous country. I have some dirt roads around our patch, but they are so imbedded up against the mountain’s side that I really have yet to see anybody derive any great enjoyment out of driving around ’em. Take those four Hunter boys that broke the endurance record in planes.2 I took them around there in a Ford, and if they had had parachutes they would have “bailed out” on the second turn.
We drove up on a kind of a high lookout. It’s our local Pikes Peak. Must be at least 400 feet above sea level, (but I have never known the Pacific to be level, never when I was on it). I pointed out Catalina Island, or where I had seen it the day when there was no fog. I pointed distant screen stars’ homes out. I just had heard they lived within a mile of where I pointed, but that was no place for anyone to argue with a driver. Then I turned my mules down hill and toward the barn. Like a real old stage coach driver I reached for my side break. I throwed her on, but she had jarred loose and she dident connect with the wheel. She had been an awful nice hack in “atmosphere” tied out in a western street in a movie scene, but she was a little rusty on mountain work.
Well when the brakes dident work she commenced going up on these old mule’s heels, those single-trees commenced popping ’em on the hind legs, and they commenced to hit quite a nice gentle loap. Cobb is in the very rear seat, and can’t do the coaching that I figured he would be able to aid me with. He is leaning in toward the mountain side at an angle that must a been about horizontal. McIntire ain’t on this excurison, or he would a busted a spat, but his wife is, and this 82-year-young aunt is sitting up with old Casey Jones Rogers, and having the time of her life. A mighty narrow road, a real drop down one side into a deep canyon, down hill, mules picking up momentum here and there. Sounds kinder komical now, but not so hot at the time. I got an awful good boy with me, Buddy Sterling, and I kinder suspicioned when we started out that we might need a pick-up man, so he was along on a good horse.3
Will H. Hayes was along and also an outrider, but Bill could only shout encouragement in a case like that. He could have cut anything he wanted too out of the scene if it had been in a movie, but authority there had to be muscular. Buddy passed us like a streak and picked ’em up. Had to reach over one’s neck and bull dog the second one too. We got stopped and lost three customers, Mrs Rogers, wife of the driver of course, Mrs. Zeigfeld, who had never seen anything that wild in the Follies, and Mr Cobb. Said he dident mind staying in, but he dident like to see the ladies walk down the hill alone as no telling what leading man might attack ’em. We hobbled one hind wheel to the body and went on down in enjoyment. The old aunt, Mrs Hayes, and Mrs McIntire and Mrs Brody, Irv’s daughter. I had another, (about a ten acre patch) that I wanted to show ’em, but I couldent seem to get anybody interested.
The trip really started out as a real estate promotion idea. Cobb is about at the age when New York is too fast for him. Will Hayes being a lawyer and used to hearing everyone lie, he belongs and does want out here.
Well it was a flop. I dident have time to point out a thing, I couldent a give ’em a plot of ground and throwed in the mules. Still the thing wasent as bad as it could have been. I got some horses that if those old single trees started to hit ’em on the shins, I believe we would have had some real fun. I got the brake fixed now, and am looking for new suckers.
1For O. O. McIntyre see WA 566:N 5; for this and all further references to Irvin S. Cobb see WA 566:N 3l for Will H. Hays see 555:N 13; for Helen L. T. Hays see WA 555:N 14; for Maybelle H. S. McIntyre see WA 592:N 7. Elisabeth Cobb Brody, American author and screenwriter; only daughter of Irvin S. Cobb. For Kate McIntyre see WA 592:N 7. Billie Burke, American theatrical and motion-picture actress. She married Flo Ziegfeld (see WA 543:N 5) in 1914.
2The Hunter brothers—John, Kenneth, Albert, and Walter—set a world endurance record with in-flight refueling of 553 hours, 41 minutes, and 30 seconds at Sky Harbor, Illinois, in the summer of 1930.
3For Buddy Sterling see WA 591:N 3.
YOU CAN’T HIDE ANYTHING
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. In fact all I know is what
I read about Dillinger and Congress.1
FROM THE TAX-THINKERS-UP
Congress has been getting more money out of us lately than Dillinger. Dillinger don’t take it till after you get it, but Congress is making us all sign I.O.U.S. for all we will ever get during our lifetime.
Well it’s just as well, for they have passed the big inheritance tax, and that gets you when you are gone. You used to could die and be able to beat taxes, but not now. The undertaker don’t go over your body as carefully as the assessor does your accumilitated assets, and he gets his before the undertaker. They have it on these big fortunes now where they pay as high as 60 to 70 percent of what they leave. That’s mighty expensive dying when it runs into money like that, and you won’t see ’em dropping off as casually as they have been.
They are always talking about “disscouraging capital from doing something.” Well this is going to disscourage ’em from casting off this earth’s mortal coils. Course I think it’s a good law. You have had the use of it during your lifetime, so turn it over to the government and they can do some darn fool thing with it, no telling what, maby something just as foolish as the children of the deceased would.
What is it they say, “It’s only one generation from a pick handle to a putter, and one more from a tuxedo to a tramp.”
This thing of finding things to tax is becoming quite a problem. You see when taxes first started, (who started ’em anyhow?) Noah must have taken into the ark two taxes, one male and one female, and did they muliply bountifully! Next to guinea pigs, taxes must have been the most prolific of animals.
But with all their multiplying proclivities, the politicians outmultiplied ’em. Most things are bred for a certain purpose, but a state or federal job seeker might just drop from the trees, or be spawned in a lake, and you once get him on there, he is a barnacle. There is no use going into dry dock with him, he will drop off till you back the ship out and then clutch on again.
Now as I started in to say, when I was so rudely interrupted by this non birth control statistics, in those early days your tax was just on the lands. They dident know there was anything else they could tax, but as more men commenced coming into the stately old legislative halls. They each brought with ’em, in addition to a plug of tobbacco, and jug of pure corn, they each had a “bill.” A “bill” is a thing that’s read, not listened too, and then voted on, in the affirmitative. If the bill don’t pass, it won’t take you but a couple of weeks to think up one that will. In fact it’s much harder to think up one that won’t pass.
There is only one fundamental thing that must be the backbone of every bill, and that is a tax. You shut your eyes and think of an object, then you open ’em and write you “bill.” Now if that object you thought of hasent been taxed in the last week, why you and your “bill” win.
So that’s what we got over six hundred of ’em down there for. (100 in the Senate and 500 in the House.) They are just thinking of objects, maby it’s chewing gum, maby it’s cigarette butts, or maby it’s a dead millionaire, but they are in there thinking every minute. So no matter what you got hid away, some of those six hundred will find it out and you will wake up in the morning and read in the papers where Congress found it and slapped the tax on it.
1For this and all further references to John Dillinger see W 587:N 2.
WHAT’LL WE DO ABOUT SILVER?Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Well sir you know Dillinger dropped out there for awhile and the papers just dropped off to almost nothing. Then too Congress was behaving itself for a short period, and that hurt the news, (course it helped the country). Insull when he first arrived awhile back he was a sort of a life saver.1 The silver question was pretty good there for awhile.
I am about like a lot of others, I don’t know just what silver being made a money will do to us. It seems like it ought to help. But that’s what we pay those birds in Washington ten thousand a year for, is to argue over such non-settleable things. Money and women are the most sought after and the least known about of any two things we have.
Now going off the gold may have been a necessity, and I guess it was the best thing, for you can’t stay on it, and have all these other nations off, for they gang on you and take it all away from you. You see they get a hold of our paper money and it says payable in gold. Well we always knew it said that, but we dident try to make the government prove it every time we got a hold of a ten dollar bill. But these Europeans, every time they got their clutches on some of our dough, they took that inscription on there, “Payable in Gold,” serious, and our treasury had to shell out the hard money, and they took it home and planted it in their treasuries, or under their feather beds. As far as getting the stuff back, it was just Dillinger to us. You can’t stay in a game where you are paying off with the dough, and the others are paying off in I.O.U.’S
But on the other hand lowering the price of the money from a dollar to 59 cents, dident have quite the effect that the economists thought it would. They had figured that it would raise prices forty cents on the dollar, well it was just one of those theories that worked fine with a pencil, but dident work with money. I can sit in a grand stand with a race programme and a good sharp pencil, (well I have even done it with a dull one) and I can write down the winning horse and what he is thinking about as he crosses the line, but the minute I walk under the stands and reach for a five dollar bill instead of a pencil, that horse just seems to know it, and runs differently. And that’s one of the drawbacks to a proffessor, his work is entirely with a pencil, but the mintute that pencil is traded for coin of the realm, and the dealings are with somebody else, and not just with a tablet, why life takes on an entirely different outlook.
It’s like driving a car. If you are the only one on the streets, you are like the prof with the pencil. You can have things pretty much your own way. But when they commence to coming from every way, all making for the same corner, no man living can tell just exactly what will happen, and it’s the same with money. You can take 40 cents off the American dollar in terms of foreign money. But the old boy here at home that’s not going to Europe still thinks it’s a dollar. You can’t sit with a pencil and figure what a man with dollar will do with it. About the only way I see for prices to go up is for more people to want something, and about the only thing that I know of that everybody wants more of is money, and as long as the people that have already got it are going to hang onto it, about the only way of getting these others any, is to make ’em some. Course the question arrises, “Where can you stop?” Well let the boys with the pencils, and the Senators with the worn-seated trousers figure that out.
1Samuel Insull II, English-born American utilities and transportation magnate. Insull fled the United States in April 1932, soon after his utilities empire collapsed. After his indictment for mail fraud, a spectacular international legal fiasco ensued with the United States endeavoring to obtain Insull’s return. In 1934 he finally was seized in Greece and returned to the United States, where he was tried and acquitted on mail fraud charges.
RANCHING DAY BY DAYWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I prowl high and low. Well sir two or three weeks ago when I was up in San Francisco appearing in what humorously called the “Drama.” (I had never entered the arena as an actual participant of the drama before.) It seemed to afford the native sons some measure of enjoyment such as might happen if Chief Justice Hughes did a buck dance.1
I give it a tussle that it had never had before. But that’s a whole story in itself, it’s just of the happenings that took place while I was recuperating from one performance to the other, in what I might say was my relaxation period. Fred Stone a man who has had more actual contact with audiances than any actor I know, one night during his career under the management of Charles Dillingham, (embracing ten different musical shows, and three years run to the show) why one night his theatre had a couple of vacant seats, and Congress called for an investigation.2 A thing like that come under the heading of a national catostrophe.
Well Fred was here with me and after looking at the various performances of his friend trying to embrace a new field of art, he was for anything to get his mind off it so we would prowl togeather, but it was with the distinct understanding that the play was not to be mentioned.
Fred is a Westerner, born in Kansas, started his career on a slack rope, and has performed every stunt known to man or monkey and can still do more things than a Democrat can with a treasury behind him. Well we both love ranches, and California is noted for some of the finest and most historical old places. They are mostly old Spanish land grants that have been in families since before depression. (And Lord knows when that was.) A ranch two or three hundred miles away from San Francisco, (in fact I can call it Frisco now I am out of there) but don’t do it while there.
Even though I did have to be back each night that meant nothing. Three hundred miles away was just commuting distance, and this was by auto, no planes. Well we would sometimes leave after the show. In fact there was nights when the audience would almost demand that I leave, and we would drive till Fred got tired hollering “Look out, there’s another car coming!”
Then we would stop at some town and stay all night, always at dandy hotels. The hotel owners themselvs all have some little ranch tucked away in the hills. Then in the morning we was out at the crack of day for no rhyme or reason and off to do nothing but look. When you turned in at these ranches you had to open from one to thirty gates. Well Fred was master of the gate. He got so he could open by remote control. We hit one of Mr Hearst’s ranches, and this wasent the main one, this was just a minature one, named the Millpitas, just about the size of Rhode Island.3 His main one is the San Simeon. It runs fifteen thousand cattle and 400 guests most of the year round, but this is a dry year out here, and he had had to move five thousand cattle and 150 guests.
It was over the mountain from the one we were in. They run a lot of guests at this one that ain’t hardly up to the breeding of the main ranch, mostly his newspaper editors and political friends. These California ranches are not “Dude” ranches. At Dude ranches the guests pay.
1For Charles Evans Hughes see WA 583:N 4.
2Charles Bancroft Dillingham, American theatrical manager and producer. Dillingham produced more than 200 plays, mostly musicals, from 1900 until his death in 1934. He also managed fifty prominent stars.
3William Randolph Hearst, American journalist, publisher, and political figure who, during a turbulent sixty-year career in journalism, fashioned a nationwide newspaper empire based in California.
ALL I KNOW IS WHAT THEY SAY
Here is an article that has more authors than a Shakespeare play. A couple of weeks ago we got down to Los Angeles with our show, the Eugene
O’Neil play, “Ah, Wilderness,” and more folks were lovely to me!1 I had received a lot of wires up in San Francisco on our opening there and dident expect any more. Down here, well they give us a big time here too. It was one
of the most sympathetic and “well wishing” first nights I ever saw. We thought
they were going to be tough, and be busy looking at each other and maby not
notice the stage at all. But they were not that way at all. They just looked like
they felt, “Here is a bunch of actors that are doing their best.” The rest of the
cast outside of the (so called) star was just about perfect. It’s the best supporting cast ever assembled on the coast. They really look, act and feel like a family. But I must get back to my many authors.
IN THEIR WIRES
My daughter, Mary who, along with her father, is struggling with the “Drama” for the first time, goes to Maine to play in a stock company for the summer—and play some little parts to try and gain some experience. Well, Mary sent me this, “There is room in the ‘legit’ for two Rogers.”
Up in San Francisco I had received lovely wires from George M. Cohan, who really plays the part in New York, and his has been unanimously declared the best performance given this year.2 Well, he is a lovely fellow, and I wish I had the wire here, but I got in in the bank in a vault along with the one I got from Mr. Eugene O’Neil. I never thought I would ever get a personal wire from Eugene O’Neil. But the bigger they are the nicer they are. And he said this part of Nat Miller was his favorite part of all his plays.
I am just picking wires as they lay here that I have kept all this time from the opening. Banks Winter, you old timers all remember him, “White Wings.”3 He lives out here with his charming daughter, Winona Winter, who is married very happily to Norman Spears, a newspaper syndicate owner.4 And Mr. Winter is just fine. May and Bill Carleton, he was the leading man with Blanche Ring, in “The Wall Street Girl” when I was with it, a fine actor.5 Rita Donlin, Mike’s wife.6 Mike played with me in “Dr. Bull,” his last picture. Nellie Nichols, lives out here.7 Wasent she clever, and what songs she had! Lord, it makes you cry, to think of what vaudeville has degenerated too and what it was with people like these. Nellie was a real headliner.
Frank Behring and wife, Frank runs the Sherman Hotel in Chicago and has housed and mothered more of us performers than any other inn keeper living.8 The next in the pack is Chick Sale, as fine a man as any business ever produced, and what an actor.9 If Chick ever had an enemy in the world it must have been a plumber. Lowell Sherman, great actor, now even a better director.10 Sid Grauman, the best movie showman ever produced either East or West.11 Eddie Cantor, who has been my good friend over many years, says, “You have tried everything in the amusement line. There is nothing left but grand opera.”12 Eddie knows how I like to sing with that terrible tenor voice. Now here is dear old “Bill” W. C. Fields, who at last is coming into his own as one of the great comedians of our time.13 He is going like a house afire, and how he deserves it, for he has had the training. And here is something you dident know, he is the best read man, (I mean books, and good books) in the whole industry, he and Water Catlett.14
Bill McGuire who writes all the good shows, then of course the “Stones” Fred and family.15 Gosh, what great performers they every one are, mother, father, and those three clever and marvelously trained daughters. Fred was out here for awhile, and he helped me a lot on how to do the part. Jetta Goudal, as clever a woman as was ever on the screen, and Sam Goldwyn, who gave me my first movie contract, and who now consistently makes the best pictures of any of ’em.16 He is a great Sam. Fifi Dorsay, I do love to play in a picture with that “Froggie.”17 She has her a husband and wants me to see him. And W. S. Bill Hart, one of my best friends, Bill gets younger every day.18 Lives in a castle on the top of one of his ranch hills, and watches the rest of us battle the world. He knew how to retire, but far ahead of his time. Then Frank Borzage, our movies “Ace” director; “Big Boy” Williams, movie actor, great polo player.19 What a great show you could assemble out of this list above! I wish there was a vaudeville like there was in those old days. No branch of entertainment was ever so satisfying to work in. Never was there such independence. It was your act. And you could do it like you wanted too, and it was your ingenuity that made it. But let’s don’t cry. Every line has had to make its changes. But every wire brought back memories, and sweet memories.
1For Eugene O’Neill see WA 592:N 1.
2For George M. Cohan see WA 592:N 3.
3William Banks Winter, American minstrel performer whose career as a blackface comedian lasted more than fifty years. He netted almost $500,000 from the song “White Wings.”
4Winona Winter, American vaudeville performer and stage actress; ventriloquist, impersonator, and comedienne; daughter of Banks Winter. Her husband, Norman L. Sper, Sr., was a noted sports authority and magazine writer.
5William P. Carleton, English-born American stage and screen actor who appeared with Rogers in the Broadway musical hit of 1912, Wall Street Girl. Blanche Ring, American musical comedy favorite who gained stardom by introducing the exceedingly popular song “In the Good Old Summertime.”
6Rita Ross Donlin, widow of the late Mike Donlin (see WA 563:N 2).
7Nellie V. Nichols, American vaudeville performer and motion-picture character actress. Included among her numerous film credits are Women Go on Forever and Manhattan Merry-Go Round.
8Frank West Bering, executive with the Hotel Sherman in Chicago from 1910 until his retirement in 1960.
9Charles Partlow “Chic” Sale, American character actor and comedian who first appeared in vauedeville in 1908 and later wrote a syndicated newspaper column.
10Lowell Sherman, American stage actor and motion-picture leading man and director; director of She Done Him Wrong and Morning Glory, both in 1933.
11Sid Grauman, American showman and motion-picture theater owner who built the famous Egyptian and Chinese theaters on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.
12Eddie Cantor, popular American comedian who starred in vaudeville, in motion pictures, and on radio for more than fifty years, and who delighted audiences with his rolling eyes, lively movement, and inimitable singing voice.
13William Claude “W. C.” Fields, famous American comedian who performed in vaudeville and the Ziegfeld Follies. He also appeared in a host of films, usually as a swaggering, drunken, down-at-the-heels rascal.
14Walter Catlett, American actor of stage and motion pictures. A noted comedian, Catlett starred in the Broadway hit Sally and made the first of many film appearances in 1929.
15William Anthony McGuire, American playwright and scenarist. Among his plays were such successes as The Three Musketeers, Kid Boots, and Rosalie. He also wrote the script for the motion picture The Great Ziegfeld, the life story of the famous theatrical producer. The Stones—all of whom performed professionally on the stage—included Fred, his wife, Allene, and their daughters, Dorothy (see WA 574:N 4), Paula, and Carol.
16Jetta Goudal, French leading lady of American silent films and a few early sound motion pictures. She co-starred with Rogers in the 1931 film Business and Pleasure. For Samuel Goldwyn see WA 540:N 4.
17Fifi D’orsay, French Canadian leading lady of Hollywood films in the early 1930s. Known as “the French Bombshell,” she made her film debut in 1929 with Rogers in They Had to See Paris. She married Maurice Hill, the son of a wealthy Chicago manufacturer, on December 6, 1933.
18William Surrey Hart, American actor who made his first motion picture in 1914 and soon thereafter became the foremost western hero of the silent screen. Hart retired from acting in 1926.
19Frank Borzage, American motion-picture director and actor, known for soft, sentimental, pictorial films. He won Academy Awards for direction in 1927 and 1932. Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, American motion-picture character actor, usually seen in amiably tough roles. He first appeared in Hollywood in 1919 as an “extra.”
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or see high and low. You
know I wrote to you in one of my little daily epitaphs the other day about
meeting the Secretary of Agriculture Wallace, in one of the old California missions.1 Well it was no made up joke.
You see he had been out here on a speaking and inspection tour, and he was naturally doing a little sightseeing on the side. Well I had been down to LaJolla to the funeral of a friend, and a very very dear old frind of Fred Stone’s Mr Lew Hennock, a retired business men from Chicago, just about as sweet a character as you would find.2 He was a fine citizen and a big loss to the town.
Well one should never pass any of these missions without stopping and going in. They are among the great historical spots of our country. This one was built in 1776. That’s the year our last world series was over with England. I don’t know much history, but I have looked at many a one of those pictures, labelled “Spirit of 1776.” It stirs the spirit of you. I expect it’s a terrible bad painting, and maby worse music, but it’s a heroic looking group. One has his head tied up I remember, one’s got a flute, and I believe the little fellow has a drum. It and Washington standing up in that boat crossing (I think it was the Deleware) those two constitue all the art they had in those days. Nothing being painted now will ever live that long.
We tore ourselvs loose from England in that year, it’s a question of who it was a better deal for. There was an awful lot of things before 1776 that we wasent “blessed” with when we were under England. Just mention any problem that’s facing our country today, and it wasent with us before 1776. Do you realize there was no Senate, and no Congress? Then you talk about freedom. No inflation, deflation, reforestration, sophistication.
The only thing like today was we had no money. But we had no debts. Course you had a little Indian trouble, about one tenth as much as you do today with your kidnappers. If any trouble showed up, why you had Paul Revere to saddle old “Ned” and come down the valley and holler, “The Siouxes, or Blackfeet are coming!” And Paul was more sure fire than a telephone.
Suppose the fellow that wants to warn you that somebody is coming after you hasent got a nickle. Well he can’t warn you. But in those days everybody had a horse. They must have been great old days at that. The tax in those days that we fought to do away with, must have amount to at least five percent of what it is today. They were very religious people that come over here from the old country. They were very human. They would shoot a couple of Indians on the way to every prayer meeting.
But what’s all that got to do with what was happening out here on West side of Uncle Sam? An old priest had come up into the country, Father Junipero Serra, and he built missions and schools, and taught the Indians trades, and the churches were run like big ranches.3 They each had thousands of cattle, and horses and sheep. He was an odd old fellow. He could pray without shooting an Indian first. He was a greater humatarian than all the Pilgrims combined, including the 3 million that come on the Mayflower. No such man ever set foot on the Eastern shore. He civilized with a Bible, and the old Pilgrim boys did it with a blunderbuss. There was never a church in the East built for Indians to worship.
So as I accidentally run onto Secretary Wallace in San Juan Capistrano, 65 miles out of Los Angeles, although perhaps like me, not of that faith, he viewed it with great reverence. Each community farmed and raised everything, (and these missions were not in a great watered country remember) but they did it all, no overproduction, no underconsumption, no tarriffs, no processing taxes, no birth control with hogs, no plowing under every third row of free holy beans. Thousands lived in each of these valleys untill the Gringos come. They gummed it up proper, so I think Mr Wallace’s thoughts must have been on the way these people did the thing that all our civilization seems to say we can’t do. Wallace knows there is a way, because he stood on the very ground where it worked.
1Henry Agard Wallace, United States secretary of agriculture from 1933 to 1940. A Democrat and the son of a prominent Iowa farm editor, Wallace served as vice president of the United States from 1941 to 1945.
2Lewis M. Henoch, retired Chicago steel executive and one-time president of the Chamber of Commerce of La Jolla, California, died in that city on May 26, 1934.
3Junipero Serra, Spanish missionary in colonial America, founded a mission at San Diego in 1769, the first European settlement in Upper California, and also established eight other California missions between 1770 and 1777.
BUT WHERE IS GOOD GOVERNMENTWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, and I tell you you got to be an awful careful and close reader to see much that is much nowadays. You got to wade through many a gruelling murder, a few ransoms, a bevy of kidnappings, and auto deaths till it reads like a telephone directory. But every little bit you run onto some little item that’s sorter put in to keep the reader from becoming blood soaked.
We lost our own Jimmy Rolph out here a couple of weeks ago.1 He was a mighty fine loyal old character. I got pretty well acquainted with him on that trip when he had all those visiting govenors out here, we all come to know him mighty well. If you want to know a man travel on some extended trip with him. That’s how I got acquainted with Mr Dwight Morrow, and (the then President) Calles of Mexico.1 We was out on a train togeather traveling over the country for ten days. You can’t “act” that long. Your real self crops up, and the fellows with you can see under the hide. Twenty years Mayor of San Francisco, the most liberal, broadminded, and cosmopolitan city in the U.S. I don’t know how good a govenor he made. I don’t know how good a govenor anybody makes. The ones that you give a job to say you made a good one, the ones you dident, say you are terrible. So as there is more that you don’t hire than there is that you can, why you are generally classed as “Just another govenor.”
If a man don’t need the money, and he don’t just want the glory, I don’t know why he should go into it. “Good intentions, a business administration, and throw the rascals out.” That’s been tried by better men than you. There is grave yards in 48 state capitols where headstones say, “Here lies Govenor Meantwell. Here lies Govenor Honesty. Here lies Govenor Reform.”
Yet the barnacles of connivance, political graft, lobbyists, and party leeches, are still hanging onto the whole 48.
Now that might sound kinder disscouraging, and it is, but it’s facts. These men find a system in there that they just don’t seem to get rid of. Some do make a dent in it, and some states are better than others, but being govenor is sort of a thankless job, after the applause is over. I sometimes think it ought to be done by just a hired manager, with no political affiliations whatever. You got a business, you go hire the best man you can. You don’t know if he is an Elk, or an Eagle. He is put in there to run it. He hires and fires all that don’t make good. Course that’s nothing much but the city manager plan, only on a bigger scale, and I don’t know that it has been so universally satisfactory. It should be though, for it’s the proper way.
I tell you this finding out how to govern a country, or even a state, or county, or even a town, has got the whole world licked. There is not a type of government that can point with complete pride, and say there is the best that can be had.
This man Roosevelt is racking his brain, and all the other best ones, to help us out, and he is doing a mighty fine job, but part of it has been due to the old political traditions that he has been able to smash, and there is lots of others that he hasent been able to, or he would have done better. Making good in office is kinder like gambling. You can go in with plenty of money and the best intentions, but the old system is against you. That law of percentage against a man becoming great in politics is working night and day.
It’s surprising in a state how many people will vote for a rascal. If Dillinger is as good a campaign speaker as he is a lawbreaker, you would be surprised at the places he could pole quite a few votes, enough to knock some good man out. Let him think up enough things in his platform to promise, and he would make ’em believe it. Our systems of nominating, where we let anybody run that can write his name down is wrong. There should be some way, maby a high class committee of men, that would pass on the qualifications, and decide which men would even be eligible to run. You will no more get in a plane unless you know the pilot is a recognized pilot, but you will move to a state and live under it, when the govenor maby has never had one hour’s instructions at the wheel of the ship of state. Or worse yet he is liable to have a record of cracking up on some previous trips. But these are all minor things. We are so big, and move along with such momentium, that we are able to live through everything. As cockeyed as we are, we are better than all the rest put togeather.
1Rolph (see WA 554:N 2) died on June 2, 1934, of heart disease. His health problems began early in 1934 in the midst of a stumping tour of California, during which he sought vindication for his controversial views on a San Jose lynching (see WA 573:N 2).
2For Dwight W. Morrow see WA 545:N3. Plutarco Elías Calles, president of Mexico from 1924 to 1928 who remained a dominant force in Mexican politics during the 1930s.
ROGERS GETS A HISTORY LESSONWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I hear as I keep the old ears to the ground. We been working for the last three or four weeks on a movie, written by Irvin Cobb.1 It’s one (or a dozen rather). For while we bought one I think it was, Cobb says he recognizes parts of about 20 of his stories in it. You know those wonderful stories are really what made him so widely known. There were many many of them. Then of course he went on to war reporting, and to a still greater success with his short stories of all kinds. But I sorter think the old Judge Priest stories are dearer to his heart than any. I hope I don’t gum it up, and that this one is good enough that we can at various times keep the character going, for the material is sure there. It’s just being able to get the spirit of the character.
You know Cobb himself is in the movies now. Hal Roach, the producer, (of which there is none more far sighted) sees the great possibilities of Cobb on the screen.2 I can’t see how he can fail, he has been hanging around with Mr. Jack Ford, the director and all of us on the “Set” and he is the most interesting man I have heard in many a day.3 Or maby farther than that, the most interesting I ever heard. And it don’t all have to be stories either. He does know his Civil War history. There was an old time picture on the walls of my home, (in the movie, it’s laid about 1890,) and it was of Robert E. Lee and all his generals, and I would ask Cobb about any one of ’em and off he would go, just rattling off the exploits of each one. Now while I dident know whether he was just making it up or not, there was many a one on the picture that did. This old boy Ford is no cluck on ours or anybody’s history, and there is many a smart educated fellow around a movie outfit, in all kinds of jobs. I was greatly interested in, I think it was Forrest. He was the greatest cavalry general any war ever produced. Somebody asked Cobb if Forrest was a West Point man. Cobb said he never went to any school, he couldent hardly read or write.
Cobb told of going, during the war in England with John McCutcheon, the great cartoonist of the Chicago Tribune.4 They were in England and were taken to see Lord Roberts, “Bobs.”5 Right over among his pictures was one of Stonewall Jackson, whom both Cobb and Ford had praised as the greatest general in American, if not in world history. Cobb and McCutcheon were elated and told Lord Roberts that they felt proud that he had Jackson’s picture among his favorite war library. Then Cobb told him the story of how Jackson had always with him only two books, the Bible and the wars of Napoleon. Roberts said, “They are two fine books, if you only have two books I don’t know of a better selection, but if I was going into war, I would rather have the Bible and one on war, by Jackson, than one by Napoleon. The Germans study Jackson, his battles are in their text books.” Cobb says his six consecutive battles with six different armies, in the Valley, was the outstanding tactics of any general, he only had 18 thousand active men, and any one of the other armies were over 40,000.
Then he would tell us about Lee. There was really four Lee generals in all, and Pickett. I kept my trap shut for once and listened.
If ever I get any time to read a book, I am going to get me one about some of those boys. My Daddy fought with Stan Waity in the Confederacy, but you couldent get much war news out of Papa.6 I sho dident inherit this continuous flow of blathering around from him.
Cobb has got some great experiences back of the lines in the Germans’ first advance into Belgium. You remember those exciting war stories we read of his in the Saturday Evening Post. They were our first long detailed news of the war. He has had a great and varied experience, backed up by a fund of knowledge, and a mass of book reading information. And on top of all that was one of the best reporters of his or any time. In his first movie short, he is doing an old river boat captain, that’s what his father was, and owned a fleet of boats, I had been to Paducah several times, but I dident know it had so much water. The Tennessee, and the Ohio, and the Cumberland, and not far off the Mississippi. Cobb says in the early days you couldent get in town at all without a pair of oars.
If Irvin hangs around us all doing this picture of his we are making, I will be pretty fair educated guy, especially wars, and rivers. Jack Ford, the director, you get a lot from him, but they are mostly about Irish wars. He can lick the English for you just as entertainingly as Cobb can the Yankees. Funny part Ford is a Yankee from Maine. This is enough history for you for one day.
1Cobb wrote the stories upon which the movie Judge Priest was based. The film was released in September 1934, with Rogers in the title role.
2For Hal E. Roach see WA 555:N 6.
3John Ford, Irish-American motion-picture director who made nearly 200 features from 1917 until his death in 1973. He won Academy Awards in 1935 for The Informer and in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath.
4John Tinney McCutcheon, American cartoonist on the staff of the Chicago Tribune from 1903 until his death in 1949. Known especially for his political cartoons, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in that category in 1931.
5Frederick Sleigh “Bobs” Roberts, British military leader; commander-in-chief in India from 1885 to 1893 and in Ireland from 1895 to 1899; supreme commander in South Africa from 1899 to 1904.
6Rogers’ father, Clement (see WA 578:N 2), served as a captain in the Confederate Army regiment commanded by the famous Cherokee soldier and politician, Brigadier General Stand Watie.