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Will Rogers and “His” America, Book Review Example

Pages: 4

Words: 977

Book Review

The work about Will Rogers and the cultural and political heritage he has felt for the USA is a powerful and encompassing writing of Anderson published in 2011. The title Will Rogers and “His” America suggest the extreme depth and diversity of experiences that Rogers brought about at the dawn of the US mass culture. Besides being famous as an actor, Rogers was a critical political writer, a vaudeville actor, a thinker, and a prominent socio-political figure that personally experienced and then publicly transformed the issues of race, ethnicity, and origin. The legacy of Rogers is enormous, though now he is remembered for the narrow set of contributions only. Therefore, the book of Anderson reveals the life path and career of Rogers in a full, comprehensive way, to show the hard times, contradictions, inspirations, and fears of Rogers, and to make his artistic, political, and social urges explicit for readers and appreciators.

The first chapter called symbolically “The Opening Act” tells about the dawn of Rogers’ career as a vaudeville actor; Anderson stated that it was easy for Rogers to conquer the public, but his inner harmony was troubled. Being one quarter a Cherokee Indian, Rogers did not accept his origin and made much effort to be accepted in the white world. He despised African Americans and sang humiliating “coon” songs then, and later in his career (Anderson 5). Though Will received good education, he faced racism in multiple perspectives; first he treated Indians with disrespect in an Indian school, and then he was racially discriminated by white fellow students in the Scarritt Institution in Neosho and Kemper School in Boonville (Anderson 11). Rogers traveled much, and his stay in Argentina and South Africa brought him the realization of what poverty and discrimination really are; he returned with much more appreciation to his Indian origin (Anderson 20).

The second chapter reveals the beginning of Rogers’ career; it is titled “The Pursuit of Fame”, and includes the description of Rogers’ path at the stage. Rogers used the commonly held prejudice in his “plainsman talk”, despised Black and Indian people in his performances (Anderson 30), and stuck to the image of the cowboy though it had seized to be the reality of the American West. However, Rogers, traveled to Europe and performed with Follies and Frolic, some of the most popular troops of the time, got acquainted with Ziegfeld, Bert Williams, and Ed Wynn, which secured him a position of the popular, mature, but original comic (Anderson 42-45). The gradual development of Rogers was revealed in his transformation from a physical performer to the monologist; he abandoned all Indian in him, and he finally managed to move to Hollywood with his family (Anderson 50).

The third chapter is titled “The Renaissance”; it explores the career of Rogers in Hollywood and his work as a journalist. Rogers became famous in Hollywood for entering and leaving it with one wife (Anderson 54); after his rise in the movie industry, Rogers made friends with Lummis in whose house he got acquainted with John Collier (who later became one of the most significant figures in the Indian Affairs Committee) (Anderson 58). Rogers wrote much, critiquing the reliance on banking and profit by Republicans, and criticizing the way President Coolidge conducted his national policy, especially in the agricultural sector (Anderson 71, 75). Later, Rogers became more sensitive about the lack of civil rights for people of color (Anderson 79); his popularity grew, his humorous and exaggerating works were published in more and more newspapers.

The fourth chapter, “A Liberal in the Illiberal Age”, tells about the transition to politically acute topics in the activity of Rogers. Rogers traveled to Europe, conducted interviews with Mussolini and Churchill, Leon Trotsky in the USSR, and made friends with Hughes, the former Coolidge’s Secretary of the State (Anderson 94, 95, 105). Rogers also took an active interest in international conflict involvement by the USA; he condemned the authorities for the Cuban crisis, and calmed the Americans down about the inclinations of Mexicans (Anderson 110-111).

The firth chapter is titled “Will Rogers, the Journalist”, and informs the reader about the mature period of Rogers’ career; his language was regarded as unique, and sales of The Times rose (Anderson 124). However, Rogers was often condemned for his political judgment. His active protection of women’s rights was also met without agitation. However, Rogers remained a close observer of the political life in America in the 1920s and 1930s, condemned the American pursuit of prosperity for its being unfair (“you can’t get money without taking it from somebody”), by which he predicted the economic crisis that stroke America at the early 1930s (Anderson 146, 151).

The final chapter is titled “”Will Rogers and the New Liberalism”; it tells about the final part of Rogers’ career in which he traced the changes brought about by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his Presidency. Rogers supported the majority of Roosevelt’s efforts, such as abandoning the Gold Standard (Anderson 170), stopping Prohibition (Anderson 173), and raising the issue of direct government lending to businesses without banks acting as intermediaries (Anderson 179). Rogers also returned to the cinema, though his roles were not as idyllic as before (e.g., Dr. Bull) (Anderson 196). The unexpected death of Rogers ends the story.

Summing up the story of Will Rogers told by Anderson, one has to note that he was an outstanding thinker, critic, traveler, journalist, and actor. The artistic spirit, originality of thought, and boldness of judgment have secured a firm place for Will Rogers in the all-American and even global heritage. Thus, one has to keep in mind that Rogers should be remembered not only for his comic activity and film roles, but also for the close critical attention to the issues of wealth, politics, commerce, poverty, global issues, etc.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Anderson, Gary Clayton. Will Rogers and “His” America. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 2011. Print.

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