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Will Rogers: A Biography Paperback – April 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; Subsequent edition (April 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806132388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806132389
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), cowboy humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) had a "dual consciousness," in Yagoda's estimate. The rope-twirling vaudeville monologist, salty political commentator, silent film actor and New York Times columnist was the son of a former slaveholder and Confederate veteran, but he was also one-quarter Cherokee and the tribe vividly remembered Andrew Jackson's massive betrayal of the Cherokees. Rogers embodied old-time values, yet he "opportunistically" embraced the new mass-culture media. Apostle of decency, he headlined in the "all-but-pornographic" Ziegfeld Follies. Yagoda, a University of Delaware assistant professor of English, has written the fullest biography of this American icon, a resonant portrait imbued with Rogers's irreverent spirit, yet attuned to both the strengths and limitations of his commonsense, crackerbarrel world view. Sam Goldwyn, W. C. Fields, Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge, FDR and Mussolini stride through these pages. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Clear as a Walker Evans photo: a biography of folk-humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935), who, like Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart, grew into his mask, becoming the image of wry, genial common sense until his death. Yagoda (English/University of Delaware) offers an utterly thorough, brilliant taking-apart of the unique Rogers persona. Ronald Reagan, he tells us, gave ``an impressive Rogers impersonation in the White House'' and back in the 40's was thought to be a natural to play Rogers in the film bio--but Will Rogers, Jr., got the role. ``For there to be another Will Rogers today,'' Rogers says, ``he (or she) would have to combine...Johnny Carson, Mark Russell, Roy Rogers, Clark Clifford, Walter Cronkite, Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Russell Baker, H. Ross Perot, and Walter Lippmann. It just can't happen.'' Yagoda finds Rogers to have been a divided being, a rather gleeful but sometimes despairing and angry youth who clammed up after marriage and became the model of ``unmatched stability, drive and contentment.'' One-quarter Cherokee, he rode the plains as a young cowboy, then took his mastery of the lariat and patter to the vaudeville stage, emerging as the Lincolnesque figure who ``never met a man I didn't like.'' Rogers went on to a rather bumpkin-ish career in silent movies; graduated to a kind of sheepishly patriarchal status in talkies; made records; then became a radio humorist, syndicated newspaper columnist, and crony of politicians while grabbing the ear of FDR and topping out as Hollywood's number-one star: An amazing, unforeseeable life. As a speaker about politics, he kept his knife sheathed, talking as if from the very pulse of the people during the Depression, and was finally seen by all as the apostle of decency and archetype of American wisdom. His interest in aviation led to his death in Alaska--and to the grief of a nation. So immediate you can scratch a match on his boot sole. (Photographs) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is probably the best biography of Will Rogers currently available. It is comprehensive, insightful, well researched, and balanced. My only complaint with it is that it ends somewhat abruptly. Yagoda touches briefly on the legacy of Will Rogers after his death, but he could have said a great deal more. Rogers's death evoked profound mourning across the US and the rest of the world, and it would have been nice if he had focused a bit more on that. His analysis, however, of why Rogers gradually ceased to be what he was in his own time--arguably the most popular American who ever lived--is very helpful. I had always found his comparative demise to be quite perplexing, and Yagoda does a superb job of explaining this phenomenon.
One of the greatest virtues of the book is that it does not, like many books on Rogers, engage in hagiography. Will Rogers was a very good, compassionate, honest man. Any book on his will show that. He had his faults, but as presented by Yagoda, they do not diminish the man, whatever it may do to the myth. For instance, Yagoda insightfully points out that while Rogers was rightfully lauded for his wisdom and insight, his thought was marred by an inability to comprehend genuine evil. One is left wondering what Rogers's response to Hitler's behavior in the years just after Rogers's death, and what he would have been able to say about the moral complexities of the Second World War. On the other hand, I would very much have welcomed Rogers as a voice of reason during the days of the Communist Witch Hunts.
Anyone interested in Rogers is strongly encouraged to read this book. I would also like to recommend the first chapter in Lary May's THE BIG TOMORROW. This book is a study of the social dimensions of American cinema from the thirties through the fifties. The first and best chapter is about Will Rogers, and remains the best thing that I have read about Will Rogers. I strongly recommend both books.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Uyvsdi on February 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I heartily recommend this book not only to those interested in Will Rogers but also anyone interested in the evolution of American popular culture. Yagoda does an excellent job of writing about the people and events shaping Will's life and work. He does not succumb to sentimentality (perhaps going overboard in trying to prove that Will was not perfect). My only regret is he could have researched Cherokee culture and history more thoroughly, which would have explained a great deal more about Will and his family. Otherwise, very compelling reading.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
this is a great book, it has so much information on life in turn of the century America and vaudville. Also interesting stories of cowboys and indians in will rogers life.it drags alittle in places but for the most part is very enjoyable.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By So. Calif book reader on March 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I searched for what I thought would be the best biography out on Will Rogers and decided on this one, even though it seemed to lack information following his death. I read it, it's good and pretty complete----until Rogers dies. Then it just stops. There is no information given about the funeral--which I understand was absolutely enormous--35000 people in attendance. I like biographies to follow through with funeral and burial information, and Yagoda just drops it here. With all the researching these writers do on books, to go the extra step and give us this information wouldn't hurt. Very disappointed on this point. Yagoda lets us down here.
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By David Eilers on December 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had fun reading Mr. Yagoda's biography of Will Rogers. I came away from the book with a new appreciation for Will. Other reviewers have mentioned the abrupt ending of the book, with little followup after Mr. Rogers death, and I second that. However, I find that a minor issue that should not stop anyone from reading this well done book.
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