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A film biography of American humorist Will Rogers of Oklahoma. It captures the highlights of his life from Oklahoma ranch life to traveling the world in search adventure and a life as a performer in vaudeville. Portrayed by Will Rogers, Jr. He has the sound and character to be his father--the Cherokee Kid, Will Rogers.
It was a most uncanny and moving experience to see Will Rogers Jr. portraying his dad on the screen and looking just like him. This was unusual but not unique in film history: Eddie Foy Jr portrayed his father Eddie Foy Sr in Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney as George M. Cohan(1942);and Andre Melies portrayed his father, the pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies, in Le Grand Melies (1952).
I was greatly moved by the whole experience of seeing this incomparable movie. The touching and sensitive way in which the filmmakers left out Rogers' and Post's death in their airplane crash raised the film to an even higher level of emotionally appropriate story telling. The Billy Mitchell episode was also trenchant and documentarily appropriate as was all the other skillful weaving in of contemporary events. The interspersing of life on the ranch with contrasting episodes from the wide world of Rogers' travels and his reaction to the depression-era's tragic altering of people's lives was beautifully portrayed.
Besides the fine acting by all concerned the sets and costumes were absolutely exquisite in recreating their eras in the story. Victor Young's adaptations of contemporary pop and folk songs of the time were skillful. Seeing Eddie Cantor himself acting and singing in this 1952 movie was very special to someone like me who actually heard him constantly on the radio during that same time period. The Al Jolson and Marilyn Miller clips were archive footage I presume, but where they dug up such high quality Technicolor episodes to put into this film is beyond me. Perhaps these were 1952 impersonations. However there was one serious flaw in this otherwise brilliant and affecting movie, namely the time line of the musical and historical excerpts and episodes. The movie had Rogers wandering around for two years and finally winding up at the St. Louis Fair of 1904 where he proposes to Betty. However, previously in the movie he had first met Betty in Oloogah about the time Oklahoma was to become a state in 1907. As part of the background time setting for this episode at the Rogers' home much was made of the song "Hello My Baby, Hello My Honey, Hello My Ragtime Girl" which wasn't written till 1909 as well as "Home on the Range" which wasn't written till 1912. So this musical and historical confusion goes along with the "nomination" of Rogers in 1932 at the Democratic convention, likewise fictional. Despite all that, a great and beautiful movie.
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