If you’ve seen The Will Rogers Follies, you probably think of the man as a humorist who told jokes and stories with the Ziegfeld Follies, punctuated by rope tricks. But that’s just one small part of Rogers’s life, the fellow who became the voice of the common man in America.
For example, he starred in 71 movies (only 21 were “talkies”), and became the highest-paid man in Hollywood. He had a highly successful vaudeville act. He wrote more than 4,000 newspaper columns. He toured the lecture circuit and wrote a number of humor books. He was one of the early stars of radio. And he loved to fly — a love that would be his undoing.
Wiley Post was interested in finding a passenger and mail route from the West Coast to Russia, and invited Will Rogers to fly with him through Alaska. Rogers, looking for new material for his newspaper column, agreed. Post had built his own plane, and made it ready for this route over water by adding floats. Unfortunately, they made the aircraft nose heavy, and the plane crashed trying to take off from a lagoon near Point Barrow, Alaska. Both men were killed.
But nothing has been able to extinguish the flame of Rogers’s famous wit. Here are some memorable sayings from the humorist who said, “I never met a man I didn’t like”:
“Lord, the money we do spend on Government and it’s not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago.”
“America has a unique record. We never lost a war and we never won a conference in our lives. I believe that we could without any degree of egotism, single-handed lick any nation in the world. But we can’t confer with Costa Rica and come home with our shirts on.”
“I am not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”
“A fool and his money are soon elected.”
“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”
“Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock.”
“The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”