He never met a man he didn’t like: A visit to the Will Rogers Museum

He never met a man he didn’t like.

Will Rogers was born in Oologah, OK, and his final resting place is at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, OK.

Rogers made a name for himself in vaudeville as doing roping tricks, eventually making it to the Ziegfeld Follies. He then made silent films, talking pictures, wrote syndicated newspaper columns and broadcasted on the radio. Rogers was always on top of his communication game.
Rogers died in 1935 in a plane crash in Alaska.

Will Rogers statue near his tomb. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

Will Rogers statue near his tomb. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P.)

“When commercial radio evolved, Rogers quickly migrated to the new format,” said an exhibit at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. “If alive today, he probably would be blogging and tweeting.”

This past September, my co-worker Brittany Randolph and I went on a road trip to Oklahoma. She loves the plains and I was along for an adventure. I didn’t care where we went as long as we visited the Will Rogers Rogers Memorial Museum.

The museum includes:
-Rogers’s saddle collection such as Mongolian, French and Navajo saddles
-A gallery of portraits painted of Will Rogers
-A theater that shows “The Will Rogers Story” narrated that Bob Hope
-Rogers’s tiny saddle collection
-A smaller theater that shows Will Rogers films
-A diorama on Will Rogers life
-Artifacts such as hats, scripts or costumes that belonged to Rogers
-History on Rogers’ family, dating back to his Native American heritage
-Rooms of the museum recreate rooms of Rogers’s home such as his study-modeled to make him think of ranch life
-Will Rogers’ grave site is in a garden outside the museum with a large statue of him on a horse.
-Samples of some of his radio broadcasts

Part of Rogers's tiny saddle collection

Part of Rogers’s tiny saddle collection

Portrait of Will Rogers

Portrait of Will Rogers

A hat of Will Rogers

A hat of Will Rogers

Me posing with Will Rogers lobby cards

Me posing with Will Rogers lobby cards

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Watching a Will Rogers film

Watching a Will Rogers film

Young Will Rogers

Young Will Rogers

Will Rogers's family had a pet cow that stayed in the house like a dog

Will Rogers’s family had a pet cow that stayed in the house like a dog

Gorgeous ceilings of the museum

Gorgeous ceilings of the museum

Portrait of Will Rogers

Portrait of Will Rogers

Small sculpture of Rogers roping a calf

Small sculpture of Rogers roping a calf

Part of Will Rogers saddle collection

Part of Will Rogers saddle collection

The back of the Will Rogers Museum

The back of the Will Rogers Museum

Will Rogers tomb

Will Rogers tomb

Posing with Will Rogers's statue

Posing with Will Rogers’s statue

The museum opened in 1938 and was dedicated on what would have been his 59th birthday. The land where the museum stands was purchased by Will and his wife Betty in 1911. Betty donated the land to the state in 1937, according to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum.

Along with Rogers, his wife Betty (d. 1944) and their four children: Fred Stone Rogers, 1918-1920; Mary Amelia Rogers Brooks, 1913-1989; and James Blake (­Jim) Rogers, 1915-2000; as well as Jim’s wife, Marguerite Astrea Kemmler Rogers, 1917-1987 lay to rest behind the museum.

If you are ever in the Claremore, OK area, I highly suggest visiting the Will Rogers Memorial Museum.

For someone who lives in the southeast with few historical film museums to offer, it was a treat to get to visit the Will Rogers Museum and his resting place.
It was peaceful and a beautiful tribute to a highly respected man.

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“Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on Earth.”

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Comet goes on stage

What do I have in common with two Academy Award winning actresses, Celeste Holm and Gloria Graham?

The three of us have all played Ado Annie in the musical “Oklahoma.”

Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRea in "Oklahoma"

Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRea in “Oklahoma”

I open tonight and will perform the role this weekend and next weekend at the Kings Mountain Little Theater in North Carolina.

Though I love films, I’ve never considered being an actor. But my love for musicals is what brought me to the stage.

As I’ve mentioned in the past I’ve seen 467 movie musicals, ranging from Busby Berkeley kaleidoscope Warner Brothers films to candy-colored MGM extravaganzas.

Last summer while I was working and living in Elkin, NC, the local theater group began holding auditions for “Annie Get Your Gun.” I felt ridiculous trying out, since I had never performed in a play before, but visions of Betty Hutton singing in the movie version of the musical drove me to try out.

Similarly, the same visions struck me this winter when I found out auditions were being held for “Oklahoma,” but these included Shirley Jones, Gordon MacRea, Gloria Grahame and Gene Nelson.

“Oklahoma” originated on Broadway in 1943 with actress Holm as Ado Annie. Holm tried out for the role so she could do her part during World War II.

“There was a need for entertainers in Army camps and hospitals,” Holm said. “The only way you could do that was if you were singing in something.”

Holm later went on to Hollywood to star with Bette Davis in “All About Eve” (1950) and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the film “Gentlemen’s Agreement” (1947).

Eddie Albert, Gloria Grahame and Gene Nelson

Eddie Albert, Gloria Grahame and Gene Nelson

When “Oklahoma” was made into a film in 1955, sexy actress Gloria Grahame was cast as Ado Annie. But Grahame wasn’t the first pick for the role.

Grahame won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952).

Betty Hutton, who was Annie Oakley in the film “Annie Get You Gun,” was approached to play “the girl who cain’t say no” but she declined.

She turned down “Oklahoma” to do the TV spectacular “Satins and Spurs,” which flopped. She later regretted turning down the role when she saw Rogers and Hammerstein were personally overseeing the film.

Hutton would have been perfect for the comedic role in the “Oklahoma” and I think it would have jumpstarted her failing career.

The trouble with Grahame is that she was constantly trying to make the role too sexy rather than cute and funny, according to IMDB. To remedy this, two comedic dancing girls were added to the film.

Grahame was also very tone deaf so her music had to be edited together, according to IMDB.

Blond bombshell Mamie Van Doren was also interested in the role of Ado Annie. Others who auditioned for roles included Robert Stack, Piper Laurie, Lee Marvin, Vic Damone, Dale Robertson and Joan Evans were all screen tested for various roles.

Sadly, the movie “Oklahoma” also wasn’t filmed in the state of Oklahoma but in Arizona.

Me as Ado Annie in "Oklahoma"

Me as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma”

Though this is my second play, I don’t think the play bug has bit me. I simply do it because of my love of classic films.

What have classic films driven you to do in your daily life?

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