As a boy, Rogers became an expert rider and rope-twirler; he first performed in a Johannesburg Wild West Show during the Boer War. In the U.S., he worked in fairs and vaudeville, gradually developing an act that included humor. He began appearing in musical comedy in 1912; five years later, he starred with the Ziegfeld Follies. Beginning in 1918, Rogers appeared in many feature and short films, but his appeal in the silent medium was limited; when he tried to produce and direct his own films, he lost a good deal of his own money. However, once the sound era began, he quickly became one of the nation's most popular performers -- his folksy wit and down-home philosophy making him an ambassador of rural America and spokesman for the common folk. Rogers also worked on radio and wrote newspaper columns. He turned down an offer to run for Governor of Oklahoma, but served as Mayor of Beverly Hills and campaigned actively (via his very influential columns) for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. He died in an airplane crash with aviator Wiley Post in 1935. He was portrayed in three films by his look-alike son, Will Rogers Jr. -- one was the biopic The Will Rogers Story (1952). He was also the central subject of the Broadway musical The Will Rogers Follies, in which he was portrayed by Keith Carradine and Mac Davis.