The Story of Will Rogers (1952)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Showbiz Drama  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Story of Will Rogers is an amiable and entertaining but somewhat pallid biopic. Modern audiences may very well have no familiarity with Rogers, who was one of the country's most beloved entertainers and whose death in an airplane accident occasioned national mourning. The film does a good job of presenting the man pretty much as he was, helped along by the dead-on performance of son Will Rogers Jr. Rogers Jr. has the lackadaisical drawl, the slack face that suddenly lights up, the friendly smile that defines the word "grin," and the cracker-barrel philosopher personality down pat. He's a tiny bit hesitant in some of his more dramatic moments, indicating that he was -- like his father -- more a personality than an actor per se. But if he falls short on occasion, it's still a striking performance that gives the picture the anchor it needs. When the script focuses on actual dialogue and routines from Rogers, things are fine. But when it pretends that it's telling the true story of Rogers rather than presenting another trite by-the-numbers biopic, it falls flat. Director Michael Curtiz is equally uneven, directing the film in fits and starts that are unusual for him. The supporting cast, especially Jane Wyman, is quite a lot of help. And the ending does bring a tear to the eye. If not a perfect tribute to a man who held a unique place in America's cultural history, it's still worth watching.