April 5, 1931 - June 28, 1931
HOOVER, CHAPLIN AND THE PRINCE GO TOURINGWell all I know is just what I read in the papers. Well Mr Hoover got back from a part of the country he had never been in till he was President. It’s awful hard for Mr Hoover to find new places to go after election, for he has traveled so much.1 But he manages to find some. They was going to try a Battleship to see if it would work after they had had it renovated, so he just says, “Here is the time for me to get away from all this mess.”
So he picked him out a bunch of congenial friends, mostly standpat Republicans and joined the Navy and started seeing the World. It dident used to be hard to find some place for Coolidge to go where he had never been, all you had to do was just to suggest any one of the forty eight States outside of Vermont and Massachusetts, and he was all set for new territory.2
When he set sail for Black knolls of South Dakota, why that compared in importance to him to Hoover leaving for Mary Bird Land in the Anartic. Mr Coolidge did make Cuba one time. I was there at the time, and saw it and he got a great welcome too. But Mr Hoover went on and found the Virgin Islands. A good many people thought such a place as that was a myth, but he went there and found it really. People nowadays call these “Good will tours.” But you can’t get people’s good will nowadays unless you bring ‘em something. He took ‘em a speech but no donations. So outside of what fish he got on the trip, it’s kinder hard to figure out just the exact benefitiary results. He told ‘em that he wanted to give every one of them the same as we had up here. Well that depends on how well posted they are on what is happening to us, how they took that remark. In other words if they took him at his word, and wanted what we got, they would immediately ask for Red Cross relief. But I think it was a mighty fine trip for him to have taken, and it will do a lot of good. Roosevelt went down there when he was President, and everything he did was O K, so I know this must have been.3
Well what else we got? Did you ever read such a procession of acclaim as Charley Chaplin is making all over Europe?4 Why Charley don’t any more than land in a Country till the Prime Minister grabs him off to his home, like some Movie fan asking for an Autograph. Charley is pretty foxy though, and mighty well informed on affairs. He can talk and argue with them. He is a pretty rabid Socialist, and has made a pretty serious study of it.
One night a few years ago I was asked to introduce him at the Lambs Club in New York, that’s the most exclusive Actor organization. It was his first trip to New York in a good while and he was having some unfavorable Newspaper publicity at the time. Well I told them that in all my little years on the Stage and screen that I had only met one person that I could honestly call an “Artist,” every other person I ever saw, some one else could do what he was doing just as good, and that it was all a trick, and not real genius. But that Chaplin was all that these Real so called Artists was supposed to be. And he is, he is the only genius developed in the films since they started. Any of us can get “Artistic” and say we won’t work till noon, or won’t do this or that. But we are doing it on some firm’s money, but Chaplin can come on his set, and turn loose 500 people, tell ’em he will call ’em again some other time, and he is doing it on his dough. Art ain’t put on when you are paying for it out of your own pocket. He writes, directs, and acts the whole thing. Any one else making a picture there is at least a dozen people that are directly concerned in its success. Chaplin replaces all of them alone.
No, whether you like him or not, (and how you couldent I don’t know) but he is one of the few Geniuses developed during our time in any line. So all this Hooy is not wasted on some Bird that don’t deserve it. The Prince of Wales (who is quite a fellow himself, and done some prowling around the world) why a Zulu wouldent know him from Senator Borah although he is the best known man in the World.5 But the old Zulu would sure pick you out Charley in his Derby and big “Dogs.”
Say what’s going to happen to this wheat thing? The Government bought up a lot of last year’s crop, and now they got it, and here is coming along another new crop. Borah wants to give it to China to make rice out of. I would like to see it given to renter farmers in this Country to make bread out of. You’d be surprised if you knew how little those poor people had to live on that was issued by the Red Cross. They did marvelous work as usual the Red Cross, but what I mean is if the same thing come up again, I sure would like to see ‘em have enough more money so the issue of rations would be larger. Of course when you are getting Charity you can’t be the chooser, but it was barley enough to get along on. Now why can’t something be done with some of all this surplus wheat? We are going to have to charge that Farm board’s operations off as a loss anyhow it looks like now.6 Course I guess they did what they thought was right. But people can raise things faster in this Country than anybody can buy it, even the Government.
Say did you read in the papers about a bunch of Women up in British Columbia as a protest against high taxes, sit out in the open naked, and they wouldent put their clothes on? The authorities finally turned Sprayer that you use on trees, on ‘em. That may lead into quite a thing. Woman comes into the tax office nude, saying I won’t pay. Well they can’t search her and get anything. It sounds great. How far is it to British Columbia?
NOTE: Footnotes were missing from original document.
WILL PAYS HIGH TRIBUTE TO ROCKNEWell all I know is just what I read in the papers. Been so much calamity here the last week or so that it’s hard to dig much cheerful nourishment out of the news prints. Poor Knute Rockne so upset everybody that we just can’t get over it, especially those of us who had the good fortune to know him.1 The more you think of him the more remarkable he becomes. I used to go out on one night stand so called Concert Tours, and I always used to play South Bend, and there would be a bunch of the Boys down to my little Lecture. Well the minute I would hit town He would be down to the Hotel and I would be with him most of the day, go out to the school, and if it was anywhere around football time, I would see them work out, and when I say them, I mean them, there would be literally hundreds of ’em on all the teams together.
You know he dident just have the big team and the Scrubs, he had dozens of ’em, Domitory teams, class teams. Every kind of team, all but Fraternity teams, they don’t have them there. They have got some kind of a preparatory school there too I guess, for he showed me practicing one time a bunch of little kids, and he would show me how they had all his plays.
He said, “If some Coach was smart enough, he would come here and watch these little kids work out and he would get every play I’ve got. I have secret practice, to try out my new formations and there won’t seem to be a soul in the place, but you come out here the next day and you will see them running through the same ones I had the Varsity working on the day before. They sneak in here away ahead and hide in the most outlandish places, under the stands, the seats, and everywhere and they all try to copy my Stars, they try to walk like ’em, talk like ’em, copy all their little mannerisms. Two of them had a fight over which one was Struldrehr.2 I will always have pretty good material as long as they study the fine points of the game that early.”
Then down at the Theatre that night where I was playing I would get him up on the stage, and also all the team, and it would always be a great night and also day for me. Just to be around him was a treat. He had developed into one of the best after dinner Speakers in this country. He had a great fund of humor, and storys of real happenings and he had so much sincerity in his talks, he really made you believe it. I can easily understand how those Boys played their heads off for him. He sure did inspire confidence.
I think his greatest feat was his last game, that was out here with University of Southern California. Here we thought out here we had the greatest team that ever represented the coast, tremendous Stadium filled, Notre Dame hadent lost a game in two years, and this was their last, it was the last for a lot of their big Stars who were graduating. Rockne was touted to lose. The night before over the radio he admitted that he dident have much of a chance. “Savoldi is out; he was our mainstay.3 Then on the way out we lost our fullback by illness. We have gone through a tough season, and we just couldent stay on edge so long. The Boys had to have a let down. I have asked too much of them this season with the terrible schedule they had, and it just is not in human beings to keep up their pace till now. We have got to lose, and we want to lose to you in preference to anybody else. It’s a long train trip out here. It’s much warmer here than back home, and the heat is against the boys, but we will just give you the best we got. But I don’t possibly see how we can win, in the shape we are in.”
Now what other coach on earth could give such a straightforward talk as that, and not have every word swallowed hook, line and sinker? Then get this last line he gave us that night before, “Now there is going to be a lot of heart-aches tomorrow afternoon after that game. Great big strong young men are coming into the dressing rooms and break down and cry. But my boys can take it a little easier because they don’t expect to win, they have steeled themselvs to the defeat.”
Well here we are all packed in the stands, really pitying those poor boys from back there, and hoping that the California boys wouldent seriously hurt any of them running over them on the way to the goal posts. Well on the very first play California fumbled. Well from then on it was just too bad. You never saw a team beaten so cool and deliberate like. Notre Dame huddled for a change, and when they come out of it they would walk as slow to their places, and that got poor Cal’s goat. They finished by Notre Dame beating them 27-0. It wasent the score, it was the deliberate and mechanical way they did it, it was a machine doing things where the others were trying with their hands.
And here was a great thing he did, as each one of his Stars that would be taken out of the game in the last half and it was their last game for Notre Dame, he would jump up from the bench and go out and meet him and hug him, you could just see the affection that he had for each one, and it was conveyed to that whole audience. I will never forget when little Carideo, (perhaps the greatest field General that every played football) left the field.4 He had played a whale of a game, handled his team uncanny. There is a lot of drama in a player like that leaving the field for his last time as a College player. I think Rockne pulled him out just to get him that great hand as he left the Stadium. Well when old “Rock” went out and put his arms around that little Carideo and walked him off the field, it wasent an ovation, it was hurricane.
We dident know then what we was looking at. We thought it was the exit of another great Quarterback. But we was looking at the exit of Knute Rockne. He was hugging his last Player, fine young men all over the U.S. can feel back and cherish the hug they got on their last game from “Rock.” But it was little Carideo that got the last hug. Here he was right on the crest. He had beaten the Coast’s great team for a two year no defeat record for Notre Dame. But the whole of California loved him, for that night on the radio he apologized for the size of the score and said, “I had to make it big for Coach Jones will make it bigger than that against me next year.”5 He coached Notre Dame Stars in Charity games once or twice after that. But this was his last real Notre Dame scheduled game.
One lone Ranch Hand in Kansas was supposed to have been the sole witness to his passing. But that’s not so, eighty thousand of us saw his passing out, his last game, and it will stick with us through life.
1Knute Kenneth Rockne, football coach at the University of Notre Dame from 1918 to 1931. Personable and popular, Rockne compiled a record of 105 wins, 12 losses, and 5 ties with the Fighting Irish. He and seven other persons perished in an airplane crash in southeastern Kansas on March 31, 1931.
2Harry Stuhldreher, quarterback at the University of Notre Dame from 1922 to 1924 and member of the immortal “Four Horsemen.” Stuhldreher subsequently played professional football for one season and then coached collegiate football for several years.
3Joseph A. “Jumpin’ Joe” Savoldi, running back for the University of Notre Dame from 1928 to 1930. Savoldi, who played on two national championship teams, was expelled from school in 1930 for breaking university athletic rules against marriage.
4Frank F. Carideo, quarterback for Notre Dame from 1928 to 1930. A two-time unanimous All-American player, Carideo quarterbacked the 1929 and 1930 Irish teams, which Rockne considered his best. 5Howard Harding Jones, head football coach at the University of Southern California from 1925 until his death in 1940. His USC teams won two national titles and five Rose Bowl games.
WILL’S CAREER GETS IN HIS WAYWell, all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I prowl from here to there. Everytime I get a new picture finished why I kinder feel the itch to get out to some new place or make some sort of a little trip. Well, away a couple of weeks ago, we had finished, “As Young As You Feel,” based on George Ade’s old play, “Father And The Boys.”1
I was going to take a little trip off down in Central America, and then they kept me at home for fear there might be some retakes on it. You know when we get one made we then take them out and show ’em, sometimes at a couple of different towns to see if they are fit to release, and sometimes we have to change something to make some new scenes. So I couldent get away on my trip.
The way I had it planned I would have been in Managua, Nicaragua, on the day after the quake, was going to stop over and see what the Marines was doing down there, and I would have been on the spot for quite a little news, for they sure have had it down there.2
Well, we took the thing out and tried it in San Bernardino, California, and the customers giggled quite a bit, so that let me get away. They said, the director and the studio officials that they didn’t think we could make it any worse if we tried, so I jumped on the old aerial rattler, and left from there. Honest if people knew how fast and comfortable and safe it is on a Plane they would never travel any other way.
I left Los Angeles from over in San Fernando valley on the American Airways just at daybreak on Easter morning. They were having Easter sunrise service in the Hollywood Bowl. California goes in great for that Gag. Well it was so misty and foggy this morning, they might have got up before daylight and parked two miles away from the place. For I never saw as many cars in one place in my life. But they never had any sunrise service, for no one but an Aerial Magician could have told when the sun did rise on that day. Old California fell down on ’em. It was so misty and foggy that we dident think we could get away, but these Planes all have radio now, so they got word that there was fine weather all along the line.
You know this radio has made it mighty fine to find out about what’s ahead. You see it’s never the weather you take off in it’s the weather where you have to go through after you take off. I remember one trip on our late tour with Captain Frank Hawkes when we took off one day in a snow storm in New Mexico when you just couldent see a thing, not two hundred feet, and it was that way flying blind for the next hour, but he had heard before that it was clear in Albuquerque where we were going.3 So it’s how is the weather ahead of you than how it is where you are.
Well the Sunrise bunch dident get much started that day I am afraid. You know California can get more people into something free than any place on earth. Course that particular thing was a very meritorious cause, and is a good idea if you live in a country where you can depend on the weather. This thing is just a big boxed-in Canyon, that they call the Bowl, and they have had some mighty fine things there. It’s a sort of a Moses on the Mount idea. We out in Hollywood take all the Bible things and improve on ’em, make ’em bigger. Now Moses when he read his Amendments dident have thousands of cars parked around, and he dident advertise how many he could seat on the sage brush on the hillside. But we did out there. We just don’t go in for little things.
Now take the Lord’s supper that has never interested our Movie producers, for there was not enough Guests there. It was a Stag affair, and that wouldent mean much to the Producers. We did however put on the Prodigal Son’s return, course we changed the name on account of that one not being very well known and Hollywood called the Story, “Sonnyboy returns to his first love,” and the place they had him return to was bigger than all Judea combined. We just do ’em big out that way, and the eastern Tourist out there expect it. California can’t do anything natural, they won’t believe it.
But it’s a great old place, and we get as much fun out of it as if we believed it all ourselvs. Speaking of services and religious gatherings why we been missing Aimee lately.4 She is away off prowling around some place and we can’t hardly figure her out. Her church is running, but it without Aimee is like the modern girls without her lipstick, it just ain’t her at all.
With Aimee away for all this stretch, and Clara Bow on her best behavior and me behaving myself, why there just is not much scandal out there at all.5 Doug Fairbanks is over in India getting even with some tigers, but anybody that knows Doug knows that he never hunted in his life.6 He never shot anything, but if he can come back with some pictures with the right foot up on the neck of a dead tiger or elephant why it will be all right.
Mary is kinder ranting around.7 There is some club out there called the Mayfair, that has some sort of a shindig every week, and they put on fights, I mean impromptu fights, people get mad at each other after they get there, and they always open and close their dance with a fight. Well, we have all been shocked to death to find Mary among (not the fighters) but among the guests. She has a ringside table at every public brawl they have. Doug has got to come home and put her to work, keep her out of devilment.
Chick Sale is out our way.8 I am figuring with him to put me in one up at the ranch. He is working out the design now. You would be surprised the trade that he has, he has just practically quit acting, and is specializing entirely. It was too bad; he is a fine comedian, too, one of the best that ever left the stage.
But this new work is high class, and not hard. It’s mostly just consulting, and working out architectural plans. I wish I could hit on some side line that would stop me having to just keep digging away day after day. It’s certainly made a fortune for him. You would be surprised at his prices. He has an office in Hollywood and is doing practically all Beverly Hills work. You just have to have ’em done by Sales or they won’t be patronized. Luck guy.
1George Ade, Indiana humorist, newspaper columnist, author, and playwright; author of the plays The County Chairman, The College Widow, and Father and The Boys.
2The earthquake that struck Managua, Nicaragua, on March 31, 1931, took 1,450 lives. United States Army engineers and Marines stationed in Nicaragua rendered valuable service during the subsequent relief and clean-up operations. Rogers spent three days in Managua and personally contributed at least $5,000 to the relief cause.
3Francis Monroe “Frank” Hawks, American aviator who established numerous transcontinental and point-to-point speed records in the 1920s and 1930s. Hawks piloted Rogers through the Southwest on a benefit tour to raise money for the drought victims.
4For Aimee Semple McPherson see WA 429:N 4.
5Clara Bow, American film actress whose sexuality and vivaciousness made her one of the most popular stars of the 1920s.
6Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., American stage and screen actor famous for his agile acrobatics and flashy smile. He starred in numerous screen spectaculars during a successful, twenty-year film career.
7Mary Pickford, American motion picture actress who in the heyday of silent films won renown as “America’s Sweetheart”; wife of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
8Charles Partlow “Chic” Sale, American comedian, vaudevillian, motion picture actor, and writer; author of the bestselling book The Specialist.
HERE’S CHANCE TO SEE CENTRAL AMERICA WITH WILLWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I prowl hither and thither. And brother believe me I been doing some prowling lately. For a long time I have wanted to go messing around in the Central American countries, and the establishment of an air line all through there give me just what I was looking for. Now in the first place you can leave almost any American place, right by plane and go either to Fort Worth, Texas, Brownsville, Texas, or Atlanta, or anywhere along the line and catch the Pan-American line. It leaves American territory at Brownsville, and goes to Tampico and Mexico City, then from Vera Cruz, Mexico, on down through all Central countries, then around through the north coast of South America, and back up by way of Virgin Islands, Porto Rico, Cuba and all points east.
I had had the idea in my head for a long time. I wanted Mrs. Rogers to go with me.1 She got one look at the map, counted the countries and reached for a time table to Hollywood, said that was as far as she was traveling right now. Ever since a kid, those countries and names appealed to me. I used to study in geography (not much, but a little) about Guatemala, San Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia, Venezuela, British Guiana, and all the mess of ’em. Well, just think of the pleasure of getting up one morning, having breakfast at home in Santa Monica, grabbing the plane and being in El Paso, Texas at one o’clock, going over the Rio Grande River to Juarez to get some beer and see a bull fight, as it was Sunday afternoon, and my plane dident leave there till Monday morning for Mexico City.
Did you ever visit Juarez, Mexico? Well, don’t miss it. I went by the bull ring and bought our tickets as I had about 4 pilots from the line who had brought me in from Los Angeles, American Airways Co., and a great line. Well, the fight was not to start till it got cool, for they won’t even kill a bull till the sun is so low that the fighter won’t get sunburned. Then as we were driving around the town I saw a fellow with a lot of braided uniform get on an old poor decrepid pony, and just know from his make-up that he was headed for the bull ring, so I got cold feet and dident go. I gave away my tickets to some fellows that hadent been saved as many times by horses as I had.
Well prowled around and saw all the sights of the town, then back and early the next morning out to the airport and then by the C.A.T. line. (Continental Aerial, Transportation), American pilots, powered with Wasps on Lockheed planes. Well, anybody that flies knows that from pretty near any part of our country you can leave and be in Mexico City the next night, and not fly nights either?
Right down over Chicawawa (that’s not the way it’s spelled but that’s sorter like it sounds), that’s where the old Mexican Tarasas had the biggest ranch in the world, a whole state, flew right over his old headquarters ranch, lost it all during the various revolutions.2 Poncho Villa lived off him alone for years.3
Well, we must get moving. Got to Mexico City that evening about four thirty. Made my first speech in Spanish for the Spanish movietone. I know few words but none of ’em fit what I want to say, but I just used ’em anyhow. I heard afterwards that in the theatre that it went big. Well it would. I was sorter panning our country and boosting theirs. It dident take much exaggeration to do either one. Met a lot of old friends at the field that I had known there during a previous visit, and then out to Mr Clark’s, the American Ambassador there who took Mr Morrow’s place.4 He is a real fellow and is doing a fine work. He was very familiar with Mexico for years and he is well liked there now, and it took some guy to follow that little fellow Morrow, (anywhere). He hasent done much in the Senate, but that’s what makes him great. The more you do in there the more your constituents suffer.
Well, after I go through with Mexico City, hit out for the real tropics, down through Vera Cruz, then out of there on the Pan American Airways, and over the real jungles, and stopped first at a little Mexican Army Post called San Geronimo. Gassed up, was thirsty but everybody said, don’t drink water in the tropics, and by golly I havent. But my first mangole, I believe it was to eat. Now we are on the west coast of Mexico, we have crossed the neck, or straights and are headed for Guatemala. We make some other one on the line, and then into Guatemala City, the capitol of that country. We have seen it on the maps of our old geographys.
It’s in the rolling hills, and quite a bit of aviation activity, and is a pretty little city from the air. They raise coffee, and tell you that it’s the best there is in Central or South America.
But wait a minute, we havent got to Costa Rica yet, and they tell you that too, and I believe they got it on Guatemala and Honduras, and all the rest on the quality. It’s so good that America won’t pay the price. It’s most all shipped to Europe. It grows on a little bush, and they have high trees planted all among it to shade the coffee plant, sometimes banana trees but generally big wide looking shade trees.
You would be surprised at the amount of people that speak English in all these countries. Almost all the young men of wealthier families are sent to our schools since the war, in preference to Europe, and they speak better English than we do. I can’t get you all the way down now, but I will get you to the Canal the next letter. It’s quite a gully.
1Betty Blake Rogers, wide of Will Rogers. The couple was married at Rogers, Arkansas, in 1908.
2Luis Terrazas, wealthy Mexican cattle baron and patriarch of the Terrazas family, which figured prominently in the country’s politics and finances from 1861 to 1913. His 70,000,000-acre estate in Chihuahu state was a frequent target of insurgents during the Mexican Revolution. He died in exile in 1923 at the age of ninety-four.
3Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Mexican bandit and revolutionary leader. He almost succeeded in drawing the United States into a war with Mexico in 1916 when he raided Columbus, New Mexico, killing sixteen persons and burning much of the town. He was assassinated in 1923.
4Joshua Reuben Clark, Jr., American career diplomat who served as ambassador to Mexico from 1930 to 1933. For Dwight W. Morrow see WA 431:N 5
WILL PANS HOOVER AS DIPLOMATWell all I know is just what I read in the papers and believe me I have finally found a paper that’s got something in it. It’s the “St. Thomas Mail” of the town of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, U.S.A. Now you might have read in the local press various references to Mr. Hoover’s statement about the condition of the Islands after he had visited them a few weeks ago.1
Now in all fairness to our President, I don’t think he meant it exactly like it was reported to have been said. He did see that they were in a pretty bad condition financially, and he might have in order to stir up a little interest in them and perhaps be able to get them a federal contribution of some kind, have thought he was doing them a favor by bringing to the public’s eye the fact that they were bad off.
But at any rate, it seems to have had the opposite effect and if you ever saw anyone up in arms it’s these Virginders. Here is how I happened to know and get in on all this. It was a lovely afternoon, we had flown some several hundred miles from Trinidad, Port of Spain (which is owned by the British), and is a very beautiful island just off the northeast edge of Venezuela.
We were in one of those great big giant Condors, carries about twenty people. It runs from Brazil to Porta Rica. Well we were headed for Porto for that night. We come down in the Bay of St. Thomas for gas and mail. It’s a beautiful little harbor, and a lovely picturesque little town, some mighty hospitable folks there.
It was a Navy base, but they are moving it away. In the days before America had gone “Racketeer” it made rum, and good rum. It was a legitimate business, carried on by experts, that had made it for generations. Then during a time when our ambitions were bigger than our judgment, why we thought we should spread out and try and be “A” Nation.
Now if there is one thing we do worse than any other nation, it is try and manage somebody else’s affairs. We are very original, nobody else can see things our way (of course they are wrong), but they just won’t be broadminded and let us show ’em how they should live. During this expansion we thought we ought to have the Virgin Islands. Denmark, (I believe it was), they owned ’em, and we just bought ’em, give ’em twenty-five million dollars.
But let’s get on with the story. Mr. Hoover had just finished a siege with the Senate and he needed a rest so he went to Porto Rico, and also to the Virgin Islands, and then home and made his observations. As we land on this lovely afternoon why I am tickled to death to be able to fly by and see our absent countrymen, and get their reaction on our President’s visit.
Well did you ever see a community mad? No, you havent, you only think you have. You havent seen a community mad at all till you see the Virgin Islands. I guess you can get madder at a President than anybody else, because he is bigger and so much more prominent. So as I told you at first, all I know is just what I read in the papers.
Well, they handed me their little paper, and let us read as it is here before me as I pen this: “To the Virgin Islanders. Regardless of how much our feelings have been hurt by the remarks of the President of the U.S., who alludes to us as a ‘poorhouse’ and expresses regret that the U.S. ever bought us, we must not forget our dignity, and so in the future place ourselves beyond the reach of future insults. We must be loyal to our local government and to the U.S.,” signed by the editor.
The editorial goes on: “When Denmark (I thought it was the Sweds, but I guess it was the Danes that sold it to us). When Denmark transferred the Islands to the great U.S. they certainly did not constitute a ‘poorhouse.’ She made them so by her stupid laws, unsuited to our well being. Any American alluding to us as a poorhouse is devoid of decency, even though he be President of these United States. Our welcome to the President was both loyal and dignified. The St. Thomians were not awed by his presence, for they have become accustomed to meet, BIGGER MEN THAN PRESIDENT HOOVER. THEY HAVE CHATTED AND DINED WITH THE CREAM OF EUROPEAN ROYALTY, NOT FOR A FEW HOURS, BUT FOR DAYS, and these men were appreciative of our hospitality and did not repay it with abuse, but they landed at Kings Wharf (that’s the place I went ashore too), they landed there, nicely dressed and NOT IN A GARB AS THOUGH PREPARED FOR A BUCK DANCE IN THE SLUMS, AS MR. HOOVER DID.
“Virgin Islanders have always been strongly in sympathy with America. During the Spanish American War, when we belonged to Denmark, we always welcomed American battleships into our harbor. We did not walk into America’s arms for charity. America has no concept of the rights of other people. This narrowness, (although the richest Nation on earth) makes her the most hated nation, even when she is doing a real good. But may the day never dawn when the inhabitants of these Islands look on her in the same manner as do the people of Mexico and Latin America.”
Now folks, them is harsh words, talk about the Democrats knocking the President! Well they took me ashore, and they said they wanted my visit to offset his, so I told ’em to go ahead and make their rum, that there was no reason they should take Prohibition seriously just because they belonged to the U.S. So with a bunch of them we all went and had a nip of rum punch, and I don’t mind telling you the Islands looked great to me.
I disagree with Mr. Hoover, they dident look near as poor as some parts of our country. Why there was no bread lines, no Red Cross Relief. I asked where most of the people were and they said, “Out at the golf course.” That was the only evidence of poverty I saw. For as you know practically all our unemployed are at ours.
I sure liked the place, and wished I could have stayed over a few days. Met some mighty pleasant folks there. It looked like a very happy little community. (Till the President hit it.) Saw a few Marines scattered around, but as it was American territory, they dident have many. Couldent have been so far behind the times, they had two of my pictures there (talkies) and one of them I hadent even seen at home yet myself. I was awful sorry that they had misinterpreted this Prohibition thing, and quit selling their rum, and when I explained to ’em the interpretation that the mainland of the U.S. had put on the amendment, why they were tickled to death, and started right in to get ready to manufacture on a big scale.
I gave them Capone’s address, as I wanted to see ’em get started with the best folks over home, where they could get the most for their product.2 Of course, they will have to start from the bottom in regard to competition, for the U.S. had twelve years of business start on them. But they will be all right now, and the next time a President visits them, their product will be making them rich just like Chicago, or any of their competiting centers. I am going to have those Virginders so rich they will be able to have $20,000 funerals, and Presidents won’t mean anything to ’em.
1On his return from the Virgin Islands in March of 1931, Hoover remarked that the United States had obtained “an effective poorhouse” by its “unfortunate” acquisition of the islands in 1917.
2Alphonse “Scarface Al” Capone, Italian-born American gangster and racketeer whose crime syndicate terrorized Chicago during the 1920s. Capone was convicted and imprisoned for federal income tax evasion in 1931.
WILL CHEERS THE ‘FOURTH ESTATE’Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I prowl hither and thither, mostly thither. Was in Washington about ten days ago, and saw quite a few of the boys that was still staying there that wasent up for re-election this year. You can tell the ones that are going to run. They have to rush home and start fixing things up. But the ones that are set for a year or so more they can kinder lay around and sorter mix with the lobbyist, and have a good time without getting blamed for it.
Was up to New York and spoke for the Newspaper Publishers Association. That’s a gang that gathers in from all over the country once a year, and belong to an association to help better each others conditions, then go home and write editorials against unionism. Not all of ’em, but some do. But we did have a fine dinner.
You know even the food at dinners is getting better, they don’t cook the chicken at these banquets in the afternoon like they used to. We had tender squab. It’s mighty rare for a banquet to get tender squab. This was at the Pennsylvania Hotel. It’s the eating house for that line. I want to tell you that Mr. Attebury had done a mighty good job with his hotel.1
Amon G. Carter from Ft. Worth, owner of the Star Telegram was the Toast Master and he made a mighty good one too.2 He always was a good talker. But this was the first time they had ever asked him to talk, and they couldent have picked a better one. He knew the newspaper and he knew the shape they were in, and he knew the shape the guests were in, and he just shaped his remarks accordingly.
Pretty near every big publisher in America was there, they had just had a convention, but like most conventions they had done nothing but “resolve.” If you take “resolve,” out of conventions you are just about naked.
At this convention there was some little animosity against the advertising on the radio, that is it had been a direct confliction with newspaper advertising, and dident have the investment and pay the taxes that the papers are compelled to. So they naturally took that phase up, and come right down to it there is no reason why they should give the radio programs all the free advertising. It should be paid for the same as a theater does. But some of them spoke of the investments they had, and what right did some other thing have to come in and destroy the worth of their investments. Well, they was kinder forgetting when the Prohibition amendment came in and put all the brewerys and distillerys out of business with no recourse to the courts or any claim. Even if you are in favor of the amendment, it was legitimate up to then, and if it was voted out they should have had some claim. So some of these yells kinder made you think of what those fellows stand for.
But its all a lot of “hooey.” The radio won’t put the papers out of business. We got to have something besides toothpaste, so we will always read the papers, besides if it wasent for the Peanut Vendor song there wouldent be any radio.3
Good papers will always last, and tabloids will continue to do a big business for those that can’t read. They have learned to know every character in America by their picture alone. They have to read little papers in New York and big cities, they can’t unfold a big paper, they havent got room. They like pictures of their favorite murderers just like some others like movie stars. It’s getting so a murderer to draw well in the papers must be good looking. It’s getting so there is no use of an ugly man committing a crime, no one will look at him. He just can’t get in the papers.
Charley Schwab was the principle speaker at the dinner.4 He had a prepared speech to deliver on “Business Management,” but after he saw the shape the crowd was in he switched and told jokes instead, and he told good jokes too. He said some of them were old, but they were sure new to me, and the way he tells ’em, they sound new anyhow. Did you ever hear the one he told about the cow? Well he owns a fine farm up near Bethlehem, Pa., a little city in Judea, and he raises fine stock. Every rich man has some mild form of insanity and being a farmer is Charley’s. He has his own fair up there, so he takes all the prizes. Somebody give him a cow and he asked if it was a fine cow? They said no, just a cow. “Is it a milk cow?” The old farmer that was giving her to him said, “I don’t know if she’s got any milk or not, but she is a good old soul and if she’s got any she will certainly give it to you.”
Then he went on to tell that he (Schwab) was a good old soul, and if he had anything they wanted he would give it to ’em. He sure did clean up with the gang. You can easily see how he gets work out of his men, he has a great personality, and is terribly likable.
Carnegie gave some of his old time steel mill friends some fine Xmas presents one time, most of them works of art.5 One old fellow that had risen from Foreman and retired, he gave a large statue. The old fellow called Schwab said, “Charley, the old man (meaning Carnegie) sent me a rock woman, what will I do with her?”
He says he is an optimist even now, and that we are not so bad off. Well maybe we ain’t. This hunger may only be an illusion. Met at the dinner this fellow Roy Howard that buys all the newspapers.6 They bought the New York World, and combined it with the Evening Telegram. Well, he and Scripps are mighty keen birds.7
I also met Scripps. He has whiskers, and that with Roy’s full dress evening cape, makes a mighty hard combination to beat. They are young, full of progress, and good credit, and it looks like the only way to keep from selling your paper to ’em is to just disband it. Howard took me to his fine office. He asked me what I would have. I told him chop suey. It’s furnished like a joss house. He is growing a queue, and signs his name with two pens at once like chops sticks.
The boys were really mighty sober at the dinner, another and mighty good indication of hard times. Some of ’em just had to get what little they could from the other’s breath. Some small town editors had to just act soused in order to impress. But it was a fine affair; one of the best I ever attended, made so by Schwab and Carter and a good audience.
1William Wallace Atterbury, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company from 1925 to 1935; director of construction and operation of American railways in France during World War I.
2Amon Giles Carter, publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 1923 until his death in 1955; prominent philanthropist and civic leader.
3”The Peanut Vendor” (“El Manisero”), popular Cuban song which was introduced by Moises Simons and his orchestra in Cubanola in 1929. It made its American debut in 1931 and quickly became a “hit.”
4Charles Michael Schwab, founder and chairman of the board of Bethlehem Steel Corporation; major spokesman for the American steel industry and big business.
5Andrew Carnegie, American industrialist and philanthropist whose Carnegie Steel Company dominated the steel industry by 1900. He died in 1919.
6Roy Wilson Howard, chairman of the board of the Scripps-MacRae newspaper chain from 1921 to 1936 and president from 1936 to 1952. The company changed its name to Scripps-Howard after Howard became a partner in 1925.
7Robert Paine Scripps, associate editorial director of the Scripps-Howard newspaper from 1925 until his death in 1938; son of the founder of the chain, Edward Wyllis Scripps.
WILD MOVIE TITLESAll I know is just what I read in the moving picture ads, and say boy what an education it is! I thought the underwear ads in the magazines were about the limit in presenting an eyefull, but these movie ads give you the same thing without the underwear. Even I myself appeared in a nightgown in “The Connecticut Yankee,” so on the billboards it would add a touch of romantic glamor, to say nothing of a smattering of sex appeal.1
Mind you, you musent let the ad have anything to do with what you see on the insides. You are liable to see the wildest stuff facing you on the billboards, and then go inside and everybody is dressed as esquimos all through the picture. In other words, Will Hays’ big trouble is getting pictures that will live up to the pictures on the ads.2
You know in all Latin American countries (I am speaking of authority as I flew over them at an altitude of sometimes as low as ten thousand feet), in those countries, if you put a picture on the boards to advertise what you are having inside or if in your wording you say that Miss Mille De Hokum will entirely disrobe on a tight wire, why on the said night Mille better do a mighty good job of stripping or the cash customers will clothe Mille and her management with some seats and chairs, and any other handy article laying around.
Or if it shows a picture of a bull fight and a matador being gored, by an unruly ox, why the day of the fight you better have the man gored or be prepared to be gored yourself. In other words, you got to deliver what you advertise.
So the big problem of the movies now is to deliver up to what the lithograph makers and ad writers have shown on the outside.
In other words, that branch of the industry has “outstripped” the production end. We just can’t seem to get ’em as wild as they show ’em on the outside. We got to get wilder people. A lot of these have been out here for years, and they are getting kinder old and tame. There is an awful lot of us out here that just can’t arouse the passions in our public like we ought to. And that’s why we keep trying to get new blood into the art.
Then in the titles of pictures, there is where it’s getting hard. They just can’t think up enough suggestive titles to go around. They bring every big writer out here from New York and England and have them in an office just thinking all the time on titles that will lead you to expect you are going to see on the inside about four of the most prominent commandments broken, right before your eyes. But there is just so many of those titles and every company is fighting to get ’em. You take old plays like the “Old Homestead,” now they are just waiting till they can think up some title for that and then it will go into production.
Few of the best that have been turned in by the highest priced writers up to now is: “The Old Love Nest,” “Home In Name Only,” “The Birthplace Of Folly,” “Devilment Galore Among The Honeysuckles,” “What Took Place Under The Old Roof,” “The Gal Pays The Mortgage With Body And Soul,” “The House Is Old But The Carryings On Is New And Spicy,” “The Gangster’s Birthplace As Far As We Know.”
So you can see that they are right on the edge of getting something that will combine all these, and give you an inkling of what the old roof has seen take place under it, and then they will start in making it.
The word “Hell” while generally frowned upon as conversation in the grammar grades, has been literally pounced upon by the movie title manufacturers, and they have just about “Hell’ed” everything to death. They have pictured the doorway, the stage entrance, and every part of Hell, till Hell has just got so it don’t mean nothing anymore but another word in a title. Putting the word “Hell” on the billboards and expecting to scare up any excitement among the prospective victims anymore is just blowed up.
Course my old friend, Will Hays still insists that virtue triumphs, but they keep making you more and more doubtful right up to the end, in fact, most of them hold back till after the final fade out. And I have seen some of ’em here lately where it looked like it was still in doubt, as to whether it triumphed or not.
That’s called “Subletry.” All the writers try to be what they call “Sophisticated” or “Subtelry.” That means nobody knows what you are talking about and don’t give a d___. Sophistication means talking all day about nothing. You are both bored but you have to do something till somebody mixes another cocktail. We are getting a lot of these kind of talking plays now. Titles that if printed on the old silent screen would have got the “rasberry” now are considered smart, for they apply to nothing and mean less.
I saw one the other night called “Kiss And Leave Each Other Flat.” It was so subtle that it dident say whether you can leave ’em flat physically, or financially. They call ’em drawing room plays, women with nothing on their minds eat ’em up, kids hiss ’em, and old men sleep right through ’em.
They had ’em on the stage till they ruined it. So between “Subtlery” and gangsters we have run the old cowboy trying to save the Sheriff’s daughter, right back to the dairy farm. No modern child would want to learn how to shoot a 45 colt. He wants to know how to mow ’em down with the old Browning machine gun. But we will live through it, and come out with something worse. We always do. So we better make the most of this while it’s here.
1A Connecticut Yankee was released in February of 1931. It was adapted from the popular story by Mark Twain.
2William Harrison “Will” Hays, president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors from 1922 to 1945; Republican political figure; known as the “czar” of the motion picture industry.
OH, JUST SEE U.S. WITH ROGERSWell all I know is just what I see, and Say, Brothers, I have seen something right here lately. Couple of weeks ago I was prowling around, My Wife and I, trying to scare up something new to see.1
We have bummed around over quite a mess of these United States and fragments of Europe, so just any little thing wouldent make much of a dent on us. But we sure did run into something that knocked us back on our reserve supply of astonishment.
If you was looking for unusual and new things to see you would naturally look up or ahead would you? You wouldent be walking along with your head down around your hoofs would you?
No, you would be looking for Al Smith’s Skyscraper, the tallest building in the World, the one he built so he could look down on the Republicans.2 It’s big enough to hold all the Democrats and give ’em each a different room so they can’t meet and disagree.
Course if you had never been around America much and started out to see the sights of it, due to past advertising you would perhaps head for Niagara Falls if you could dig up a new wife to take along, or the Grand Canyon or the Yellowstone Park, or the great Virginia Natural Bridge. Now all of these are everything they are cracked up to be, and no one should miss ’em. But we got a new wonder in our Country.
It’s sprung up in the last few years, and the most astonishing thing about it, it’s not a thing but a hole in the ground. Now off hand that don’t seem much to get excited about does it? Well I dident know there was so much underground. We think the ground is just practically filled with dirt. But here is a place where there is a hole in the dirt, the dirt is pushed back and there is the most wonderful sights in this vacuum you ever saw.
It’s down in the south eastern part of New Mexico, at Carlsbad, a might pretty little town, a regular oasis on what is sometimes almost a Desert. It’s on the Pecos River. I was through the place years ago when they used to call it Eddy, and it was a good Town even named Eddy, but it’s got some water there that will cure you of a lot of minor ailments. Course you got to go to Claremore Oklahoma. That’s the place that will keep you right out of the Obituary column. But this old time Eddy will help you a lot. Well it don’t look like a place that if a fellow was searching for another wonder to add to the World, he would head for.
There is not much to give you any indication that you are prowling around over some of the most fantastic formations that were ever opened up to the gaze of man. It’s just a rocky old hillside, not even too much grass. But it’s a cow Country, and many years ago the old-timers used to know it was there as the Bats would fly out of there by the thousands. Well, anywhere a Bat comes fogging out of, no particular fair-minded person is going to go prowling in the hole to see what made the Bat come out.
But finally so many come out they knew there must be a pretty big hole in order to hold all of ’em. It’s got a pretty big sized entrance and always did have they say, so really discovering it wasn’t any great effort on anyone’s part that happened to be riding in that end of the state.
It wasn’t the finding of the hole, it was the going inside and seeing why it was there, was the main thing. A Cowpuncher named White with more curiosity than anyone I ever come in contact with (for they are generally mighty leary of any hole in the ground), is supposed to really have been the one to going in there and discover that while there was Bats off in one end, in other parts there was the most unbelievable formations of water turned to stone.3 You really prowl around in there by well-formed trails for over five miles. There is rooms in there with a ceiling of 400 feet. One tremendous room is almost a mile long. With all these marvelous formations of Stalactites and Stalagmites.
Them’s big words, but I know what they mean now. One is like an icicle formed from the top by the water dripping (that’s the Tite one), and the Mite one is formed by the water falling on it and building it from the ground up. They hang like Church steeples upside down. They form totem poles and Elephant ears (exactly the shape and thinness of an actual Elephant ear).
Different rooms have different formations. Oh I ain’t got room to tell you in here what it’s like, I would have to be writing a book to do it properly. The Government has taken it over, and formed it like our other National Parks. It’s mighty well handled, and you are splendidly conducted through it by a fine bunch of trained Park Rangers. Tom Boles is the General Superintendant, comes from Arkansaw and knew my wife years ago.4 She dident see half of it for gossiping about some old “Nestors” back home. You walk down now, but they are putting in Elevators.
And I made the first trip down in a Bucket (as they got the hole cut through the day I was there). They bored from the top, and also from the bottom. It’s seven hundred feet down, and they met in the middle, and the Engineers’ calculation was off a quarter of an inch. A Mr. Atwell, he was practically broken hearted to think he had failed so dismally.5 He is a fine engineer and if this quarter of an inch don’t ruin him some day he might be President.
A Ranger named Carrol Miller does a lot of the exploring, and he was itching to break away from us and go see if he couldent find a part of the cave that would be worthwhile.6 You have lunch down there in a little ante-room five hours just leisurely time to see it. Every move of a few feet is an entirely different picture. So don’t you miss this. You will all be coming to California to get in the Movies, so come by there. Good roads, and if it don’t drag some adjectives out of you, why send me the bill.
1For this and all further references to Betty Blake Rogers see WA 435:N 1.
2Smith (see WA 430:N 3) served as president if the corporate enterprise that built the Empire State Building in New York City. The 102-story structure, which was opened in 1931, was for many years the tallest building in the world.
3James Larkin White, young New Mexico cowboy who “discovered” Carlsbad Caverns about 1900. The site was made a national park in 1930.
4Thomas “Tom” Boles Jr., superintendant of Carlsbad Caverns National Park from 1927 to 1946. Known as “Mr. Carlsbad Caverns,” Boles mastered the art of publicity and, in so doing, made the little know opening in the earth internationally famous.
5Walter Guy Attwell, associate engineer with the National Park Service; was chiefly responsible for the installation of the elevator shaft at Carlsbad Caverns between 1929 and 1932.
6Thomas Carroll “Cal” Miller, assistant chief ranger at Calrsbad Caverns. Miller served in several capacities at the park and in other National Park Service areas between 1926 and his retirement in 1961.
WILL ROGERS URGES
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers.
U.S. SOCIETY LEADER
I was just reading in the papers about the Girls who were presented to the King and Queen.1 Over in London, just a year ago now, when I was over to the Disarmament Conference Ambassador Dawes was telling me about that, they have it I think twice a year, and the King and Queen receive just so many from each Country.2 Well of all the planning, scheming, conniving, Politics and even blackmailing, they work to get Daughter presented at Court!
And they say over there that we are the worst Nation of all for it. The greatest Democracy will go to the greatest length to get somewhere just for the Ad. They live on it the rest of their lives. It’s the congressional Medal of Society. “Lizzie Bean as a Debutante was presented at Court.”3 And the Social home town papers always say: “She was the most beautiful one there.” Now maby there was twelve Chinese Girls presented that looked as good.
This time there was 400 received, so you see it’s not exactly what you would call exclusive. The King of Spain ought to figured something like that out and then there would have been enough socially ambitious to keep him in office.4 England is a smart Nation; they know that there is just so much hooey required by people and they very wisely supply it. We ought to have a “Social President” or “King of the Drawing Room” or “Master of the Teacup” or some person that would fill the place of what Royalty supplies over there. Let him give the dinners and stand the gaff of the arguments over who was going to eat next to who, and he could lay the corner stones, touch the buttons to open the new night clubs for the local Chambers of Commerce. There just ain’t any end to what he could relieve Mr. Hoover of. I know no one would be more tickled than Mr. Hoover, for I don’t think he relishes all that junk. Mr. Coolidge is the only one that ever really seemed to relish ’em.5 He had ’em doped out, they never worried him. He had the same expression and the same conversation for Queen Marie as he had for Senator Moses.6
“Hello,” when they come in and “Goodby” when they passed out. He just went about his eating and they went about theirs and nothing dident mean nothing to him.
I can’t think off hand who would be a good man for that position. Get a man and his wife with good digestions, good dispositions, good to look on, and Masters of Emily Post.7 I will look around Hollywood here and see what we got left. Pretty near all the socially prominent that come out for the films have starved out and gone back. It’s just practically us riff-raff that are hanging on. We are just drifting from one Gang Picture to another.
Oh yes, say Charley Chaplin would be the one for this new job we are trying to create.8 He is over in Europe studying the King Business. He has got in to all the more notorious homes and knows what is really required. Course he got in bad with some, but one good picture will square all that. Little Charley would be just the Boy to dedicate the Bridge, or head Dining Table and make merry with the Guests, and he is a smart little Rascal, too, don’t make any mistake about that. He is a socialists, but then everybody is becoming that in Society anyhow, so he will have an advanced break where the King was going to be, and he turned it down. He claimed it was just the Manager that asked him, and that it wasent the King at all. So Charley bawled ’em all out and told ’em that over there seventeen years ago none of them wanted him, and wouldent give him a job, so he come over here and made good, and at that time he was just as good an Artist as he is today, so he dident owe them a thing.
So after that we are liable to have to use him over here, so he might be just the fellow for my job. Course he hasent got any Wife (right now), but he can remedy that any minute, and speaking of Washington and our Government, what is going on there during these early hot days?
Mr. Hoover has been going out to his Camp on the Rapidan every week-end and it hasent been all for pleasure either. Every week-end he takes a different gang with him. For instance one weekend he took Pat Hurley, Secretary of the War, and told him “Pat, Mellon has gone and let the Politicians overdraw our Bank balance 950,000,000, that’s just 50 million under a Billion, that holds the record for an overdraft.9 Now we got to all get together and help the old Boy try and make it up some other way. Now how about lopping part of your Army off? Can’t you leave some spurs and some Sam Brown belts or something off and help save Andy’s record, so that it will stand up with Alexander Hamilton’s?10 So you go back to your office and see who would be the least needed in our next war and give ’em their two weeks’ notice. We got to be prepared, but see if we can’t be prepared a little cheaper.
“What we want now is cheaper preparation. Course soon as we get used to this overdraft why it won’t be so bad, but it’s just while it’s new that everybody’s attention is focussed on it. You know a Billion is getting so it’s a lot of dough, even in these hard times. So we all got to pull together and get this thing kinder hushed up before November, ’32, comes on us. If we can just stall this all off till after then, why we can get back to normal again, and you can have all the help you want. But right now, You Boys got to help get Andy out of the Red. Take some oats away from those Army Mules or something. I am going to the Navy row out to the Camp here and make them do what they can. Secretary Dave Ingalls quit flying to Cleveland every day to get his mail.11 Then those Virgin Islands we got to cut down on them, they are living too high. Then we ought to try to catch Sandino for less money this year than we tried to catch him last year.12 But we all got to pull together like one big happy family and get Andy out of the Red, cause a Billion dollars worth of Red is SOME Red. We got to stop Alexander Hamilton from laughing in his grave.”
1George V, king of Great Britain and Ireland from 1910 to 1936, King George was an outgoing and active monarch, well-liked by the British people. Mary, queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland; daughter of the duke of Teck.
2Charles Gates Dawes, United States ambassador to Great Britain from 1929 to 1932. A Republican, Dawes served as vice president of the United States from 1925 to 1929 and in other major governmental positions.
3Louise Behn, daughter of Hernand Behn, president of International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. She was presented at the Court of Saint James on May 19, 1931.
4For King Alfonso XIII see WA 428:N 1.
5For this and all further references to Calvin Coolidge see WA 432:N2.
6Marie, queen consort of Rumania from 1914 until 1927. Queen Marie made a highly-publicized good will tour of the United States in the fall of 1926. George Higgins Moses, Republican United States senator from New Hampshire from 1918 to 1933; loyal supporter of the Coolidge and Hoover administrations.
7Emily Price Post, American writer and columnist, famous for her advice on manners and social etiquette; author of the bestseller Etiquette.
8For this and all further references to Charlie Chaplin see WA 432:N 4.
9Patrick Jay “Pat” Hurley, United States secretary of war from 1929 to 1933; Oklahoma attorney and oilman. Andrew William Mellon, United States secretary of the treasury from 1921 to 1932; ambassador to Great Britain from 1932 to 1933; prominent Pittsburgh industrialist, financier, and philanthropist.
10Alexander Hamilton, American statesman who served as the first United States secretary of the treasury and who planned and initiated policies establishing a national fiscal system.
11David Sinton Ingalls, United States assistant secretary of the Navy for aeronautics from 1929 to 1932. Member of a prominent Cleveland family, Ingalls is noted as a superb pilot.
12Augusto Cesár Sandino, Nicaraguan revolutionary leader who waged guerilla warfare against United States marines in Nicaragua from 1927 to 1932, declaring the the attacks were motivated by a patriotic desire to end American intervention. Sandino was assassinated in 1934.
LOS ANGELES MAKES
Los Angeles, which has been in the Bush League as far as Racketeers are concerned is getting right up in fast company. We pulled off a double header of a Murder here a couple of weeks ago that would do credit to a Chicago or any of the Big Timers. The Racketeers are mixed up with phases of the City Government just like a regular Class A City. The Killer walked away as usual.
THE BIG LEAGUE
In the old Wild West days, the Bandit had to back out shooting, and make his horse by the blaze of his guns. But nowadays the Robber or Killer or whatever his day’s work might be, why he does it all casually, just in the regular routine of things. If there is a Bank to rob, why he just saunters in, the only way he can possibly be noticed is that he will perhaps be dressed better than the Banker.
Well the young man simply walks up with no mask, no western hat, no big forty five, just a little Automatic, which a Baby can shoot as well as Billy the Kid could, for all you do is point and keep the trigger pulled and you hit everything in the place, there is no possible way you can miss any part of anyone in the building.1 The more nervous you are the more you hit. If there be one thing that has increased crime it’s been the Automatic Pistol. It’s made no practice necessary to be an outlaw. Give any young Egotist two shots of dope and an Automatic and he will hold up the Government Mint.
He goes in gets his money quicker than you can get it with a boni fide Check. Out he comes. His Partner has the Car running, and away they go perhaps to their Country home, or their Golf Club. The toughest part of robbing nowadays is to find somebody that has something. The minute a Robber gets a clue why the rest is easy. Now that’s about the routine of the modern Robbery, and the Murder is about along the same routine, course it’s a little more expensive on account of having to use a little ammunition.
But the fellow that’s hiring the fellow to do the job has to pay so much and ammunition. The fellow that kills you nowadays, why he don’t have it in for you, he don’t even know you. You are not even pointed out to him till just before he bumps you off. That’s all a business, done through an Agency, just like any other Agency. They can furnish killers for “Singles” or “Double Murders” or “Group.” You get a rate if you want several put out of commission. It’s cheaper to have it all done at once. It’s very little more trouble to shoot down a group, than it is one.
Oh we are living in progress. All of our boasted inventions, like the Auto and the Automatic, and our increased “Dope” output, terrible liquor, lost confidence in our Justice, Graft from top to bottom, all these have made it possible to commit anything you can think of and in about 80 percent of the cases get away with it. We can get away quick in a Car. He can’t miss with the gun he’s got. If he is caught he knows it will be accidental. Then if he is caught, his connections with his gang will get him out, so it’s not a dangerous business after all, from the looks of it. But there is no use going on with what’s happening out here in our Town cause the same thing is happening in yours, so I don’t want to be like all these Californians and be accused of bragging.
But goodness sake, we get enough crime without writing about it, so let’s see what else we got. We sent a bunch of mayors to France, nobody knows for what reason. I think it was at the invitation of France themselves, so they got nobody to blame but themselves.
Our local Mayor from here, of course, you know at that time did himself proud.2 He won the approval of two of our local pastors, and lost France, his host. That’s one thing when we are foolish. We don’t stop halfway. We go the whole route.
Right now in Washington, the main thing is Mr. Hoover trimming down the various departments. He did a fine job when he lopped off a lot of these old obsolete army posts. They are a sentimental obituary to the past, but let the states themselves keep them up. But you know I sure did always love the looks of those old posts. They always seemed to be located in such pretty places, most all built around a square, where the soldiers drilled.
And of all the unattractive and out of the way places were these late war encampments. Yaphank, out in an end or part of Long Island, that even an aviator can’t find. Nobody had ever been there before or since the war. Another over in Jersey, and all around. No late war soldier ever wishes to go back where he trained, in fact they can’t. Nobody knows where it is now.
Say speaking of Jersey, the other day out on our movie lot I was working, and come on the set was Mayor Hague of Jersey City, you all know him, that is anybody that is anybody that knows him, all Democrats.3 He is a big man, in the ex-organization. I tried to get something out of him for I knew he was well loaded politically. He knows both Smith and Roosevelt mighty well and I was trying to find out what was going to run, or would they draw straws for it, or what, or would they get any little difference they might have settled up.4 Now he could have told me, but like anybody that knows anything he wouldent tell it. You know it’s people that don’t know anything that’s always telling it. Now I, for instance, will tell you anything you want to know, but if I know anything about anything I wouldent tell you, so that’s why I can tell you about everything. Course election is over a year away, but they are commencing to send in their entry blanks. It’s going to be a great election, with the twenty million unemployed voting against the twenty million that are. The slogan will be “I believe every man should have a job, but not mine.”
1William H. Bonney, known as “Billy the Kids,” notorious nineteenth century outlaw of the American Southwest. A legendary glamour surrounded his career.
2John Clinton Porter, Republican mayor of Los Angeles from 1929 to 1933. Porter and seventeen other American mayors visited France in May of 1931 as guests of the French government and the city of Paris. At the first official reception for the visitors, Porter, a prohibitionist snubbed his hosts by leaving the party when champagne toasts were offered.
3Frank Hague, Democratic mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, from 1917 to 1947.
4For this and all further references to Al Smithsee WA 430:N 3. Rankling Delano Roosevelt, Democratic governor of New York from 1929 to 1933. Roosevelt and Smith became the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1932. Roosevelt won the nomination and the election and served as president from 1933 until his death in 1945.
WILL FINDS OKLAHOMA RIGHT
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I happen to run onto. Run onto a queer mess out here in California the other day. You know California is made up of every ingredient in the World but Californians. Well these various emmigrants from their various sections of the Country have a habit of holding a Picnic. The State of Iowa started it and theirs got so big they had to hold it in Arizona, then the other States got to holding what they called State Picnics and then the Counties and then the various towns, all over the U.S. their Rufugees that were here would hold a Rogers, Ark., Picnic. My Wife would be up at daylight so she wouldent miss that old home town one.
IN LOS ANGELES
Well, the other day Oklahoma had one and I am sorry to say that it was a success. I had no idea idea there was that many Renegades had left, but from the looks of things half of Los Angeles come from Oklahoma. Our Governor, “Alfalfa Bill” Murray come all the way out here to speak to us at this gathering and they asked me to introduce him.1
Well, it’s kinder of a tough job introducing an Oklahoma Governor. You never know before you get through speaking but what he has been impeached while you was singing his praises. But it looks like they are going to get even with Bill and let him serve his time out and maby sentence him again.
So I think I will just jot down a lot of junk that I used at Camp Meeting, held in Sycamore Grove. As well as I can remember it run not to wit, but to length, something like this; “This is Memorial Day, established for two reasons, one to commemorate the passing of our loved ones who have gone before, and the other reason, to try and cheer up in some small way, the misguided Oklahomans, who were misled by a California Chamber of Commerce.
“Our loved ones past, are dead and gone, so we need say no more for them. They were fortunate, they passed away before the last Republican Administration. But it’s for the living (or rather, existing) Oklahomans, who are also dead, but living in California, we are gathered here on this beautiful sunshiny day, with a rain coat on every arm, to console with them.
“Our Governor, or that is, he was our Governor when he left, has come to bring us solace from the Homeland. He has come to pray with us, not for divine guidance, but to find in some way means to getting us back home. Here today are twenty-five thousand souls, who thought that Climate was digestable and not a Real Estate Add are here doing Penance today.
“Twenty-five thousand is a lot of folks to escape the Insane Asylum of their native State and reach one place. But forgive ’em Governor, for they knew not what they were doing, and they have found nothing to do since they come.
“You musent, Governor, take this great gathering as a tribute to your drawing power. Los Angeles folks will burn $5 worth of Gas and burn out four bearings to reach anything given free. Anything free here can get a crowd. This enemic looking gathering you see here, just proves you can’t live on orange juice and look like anything.
“These are Pioneers, Governor, they are some of the first people to cross the Desert in a Ford. They know what hardships are, you can see punctures and blowouts written on every face. You, Governor, crossed in a beautiful Private Car, belonging to the Rock Island (they want something, and will perhaps get it). But these Poor Devils had to Chevrolet their way across.
“I will give ’em credit though, they left Oklahoma at a time when it looked like a Democrat would never get in. They had no idea the old State would ever return to Christianity. They haven’t lost touch with the Home State, they write home and touch everybody they can think of. They are only now waiting till you make the State so prosperous that their kin folks can send out and get ’em. But in talking to ’em, Governor, don’t believe all they say, some of them have been here so long they lie like a Native.
“Now, Governor, I wouldent have taken the job of introducing you here today, for it really should be done by some Scholar, some learned person, but I got to thinking over the occasion, and the audience and I figured that it wouldent take a very bright man to talk to a bunch of people who had left a State like Oklahoma (with all its natural resources and oppurtunities) and come clear out here to see a Lemon grow, and get in the Movies. Bill Murray threw down a chance to go to Claremore this same week, they were having their annual ‘Take a Bath Week,’ and he was invited and come clear to California to keep from going. He wired ’em ‘Will come and speak, but will take no part.’ I wired ’em, ‘Will come as a Spectator only.’
“Murray sympathizes with you exiles, he knows what it is, he started one time in California, took the wrong road at Woodard, and landed in Boliva. He knew what it is to be out of touch with Civilization, even before he got into Oklahoma State Capitol. He has been in a Spanish Country, he knows what it is to live on Frejoiles, like you all do. I am sorry our Mayor of Los Angeles is not here to welcome you Governor, but he is making friends with France.2 Nothing worth while has passed into his lips since he got there and nothing worth while has passed out of his lips.
“But you would like our Governor, he is a regular guy, but he is from Frisco.3 Frisco is the place that keeps this end of the State in the Union. It’s to California what the Cherokee Nations is to Oklahoma, It’s the Aristocracy of Commonwealth. It’s the Tulsa of the works. So I take great pleasure, and pain, (for I had a broken leg at the time), I take great pleasure and pain in introducing the only man in this entire twenty-five thousand who is fortunate enough to have a Ticket back to Oklahoma.”
1William Henry “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, governor of Oklahoma from 1931 to 1935; agriculturist, attorney, constitutionalist, and Democratic political leader.
2For John C. Porter, mayor of Los Angeles, see WA 441:N 2.
3James Rolph, Jr., Republican governor of California from 1931 until his death in 1934. A wealthy shipowner and merchant, Rolph served as mayor of San Francisco for twentyone years before his election as governor.
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I mess around. We was making a Movie here the other week of Booth Tarkington’s Book and Play “Plutocrat.”1 That’s what it was called. But it’s liable to be released under the title, “Riches Traded for Virtue” or “The Gangster’s Lost Moll.” Well in the Picture my family and I are on one of these Mediterain Cruises and we got to Morroco, or some country down there where it’s hot and full of Arabs and Camels and Riffs.
NOW WILL JOIN MOB
Well, I will say one thing for Hollywood. If you want a couple of hundred real “Arabs” in a scene, you just let the casting Department let it be known that you do and you get that many real Arabs. Anything under the sun you want, it’s in Hollwood. I believe you could round up a hundred Esquimos and if you want the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, you can get that with the original cast, in fact, the Producers of the Pictures will join in with the mob, the way business has been lately.
Now among these Arabs and Turks and Foreign Legions and all we needed a few big “Senagambians,” big colored Boys, in their bare skin. Well, out here there is an awful lot of Prize Fighters and “awful” is right and every old time Pug is here and among ’em is a lot of Ex-colored Fighters that work around the Pictures.
Well, we had the greatest gang on this street Scene in Algeirs, or wherever it was. I was raised down south, by and With colored folks. Claremore is full of Colored Rogers, that their folks belonged to our family (they took the name, you know, when they was freed). They got more humor and good nature than any race in the World. Well, there was two or three of these old Boys that hadent been spoiled. One was Sam Baker, a pretty good fighter three or four years ago.2 He fought Wills and was a trial sparring Partner for Dempsey.3 Then there was I think it was Lester Albert Johnson and Vic Alexander.4
Well, the Director couldent get me on the set for laughing at these birds kidding each other about fights. I believe Sam Baker talked the best fight of all. They got him to tell about the time he was sent to Portland, Ore., to fight the big (name deleted through friendship) when he was making his famous march through the Buckwheat belt, bowling ’em over in one and two rounds.
Well, listen just a minute to Sam Baker, and you will get an earful of modern fisticuffs. “I was working down here in Hollywood, wasent bothering a soul. I had me a big part, putty uniform, taking care of de front door at a high hat night club. Dis gentleman had been assainating around all up and down and it seemed like in Oakland, another Colored Boy, or something was to go out in the fourt round and dident, he stayed till the sixth and could a stayed for a week, but his seconds throwed in a towel, when all that had happened to him was that he was jes going against de rules. He jes wouldent lay down. Well I had fit up around Portland and I had been a ‘Big Shot’ and eat regular up around there, so they sent for me to come to Portland. Well I ain’t been training on nothing but close ups, down here in Hollywood, but they tell me they will fix things and they sho had ’em fixed when I got there.
“I is called on by a couple of Gun men, who inform me that there is One Thousand dollars and it’s mine to keep, hold or destroy, but, here the Guns come into the scene. That I was to go out in the first round. First round understand. Not to get my dates mixed and dive in the second, but the first. Another Colored Boy crossed us and we been hunting for him for two weeks. But we ain’t going to hunt for you, you are right here where your body will be found. If you carries all this out according to de aforesaid, you gets another thousand and if you don’t you is carried out. You ain’t to hit this gentleman in de face. He is got a Movie Contract in view and he don’t want to jepson his chances. You play for his stomach, but you don’t play hard. You make it look like you is going somewhere, but ain’t. You jes headed that way, that’s all.
“Den they showed me they still had their Guns, and then rubbed ’em under my nose and axed me if I could smell ’em. I told ’em I had a cold, but could get a sort of idea what was around. Well den I got to thinkin to myself after day is gone. Here I am in my old stampin grounds of Portland and I got a lot of folks that think I am still the ‘Big Shot,’ so dey is liable to get on me and if they sees me taking a nose dive they liable to have some Guns too. So I call ’em back and ask ’em about this, they say, there ain’t going to be but two Pistols in that hall that night and these is both of ’em. And you want to have that 6 foot 5 ready for nap not later than the first round, see.
“Well they goes on out and I says to myself, there ain’t no sensible arguing against a thing like that. Sammy you is out now. I goes down to the Gymnasium and makes out like I is training, but I is just hopping around eating all I can get, sipping a little Gin on the side. I ain’t worrying about him any more than he is about me. He knows I am fixed and I knows I am fixed. But I do wants to make it look like as good as I can. I been acting around here in these Pictures so I figure I can do me some Barrymores, when the time come.5 Well it sho had come. If I was a Actor, I sho was going to have to start acting.
“When we get in de ring his managers all comes over one at a time, there was a dozen of ’em, and they say ‘Remember.’ De Gun men is setting in awful good shooting distance, no reason for a man missing at that range. I dashed out and goes like I am rushing like a Bull, he uppercuts me, and I have a terrible time falling. It looks jes about as faky as it was. I ain’t acting so good.
“So I gets up quick and make it look like I maybe slipped, and he hits me on top of de head and down I goes again. Dis one I fall a little better cause I am getting some practice. Den he swings and I think he is going to hit me a terrible blow so I start falling early, but he misses me. Well I couldent stop the fall, so I had to keep on. Well, even Portland couldnt swallow that. So I arise amid de Boos.
“But he is standing straddle of me all the time. So they had to laugh at that, and that got their mind off the fall. So I lets him knock me down as I am getting up, but it don’t look like a good enough one to stay on, so I ups and lets him hit me into the ropes. I makes out like I am falling back-wards and there I hang with both hands down, he steps in and starts belting me, one after the other. If he could a hit hard he would a killed me for I was just laying on the top rope with both hands down. Den I sunk down easy, glanced over at the Gunmen, and stayed there. I wasent going to make any mistake about the round, and here I is back in Hollywood safe and sound, and still jes as good Actor as Mr. John Barrymore. He acts when he don’t have too. I acted when I had to ACT, or else.”
1Newton Booth Tarkington, American novelist who won Pulitzer prizes for his novels The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Alice Adams (1921). Rogers was filming Business and Pleasure, which was adapted from Arthur Goodrich’s play The Plutocrat, based on a novel of the same title by Booth Tarkington. The motion picture was released in November of 1931.
2Sam “Sammy” Baker, former army sergeant and one-time pugilist who was suspended by the New York State Boxing Commission in 1927.
3Harry Wills, black American heavyweight prize fighter who, because of his race, was never given a chance at the world title. He retired from the ring in 1932. William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey, American boxer who held the world heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926.
4Lester Albert Johnson and Vic Alexander, unidentified black boxers and motion picture “extras.”
5The Barrymores comprised one of the most famous performing families in American stage and screen history, with Lionel, Ethel, and John attracting considerable fame during the 1920s and 1930s.
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Awful lot in the papers about Mr. Hoover and Mr. Coolidge joint appearance at the Harding Memorial.1
JUST NONPLUSES WILL
Mr. Hoover put over the best speech. He came right out and said something, told how Mr. Harding had been imposed upon by his own friends, which of course was the absolute truth. But Mr. Coolidge, you wouldent get him coming out declaring anything as definite as that.
Course Calvin made a good old straightaway, just what you would expect a politician to say of any of his own Party, touched on Politics of course, and told what the Republican Party had accomplished under Mr. Harding. Even in Death they got to give the Grand Old Party a boost. But Mr. Hoover really touched on his humaness, and then when he brought out so strong about how his friends had imposed why that was a fine and rather a brave thing for a Politician to do.
Course it’s exactly what a man in real life would do. But when you are in Politics and depending on somebody to keep you in, why you really ain’t able to act like real life. It must have been a mighty nice affair.
Marion is a pretty little City. They say the Aeroplanes was flying over head so much that you couldent hear the speeches, and it annoyed Mr. Hoover and Mr. Coolidge very much. What is it that makes a Guy that can fly wait till a bunch of people gather some place and then start in showing them that he can fly? They look like they just wait till a crowd gather to reherse.
It’s generally some advertising scheme. Well if they can read the add, I would think that its ill effects on the crowd would more than offset the good. If they were advertising “Three Strikes You are out Cigarets” over a gathering, I believe people would go right out of there and ask for “Four Tip Cigarets” purposelly, even if they dident smoke, just to get even with the add.
Of course, what this whole trip of Mr. Hoover’s was, was the opening chorus of the 1932 Follies. Politicians will use any means to get their cause launched. A Funeral, or a Commeration, or a Christening, any occasion that looks important, why they will decide to launch along with the Chaplin’s benedictions, “Some of the promises of what the future holds in store for you, if you are just wise enough to retain the incumbrent.”
Then they dug up another monument, or re-painted an old one or something over in Illinois. This one was to Abraham Lincoln, another Republican.2 Guess Mr. Hoover just said, “Well let’s do all this Monument Circuit at once. Get ’em all dedicated on one trip.”
By the way, I was supposed to dedicate a Monument one time. It was down home in Oklahoma; in fact, I think it was on the Capitol Grounds at Oklahoma City. It was a kind of a cowboy affair that some Lady had built and asked in the deed to it to the State that I be the one to present it to Statue Lovers of my own Commonwealth. Well, I was all excited and trying to learn a speech that would fit a good Statue. You see, I was handicapped.
I had no Politics to put over at the occasion. I wasent going to run for a thing, so that naturally dident leave me much leeway in the way of a speech. I had to confine myself almost practically to Art, and Statue, and Oklahoma. None of the three which have anything in common with each other. Well, I was digging and studying and getting ready to fly back and do the honors (secretly hoping that they would have a Barbecue in connection with it, so I could do something natural), and, Lo and behold! What happens? Well, there was a big Tarpoleon spread over it, and it had been there over it ever since it had been there, just waiting for my unveiling.
Well, one of those Oklahoma Cyclones come along. (Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma kicks on that last statement; kindly send stamped envelope.) Well, this wind hit the Statue, and the old “Tarp” wouldent hold; she was strapped on with a “Squaw Hitch” instead of a “Diamond,” and away she blew. The tarp landed in Alfalfa Bill Murray’s house down south (before he was Governor) and it come in mighty handy as bed clothes, for Bill was sleeping mighty close to the boards about then.3 So the wind was really a public benefaction, and they wired me immediately on receipt of the cyclone there:
“Don’t come. Another Big Wind has beat you to the unveiling, and did it in one tenth of the time it would have taken you to blow it off.” Well, I don’t know when I ever felt so nonplused.
1Warren Gamaliel Harding, Republican president of the United States from 1921 until his death in 1923. His administration was marred by several scandals. Hoover and Coolidge spoke at the dedication of Harding’s tomb in Harding’s hometown of Marion, Ohio, on June 16, 1931.
2Hoover addressed a large crowd in Springfield, Illinois, on June 17, 1931, at the dedication of the reconstructed mausoleum of Abraham Lincoln.
3For Alfalfa Bill Murray see WA 442:N 1.