Charles "buddy" Rogers


About

Also Known As
America'S Boyfriend, Charles Rogers, Buddy Rogers, Chas. "Buddy" Rogers, Chas. Buddy Rogers, Charles Buddy Rogers, Charles [Buddy] Rogers
Birth Place
Olathe, Kansas, USA
Born
August 13, 1904
Died
April 21, 1999
Cause of Death
Natural Causes

Biography

He starred in the first Hollywood film to earn an Academy Award for Best Picture, but Charles "Buddy" Rogers's most cherished role was as Mr. Mary Pickford. Scouted by Paramount in 1925, the surpassingly handsome university undergrad was introduced to moviegoers in comedies starring W. C. Fields and Clara Bow. Paramount brought him west in 1927, but prominent parts failed to materialize....

Biography

He starred in the first Hollywood film to earn an Academy Award for Best Picture, but Charles "Buddy" Rogers's most cherished role was as Mr. Mary Pickford. Scouted by Paramount in 1925, the surpassingly handsome university undergrad was introduced to moviegoers in comedies starring W. C. Fields and Clara Bow. Paramount brought him west in 1927, but prominent parts failed to materialize. Rogers was on the verge of quitting when director William Wellman cast him as a World War I fighter pilot in "Wings" (1927), whose innovation and realism were rewarded with the first Best Picture Oscar. Rogers found offscreen love in the arms of his "My Best Girl" (1927) co-star Mary Pickford, but he had to wait a decade for Pickford to divorce Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. In the interim, he led a dance band, debuted on Broadway, worked in England, and developed a cinematic reputation as America's Boyfriend, a distinction that netted him 20,000 fan letters a month. After his 1937 marriage to Pickford, Rogers withdrew from the limelight to produce films, to serve his country in World War II, and to entertain American troops during the Korean War. Rogers and Pickford remained one of Hollywood's longest-married couples, a union that lasted until her death in 1979. Devoted to philanthropic pursuits and preserving Pickford's legacy, Rogers enjoyed the quintessential Palm Springs retirement until his own passing in 1999 marked the final chapter of an American success story that could have been written only in Hollywood.

Charles Edward Rogers was born in Olathe, KS on Aug. 13, 1904. The son of a Johnson County probate judge who owned the local newspaper, Buddy Rogers delivered papers as a boy and was given free passes to the local movie house. Though the privilege enabled him to attend three to four movies per week, Rogers was drawn less by the moving pictures than the bands that performed before the feature. After his graduation from Olathe High School, Rogers attended the University of Kansas, where he majored in journalism and led a five-piece campus dance band. He was an undergraduate in 1925, when his father called to tell him Paramount Pictures was starting a talent drive and making a tour of the nation's universities to find students for its School of Acting. Though Rogers had no interest in being an actor, he submitted to the audition to please his father and wound up with a Paramount contract. Brought to Astoria Studios in New York City, Rogers was given an education in silent film acting, beginning with a tutorial on how to fall down a flight of stairs without hurting himself.

After his third month at the Paramount School of Acting, Rogers was driven out to a Long Island golf course and introduced to former vaudevillian-turned-silent film comic W. C. Fields. The meeting led to Rogers making his film debut in in Gregory La Cava's farce "So's Your Old Man" (1926), as a son of the upper-crust who falls for the daughter of Fields' calamity-prone inventor. Rogers and his entire acting school graduating class were given roles in the frothy "Fascinating Youth" (1926), which feathered cameo appearances by Paramount A-listers Clara Bow, Richard Dix, and Adolph Menjou, as well as film director Lewis Milestone into the tale of a hotelier's son torn between the love of a society girl and an alluring Greenwich Village artist. Paramount president Adolph Zukor himself informed Rogers that he had been chosen to play Ronald Colman's kid brother in the upcoming foreign legion actioner "Beau Geste" (1926). After he traveled to Hollywood, first stopping off to pass on the good news to his friends in Olathe, KS, Rogers learned the part had gone instead to British actor Ralph Forbes.

Offered the consolation prize of a role in the seafaring tale "Old Ironsides" (1926), Rogers found himself bumped yet again, his part bequeathed to Charles Farrell. Buttonholing Paramount head of production Jesse Lasky, Rogers demanded he be allowed to break his contract, but was persuaded instead to go meet director William Wellman, who was casting the World War I aviation drama "Wings" (1927) and needed actors to play young pilots. Reluctantly, Rogers walked away with the part of a poor recruit who falls out with his affluent brother-in-arms Richard Arlen over the affections of army nurse Clara Bow. The lumps Rogers endured practicing pratfalls at the Paramount School of Acting were nothing compared to the risks he faced taking a crash course in aviation from Wellman himself. Hating studio fakery, Wellman insisted on Rogers and Arlen doing their own flying, performing their own stunts, and operating their own cameras for cockpit close-ups. For a scene of rest and relaxation at the Folies Bergere in which Rogers' character needed to be drunk, the actor was plied with champagne until no acting was necessary.

Wellman's devotion to accuracy paid off when "Wings" won the first Academy Award for Best Picture. Dubbed "America's Boyfriend," Rogers amassed an estimable fan base of admiring young women who sent him 20,000 letters a month, among them many proposals of marriage. While playing a millionaire's son who poses as a commoner and falls in love with one of his father's lowly stock girls in "My Best Girl" (1927), Rogers fell for his older co-star Mary Pickford. Though Pickford shared Rogers' affection, she was in the last stages of a legendary but failing marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., swashbuckling actor and cofounder with Pickford and Charles Chaplin of United Artists. Rogers remained friends with the couple as he added more film roles to his résumé, playing a poor boy making good at Princeton in "Varsity" (1928) and reteaming with Clara Bow for "Get Your Man" (1927), as a Paris nobleman who woos a visiting American girl. For Wellman, Rogers appeared in a semi-sequel to "Wings" involving aviators and spies on the front lines of the Great War but "Young Eagles" (1930) was unable to recreate the success of the earlier film.

To compensate for his lackluster studio assignments, Rogers led a big band combo, the California Cavaliers, whose members included vocalist Mary Martin and drummer Gene Krupa. Rogers made his Broadway debut in Florenz Ziegfeld's 1932 musical "Hot-Cha!" starring Lupe Velez, and traveled to England to play a bandleader in the film "Dance Band" (1935). The following year, he announced his engagement to the recently divorced Pickford, whom he married in 1937 and with whom he would adopt two children. Rogers had a recurring role in the film series spawned by "Mexican Spitfire" (1940), succeeding Donald Woods as star Lupe Velez's devoted gringo husband. Enlisting in the U.S. Navy for service in the Second World War, Rogers served as a flight instructor for the Naval Air Corps while he and Mary Pickford opened up their famous Pickfair mansion to entertain troops. Rogers brought his band to play for American servicemen during the Korean War, while he and Pickford produced such United Artists releases as "Susie Steps Out" (1946) and Douglas Sirk's "Sleep, My Love" (1948). Rogers retired from acting after playing a prairie preacher in "The Parson and the Outlaw" (1957) with Anthony Dexter as Billy the Kid.

Buddy Rogers and Mary Pickford remained one of Hollywood's longest married couples, a successful union complicated in later years by health issues and Pickford's alcohol dependence. After his wife's death in 1979, Rogers married real estate agent Beverly Ricono, eventually selling off Pickfair to actress Pia Zadora and her financier husband, who had it demolished. Remaining active in charities through the Mary Pickford Foundation, Rogers was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1986 for his philanthropic commitment. In 1997, he took an executive producer's credit for the documentary "Mary Pickford: A Life on Film." Charles Rogers died at his home in Rancho Mirage, CA on April 21, 1999, at the age of 94.

By Richard Harland Smith

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies (2008)
Himself
Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (2000)
Interviewee
The Parson and the Outlaw (1957)
Rev. Jericho Jones
An Innocent Affair (1948)
Claude Kimball
Mexican Spitfire at Sea (1942)
Dennis Lindsey
Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost (1942)
Dennis Lindsey
Golden Hoofs (1941)
Dean MacArdle
The Mexican Spitfire's Baby (1941)
Dennis Lindsey
Sing for Your Supper (1941)
Larry Hays
This Way Please (1937)
Brad Morgan
Old Man Rhythm (1935)
Johnny Roberts
Take a Chance (1933)
Kenneth Raleigh
Best of Enemies (1933)
Jimmie Hartman
This Reckless Age (1932)
Bradley Ingals
The Road to Reno (1931)
Tom Wood
Working Girls (1931)
Boyd Wheeler
The Lawyer's Secret (1931)
Laurie Roberts
Paramount on Parade (1930)
Safety in Numbers (1930)
William Butler Reynolds
Galas de la Paramount (1930)
Follow Thru (1930)
Jerry Downs
Heads Up (1930)
Jack Mason
Along Came Youth (1930)
Larry Brooks
Young Eagles (1930)
Lieut. Robert Banks
Close Harmony (1929)
Al West
Half-way to Heaven (1929)
Ned Lee
Illusion (1929)
Carlee Thorpe
River of Romance (1929)
Tom Rumford/Colonel Blake
Abie's Irish Rose (1929)
Abie Levy
Red Lips (1928)
Hugh Carver [or Buddy]
Varsity (1928)
Jimmy Duffy
Someone To Love (1928)
William Shelby
Wings (1927)
Jack Powell
Get Your Man (1927)
Robert De Bellecontre
My Best Girl (1927)
Joe Grant
So's Your Old Man (1926)
Kenneth Murchison
Fascinating Youth (1926)
Teddy Wardrobe

Producer (Feature Film)

High School Hellcats (1958)
Executive Producer
Hot Rod Gang (1958)
Executive Producer
Sleep, My Love (1948)
Producer
The Adventures of Don Coyote (1947)
Producer
Stork Bites Man (1947)
Producer
Little Iodine (1946)
Producer
Susie Steps Out (1946)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies (2008)
Other

Cast (Special)

The 58th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1986)

Cast (Short)

Pirate Party on Catalina Isle (1935)
Himself

Life Events

1925

Father submitted photograph to Famous Players-Lasky nationwide talent search; one of 20 selected for a screen test

1925

Chosen by Paramount to take six-month training course for actors

1926

Film debut, "Fascinating Youth" alongside other winners of talent search

1927

Starred in first Oscar-winning Best Picture, silent film "Wings"; second feature directed by William Wellman; also starred Clara Bow

1927

Acted opposite future wife Mary Pickford in "My Best Girl" (Pickford's final silent movie)

1928

First time headlining a movie, "Varsity"; also his first talkie, which contained 13 minutes of dialogue mostly in last 10 minutes of film

1930

Reteamed with Wellman for "Young Eagles," once again playing a WWI American pilot

1931

Asked to be released from Paramount contract; formed first in a series of orchestras with musicians Johnny Green and Gene Krupa, and singers Mary Martin and Marilyn Maxwell; Pickford reportedly provided some financing for band

1933

Acted in movie musical "Take a Chance"

1935

Played playboy son of George Barbier in Edward Ludwig's fluffy musical "Old Man Rhythm"

1941

Replaced Donald Woods as Lupe Velez's husband in "Mexican Spitfire" movies, acting in "Mexican Spitfire's Baby"; also acted in "Mexican Spitfire at Sea" and "Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost" (both 1942)

1946

First producing credits, two movies directed by Reginald LeBorg "Little Iodine" and "Susie Steps Out" (also produced LeBorg's "Adventures of Don Coyote," 1947)

1947

Produced Cy Enfield's "Stork Bites Man"

1948

Returned to screen after six year absence in "An Innocent Affair/Don't Trust Your Husband"

1948

Produced Douglas Sirk's "Sleep, My Love"; Pickford also produced after 12 years away from films

1957

Final screen appearance, "The Parson and the Outlaw"; also produced

1997

Executive produced documentary "Mary Pickford: A Life on Film"

Videos

Movie Clip

Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost (1942) - Everything's Gonna Be Honky Tonky Probably just to get star Lupe Velez into the cute maid outfit, she and Leon Errol as Uncle Matt masquerade as servants to nervous Percy (Donald MacBride) and sister (Minna Gombel), to help her husband Denny (Buddy Rogers) save a business deal, in Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost, 1942.
Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost (1942) - Think Of Your Blue Blood Pressure Denny (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) and his aunt and uncle (Elisabeth Risdon, Leon Errol) are discussing how to handle his snooty new potential clients when the star (Lupe Velez as Carmelita) makes her first appearance, in Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost, 1942, the 5th in the series.
Wings (1927) - Luck Or No Luck Finally arrived at flight school, Jack (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) and David (Richard Arlen) meet their decidedly decent new comrade White (Gary Cooper, in an important early role), discussing luck as director William A. Wellman adds a dash of horror, in his Academy Award-winning Wings, 1927.
Wings (1927) - The Shooting Star Director (and WWI flier) William A. Wellman introducing the principals, in a small American town Jack (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) cares about his hot-rod but not about Mary (Clara Bow), and hopes to pry visiting Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston) away from affluent David (Richard Arlen), in Wings, 1927.
Wings (1927) - Youse Powder Puff Guys With decent schtick from the drill sergeant (Gunboat Smith) and "Unconscious" Walter (Roscoe Karns), Jack (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) bonds with wealthier David (Richard Arlen) over boxing, setting aside their romantic rivalry as they train to become WWI aviators, in William A. Wellman's Wings, 1927.
Wings (1927) - On The High Seas Of Heaven Director William A. Wellman’s first flight action scene, Charles “Buddy” Rogers (as Jack) and Richard Arlen (as David), though hard to recognize in goggles, doing much of their own flying, encountering the German ace Kellerman (certainly based on Baron von Richtofen), in Wings, 1927.

Bibliography