Google Doodle Honors Will Rogers – Who Was He?

People across the world have fallen in love with Google Doodles –  cute cartoon images that highlight celebrities and historical figures who may have faded with time. On Nov. 4, Google users were greeted with an adorable cartoon image of Will Rogers, a popular Western actor. Outside of very dedicated Western fans, few had heard of Rogers prior to seeing this Doodle. Here’s his life story.

A clip from Will Rogers’ USA | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Will Rogers’ entertainment career

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Rogers was born on November 4, 1879 in Cherokee territory. He grew up on a ranch in what would eventually become Oklahoma. There, he learned how to do rope tricks and ride a horse. CBS News reported that Rogers famously said “A man that don’t love a horse — there is something the matter with him.” He worked at several western themed shows around the United States including a show at Madison Square Garden. That show received a very positive response and convinced him to pursue a career in New York City.

To make sure that his shows in New York City did not become repetitive, Rogers would  humorously comment on current events as part of his live act. The popularity of his live performances eventually led to a career in film. Among the most notable of his movies was an adaptation of Mark Twain’s classic fantasy novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, where he played the titular Yankee despite his Midwestern roots.

Will Rogers in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court | Photo by Fox Film Corporation/Getty Images

In Yankee, the actor shared the screen with two of the most iconic stars of his day: Maureen O’Sullivan and Myrna Loy. He was a perfect fit for a film based on a Twain novel, as both Twain and Rogers were known for their folksy wit. He also starred in an adaptation of a story by another iconic American author: Washington Irving. Specifically, Rogers starred in The Headless Horseman, the oldest surviving film version of Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Mayor Will Rogers

Rogers’ roles on screen helped to introduce him to an even wider audience. He became so popular in Hollywood that he was temporarily appointed the honorary mayor of Beverly Hills. His stint as “mayor” came to an end when the Californian government decided that his position was not legal, to which he responded “I ain’t the first mayor that’s been kicked out.” The actor also had a prominent career as a newspaper columnist, providing his readers with humor and comfort during the darkest days of the Great Depression. His most famous quote was “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Sadly, the actor passed away in a plane crash in 1935 near Point Barrow, Alaska. He was at a high point in his career at the time.

The actor’s legacy

A sculpture of Will Rogers in Claremore, Oklahoma | Archive Photos/Getty Images

Rogers’ legacy as an entertainer lives on through his movies and portrayals in popular culture. Keith Carradiene portrayed the actor in both the film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and the Broadway show The Will Rogers Follies. A statue of the actor graces the town of Claremore, Oklahoma.

The Google Doodle honoring the actor was warmly received by his great-grandaughter, Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry, who said “On behalf of our family, I was thrilled to learn that my great grandfather…had been chosen for a Doodle that will appear on his 140th birthday. [My grandfather] had a presence that can still be felt to this day.”