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Saturday, August 26, 2006




America's Boyfriend

Charles "Buddy" Rogers is best remembered as Mary Pickford’s last husband. He was also one of the more accessible of silent film stars when it came time for interviews or tributes to that long vanished era. Buddy outlived virtually all of his male contemporaries, mostly because he started young, and seems to have taken pretty good care of himself (living until 1999). He was an accomplished raconteur and steadfast companion to Pickford, even as she withdrew behind the curtains at Pickfair and remained in seclusion until her death in 1979. What a lot of people forget about Rogers is just what a big name he was in his own right. It didn’t last long, and came right on the cusp of Paramount’s transition to sound, but he was one of their principal names and headlined a number of early sound comedies and musicals that have all but disappeared today. Most of these were light and youth oriented. Buddy was billed as America’s Boy Friend and his vehicles were peppy and predictable --- as disposable then as they are forgotten now. When MCA bought the pre-49 Paramount library for television release in the late fifties, most of the Buddy Rogers oeuvre made its way to broadcasters, but it wouldn’t be long before these relics were consigned to distributor’s storage shelves, never to see the light of day again. Only one resurfaced later, and Buddy’s presence was only incidental to the early two-color Technicolor that distinguished Follow Thru, a 1930 golfing comedy that was amazingly well preserved and probably remains the best surviving example of the early color process.



Following Mary Pickford’s retirement, Buddy continued with his band (he could play almost any instrument) and dabbled in production. His Paramount work is now owned by Universal. The likelihood of a DVD release is nil. Too bad, because these would be interesting examples of what youth audiences was lining up to see during the early thirties. By the way, those Paramount contract lovelies flanking Buddy in this publicity shot include, from left to right, Josephine Dunn, Carol Lombard (before she added the "e"), Kathryn Crawford, and Virginia Bruce. The movie is Safety in Numbers, a roguish revel of love, laughs, and lyrics wherein the Joy Boy inherits millions and gets an education in song, dance, and lingerie from five luscious ladies on a skyscraper. Sounds sure-fire to me …

3 Comments:

Anonymous Griff said...

Early one Sunday morning in the late '70s, I attended a screening of WINGS at Detroit's Fox Theatre. Powerfully -- and loudly -- accompanied by the Fox's mighty Wurlitzer, the picture was pretty thrilling and engrossing; it did live up to much of its reputation.

Present at the screening waa the charming Mr. Rogers, who came out to great applause at the conclusion of the feature and spoke genially and briefly about the movie and his part in it. I believe all present would have been glad to listen to him for a good while longer, perhaps ask some questions -- but the Fox was still operating as a downtown movie house at the time, and the noon showing of ENTER THE DRAGON (still a Fox staple six years after its release) would soon begin.

However, before he wrapped up his remarks, Buddy Rogers shyly walked up to the Wurlitzer. He said, "It's a wonderful thing, isn't it, folks?"

He climbed aboard the giant organ and began to noodle around; slowly, softly, he started to play. It was a gently swinging version of "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You," and Mr. Rogers began to croon the song.

The house was entranced . Decades after making his final film, Buddy Rogers was still a star.

12:18 PM  
Blogger East Side said...

Buddy Rogers was one of the stars shown on the red carpet before the Oscars through the 1980s. Always looked terrific and healthy.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Booksteve said...

I saw Buddy Rogers at a Bob Hope charity show in Cincinnati in the late seventies. He was filled with energy and ran through the crowd playing a horn (actually it seems like he was playing various types of horns).I had to keep reminding myself that this was THE Buddy Rogers. He stole the show from a dozen other celebrities including Bob Hope himself!

9:37 PM  

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