- Category : Entertain-Music-Instrumentalist
- Type : GE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (12,35)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 3
American actor and bandleader, a silent-screen star best known for the film "Wings." Rogers earned the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Motion Picture Academy in 1985 for his efforts in fundraising and philanthropy in the film industry. He was one of the last silent screen matinee idols and appeared at many ceremonies which honored the significance of the silent era in the motion picture industry. Married to the silent film star Mary Pickford, he devoted much of his life in supporting her philanthropic causes and her memory in the film industry.
Rogers grew up the son of the newspaper publisher in Olathe, Kansas. He was a paper boy delivering the Olathe Mirror and the Kansas City Star. His father later became a judge. The boy attended the University of Kansas and planned to be a bandleader. He loved music and played the trumpet, trombone, drums, piano, accordion and many reed instruments in the campus dance bands. He owned a raccoon coat, drove a Model T Ford, lived in a fraternity house and maintained two to three girlfriends. Tall, slim and handsome, Rogers was popular on his college campus. In his junior year at college, his father encouraged his good-looking son to send his photographs to the Paramount Pictures casting directors. A casting director went to Lawrence, Kansas to give Rogers a screen test. He passed and was sent to Astoria, New York to appear in bit parts. He was chosen for a part in "Beau Geste" with Ronald Colman and shipped off to Hollywood. On his arrival, he discovered that he had lost the part to another actor.
Rogers was about to leave Hollywood and return to Kansas when he had lunch with director Bill Wellman. Wellman cast the young Rogers in "Wings." He learned to fly from expert Hoyt Vandenberg, who would later become a four-star general during WW II. In 1927, "Wings" was the first film to receive the best picture Oscar and considered the most famous and enduring of all silent films. Rogers went on to make 60 films. Mary Pickford cast the actor in her picture, "My Best Girl" in 1927 after seeing him in "Wings." He was able to make the transition from silents to the talkies unlike many other silent screen stars. He started his second career as a bandleader with the NBC radio show in early 1931. He played engagements all over the country with his drummer Gene Krupa. On the bandstand, Rogers preferred to play the trumpet. During WW II, he tested and delivered planes as a pilot in the Navy Ferry Command. Rogers gave up his career in music because his wife, actress Mary Pickford wanted him at home with her. He spent his time hosting the many parties the couple threw at the Pickfair mansion. When Pickford grew ill and became a recluse, Rogers became her primary caretaker. After her death, he represented his wife at the many tributes and celebrations of the silent screen eras around the world.
Mary Pickford divorced her former husband, silent screen star Douglas Fairbanks in 1936. Rogers and Pickford married in June 1937 and sailed to Honolulu for their honeymoon. She threatened to divorce the bandleader if he did not give up his work and stay at home. Pickford was 11 years older than her husband and the two had a long, happy 42-year marriage. The couple adopted two children in the 1940s. When his wife died in 1979, he sold Pickfair and built a smaller house on the property where he lived. In 1981, he married real estate agent Beverly Ricono and the couple lived in Rancho Mirage. At 91, Rogers continued to swim daily and regaled visitors with his rich memories of Hollywood in the silent era. The vigorous and unpretentious silent film star's closest friend was his wife's stepson, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.. Al Capone was a big fan of Rogers's NBC radio broadcasts. Capone would send him telegrams even from his prison cell praising his broadcasts.
He died in Rancho Mirage, CA on April 21, 1999; he was 94