11 January 2007 | vpadgett
You will be delighted by his warm wit and wry humor.
In Old Kentucky was released shortly after Rogers's death, and is his last-released film, though not the last film he starred in. Steamboat Round the Bend was filmed earlier, but released first, as it was thought to be the stronger work. Fox Films and 20th Century Fox produced this piece of warm Americana set in the 1920s.
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, known for a similar dance performance with Shirley Temple in "The Little Colonel," appears throughout. His role in was intended for Stepin Fetchit, but that actor was working on another film and his role was rewritten to allow Robinson to show off his famous dancing.
The DVD 2006 release includes a critical commentary by Anthony Slide. It is worthwhile, despite his lisp-- "I have a bwidge in Bwooklyn," reminiscent of the "Woger" and "Weginald" of "Life of Brian." Slide is more critical than warranted-- for example: "another weak sight gag, and equally weak as the first sight gag at the beginning of the film." Charlie Chaplin this isn't - if you want brilliant sight gags, rent Chaplin or Keaton instead! Slide's pointing out stunt doubles didn't add to my appreciation of the film, but his commentary on the careers of the players, many from vaudeville, was valuable.
More annoying is Slide's obsession with every instance of perceived racism. It is difficult to review a film released 72 years ago and not apply today's standards. On the other hand, Slide gives a good discussion on blackface-- white actors portraying black actors, wearing black face makeup, without turning that discussion into another political diatribe. Listen for it during Rogers's blackface dance scene.
Is the DVD release in Mono or Stereo? From the Menu, choose Language Selection and then English Stereo, as the program defaults to Mono. (I think you will hear Mono anyway.)
Rogers's fly medicine monologue was a high point in the film, as were all the scenes with Rogers dancing. The second half of the film picks up speed through the end, which had me laughing out loud. While this may not be Rogers's best work, you will be delighted by his warm wit and wry humor.
Will Rogers has been compared to Mark Twain for his humor. After Rogers's tragic death in 1935, people in 12,000 theaters observed two minutes of silence.