Archive for Thursday, April 22, 1999


April 22, 1999


The Los Angeles Times

Buddy Rogers, silent screen matinee idol and bandleader who spent half his life tending the lady and legend known as America's Sweetheart and the world's first real movie star, Mary Pickford, died Wednesday. He was 94.

Rogers died peacefully at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., said his godson, Keith Lawrence.

An accomplished actor in his own right, Rogers had been known for decades as Pickford's devoted consort and then widower who could always be counted on for kind and witty words at gatherings celebrating the history of the silent era. Pickford, 11 years Rogers' senior, died in 1979, ending their 42-year marriage.

Rogers carried on their philanthropy and fund-raising work for the Motion Picture and Television Fund which Pickford co-founded. He earned the special Oscar known as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1985 for his efforts to aid industry colleagues.

The silver-haired actor already had an historic connection to the Academy Awards. He starred in the first film ever to receive an Oscar as best motion picture, the 1927 "Wings."

Charles "Buddy" Rogers was born in Olathe, Kan., the son of a weekly newspaper publisher who became a judge. He delivered his father's Olathe Mirror and the Kansas City Star as a kid and then attended Kansas University, planning to be a band leader. The busy musician also played trumpet, trombone, drums, piano, accordian and all the reed instruments in campus dance bands.

"He was one of the first people who made such a reputation for himself in the field of acting," John Gronbeck-Tedesco, the KU Department of Theatre and Film, said. "Later, he tried to give something back to the university."

The Mary Pickford Foundation gave the university $100,000 in 1982, which was used for annual theater scholarships in Rogers' name. In 1989, another $100,000 was bequeathed to fund a theater and a film scholarship.

"He was truly one of the university's great friends," KU professor Chuck Berg said. "There was no one's heart that pumped truer blue or pumped truer crimson."

The department also gives "Buddy" awards. Don Johnson, Steve Mills and Moses Gunn all received the award, reserved "for very special people whose accomplishments were very extraordinary," Berg said.

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