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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Silent Screen Star Buddy Rogers Dies

RANCHO MIRAGE, California -- Silent film star Buddy Rogers, whose 42-year marriage to the screen's first star Mary Pickford was one of Hollywood's most enduring unions, has died at age 94.

Rogers, who starred in 1927's "Wings," the first film to receive an Academy Award for best motion picture, died at home last Wednesday in the desert community of Rancho Mirage, about 193 kilometers east of Los Angeles. The cause of death was not given.

He married Pickford, 11 years his senior, in 1937 and the union lasted until her death in 1979. They met after Pickford, by then an established star, had watched Rogers in "Wings," a story of World War I fliers that co-starred Richard Arlen, Clara Bow and introduced soon-to-be superstar Gary Cooper.

Pickford asked Rogers to screen test for her next film, "My Best Girl," and he got the part, starring opposite her in what was to become one of the classic silent films, one which also helped win him the title, "America's Boyfriend."

But although Rogers said later their first meeting was "love at first sight," it was not until Pickford divorced her first husband, Douglas Fairbanks, in 1936, that they got married and Rogers moved into Pickford's legendary Hollywood mansion, Pickfair.

Rogers was born in Olathe, Kansas, the son of a newspaper proprietor, and studied music at the University of Kansas, where he became a versatile musician. But despite ambitions to be a band leader, he was persuaded by his father to try his hand at acting.

After bit parts in two films and two rejections, Rogers was considering returning to Kansas to concentrate on his music.

"Then I had lunch with (director) Billy Wellman and he put me in 'Wings' and there went Kansas," he once told an interviewer.

Unlike many actors of the silent movie era Rogers successfully made the transition to the "talkies," starring in such early sound films as "Paramount on Parade" and "This Way Please" in the 1930s.

During their marriage Rogers and Pickford became philanthropists, helping causes such as the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which Pickford co-founded. Rogers was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1985. He is survived by his second wife, realtor Beverly Ricono, whom he married in 1981.