9780307405135

Reagan

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780307405135

  • ISBN10:

    0307405133

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-09-08
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
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Summary

The compelling biography of an American icon's early yearsas an aspiring actor, Hollywood star, and family man. Ronald Reagan was one of the most powerful and popular American presidents. The key to understanding his political success and the remarkable likability and effortless charisma that made it possible lies embedded in his early years as a Hollywood movie star. Using never-before-published interviews, documents, and other materials, acclaimed writer and biographer Marc Eliot sheds new light on Reagan's film and television work opposite some of the most talented women of the time; his starlet-strewn bachelor days; his tumultuous first marriage to Jane Wyman and his career-making second marriage to Nancy Davis; his controversial eight years as the president of the Screen Actors Guild; his place in the "Irish Mafia" alongside Pat O'Brien, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, and Errol Flynn; and his friendships with Jimmy Stewart and William Holden, as well as with super-agent Lew Wasserman, who was instrumental in developing the persona that would prove essential to Reagan's future as a world leader. Set against the glamorous and often combative background of Hollywood's Golden Age, Eliot's biography provides a nuanced examination of the man and uncovers the startling origins of the legend. "A fresh look . . . [at] the genesis of Reagan's later public persona." New York Times "Film critic and historian Marc Eliot has dug up even more about young sportscaster 'Dutch' Reagan, his journey west to Hollywood, his B-movie career . . . his relationship with super-agent Lew Wasserman, and his rocky marriage to his first wife, actresss Jane Wyman." USA Today

Author Biography

MARC ELIOT is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books on popular culture, among them the highly acclaimed biographies Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, the award-winning Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince, Down 42nd Street, Take It from Me (with Erin Brockovich), Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen, To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, and Death of a Rebel. He has written on the media and popular culture for numerous publications, including Penthouse, L.A. Weekly, and California Magazine. He divides his time among New York City, Woodstock, New York, and Los Angeles.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts

Chapter One

The Next Voice

You Hear

At Eureka, I’d pick up a broomstick, pretend it was a microphone, and do a locker-?room interview with some of my fraternity brothers to get some laughs.

—Ronald Reagan

It was 1911 and Howard Taft was in the third year of his one-term presidency, a tenure of office so uneventful that on his deathbed he insisted he couldn’t remember a single thing about it. In China and Mexico, revolution was in the air. In New York City, a fire in the Triangle shirtwaist factory killed nearly 150 workers and sparked nationwide labor reform. In Los Angeles, the immensely popular novelty of moving pictures was about to be transformed into a full-service industry by the merger of two independent film companies, which became Paramount Pictures, Hollywood’s first “major” studio. And on February 6, in Tampico, Illinois, the heart of Chicago farm country, John Edward “Jack” Reagan (pronounced RAY-gun), first-generation Black Irish, and his wife, Nelle, became the proud parents of their second child, a baby boy they named Ronald Wilson.

Like his two-year-old brother, Neil (nicknamed “Moon” for his round face), baby Ronald was born in the cold-water flat the family lived in over a shallow bank on Main Street. There was no doctor available to make house calls for such poor folk as these, but Jack had managed to secure the services of a midwife, who brought the chubby infant into the world with a good old-fashioned smack on the bottom, which set baby Ronnie onto a crying jag that seemed to Jack would never end. Exasperated (and filled with too much booze), Jack declared later that night to the whole world but to no one in particular, “For such a little bit of a fat Dutchman, he makes a hell of a lot of noise!”

The crying eventually stopped, but the nickname stuck. From as early as he could remember, Ronald, whose given name was changed shortly after his birth (no one quite remembers why, but the certificate says Donald) was called Dutch. Jack, like his son, always preferred the nickname because, the father insisted, it made him sound more rugged than did the girlish “Ronnie” that Nelle had chosen.

At the time, the tallest building in Tampico was the grain elevator dominating the single commercial main street between the depots of two railroad lines. Jack worked in the general store across from the elevator. His knowledge covered all the departments, not unusual in these Midwest one-outpost towns, but he was especially adept at selling shoes, and his interest in them bordered on the obsessive; he spent his free nights analyzing the bones of feet and filling out forms requesting correspondence courses on how to sell the right shoes to fit them.

Unfortunately, his interest in and devotion to his work not only didn’t help him get ahead, but after more than two years it also wasn’t enough to keep him from losing his job. The problem wasn’t ability; he had a lot of that, along with a good personality, a natural glibness, and an appreciation of when to tell a timely joke to move along a sale. It was, rather, what Ronald Reagan would later describe as the demon in the bottle that brought Jack down. Jack was a fall-down drunk who worshipped at the feet of Irish whiskey.

His wife, Nelle, on the other hand, was a straight-back Protestant, a member in good standing of the Tampico Church of Christ. Born in Illinois from a Scots-English ancestry, she’d met Jack in Fulton and fell fast and hard for the tall Irishman, accepting his proposal of marriage without hesitation despite the fact that he was Catholic. At least, she told herself, he wasn’t a “serious” Catholic. He hardly attended Mass and although they were married in the Catholic church in Fulton, she had made it clear to him that their children would be raised Protestant. Jack had no

Excerpted from Reagan: The Hollywood Years by Marc Eliot
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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