Reagan: The Hollywood Years

Marc Eliot, Author . Harmony $25.95 (375p) ISBN 978-0-307-40512-8

For 30 years, Ronald Reagan was dedicated to a film and television career. Yet Eliot (who has written bios of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, among others) claims previous studies of the former president gloss over this influential era. “To be able to fully comprehend Reagan the man, one must also understand Reagan the actor.” With that charge, Eliot chronicles Reagan's film career, from his numerous “B” pictures, such as Girls on Probation , to the image-enhancing Knute Rockne All American , which contained Reagan's future political rallying cry: “Win one for the Gipper.” Interspersed with tales of Hollywood casting maneuvers, Eliot takes a no-holds-barred approach to Reagan's personal life, whether his numerous affairs, his rocky marriage to Jane Wyman or Nancy Davis's single-minded determination to marry him. Eliot also examines his time heading SAG, the actors' union, which proved prescient. By 1962, Reagan was out of work, reduced to giving his “Price of Freedom” speech to interested groups. His delivery at a Goldwater fund-raiser was so inspiring that it jump-started his second career, clearing the way for the “Central Casting version of what an American president should look like.” Extensively researched, this biography is an accessible and eye-opening read. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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