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The Films of Ronald Reagan

February 6, 2017

Today’s the birthday of 40th American president and one-time actor Ronald Reagan. While he was usually relegated to “B” movies, Reagan appeared in classics like Knute Rockne: All American. He also starred in a lot of duds—hey, an actor’s gotta eat.
Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan

Louisa (1950)

Reagan plays Hal, a young man who worried and sickened that his Grandma Louisa…is dating. (Grandma was played by the not-that-old-at-64 Spring Byington; her boyfriend was Edmund Gwenn, best known as Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street.) Things get even worse for poor Hal when his boss tries to start romancing his grandma, too.

The Winning Team (1952)

The future President Reagan plays Grover Cleveland Alexander, the famed baseball pitcher named after 19th century president Grover Cleveland.

She’s Working Her Way Through College (1952)

A pretty risqué movie for 1952, it’s about an exotic dancer (Virginia Mayo) who quits that line of work to go to college. Reagan plays a stuffy English professor who ultimately loosens up to defend the stripper when the college’s board of trustees want to kick her out of school.

Hellcats of the Navy (1957)

Reagan plays a brave naval submarine commander who has to both find a dangerous mine in the waters off of Japan and navigate a love triangle with a diver and a nurse lieutenant. The film was most notable because co-starring as the nurse was Nancy Davis, whom Reagan would marry shortly thereafter.

The Young Doctors (1961)

One of the last movies he made before he went into politics (and became governor of California) was this soapy, zany hospital set and Fredric March playing rival doctors, a nurse who develops a tumor in her knee, a life-saving blood transfusion for a baby, and a small appearance by Dick Clark as an intern.

Bedtime for Bonzo (1951)

It’s the most mentioned movie of Reagan’s film years, likely because it was a wacky comedy in which the future president of the United States co-starred with a chimpanzee. The actual plot of the movie: A psychology professor (Reagan) and a friend (Diana Lynn) attempt to be “parents” of a chimp, in an effort to prove if “nature” or “nurture” is the dominant force in child development. Reagan himself claimed to have not actually seen the movie—the top box office hit of 1951—until 1984.

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