TV Times

A tribute to Reagan
By Harinda Vidanage
The man, who conceptualized a state which could even defend its sovereignty to the limits of space and mastermind behind the rise of US as the sole superpower in the world, died at the age of 93.

This man is not just a statesman he was one of the best communicators the United States ever had. The significance of this unique statesman was before storming the political arena he had three decades being a movie star and television star.

From humble origins of being the son of an alcoholic shoe salesman from Illinois, Ronald Reagan’s early career began when he became a radio sports commentator, using for the first time his trademark gift for communication.

Actor Laurette Taylor once stated, “Acting is the physical representation of a mental picture and the projection of an emotional concept.” Radio broadcaster, motion picture star, TV host and former President of the United States Ronald Wilson Reagan understood how a glance or a pause can project a relaxed style and make your opponent look stiff that’s what made him one of the greatest television communicators of all time.

While covering pre-season baseball training in Los Angeles, he decided to become an actor. He landed a contract with Warner Brothers in 1937 and went on to make 50 films. By 1947, supporting actor and leading man Ronald Reagan was in transition. Having made three dozen movies in the last ten years, his career was beginning to wind down.

That year, his baby girl, born four months premature, died after living a single day. His marriage dissolved soon after. There were positives the new medium of television was on the horizon and Reagan was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947.

As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan became embroiled in disputes over the issue of Communism in the film industry; his political views shifted from liberal to conservative. He toured the country as a television host, becoming a spokesman for conservatism. In 1966 he was elected Governor of California by a margin of a million votes,… and was re-elected in 1970.

Ronald Reagan’s last motion picture, The Killers co-starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson, was originally filmed to be the very first made-for-TV movie in 1964. Judged too violent for the small screen, the film was released to movie theaters instead, marking the only time Reagan played the villain on screen. But he did enjoy a run of almost 30 years in tinsel town from 1937 to 1964. He made 54 movies and eight shorts between the ages of 27 and 54.

Reagan married actress Nancy Davis (his co-star in Hellcats of the Navy) on March 4, 1952 and made the transition to television in 1953 as the MC of ABC’s weekly celebrity profile show, The Orchid Award. As president of the actor’s union, he came under scrutiny after signing a secret, exclusive waiver for MCA (the talent agency that represented him) to produce television shows in 1952 .

Ronald Reagan won the Republican Presidential nomination in 1980 and chose as his running mate former Texas Congressman and United Nations Ambassador George Bush. Voters troubled by inflation and by the year-long confinement of Americans in Iran swept the Republican ticket into office. Reagan won 489 electoral votes to 49 for President Jimmy Carter.

On January 20, 1981, Reagan took office. Only 69 days later he was shot by a would-be assassin, but quickly recovered and returned to duty. His grace and wit during the dangerous incident caused his popularity to soar. When he ended his political career as President of the United States, the US was the last man standing after the near half century battle for global supremacy.

The bond that existed between Ronald and Nancy was seen as of a love exceeding ones words of expression and by his death as BBC reported ended what Charlton Heston once described as “the greatest love affair in the history of the American presidency”. Once Nancy told Vanity Fair in 1998: “Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it’s true. It did. I can’t imagine life without him.”

This is a tribute to a statesman with humble origins who built his life through process of struggle. His career as a movie star was never honored through any award or merit mention but his enigmatic presence in these movies molded together a character which once made him the most powerful man on earth at a distinct era.


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