- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2011

To help celebrate Ronald Reagan’s would-be 100th birthday, The List will focus on our nations’s 40th president throughout February. This week, we look at some of Reagan’s notable leading ladies from his days as an actor in Hollywood.

  • Nancy Davis — The Reagans, who were married in 1952, starred in the 1957 film “Hellcats of the Navy.” It was their only screen appearance together. “I knew that being his wife was the role I wanted to play,” Nancy Reagan said.
  • Olivia De Havilland — “Ronnie Reagan was a very sociable creature. Extroverted in the nicest way,” said the two-time Oscar-winning actress, who starred alongside Reagan and Errol Flynn in the 1940 western “Santa Fe Trail.”
  • Jane Wyman Reagan married Wyman in 1940 and they divorced in 1948. “I believe we belong together and that we will end our days together,” said Wyman, who turned out to be the only ex-wife of an American president. The two starred together in the 1938 film “Brother Rat” about three buddies at the Virginia Military Institute.
  • Shirley Temple — One of the most famous child stars of all time, Temple starred with Reagan in “That Hagen Girl” in 1947. In the film, Reagan plays an attorney who may or may not be Temple’s father. “He was one of the best kissers,” she told the television show “Entertainment Tonight” in 1988. She also added that the film was “probably one of the worst movies either one of us ever made.”
  • Dorothy Malone — Miss Malone may have been Reagan’s leading lady in the 1953 western “Law and Order,” but the Academy-Award-winner didn’t like the law and order Reagan brought to the White House. “He has let the gasoline price go up so that I can hardly afford to drive,” Miss Malone said in a 1981 interview. “My parents are in a nursing home, and we cannot afford one little dollar cut in Medicare.”
  • Patricia Neal — “I do like Ronnie, I really do,” said Neal, who starred with Reagan in “John Loves Mary” in 1948. “Nancy was not a very good actress, but she is a beautiful wife to Ronald Reagan.”
  • Laraine Day — “He was always more interested in politics than acting,” said Day, who starred with Reagan in “The Bad Man” in 1940. “He was so involved, so dedicated, there was no other place for him to go.”
  • Viveca Lindfors — The Swedish actress, who starred with Reagan in “Night Unto Night” in 1949, is quoted as recalling Reagan making a remark about sex: He said it was best “in the afternoon, after coming out of the shower,” she said. At the time, Lindfors was in love with the film’s director Don Siegel, whom she later married.
  • Virginia Mayo — Mayo starred with Reagan in “The Girl from Jones Beach” in 1949 and “She’s Working Her Way Through College” in 1952. “He was wonderful to work with, a pleasant, charming, nice gentleman, and easy to get along with,” she said. “That kind of charm is what sailed him into the White House.”
  • Barbara Stanwyck — The versatile Hollywood leading lady is still remembered for an intensely passionate kiss she gave Reagan in the 1954 film “Cattle Queen of Montana.”
  • Bette Davis — Reagan played a drunken playboy who tries to romance the hedonistic Davis in the 1939 film “Dark Victory.” “Life is so ironic,” said Davis, according to the Independent of London. “Back in our Warners days, who would have thought that little Ronnie Reagan would end up as president and would be presenting me with a medal at the White House? Never in a million years!”
  • Priscilla Lane — In the 1941 comedy “Million Dollar Baby,” Lane played the girlfriend of Reagan, a socialist composer. She also starred alongside Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman, in “Brother Rat.”
  • Alexis Smith — The statuesque leading lady played next to Reagan in “Stallion Road” in 1947. Reagan played a veterinarian while Smith played horse-breeder.
  • Joan Leslie — Miss Leslie starred alongside Reagan in the Irving Berlin military musical, “This Is the Army,” in 1943. “Ron had something to say about everything; he was quite analytical about things,” Miss Leslie said in a 2005 interview. “It was pretty obvious he would be active in the [Screen Actors] Guild, which he was. But, who would know that he was going to go on to become President [of the United States]? I certainly didn´t know that! I think he was a fine man, and I was very proud to know him.”
  • Margaret Lindsay — The well-known leading lady of 1930s films played opposite Reagan in the 1939 film “Hell’s Kitchen.”
  • Angie Dickinson — In the 1964 film “The Killers,” Reagan plays a villain who slaps Miss Dickinson across on the face. It is notable for being Reagan’s final movie appearance.

Compiled by John Haydon

Sources: Associated Press, New York Sun, Ventura County (California) Star, Presidential Historian Barry H. Landau, New York Post, People magazine, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, the Independent (London), www.sag.org, www.imdb.com and www.classicimages.com.