- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Reagan remembered

Ronald Reagan reached out to his fellow Americans primarily through their television screens. Now history buffs can relive a treasure trove of the Great Communicator’s broadcasts with a new DVD package on the late president.

“Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator,” on sale Tuesday for $39.98, packs a wealth of the conservative icon’s best speeches into its two-disc set.

Instead of relying on documentary-style formatting or dramatic narration, the DVD’s creators let the president speak for himself through hundreds of clips and archival footage. The boxed set features White House Correspondents Dinner speeches, scenes from the 1988 Republican National Convention and the Gipper’s farewell address.

The late president felt right at home on TV long before becoming commander in chief.

Ronald Reagan, the actor, made the transformation from the large to the small screen after his movie career cooled in the early 1950s. His appearances as part of “General Electric Theater” from 1954 to 1962 made him an avuncular face to millions. Those days as a GE spokesman also steered him toward his political career, a second act that transformed American history.

Watching Mr. Reagan charm a crowd, or even bring unwelcome news to the public, is a stark reminder of his ability to transform public speeches into intimate, one-on-one chats.

Swayze’s adventure

The star of “Dirty Dancing” hopes to revive a classic adventure yarn this weekend, courtesy of cable’s Hallmark Channel.

Patrick Swayze is Allan Quartermain in the latest retelling of “King Solomon’s Mines.” The telepicture airs Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m., Associated Press reports.

Other actors who’ve taken on the larger-than-life role of the courageous hunter include Stewart Granger, Richard Chamberlain and Cedric Hardwicke, the latter in a 1937 black-and-white version.

Most recently, Sean Connery played the role in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which teamed the adventurer with other literary heroes.

Mr. Swayze says he’s watched all the versions of H. Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel, set in 19th-century Africa.

“I was always a great fan of Granger, but I couldn’t understand how he kept his hair so perfect without a blow dryer,” he chuckled, speaking to AP from the New Mexico ranch he shares with his wife, actress and director Lisa Niemi.

Mr. Swayze, meanwhile, wasn’t as interested in looking so unblemished while saving the day.

Nor did he want a hero without any darker shadings.

“I love to look for that fatal flaw, where if they don’t sort out this internal demon ravaging their insides, they won’t pull it off,” he says. “I didn’t want this guy to be the perfect Great White Hunter.”

The Texas-born actor last starred in a TV production as Orry Main in the epic 1985 Civil War miniseries “North and South” and its sequel the next year. In recent years, he has embraced more eclectic roles, such as the drag queen in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” and the inspirational huckster in “Donnie Darko.”

But it was a return to romance for Mr. Swayze in the Quartermain role. He teamed with director Steve Boyum to help flesh out a love interest and deepen his relationships with other characters.

“We wanted to try to do a dramatic true-telling about this man and this journey, but still keep a sense of fun in it. Rather than go the tongue-in-cheek route, we wanted it to be a very possibly true concept,” he says.

Mr. Swayze, an avid conservationist, also insisted on finding a subtle way to reflect his passionate concern about “man’s greed and absolute unwillingness to operate according to Mother Nature’s laws.”

Inspired by his time in Africa, Mr. Swayze and his brother, Don, are developing an action-adventure reality series that they hope will promote the cause of conservation.

The Bushes on Reagan

Former President Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush make a rare joint appearance tonight on “Larry King Live” to reflect on Ronald Reagan’s life.

The show, which airs weeknights at 9 on CNN, will allow the Bush family to discuss their personal memories of a man known affectionately as “the Gipper,” as well as put his presidency in historical context. The hourlong chat will be broadcast from Houston.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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