Monday, March 7, 2016

RIP Nancy Reagan (1921 - 2016)

Love Letters from Reagan
Nancy Reagan passed away yesterday. There are many obituaries for her as a First Lady. I thought I would do a post that remembers her as a wife and an actress.

Nancy Reagan was born Ann Frances Robbins on July 6, 1921 in New York City. Nancy was her nickname even as a child. Her last name changed to Davis in 1929 when her mother remarried and her stepfather adopted her. She was a Broadway actress at first, then in 1949 she moved to Hollywood. She ran into difficulty getting roles because she was getting confused with another actress named Nancy Davis who was on the Hollywood blacklist as a suspected communist sympathizer. That's when she contacted the Screen Actors Guild president for help, a fellow named Ronald Reagan. They fell in love and were married in 1952.

Politics is full of loving couples who are not so loving in private. So it's easy to be skeptical of the Nancy - Ronnie love story. But Nancy proved her devotion to Ronnie many times over - becoming his watchdog after the assassination attempt and then a dedicated caregiver when he was stricken with Alzheimer's. I didn't really appreciate how much Ronald loved her in return until she published a collection of love letters titled I Love You, Ronnie. Meant to raise funds for Alzheimer's research, it is a touching and intimate tribute to a great love.

Nancy did not have that many movie roles, but an interesting movie that she was a lead in was The Next Voice You Hear (1950). Directed by William A. Wellman, it is a movie parable about the Smiths - everyday Americans - and how they deal with God suddenly speaking on the radio. Nancy was the wife (Mary Smith) to James Whitmore's factory worker Joe. The film viewed today is not just a slice of 1950's Americana but still a thought-provoking statement on faith. I've included a clip below.

Nancy died on March 6, 2016 of congestive heart failure. I like to think that she is happily reunited now with her soulmate Ronnie. RIP.

Clip from The Next Voice You Hear (1950)

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