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Reagan: The Hollywood Years Hardcover – September 9, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; First Printing edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405128
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,906,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For 30 years, Ronald Reagan was dedicated to a film and television career. Yet Eliot (who has written bios of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, among others) claims previous studies of the former president gloss over this influential era. To be able to fully comprehend Reagan the man, one must also understand Reagan the actor. With that charge, Eliot chronicles Reagan's film career, from his numerous B pictures, such as Girls on Probation, to the image-enhancing Knute Rockne All American, which contained Reagan's future political rallying cry: Win one for the Gipper. Interspersed with tales of Hollywood casting maneuvers, Eliot takes a no-holds-barred approach to Reagan's personal life, whether his numerous affairs, his rocky marriage to Jane Wyman or Nancy Davis's single-minded determination to marry him. Eliot also examines his time heading SAG, the actors' union, which proved prescient. By 1962, Reagan was out of work, reduced to giving his Price of Freedom speech to interested groups. His delivery at a Goldwater fund-raiser was so inspiring that it jump-started his second career, clearing the way for the Central Casting version of what an American president should look like. Extensively researched, this biography is an accessible and eye-opening read. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Eliot, the author of biographies of Hollywood legends Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, tackles another legend. Ronald Reagan didn’t earn his legendary status in the movies, but it’s that phase of his career—as a radio, motion-picture, and television performer—on which this volume concentrates. Eliot separates fact from fiction regarding some famous Reagan show-biz stories—his vamping during a blackout while broadcasting a baseball game via telegraph reports; his losing out on some career-making parts, such as the lead in Casablanca—but this isn’t one of those biographies that just hits the high points and ignores everything else. This is a carefully written, solidly documented biography of a working actor, a “company man” who did what the studio told him because he knew he was lucky to be in show business. Eliot gives Reagan’s professional and personal lives equal weight, supplying valuable context for his future life as a world leader. Many books have shown us what sort of man Ronald Reagan the politician was; this one shows how he got that way. An important addition to Reagan lore. --David Pitt

More About the Author

Marc Eliot is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books on popular culture, among them the highly acclaimed biography Cary Grant, the award-winning Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince, and most recently American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood, plus the music biographies Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen, To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, and Death of a Rebel about Phil Ochs. He has been featured in many documentaries about film and music and has written on the media and popular culture for numerous publications. He divides his time among New York City; Woodstock, New York; and Los Angeles. Visit him at

Customer Reviews

This book is a mishmash of conjecture, arm chair psychology, and bad research.
One can only imagine the falsehoods in those books, but I am not going to waste my time to find them.
Jane Pensive
In 1941, however, Reagan was on his way to becoming a major film star at Warner Brothers studios.
Edison McIntyre

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 44 people found the following review helpful By sybucket on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have just completed Marc Eliot's biography of Ronald Reagan and the Hollywood years. Frankly I wish I hadn't bothered. It was a wast of time. Mr. Eliot has nothing good to say about most of the people in the book. He disparages Mr. Reagan at every opportunity, denegrating him as an actor constantly, and when he is forced to admit that Reagan did pretty good as an actor in KINGS ROW and KNUTE ROCKNE, it is with the sly suggestion that it was an accident and had nothing to do with talent.

Mr. Eliot contradicts himself from page to page. As he is denegrating Reagan's abilities, at the same time he points out that Reagan was the first Hollywood star to sign a Million doller contract.

They don't give Million doller contracts to actors that can't deliver.

I would suggest that Mr. Eliot knows nothing about acting or the actual process of making movies. He talks about YANKEE DOODLE DANDY and the last shot of that film, the one where Cagney joins the soldiers marching past the White House singing "Over There". He seems to suggest that the "scenery falls away and somehow becomes the place that the songs are singing about"....HUNH?? He further states that the "scene looks less real that it is".
I have no idea what he's talking about.

In the same section he talks about the "aging Irving Berlin" being involved in THIS IS THE ARMY. Berlin was 55 in 1943. Apparently Mr. Eliot thinks this is a crime.

He calls LAWRENCE OF ARABIA a "Hollywood picture" It wasn't. It was Produced by indipendent producer Sam Spiegel who was Austrian and Directed by David Lean who was English and the only American actors of note in the picture were Anthony Quinn and Arthur Kennedy.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lynda M. Calhoun on September 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The small inaccuracies pile up one upon another until the reader is compelled to conclude that either Mr. Eliot did not do much worthwhile research or was in such a hurry to publish that he did not care whether the reader might know the difference between fact and inaccuracy. To a film buff, the gaffs are, at first, comical, and then annoying. Several instances: at one point he actually identifies Billy Wilder as Lew Ayres in a photo caption...did he ever look at a photo of Ayres? Or Wilder? And Jimmy Stewart was not an eligible bachelor but already married to Gloria when Ronald and Nancy were married. Further, "The Yearling" is not about a little girl but a little boy, for goodness sake. Brings into question his opinions (which occur throughout the book) on people and events.

Mr. Eliot really does not like his subjects and seems to go out of his way to place them in an unfavorable and insulting light. Don't bother to purchase the book. In our troubled economic times, save your money instead.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By major on October 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I will not repeat the findings of other reviewers and repeat all the erroneous statements in the book. Let me just say no matter if you love Reagan or loath him, you should not waste your time on this book. It goes out of its way to attack Reagan and it deals in half-truths and innuendo. There are better books out there, this is not worth the effort. Its obvious the author has a political agenda.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Edison McIntyre VINE VOICE on March 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
First, I should note that I am not an admirer of Ronald Reagan as a politician or president. He may have been one of the most beloved American presidents of all time, but his legendary status as the icon of modern "conservatism" is based largely on myths regarding his political principles, competence, and integrity. As a film actor, however, Ronald Reagan deserves more consideration and respect than he often gets from either film historians or popular culture generally. His political detractors have often deliberately and unfairly ignored or denigrated his movie work, based on his worst films (especially when his career was in decline in the 1950s). In 1941, however, Reagan was on his way to becoming a major film star at Warner Brothers studios. Had he not had to put his career on hold for Army service in World War II, Reagan might have become a star with the popular image and sustained box-office appeal of James Stewart, Joel McCrea, or William Holden. And, one wonders, if he had achieved that kind of success in films, would Reagan ever have entered politics?

I had looked forward to reading Marc Eliot's account of Reagan's Hollywood career, and I give him credit for creating a highly readable book. But as I read, I detected enough factual errors and questionable assessments, especially in regard to the film industry, to make me wonder whether Eliot and his editors had employed a fact-checker and perhaps a little outside critiquing before publication.

*Pg. 44 - "With each of the eight major studios producing on average seventy-five features and a hundred shorts each week ... ". That's 600 feature films a week, or 31,200 a year - a preposterous figure. Another, seemingly more accurate figure for Hollywood's annual production quantity is cited later in the book. .
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jane Pensive on October 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author claims he "pursued my PhD in film history" at Columbia University, where a film with Ronald Reagan was never shown. First, instead of just pursuing the PhD he should have finished it, and secondly, just because Columbia never showed him a film with Ronald Reagan doesn't mean he never should have watched one on his own. After reading this poorly researched book on Reagan's Hollywood years I am convinced the author never watched any of the classic films to which he refers. If I had paid for this book instead of receiving it as a gift, I would be furious for wasting my money. There are so many inaccuracies as to make all of the author's assertions suspect.

Previous reviewers have pointed out quite a few of the factual problems with the book, so I will just add a few observations.

The most elementary mistake for a film "scholar" to make is the graphic one where he not only misidentifies Billy Wilder as Lew Ayres in a photo from the Academy Awards party at which Wilder's classic "Lost Weekend" won Best Picture of 1946, but the also claims that Reagan looks "tense" because Wyman (standing next to Wilder and co star Ray Milland) is having an affair with the misidentified Lew Ayres. Talk about embarrassing. The author is reading something into a picture which can't be further from the truth since Ayres is nowhere to be seen at the table. This creates tremendous doubt that any of the author's analyses of the events of Reagan's star years can be valid.

We know Eliot never saw Wyman in "The Yearling," because no one could forget Claude Jarman Jr's astounding performance as Jody a young boy who becomes attached to a deer which creates further hardship in the lives of his hardscrabble family.
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