Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Reagan: The Hollywood Years Hardcover – September 9, 2008
|New from||Used from|
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
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
Top customer reviews
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. .
*Pg. 66 - Hollywood gossip queen Louella Parsons "was being syndicated nationally in all six hundred Hearst newspapers ...". Her column may well have been distributed to that many newspapers via the Hearst syndicate, but William Randolph Hearst himself owned only 30 papers or so.
*Pg. 68 - There's a single paragraph about Reagan making "Sergeant Murphy" in 1938, but no mention that the film is about a contemporary Army cavalryman, reflecting Reagan's own service (at that time) in the horse cavalry as an Army reservist.
*Pg. 68 - Referring to Reagan's 1938 "B" movie,"Accidents Will Happen," "costarring fading A actress Gloria Blondell," Eliot is confusing Gloria -- in just her second film -- with her older sister Joan Blondell, a major Warner Brothers star in the early `30s.
*Pg. 115 - Referring to Reagan's breakthrough role as George Gipp, "the Gipper," in "Knute Rockne, All American," Eliot states that, in this film, "football served as an obvious and powerful metaphor for war" and that, at the time the film was released in the fall of 1940, "America's entry into [World War II was] all but inevitable, ...." Really? At the time "Rockne" was made, the United States was beginning to aid Britain in its war against Nazi Germany, but America's direct involvement was still being hotly debated and was hardly "inevitable," except in hindsight. Eliot also overlooks that the film, rather than celebrating football as combat, includes a scene in which Rockne proclaims football and other competitive sports played in the United States as a substitute for the militarism taught in other societies.
*Pg. 148 - "Movies that dealt with the harsh realities of [the Depression] years ... came only as those years ... were fading with America's inevitable entry into World War II. Forties 'noir' is, in reality, Hollywood's decade-late stylistic depiction of the country's mood during the Depression." Eliot ignores films like "Gabriel Over the White House," "Wild Boys of the Road," "Gold Diggers of 1933," "Stand Up and Cheer," "Our Daily Bread," "My Man Godfrey," "Dead End," and scores of other films made before 1939 that addressed or at least referred to the issues raised by the Great Depression that started in late 1929. Hollywood hardly ignored the Depression before the early 1940s, and the "noirish" films of the '40s were far more a reflection of post-war fears and uncertainties than they were reflections of the nation's mood a decade earlier.
*Pg. 344 - Referring to Will Hays, the former U.S. postmaster general who in 1922 became the first president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), Eliot states that "In 1934, Hays was replaced by Joseph Breen, ..." Hays actually served as president of the MPPDA until 1945; Breen became, in 1934, the first director of that group's Production Code Administration (PCA), responsible for enforcement of the production code. Although the PCA was often referred to as the "Hays Office," Breen did not replace Hays as MPPDA president but instead worked for twenty years as the industry's chief censor. (Eric Johnston took over from Hays as president of the renamed Motion Picture Association of America, the MPAA, in 1946.) This is pretty basic U.S. motion picture history; I'm surprised that Eliot was not more specific about the relationship between Hays and Breen.
The book contains a great deal about Reagan's role in Hollywood's labor-union issues in the 1930s and 1940s (mainly during his six years as president of the Screen Actors Guild), but much of the information about this important aspect of U.S. film history is attributed to Eliot's own book, "Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince," so to check on his sources you have to have that book available. There's also an unnecessary amount of padding - information about certain Reagan co-workers and other Hollywood personalities, as well as about the film industry itself, that often is simply a list of names and films, or other extraneous info. Eliot also goes into some glib psychological evaluation of Reagan, especially the man's relationship with his alcoholic father.
"The Hollywood Years" follows Reagan as far as 1964, the year he made his last feature film (some of his "Death Valley Days" TV episodes premiered as late as October 1965) and the year that he started to become a serious political player in the presidential campaign of Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater. A nationally televised speech by Reagan on Goldwater's behalf convinced several California Republicans that Reagan could successfully run for governor. As I said, this is a highly readable book, but the discrepancies I could detect make me wonder how many other errors there are in the book that I don't have the detailed knowledge to find. For someone who has written so many books about Hollywood history and American popular culture, Eliot seems remarkably cavalier about getting his facts right. Supplement this book with Stephen Vaughn's "Ronald Reagan in Hollywood" (1991) and Thomas W. Evans's "The Education of Ronald Reagan" (2006).
Marc Eliot's book has its credibility short-comings (as amply attested to by other reviewers). It does, however, contain some interesting tidbits about RR and if nothing else, identifies him as a man of character--especially in explaining the "Red Scare" as it invaded movieland. On the other hand, Eliot uses so many acronyms and leads you thru such a maize of unknown characters that he leaves you with the impression he is trying to impress you about him, not Reagan.
My biggest disappointment about the book is that just as it seems to get into a flowing pattern, the author disrupts the information with new tidbits that has you shaking your head and asking the perverbial, "Is this really necessary?" As a result, the book become a ho-hum read.
As an insider who has written a number of interesting and readable books, I expected much more from Marc Eliot with this one. I was disappointed. The Hollywood of the 1940s and 50s, a great supporting cast, a US President-to-be...what more could you ask for? A better-written book.
In reading the early part of the book, I couldn't help but wonder just how many of Reagan's films the author had actually viewed. Was he truly expressing his own negative opinions or was he simply parroting what critics of earlier days had said? That's not to say that Reagan was a "great" actor. He wasn't. But he did last for over 27 years in Hollywood; he did appear in 56 films; he did work with many notable actors of his day; he was rated the most-popular actor in Hollywood for the 1942-43 season; and he was extremely successful in television. And, it's worth noting, as the author himself observes: Reagan was the first actor in Hollywood to sign a million dollar contract and was the first choice to play the part of Rick Blaine in the movie "Casablanca." So, despite what this author has to say, it seems only fair to wonder what Reagan's film legacy might have been if World War II hadn't cost him both the starring role in perhaps the greatest movie ever made, "Casablanca," and four years carved from the peak of his career.
The latter part of the book deals in large measure with Reagan's activities in and as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG); his efforts to negotiate with various factions, thought to have been infiltrated by communists, which were causing labor problems in Hollywood in the 1940s-50s; his efforts to help weed out communist sympathizers from the motion picture industry, partly by serving as a secret informant for the FBI; and his efforts, as president of the SAG, to help Hollywood's struggling motion picture industry and his fellow motion picture actors to make the transition from big-screen films to television. His activities brought him many enemies but also many friends. In his dealings for television rights, for example: Some believed that Reagan had a clear conflict of interest (and perhaps he did); but others believed that Reagan did what he had to do. In their view: By giving the Music Corporation of America (MCA) a temporary waiver of residual rights for actors, Reagan had preserved Hollywood's place as the capital of the entertainment world (vice New York) and had saved numerous careers, if not the industry itself.
I'm somewhat conflicted as to how to rate this book. The early part seemed extremely negative, much too irrelevant (to Reagan), and a bit tedious; but the later segment was quite interesting and most enlightening, although not always reflecting well on Reagan himself. But, Reagan's acting career aside, I can't help but believe that this book delivers a great deal of valuable information about him which should be of interest to anyone truly interested in our 40th president.