The Hollywood Years
By Marc Eliot
Crown Archetype, Hardcover, 9780307405128, 384pp.
Publication Date: September 9, 2008
Ronald Reagan was one of the most powerful and popular American presidents. The key to understanding his political success and the remarkable likability and effortless charisma that made it possible is hidden in his early years as a Hollywood movie star.
Other biographers and Reagan in his two memoirs have skimmed over the thirty years he spent as an actor, union activist, and ladies’ man. Now, for the first time, in this highly entertaining and provocative new work, acclaimed film critic and historian Marc Eliot reveals the truth of those formative years and presents a far different and infinitely more detailed portrait of Reagan than ever before.
Based on original research and never-before-published interviews, documents, and other materials, Eliot sheds new light on Reagan’s film and television work opposite some of the most talented women of the time, including Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, and Ginger Rogers; his starlet-strewn bachelor days when his name was linked with Lana Turner and Susan Hayward; his first, rocky marriage to actress Jane Wyman and his career-making second marriage to Nancy Davis; his controversial eight years as the president of the Screen Actors Guild; his friendships with Jimmy Stewart and William Holden; his place in the “Irish Mafia” alongside Pat O’Brien, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Errol Flynn; and the crucial role of super-agent Lew Wasserman, who was instrumental in developing the persona that would prove essential to Reagan’s future as a world leader.
Set against the glamorous and often combative background of Hollywood’s celebrated Golden Age, Eliot’s biography provides an exceptionally nuanced examination of the man and uncovers the startling origins of the legend.
"Eliot’s book is poised to provide something interesting: a fresh look at subject matter well worth dusting off….tracing Reagan’s Screen Actors Guild role and evolving political ideology….the genesis of Reagan’s later public persona is closely charted here."
—The New York Times
"Eliot does a nuanced job charting the actor’s metamorphosis from Roosevelt liberal to fierce anti-communist conservative."
"Film critic and historian Marc Eliot has dug up even more about young sportscaster "Dutch" Reagan, his journey west to Hollywood, his b-movie career…his relationship with super agent Lew Wasserman and his rocky marriage to his first wife, actress Jane Wyman…to Reagan fans this may feel like familiar ground. Not that familiar ground isn't a comforting place to spend a few hours."
"Reagan: The Hollywood Years provides a glimpse of Reagan's life before he became a political icon."
“Many books have shown us what sort of man Ronald Reagan the politician was; this one shows how he got that way.”
"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.' .... Extensively researched, this biography is an accessible and eye-opening read."