Hollywood Reacts to Reagan’s Death
LOS ANGELES ( — Former President Ronald Reagan, who was also a long-time president of the Screen Actors Guild and made more than 50 films, died Saturday, June 5, at his home in Bel Air, Calif.
Reagan, 93, dropped out of public life about a decade ago, and was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He died of pneumonia at 1 p.m., officials say, and his family was at his side.
His wife, former actress Nancy Reagan, reportedly told CBS news commentator Mike Wallace earlier in the day that “this is it” and the White House was also notified of the former president’s possible demise. President Bush is traveling through Europe.
Before his political career, Reagan had a long acting career that earned him a Golden Boot Award for his Western films, a Golden Globe Hollywood Citizenship Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Flowers were already on the star at 6374 Hollywood Boulevard within an hour of his announced death, as was a note from a fan which read, “You were a great actor, too!” and was fixed on the star with chewing gum.
One of Reagan’s most popular films was 1951’s “Bedtime for Bonzo,” a romantic comedy which co-starred a chimpanzee. He was also Notre Dame football star George Gipp (called “The Gipper”) in “Knute Rockne, All American” in 1940, giving him the nickname that stuck with him throughout his career.
He served as SAG president twice, from 1947 to 1952, and again from 1959 to 1960 before he went on to be governor of California and then president of the United States. He was president from 1981 to 1989, elected twice to office.
Present SAG President Melissa Gilbert said, “It can be said that Ronald Reagan got his start in politics at Screen Actors Guild. While President Reagan’s politics grew conservative over the years and, at times, at odds with the nation’s labor movement, there can be no question that he devoted years of his life to advancing the wages, benefits and working conditions of his fellow actors.”
His first wife was actress Jane Wyman from 1940 to 1948. He had two children with her, Michael and Maureen. He married Nancy Davis in 1952 and had two children with her, Ron and Patti.
Reagan’s last film was 1964’s “The Killers,” and he also starred in “Cattle Queen of Montana,” “Kings Row,” Prisoner of War” and “Love is on the Air” his first film in 1937.
Reagan was considered for the lead in “Casablanca,” which went to Humphrey Bogart, and maintained a close relationship to the Hollywood community throughout his political career. Actor William Holden was his best man for his wedding to Nancy.
Longtime friend of Reagan’s from his Hollywood days, Johnny Grant, who is also the honorary mayor of Hollywood who ordered the bouquet for Reagan’s star on the Walk of Fame, said Saturday, “He was a man who loved his country. I don’t know of anybody who’s done more for this country and the entertainment industry.”
Another longtime friend and entertainer, impressionist Rich Little, said, “I think his legacy will be that he was probably the most human of any presidents we’ve ever had. He was very down to earth, no particular ego, loved to talk show business, just kind of a regular guy with a great sense of humor.”
Reagan’s body was transported out of the house late Saturday afternoon and will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol before he is buried at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.