Silver Screen to White House; President Drew on His Entertainer's Training

By Arnold, Gary | The World and I, August 2004 | Go to article overview

Silver Screen to White House; President Drew on His Entertainer's Training


Arnold, Gary, The World and I


Gary Arnold is film critic for The Washington Times.

It was a line straight out of an old movie, but hardly anyone knew that at the time.

"I paid for this microphone, Mr. Green," presidential candidate Ronald Reagan thundered at debate moderator Jon Breen, getting his name wrong, that February night in 1980 in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Breen had instructed sound technicians to turn off Reagan's mike because he had brought along four other Republican candidates to what was billed as a two-man debate between him and George Bush.

Reagan came across as a champion of free speech, open debate, and all things healthily American. Nothing Bush could say after that could change the new dynamic.

And not until years later did journalists and pundits realize that Reagan's outburst came originally, nearly word for word, from the mouth of Spencer Tracy as an upstanding presidential candidate in Frank Capra's 1948 movie State of the Union.

By that time, the nation was used to the way Reagan could mesh life and art.

Indeed, Reagan's triumphs as a two-term governor of California and then a two-term president of the United States derived in great measure from the expressive skills and popular rapport he acquired as an entertainer. Using broadcasting and acting as stepping stones to political activism and then candidacy, he was the first president to take advantage of the experience and name recognition gained as a performer in radio, motion pictures, and television.

Earlier presidents had been credited with acting prowess, often by sarcastic opponents. Reagan's first political hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, made the radio an instrument of policy during his famous "fireside chats." However, Reagan was the first president who literally apprenticed as a prominent professional actor.

He also may have been the last presidential aspirant who could claim such an apprenticeship for its own sake. He had not envisioned himself as a politician until middle age. His path to Washington looped way around the beaten path that leads from law school to elective office. All politically ambitious celebrities now realize that show business can culminate in the White House.

Making the leap

Radio and motion pictures flourished as new mass entertainment media more or less simultaneously in the early decades of the twentieth century. When talkies began to supplant silent movies permanently in 1928 and 1929, the mutual interests of broadcasting and Hollywood were decisively enhanced. Performers who attracted a following in one medium were potential draws in another.

Although singers, comedians, and dance bands were the likeliest prospects for combining radio careers with movie careers, Ronald Reagan demonstrated that the leap to Hollywood also could be navigated from regional sports broadcasting.

Active in both dramatics and athletics while attending Eureka College in Illinois, Reagan contemplated an acting career but found it more prudent to try broadcasting when he began job hunting as a recent graduate in the summer of 1932. Chicago was a major source of radio programming at the time and much closer to home.

Reagan was not hired in Chicago, but he did catch on at WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. A 50,000-watt station that reached most of the Midwest, it brought him a national audience within a few years. When WHO became an NBC affiliate, he was heard on coast-to-coast sports broadcasts. His beat eventually included reporting on the Chicago Cubs' spring training activities from Catalina Island, a favorite vacation retreat for the movie colony in nearby Hollywood.

In addition to his frequent coverage of football, baseball, track, and swimming, Reagan interviewed entertainers who were working in Des Moines. One, band singer Joy Hodge, introduced him to Hollywood agent Bill Meiklejohn when their paths crossed in Los Angeles in the spring of 1937. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Silver Screen to White House; President Drew on His Entertainer's Training
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.