The Vault

Photo: Ronnie Reagan, Teen Idol, All Dressed for the Beach

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Most people know that Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood star before he became President. Most probably don’t know that he was also the “New Answer to Maiden’s Prayers,” at least according to the December 1939 issue of Motion Picture Magazine. (Click through to read pages 2 and 3 of this article.)

This article was part of a publicity push on the part of Reagan’s studio, Warner Bros., following the unexpected success of “Brother Rat” (1938), in which Reagan played a Virginia Military Institute “Rat” (or cadet) who falls for the comely Jane Wyman (later to become his first wife). According to the article, the B movie inspired a rush of fan mail, with girls exclaiming “Dear Ronnie: I am in love with your voice, it is so soothing and rich.” 

“New Answer to Maiden’s Prayers” provides the sort of personal information for which Reagan’s new fans were hungering: he grew up lifeguarding, saving “77 lives in 7 summers”; his nickname was “Dutch”; he found a job as a sports radio announcer, but his true, secret aspiration had always been to act.  The author observed that Ronnie was “very simple,” and seemed “just like the boy you knew in high school or college.” More unusually, he loved world politics, and insisted on a girlfriend that would share that love.

Years before Reagan’s move to the Governor’s office, the All-American, “every man” characteristics that would structure his Presidential image were already coming into focus. 

Scans of Motion Picture Magazine, along with those of many other publications that covered film and media in the first half of the twentieth century, are available through the Media History Digital Library.

Reagan Teen Idol

Image from Motion Picture Magazine, December 1939. Courtesy of the Media History Digital Library. Click here to read page 2 of the article. Click here to read page 3.