Reagan was proud of his Hollywood career, and would surely have wanted it remembered and mentioned today. It happens that I saw Kings Row for the first time a couple of months ago. The movie itself is more or less preposterous, a whole field full of stale corn, but I marveled at the late-romantic beauties of the Erich Wolfgang Korngold score-more Straussian than Strauss-and I was no less surprised to discover that Reagan was a damned good actor. The only Reagan movie I’d ever seen was Bedtime for Bonzo, not exactly a fair test of his skills, but he was definitely up to the challenge of the demanding part he played in Kings Row. (In case you’ve forgotten, it’s the one where he wakes up, sees that his legs have been amputated, and shrieks “Where’s the rest of me?”)
Just to confirm my first impressions, I looked up Otis Ferguson’s 1941 New Republic review of the film, and found that it refers in passing to “Ronald Reagan, who is good and no surprise.” Obviously Ferguson, the best American film critic of his generation, took Reagan’s gifts for granted-surely the finest kind of tribute.