Vintage: Ronald Reagan – Life Before the Presidency (1940s-1960s)

Vintage: Ronald Reagan – Life Before the Presidency (1940s-1960s)


Ronald Reagan began as a Hollywood Democrat; Franklin D. Roosevelt was his great hero. He moved to the right in the 1950s, became a Republican in 1962, and emerged as a leading conservative spokesman in the Goldwater campaign of 1964.

In his early political career, he joined numerous political committees with a left-wing orientation, such as the American Veterans Committee. He fought against Republican-sponsored right-to-work legislation and supported Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950 when she was defeated for the Senate by Richard Nixon. It was his realization that Communists were a powerful backstage influence in those groups that led him to rally his friends against them.

Reagan spoke frequently at rallies with a strong ideological dimension; in December 1945, he was stopped from leading an anti-nuclear rally in Hollywood by pressure from the Warner Bros. studio. He would later make nuclear weapons a key point of his presidency, specifically his opposition to mutual assured destruction, and he built on previous efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. In the 1948 presidential election, Reagan strongly supported Harry S. Truman, appearing on stage with him during a campaign speech in Los Angeles. However, in the early 1950s, as his relationship with actress Nancy Davis grew, he shifted to the right and endorsed the presidential candidacies of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 as well as Richard Nixon in 1960.

1954  Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck pose for a promo still for Cattle Queen of Montana.  Image: Pressefoto Kindermann/ullstein bild/Getty Images

1954 Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck pose for a promo still for Cattle Queen of Montana. Image: Pressefoto Kindermann/ullstein bild/Getty Images

1953  Reagan poses in a promo still for Tropic Zone.  Image: Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

1953 Reagan poses in a promo still for Tropic Zone. Image: Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

1952  Reagan and Virginia Mayo perform in She's Working Her Way Through College.  Image: Corbis

1952 Reagan and Virginia Mayo perform in She’s Working Her Way Through College. Image: Corbis

c. 1955  Image: A787/GAMMA/Getty Images

c. 1955 Image: A787/GAMMA/Getty Images

Dec. 7, 1950  Reagan performs with Cloris Leachman on an episode of Nash Airflyte Theater.  Image: CBS/Getty Images

Dec. 7, 1950 Reagan performs with Cloris Leachman on an episode of Nash Airflyte Theater. Image: CBS/Getty Images

1941  Reagan in The Bad Man.  Image: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

1941 Reagan in The Bad Man. Image: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

1951  Reagan feeds his simian costar in Bedtime for Bonzo.  Image: Bettmann/Corbis

1951 Reagan feeds his simian costar in Bedtime for Bonzo. Image: Bettmann/Corbis

c. 1955  Image: A787/GAMMA/Getty Images

c. 1955 Image: A787/GAMMA/Getty Images

c. 1960  Image: A787/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

c. 1960 Image: A787/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

1942  Reagan in Kings Row.  Image: Bettmann/Corbis

1942 Reagan in Kings Row. Image: Bettmann/Corbis

Dec. 7, 1950  Reagan performs with Cloris Leachman on an episode of Nash Airflyte Theater.  Image: CBS/Getty Images

Dec. 7, 1950 Reagan performs with Cloris Leachman on an episode of Nash Airflyte Theater. Image: CBS/Getty Images

1954  Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck in a publicity still for Cattle Queen of Montana.  Image: CinemaPhoto/Corbis

1954 Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck in a publicity still for Cattle Queen of Montana. Image: CinemaPhoto/Corbis

1958  Reagan performs in the General Electric Theater CBS teleplay The Lord's Dollar.  Image: Underwood Archives/Getty Images

1958 Reagan performs in the General Electric Theater CBS teleplay The Lord’s Dollar. Image: Underwood Archives/Getty Images

1954  A promo still for Cattle Queen of Montana.  Image: BENHAMOU SERGE/GAMMA/Getty Images

1954 A promo still for Cattle Queen of Montana. Image: BENHAMOU SERGE/GAMMA/Getty Images

Dec. 7, 1950  Reagan gets made up for an appearance on an episode of Nash Airflyte Theatre.  Image: CBS/Getty Images

Dec. 7, 1950 Reagan gets made up for an appearance on an episode of Nash Airflyte Theatre. Image: CBS/Getty Images

c. 1955  Image: A787/GAMMA/Getty Images

c. 1955 Image: A787/GAMMA/Getty Images

1955  Reagan performs on the television show Death Valley Days.  Image: US Borax/Getty Images

1955 Reagan performs on the television show Death Valley Days. Image: US Borax/Getty Images

1951  Reagan performs with Rhonda Fleming in The Last Outpost.  Image: Mondadori/Getty Images

1951 Reagan performs with Rhonda Fleming in The Last Outpost. Image: Mondadori/Getty Images

1952  Reagan performs in The Winning Team alongside Dorothy Adams and Doris Day.  Image: Warner Bros./Getty Images

1952 Reagan performs in The Winning Team alongside Dorothy Adams and Doris Day. Image: Warner Bros./Getty Images

May 2, 1940  Ronald Reagan poses for a sculpture class at the University of Southern California.  Image: Bettmann/Corbis

May 2, 1940 Ronald Reagan poses for a sculpture class at the University of Southern California. Image: Bettmann/Corbis

c. 1960  Image: A787/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

c. 1960 Image: A787/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images


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