Ronald Reagan filmography

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back of man sitting in a director's chair
Ronald Reagan as the host of General Electric Theater

The filmography of Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) includes many motion pictures and television episodes. Reagan's acting career began in 1937 when he contracted with Warner Bros. Apart from his absence during World War II, Reagan would make most of his movies with Warner Bros. With the studio, he starred in such films as Dark Victory, Knute Rockne, All American, and Kings Row – which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1943.

During World War II, Reagan served in the Army Air Force, assigned to the film production unit. He acted and narrated military training films such as Recognition of the Japanese Zero Fighter and Beyond the Line of Duty, the latter of which later won the Academy Award for Best Short film. He returned to acting after the war but never achieved stardom. In 1952, he married fellow actress Nancy Davis.

When his film roles began to dwindle in the mid-1950s, Reagan turned to television, where he hosted and acted in a number of programs, most notably as host of the General Electric Theater for eight years on CBS. Reagan retired from acting in 1965, and he became active in Republican politics, being elected as Governor of California in 1966, and later as President of the United States in 1980.

Entertainment career[edit]

Reagan, born in Illinois, moved to California and took a screen test in 1937 that led to a seven-year contract with Warner Bros.[1] He spent the first few years of his Hollywood career in the "B film" unit, where, Reagan joked, the producers "didn't want them good, they wanted them Thursday".[2] While sometimes overshadowed by other actors, Reagan's screen performances did receive many good reviews.[2]

His first screen credit was the starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is on the Air, and by the end of 1939 he had already appeared in 19 films.[3] In 1938 he starred alongside Jane Wyman in Brother Rat. They married in 1940, having a child, Maureen, and adopting a son, Michael. The marriage ended in divorce in 1949.[4]

None of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame... And the last thing he said to me – "Rock", he said – "sometime, when the team is up against it – and the breaks are beating the boys – tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper... I don't know where I'll be then, Rock", he said – "but I'll know about it – and I'll be happy."
Pat O'Brien as Knute Rockne[5]

Before Santa Fe Trail in 1940, he played the role of George "The Gipper" Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American; from it, he acquired the lifelong nickname "the Gipper".[6] In 1941 exhibitors voted him the fifth most popular star from the younger generation in Hollywood.[7] Reagan's favorite acting role was as a double amputee in 1942's Kings Row,[8] in which he recites the line, "Where's the rest of me?", later used as the title of his 1965 autobiography.[9] Many film critics considered Kings Row to be his best movie,[9] though the film was condemned by The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther.[10][11] Although Reagan considered Kings Row the film that "made me a star",[12] he was unable to capitalize on his success because he was ordered to active duty two months after its release, and never regained the "stardom" which he had previously enjoyed.[12]

After the outbreak of war, Reagan, an officer in the Army Reserve, was ordered to active duty in April 1942.[13] Upon the approval of the Army Air Force (AAF), he was transferred to the AAF and was assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit (officially, the 18th AAF Base Unit) in Culver City, California.[14] In January 1943, he was sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit of This Is The Army at Burbank, California.[14] He returned to the First Motion Picture Unit after completing this duty and was promoted to Captain.[15] By the end of the war, his units had produced some 400 training films for the AAF[15] including Beyond the Line of Duty, The Rear Gunner, and This is the Army.

Following military service Reagan resumed his film work. In 1947 Reagan was elected to the position of president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).[16] He was subsequently chosen by the membership to serve seven additional one-year terms, from 1947 to 1952 and in 1959.[16] Reagan led SAG through eventful years that were marked by labor-management disputes, the Taft–Hartley Act, House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings and the Hollywood blacklist era.[16] Reagan continued to become more involved in politics by promoting SAG's values and being the President of SAG.[17]

He met fellow star Nancy Davis in 1950 and they married two years later; the marriage, one of the closest in U.S. political history,[18] resulted in two children: Patti and Ron.[18] Reagan continued his acting career, making films such as The Voice of the Turtle, Bedtime for Bonzo, The Winning Team and Cattle Queen of Montana. Though an early critic of television, Reagan landed fewer film roles in the late 1950s and decided to join the medium.[2] He was hired as the host of General Electric Theater, a series of weekly dramas that became very popular.[2] His contract required him to tour General Electric (GE) plants 16 weeks out of the year, often demanding of him 14 speeches per day.[2] Eventually, the ratings for Reagan's show fell off and GE dropped Reagan in 1962.[19] Reagan, a liberal Democrat, soon began to embrace the conservative views of General Electric's officials,[20][21] in particular those of Lemuel Boulware. The GE executive championed the core tenets of modern American conservatism: free markets, anticommunism, lower taxes, and limited government.[22] After General Electric Theatre, Reagan became a politician. Reagan's entertainment career both aided and hurt his political career. Critics suggested that actors such as Reagan had no place in politics because of a lack of knowledge. However Reagan's image of a strong, true American, which stemmed from his roles in films, drew support for his campaigns. The idea of Reagan being an actor who so easily stepped into politics also helped him gain support from voters who were tired of traditional politics.[23] In 1980 he was elected President of the United States.

Throughout his film career, his mother often answered much of his fan mail.[24] Ronald Reagan was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame when the walk was dedicated on February 9, 1960.[25]


Trailer from Love is on the Air starring Reagan, 1937
photograph of people at a bar in formal wear with label "She's everything a woman can dare to be"
Screenshot from Dark Victory trailer, 1939
photograph of a man and woman
Reagan and Jane Wyman in Brother Rat, 1938
a gathering of men in an American West scene with the two in the foreground peeling potatoes
Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn in Santa Fe Trail
Reagan in Kings Row. Trailer from the 1942 film.
Ronald Reagan and Joan Leslie in This is the Army, 1943 (clip)
Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis in 1957 in Hellcats of the Navy (trailer)
Films of Ronald Reagan
Year Title Role Notes/Reference
1937 Love Is on the Air Andy McCaine
1937 Hollywood Hotel Radio announcer Voice
1938 Sergeant Murphy Private Dennis Reilley
1938 Swing Your Lady Jack Miller
1938 Accidents Will Happen Eric Gregg
1938 Cowboy from Brooklyn Pat Dunn
1938 The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse Radio announcer Voice
1938 Boy Meets Girl Radio announcer at premiere Voice
1938 Girls on Probation Neil Dillon
1938 Brother Rat Dan Crawford Co-starring Jane Wyman
1938 Going Places Jack Withering
1939 Secret Service of the Air Lieutenant "Brass" Bancroft First of the Bancroft series
1939 Dark Victory Alec Hamm
1939 Code of the Secret Service Lieutenant "Brass" Bancroft Second in the Bancroft series
1939 Naughty but Nice Ed "Eddie" Clark
1939 Hell's Kitchen Jim Donohue
1939 The Angels Wash Their Faces Deputy District Attorney Patrick "Pat" Remson
1939 Smashing the Money Ring Lieutenant "Brass" Bancroft Third in the Bancroft series
1939 Sword Fishing Narrator Voice
Nominated for Best Short
1940 Brother Rat and a Baby Dan Crawford Co-starring Jane Wyman
1940 An Angel from Texas Marty Allen With Jane Wyman
1940 Murder in the Air Lieutenant "Brass" Bancroft Fourth film in the Bancroft series
1940 Knute Rockne, All American George "The Gipper" Gipp
1940 Tugboat Annie Sails Again Eddie Kent With Jane Wyman
1940 Alice in Movieland Himself Uncredited[26]
1940 Santa Fe Trail George Armstrong Custer
1941 The Bad Man Gilbert "Gil" Jones Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1941 Million Dollar Baby Peter "Pete" Rowan
1941 International Squadron Jimmy Grant
1941 Nine Lives Are Not Enough Matt Saywer
1942 Recognition of the Japanese Zero Fighter Lt. Saunders Short
1942 Kings Row Drake McHugh Nominated for Best Picture
1942 Juke Girl Steve Talbo
1942 Mister Gardenia Jones Gardenia Jones Nominated for Best Short
1942 Desperate Journey Johnny Hammond
1942 Beyond the Line of Duty[27] Narrator Voice
Best Short
1943 Cadet Classification Narrator Short
1943 The Rear Gunner[27] Lieutenant Ames Nominated for Best Short
1943 For God and Country Father Michael O'Keefe Short
1943 This Is the Army Cpl. Johnny Jones Scoring of a Musical Picture
Nominated for Best Sound
1945 Target Tokyo Narrator[27][28] Voice
1945 The Fight for the Sky Narrator Voice
1945 The Stilwell Road Narrator Voice
1945 Wings for This Man Narrator Voice
1947 Stallion Road Larry Hanrahan
1947 That Hagen Girl Tom Bates
1947 The Voice of the Turtle Sergeant Bill Page Reissued as One for the Book
1949 John Loves Mary John Lawrence
1949 Night Unto Night John Galen
1949 The Girl from Jones Beach Bob Randolph
1949 The Hasty Heart Yank
1949 It's a Great Feeling Cameo
1950 Louisa Harold "Hal" Norton
1951 The Big Truth Narrator/Host Voice
1951 Storm Warning Burt Rainey
1951 The Last Outpost Captain Vance Britten aka Cavalry Charge; Paramount Pictures
1951 Bedtime for Bonzo Professor Peter Boyd Universal
1952 Hong Kong Jeff Williams Paramount Pictures
1952 The Winning Team Grover Cleveland Alexander Warner Brothers
1952 She's Working Her Way Through College Professor John Palmer Warner Brothers
1953 Tropic Zone Dan McCloud Paramount Pictures
1953 Law and Order Frame Johnson Universal
1954 Prisoner of War Webb Sloane Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1954 Cattle Queen of Montana Farrell RKO
1955 Tennessee's Partner Cowpoke RKO
1957 Hellcats of the Navy Commander Casey Abbott Co-starring Nancy Reagan; Columbia Pictures
1961 The Young Doctors Narrator Voice
1963 Heritage of Splendor Narrator Voice
1964 The Killers Jack Browning Universal


Ronald Reagan introduces the GE Theatre episode, "The Honest Man", 1957 (clip)
photograph of a group of people
Publicity photograph for the premiere episode of anthology series The Dick Powell Show, "Who Killed Julie Greer?" Standing, from left: Ronald Reagan, Nick Adams, Lloyd Bridges, Mickey Rooney, Edgar Bergen, Jack Carson, Ralph Bellamy, Kay Thompson, Dean Jones. Seated, from left, Carolyn Jones and Dick Powell. 1961.
Television appearances of Ronald Reagan
Year Show Role Episode
1950 The Nash Airflyte Theater Tommy Blunt "The Case of the Missing Lady"
1952 Hollywood Opening Night "The Priceless Gift"
1953 Medallion Theatre "A Job for Jimmy Valentine"
1953 The Revlon Mirror Theater "Next Stop: Bethlehem"
1953–54 Lux Video Theatre Merle Fisher "A Place in the Sun"
"Message in a Bottle"
1953–54 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars "The Edge of Battle"
"The Jungle Trap"
"The Doctor Comes Home"
1953–54 The Ford Television Theatre Lieutenant Commander Masterson "Beneath These Waters"
Steve Wentworth "And Suddenly, You Knew"
"The First Born"
1954–62 General Electric Theater Host Hosted 235 teleplays;
acted in 35
1955 Walt Disney's Disneyland Co-host "Dateline: Disneyland"
1956 General Electric Summer Originals "Jungle Trap"
1960 The DuPont Show with June Allyson Alan Royce "The Way Home"
1960 Startime Host "The Swingin' Years"
"The Swingin' Singin' Years"
1961 Zane Grey Theatre Major Will Sinclair "The Long Shadow"
1961–63 The Dick Powell Show Guest Host "The Last of the Private Eyes"
Rex Kent "Who Killed Julie Greer?"
1963 Wagon Train Captain Paul Winters "The Fort Pierce Story"
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Judge Howard R. Stimming "A Cruel and Unusual Night"
1964–65 Death Valley Days Host Acted in eight episodes


  • Robert Paul Metzger (1989). Reagan, American Icon. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • "Ronald Reagan – Filmography". AllMovie. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  • "Ronald Reagan Films". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Retrieved May 1, 2012.

(for releases not mentioned in the "General" sources)

  1. ^ "Biography – A Hero from the Heartland". Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved January 23, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cannon, Lou (June 6, 2004). "Actor, Governor, President, Icon". The Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved January 26, 2008.
  3. ^ "Ronald Reagan – Hollywood Years". Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. Archived from the original on March 12, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2007.
  4. ^ Severo, Richard. (September 11, 2007). "Jane Wyman, 90, Star of Film and TV, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2008.
  5. ^ "Knute Rockne's "Win One for the Gipper" Speech". University of Notre Dame. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Cannon (2001), p. 15
  7. ^ "Cupid's Influence on the Film Box-Office". The Argus. Melbourne. October 4, 1941. p. 7 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved April 24, 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ Reagan, Ronald (1965). Where's the Rest of Me?. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce. ISBN 0-283-98771-5.
  9. ^ a b Wood, Brett. "Kings Row". TCM website. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley (February 3, 1942). "The Screen; 'Kings Row,' With Ann Sheridan and Claude Rains, a Heavy, Rambling Film, Has Its First Showing Here at the Astor". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2007.
  11. ^ Cannon (2003), pp. 56–57
  12. ^ a b Friedrich, Otto (1997). City of nets: a portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s. University of California Press (reprint). pp. 86–89. ISBN 978-0-520-20949-7.
  13. ^ "USS Ronald Reagan: Ronald Reagan". United States Navy. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2007.
  14. ^ a b "President Ronald Reagan". National Museum of the United States Air Force. Archived from the original on December 22, 2007. Retrieved December 30, 2007.
  15. ^ a b "Military service of Ronald Reagan". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Retrieved June 22, 2007.
  16. ^ a b c "Screen Actors Guild Presidents: Ronald Reagan". Screen Actors Guild. Archived from the original on December 28, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  17. ^ "American President: Ronald Wilson Reagan: Life Before the Presidency." The Miller Center. Ed. Lou Cannon. University of Virginia, Miller Center, n.d. Web. 10 May 2014. <>.
  18. ^ a b "End of a Love Story". BBC News. June 5, 2004. Retrieved January 23, 2008.
  19. ^ Cannon (2003), p. 113.
  20. ^ "Corporate spokesman and rising conservative – Ronald Reagan – policy, election, foreign". Retrieved August 12, 2011.
  21. ^ "The Education of Ronald Reagan". Retrieved August 12, 2011.
  22. ^ Thomas W. Evans, The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism (2008).
  23. ^ De Groot, Gerard. "A Goddamned Electable Person: The 1966 California Gubernatorial Campaign Of Ronald Reagan". Wiley Blackwell. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  24. ^ Skinner, et al. (2003), p. 836
  25. ^ "Ronald Reagan's Pre-Presidential Time Line, 1911–1980". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  26. ^ Stephanie Thames. "Jean Negulesco Shorts". Turner Entertainment Networks. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  27. ^ a b c Helfer, Andrew (author), Steve Buccatello (artist), and Joe Station (artist). Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography. Hill and Wang. 25.
  28. ^ "Target Tokyo." Victory in the Pacific. PBS. Accessed October 9, 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • McClure, Arthur et al. Ronald Reagan: A Bibliography of the Movie Years. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988.
  • Thomas, Tony. The Films of Ronald Reagan. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1980.

External links[edit]