The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

THE PRESIDENT'S LADIES: Jane Wyman and Nancy Davis by Bernard F Dick

Product Details
Publisher:  University of Press of Mississippi
Expected Release Date:  April 8, 2014
Pages:  272

About the Book:  Ronald Reagan, a former actor and one of America's most popular presidents, married not one but two Hollywood actresses. This book is three biographies in one, discovering fascinating connections among Jane Wyman (1917-2007), Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), and Nancy Davis (b. 1921).
Jane Wyman, who married Reagan in 1940 and divorced him seven years later, knew an early life of privation. She gravitated to the movies and made her debut at fifteen as an unbilled member of the chorus, then toiled as an extra for four years until she finally received billing. She proved herself as a dramatic actress in The Lost Weekend, and the following year, she was nominated for an Oscar forThe Yearling and soon won for her performance in Johnny Belinda, in which she did not speak a single line. Other Oscar nominations followed, along with a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Angela Channing in Falcon Crest.
Conversely, Nancy Davis led a relatively charmed life, the daughter of an actress and the stepdaughter of a neurosurgeon. Surrounded by her mother's friends--Walter Huston, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Lillian Gish, and Alla Nazimova, her godmother--Davis started in the theater, then moved on to Hollywood, where she enjoyed modest success, and finally began working in television. When she married Reagan in 1952, she unwittingly married into politics, eventually leaving acting to concentrate on being the wife of the governor of California, and then the wife of the president of the United States. In her way, Davis played her greatest role as Reagan's friend, confidante, and adviser in life and in politics.
This book considers three actors who left an indelible mark on both popular and political culture for more than fifty years.

Wanda's Thoughts:  Too much information! This turned out to be more of a filmography than the biographies of three very interesting individuals. There were endless details on film roles - movies made by Wyatt, Reagan, and Davis. The author did a wonderful job putting their movie careers into perspective, but I didn't need the endless details of other films being made at the same time - too much! There is some interesting information revealed about their personal lives, but then the author veered off in another direction - usually about more films. 

Some interesting information ---

Reagan was Jane's third husband, she was his first wife and Nancy was his second. To the press, Jane and Reagan, known as "Jane and Ronnie," were the perfect couple. Wyman won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Reagan never earned an Oscar nomination, never truly a star, but went on to much greater fame. Nancy became known as "the puppet master pulling Reagan's strings."

Jane Wyman - Hardened by a childhood of desertion, Jane developed the will to succeed. As a Hollywood star, she vowed to let nothing stand in her way, and nothing did, including her husbands. Unfortunately, marriage was not Jane's strong suit - there were five in all. Jane was never able to be a politician's wife. She felt inferior to her politically savvy husband. Politics were Reagan's forte, but certainly not Jane's. They had two children - Maureen, born one year after the marriage, and Michael, an adopted son. Jane was too immersed in her career, and being a mother was not a good role for her.

Ronald Reagan - After graduation from college as a sociology major, Reagan was not able to find a job and developed a movie career, but never became a great screen icon. He was a natural politician and was destined for something higher. After a failed marriage to Jane, he married the perfect wife for his political career, Nancy Davis. He became governor of California in 1966 and then on to be the 40th president of the United States in 1980.

Nancy Davis - Born Anne Francis Robbins, but she became known to movie goers, in the 1950s, as Nancy Davis. She continued in the movie industry until 1957, but she was not meant for stardom. After marrying Reagan, she took on his vision of himself as presidential material, and they begin their journey to the White House. They had two children, Patti and Ron.

I was hoping for more insight into the personal lives of these three individuals, but this was revealed in very small doses in the book. If you're a movie buff, the book might appeal to you. I wavered between a rating of 2-3, finally deciding on 2.5 stars. This book failed to captivate me.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions shared are my own. 

About the Author:  Bernard F. Dick is professor emeritus of communication and English at Fairleigh Dickinson University and is the author of Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind RussellClaudette Colbert: She Walked in BeautyHollywood Madonna: Loretta Young (all published by University Press of Mississippi); and several other books.