Saturday, July 07, 2007

July 6, 1921:

Nancy Reagan's Birthday

Though no one knew it at the time, the only movie ever made to star both a president and first lady was 1957's Hellcats of the Navy, a submarine picture with Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis, who turns 86 today. Davis had married Reagan in 1951, a few years after his marriage with another actress, Jane Wyman, ended. It was Nancy's last picture; her husband's was The Killers in 1964, just before he started on the political path that would take the both of them to the White House in the 1980s.

For a Hollywood marriage, the Reagans' was remarkably durable: about 53 years. That's also quite long among presidential marriages, only a few of which have been over 50 years. Both John Adams and his son John Qunicy were married over 50 years, and in the 20th century, besides the Reagans, the Trumans, Eisenhowers and Nixons also celebrated golden wedding anniversaries. George H.W. and Barbara Bush have been married the longest thus far, however, over 62 years now.

As for Hellcats of the Navy, "Submarine movies are almost an entire genre unto themselves... [for example], there has to be a 'silent running' scene where the crew hunker down as quiet as church mice and try to avoid detection by an enemy destroyer," notes the movie review web site Rotten Tomatoes. "The destroyer naturally detects the sub at some point, and men brace themselves against the impact of depth charges. Damage ensues, with water leaking in and spraying about.

"Hellcats of the Navy is no exception, following the requirements of the submarine genre to the letter. There are also several conventions of war films that this movie follows; some characters are killed in action, of course, and they tend to be exactly the ones a viewer would expect. If this were an episode of Star Trek, they would all have been wearing red shirts. There is also a fairly unrealistic moment where Commander Abbott [Reagan] dons a wetsuit and ventures outside the sub by himself to try to effect important repairs; this is, of course, strictly a Hollywood idea, and one could easily imagine William Shatner doing exactly the same thing.

"Another war movie cliché is the love triangle, involving a conveniently placed nurse. The nurse in this case is Lt. Helen Blair, played of course by future First Lady Nancy Davis. Her triangle involves Abbott, who recently ended a relationship with her, and Wes Barton, an officer aboard Abbott's sub, who has been seeing her on the rebound. Davis isn't given much to do in her part, but she does a good job of playing the slightly war-weary realist. Hers is a role that calls for a certain maturity, not starry-eyed romantic innocence, and she does well with what she has to work with. The conventions of the genre would normally call for her to be merely a prize for Abbott and Barton to fight over, but both the script and her performance give her an identity and strength beyond what one might normally expect."

Today is also George W. Bush's birthday (61), but he is still very much with us.

1 comment:

Milly said...

Really, I wish you a very Happy Birthday. President Reagan is one of my favorite Presidents. And I was a fan of his when I saw the movie, "She's Working Her Way Through". You are in my other favorite movie, "Hellcats of the Navy".

So, I am thinking of you today. And wish you the best in years to come.

Sincerely Milly Leonard