Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

Here Comes The Bride—Ronald Reagan & Nancy Davis

Almost any night you care to drive down Beverly Boulevard in Hollywood and then pull into the parking lot beside Dave Chasen’s fancy restaurant, you are more than likely to run into Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis. You can almost set your watch by the time they arrive in Ronnie’s car—seven-forty-five—and walk through the front door of the famous cafe.

Inside there is no waiting. The lobby can be full of tourists and Hollywood big shots, but Ronnie and Nancy push right through them and are escorted to a front line table where a neat “reserved” sign is whisked away and a waiter hurries up with a menu. They dine slowly and then, for an hour or so, sit back with coffee and visit with the table-hoppers.

Yes, almost any night you will be able to observe this little scene, and, if you are like most folks, you will attach little importance to it. But you will be wrong. It is highly significant. It is very significant, indeed.

Time was when a young man, wishing to express publicly his honorable intentions, slipped a diamond rock on the third finger of his lady’s hand and they called it an engagement and everybody laughed and cried and congratulated the happy couple. It still happens—even in Hollywood. But, nowadays, particularly in Hollywood, the custom has been for the young man to slip into a panic when anybody brings up the matter of honorable intentions. Not that he’s against them, of course, he just thinks, generally, that they’re his own personal intentions and nobody else’s business.

But Hollywood has other ways of discovering just how far a local fellow plans to carry his courtship. Watching his dining habits, oddly enough, is one of them. If he takes his girl trotting around to all the cafes, a different one each night maybe, he’s probably very fond of her. But, if he takes her to the same spot each evening, that means it’s more serious. And if he has a reserved table each night, and dining with his girl at that table regularly has become a habit, the Hollywood folks know they belong to one another—and they accept that little situation as being as binding as a diamond, as big as a battleship. The only logical follow-up, they know, is a wedding cake some night and the corks popping out of champagne bottles.

If you were to ask Ronnie Reagan if he is going to marry Nancy Davis he’d more than likely grin and tell you a funny story. If you were to ask Nancy, she’d make a joke and then tell you to ask Ronnie—who would tell you another funny story. So the best thing to do is not ask them. Just believe that the Hollywood custom of eating at the same reserved table each night is answer enough—and get a congratulations card ready to send them.

As far as this reporter is concerned, a casting director couldn’t pick a more “married” looking couple. And in every other way you can estimate they are perfect for each other.

Ladies first, so let’s start with Nancy. She is the daughter of one of Chicago’s wealthiest and most socially prominent families. Her father is a famous neurosurgeon. She was reared in strict observance of the niceties of living. She attended the finest schools and when she came out she was one of the most sought after young ladies in the mid-west. She is neither star-struck nor movie-struck. She liked to act and when it came time to choose a profession she took up acting. She was good enough at it to come to Hollywood on her own, with no pull, and to make a name for herself in short order. There is no frivolity in her makeup. Fun, yes, but no nonsense—and any romance she indulges in will be a serious one or very, very short-lived. In total, she is a substantial woman.

If Ronald Reagan wasn’t an actor, he would more than likely be the president of the biggest bank in the town in which he lived, or the mayor, or a senator or something important. His background is not as rigid as Nancy’s. In his youth, he Was a sports announcer on the radio and, when he first came to Hollywood, something of a roof-raiser. But, with marriage—to Jane Wyman—he matured and began to take an active interest in the community life in Hollywood, in politics and, most particularly, in the Screen Actors Guild, of which he is president. Today, he, too, can be called substantial. 

It excellent casting, but if that’s all it took to make a marriage, people could pick mates out of telephone books and high school annuals. But Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis have something else going for them. They’re in love.

Away back, three years ago, although it seems like more, they were hanging crepe on Ronald Reagan’s heart. His separation from Jane Wyman was one of the biggest shocks Hollywood had received in a long time. There had never been a hint of gossip about either one of them. They seemed the happiest couple in town and, with their two children, Maureen and Michael, the happiest family. Then one day a gossip columnist hit the front pages with the story that they had parted. Because they were both big stars, the press plagued them night and day. Ronnie went into seclusion and Jane wouldn’t talk. Then, when a divorce action was filed, Jane said simply—and without doubt, truthfully—that Ronnie’s Guild and political activities had caused them to drift so far apart that their marriage couldn’t be mended. Unlike most Hollywood divorces there was not the slightest hint of scandal.

But in the months that followed, all Hollywood began to feel sorry for Ronald Reagan. He lived alone, simply, in a small hotel and took all of his meals and minor pleasures in the company of other couples or fellows. No girl, it seemed, would ever get close enough to the Reagan heart to hurt it again.

There is no question about it. Ronnie did carry a torch—for a reasonable period of time. He was a pretty unhappy guy. Then one day he seemed to change. He showed up at one of the strip night clubs with a date—some unknown girl, pretty and good company. He began to see people he had avoided for a long time. He didn’t announce it, but he was through mourning and he wanted to get into the normal swim again.

However, there is nothing a gossip columnist hates more than a repaired bleeding heart. If Ronnie was observed at a party laughing while he sat up close to a doll the gossipers would state: “Ronnie Reagan isn’t fooling anybody with that gay attitude he effects at parties these evenings. His heart is still breaking for Jane Wyman. Too bad.”

At first Ronnie used to complain bitterly about these items to his friends.

“Why,” he would cry, “don’t they leave me alone? Why won’t they believe that I can live a normal life?”

When they didn’t leave him alone, he began to make this speech—or similar ones—publicly, with, some people think, rather disastrous effect. The press descended on him as though he had just sawed one of their group in two. They howled—and Ronnie howled back. But whether it was by accident, or design, they stopped talking about Sorrowful Reagan and began printing stories about Ronald Reagan, the foe of the press. Maybe Ronnie laughed about that privately.

Ronald Reagan’s courtship of Nancy Davis began so quietly that nobody noticed it at first. Nancy, although one of Metro’s brightest hopes, was not very well known and, not being much of a publicity seeker herself, she didn’t get her name in the papers very much. She was not interested in any particular man, so she didn’t go out often.

One evening, at a Guild board meeting, it developed that there was a temporary vacancy, due to a member’s taking a leave of absence. Someone suggested that Nancy might be a good replacement. The board moved that she be called upon to serve—and it was ordered that the Guild president be delegated to ask her.

There are, in the Guild, two girls named Nancy Davis. Faced with this fact the next morning, Ronnie, as President and appointed solicitor, called Nancy’s house and the conversation naturally got a little off the usual track. Not wanting to ask the wrong Miss Davis to serve, Ronnie had to ask a number of pretty personal questions, so that by the time the conversation was over there had been quite a bit of laughter. Both Nancy and Ronnie enjoyed it and before hanging up, Ronnie suggested that they really ought to get together and meet personally. Nancy agreed. They had dinner that night—and have had it together nearly every night since.

At first, not wanting to bring the gossipers down on his head with more questions, Nancy and Ronnie did things his way. They ate in out-of-the-way places and steered clear of the night clubs. The Bill Holdens, Ronnie’s close friends, approved of the whole business and, it is supposed, encouraged it. Then, after a few weeks of steady dating, Ronnie took Nancy out to a well known cafe. Nobody seemed to pay any attention, so he did it again—and before Hollywood knew it, everyone was used to seeing Ronnie Reagan and Nancy Davis together.

When the gossipers did get wise to the fact that Ronnie had a steady girl friend they almost scared him away. All of a sudden they began to print stories of a coming marriage—all at once. Ronnie, as anyone who talked to him about it at that time well knows, was scared to death. He had honestly never even thought of marriage—and when he did, it terrified him. It is a matter of record that, although he seldom even looked at another girl, he tried to get the studio publicity people to link his name with other women—any other women—to stop the marriage talk.

When Nancy was questioned at that time, she didn’t know what to say. She was in love with Ronnie and quite possibly knew she would someday marry him, but she didn’t want to have her hopes set up in type. She hemmed and hawed, because she’s not very good at lying, and the reporters interpreted her answers as they best suited them. For a time it looked as though it would spoil everything. But, thank heaven, it didn’t.

It was just about a year ago that Ronnie and Nancy apparently decided they were going to ignore the papers and live their lives the way they wanted to, make their own decisions and their own announcements—at a time of their own choice. Nancy began to look after Ronnie, more than just a casual girl friend would. She spent as much time as she could out at his valley horse ranch, working, and she’d go home at night dog tired but happy. Although she had never had much experience with rural matters, she began to study the care and breeding of horses and soon became quite an authority on the subject.

And it was about a year ago that Ronnie began treating Nancy like his only girl. It was then that he started that table every night at Chasens.

At the present time, Nancy Davis lives in a small apartment in Westwood. She furnished it before she met Ronnie, but they say she has been changing pieces, pieces that wouldn’t look just right in a big ranch-type house. Ronnie lives in a larger apartment just north of Hollywood, and people who visit it pretty often say that he seems to have lost all interest in decorating it. For a time he had big plans. Changes he was going to make that would turn his place into a real bachelor’s haven. But the plans have been forgotten.

One of the things that may have made Ronald Reagan decide that this was love was an illness that Nancy had just about a year ago. It was nothing serious, but for a time it looked as though it might be—and Nancy had to go back to Chicago where her dad had the finest specialists check her and treat her. Before she left, she was cheerful, but plainly a bit scared. She had nobody to talk to in Hollywood, really, but Ronnie—and as fast as he could get away from the sound stages at the end of the day he would be over at Nancy’s apartment to cheer her up.

When she was east, he talked to her on the phone every night and it might have been then that he realized he would miss her more than he could bear if she ever left him. At any rate, when she came back, well and no longer concerned, he hardly let her out of his sight.

There are other things, beyond the obvious, that Ronnie Reagan and Nancy Davis have in common. Besides having a strong sense of civic duty, they are spiritually attuned. Ronnie is a devout young man, believing deeply in his faith—and Nancy is very much the same. Although they don’t attend church as much as either of them think they should, they both feel that it gives them a cleaner outlook to cleave to a religious belief.

Another thing that Nancy and Ronnie have in common is their love for children and this is very important. The future Mrs. Ronald Reagan will have to be a good mother, for there is nothing more important to Ronnie than his two kids. It would not be fair to say that Ronnie put Nancy through a test in this matter, but it is true that she had to win her way into Maureen’s and Mike’s hearts on her own. When she first met them, never having been married and, of course, childless, Nancy was rather terrified of two husky healthy off-spring of the man she loved. But she soon found out what they were interested in—and made it her business to learn about these things.

At first it was horses. Nancy came through the horse stage with flying colors. She began to ride, badly at first, but later regularly and excellently. The kids admired this and Nancy scored one. Then it was animal husbandry in general. This, of course, has to do with caring for animals and cleaning sheds and barns. Nancy soon proved herself a quite capable hand at these chores—and scored two. Probably the most severe test for Nancy, however, was the fidelity test. To Maureen and Mike, as to most kids, their Dad was the boss man of the universe—and what he said went. That wasn’t too hard for Nancy to go along with, for it is certain that she feels the same way about her man. But anyway, when the kids had time to observe that Nancy could take orders and execute them without mutiny she was in.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Reagan” is something Hollywood never expected to see above a doorbell again, but that is in the past. The man who acted like a man during his sorrowful time of divorce, and who carried his head high when he was deeply hurt, is a whole man again—able to have a family and home once more.

So, the next time you are in Hollywood, and the dusk is beginning to settle and the lights come on, drive down Beverly Boulevard and stop at Dave Chasen’s fancy restaurant. Drop in and stand in the crowd that waits for tables, and when Ronnie Reagan and Nancy Davis walk in through the crowd and over to their accustomed place, don’t just say you saw a couple of movie stars. Say you saw Ronnie Reagan and his Nancy—and when you saw her she was wearing a diamond ring as big as the top of a cafe table.





No Comments
Leave a Comment