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The evolution of Ronald and Nancy Reagan from supporting actors to leading roles

Separately, the Reagans were run of the mill Hollywood B-listers. Together, they became an indomitable right-wing political couple

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Nancy with Ronald in hospital after the assassination attempt in 1981. Photo: Reuters

Nancy with Ronald in hospital after the assassination attempt in 1981. Photo: Reuters

Ronald and Nancy as president and first lady in 1988. Photo: Getty Images

Ronald and Nancy as president and first lady in 1988. Photo: Getty Images

Ronald and Nancy at the première of Moby Dick in 1956

Ronald and Nancy at the première of Moby Dick in 1956

Ronald and Nancy in Hellcats of the Navy in 1957

Ronald and Nancy in Hellcats of the Navy in 1957

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Nancy with Ronald in hospital after the assassination attempt in 1981. Photo: Reuters

July 6 marks the centenary of Nancy Reagan’s birth and were the former first lady in a position to comment, she would be up in arms about a new biography by Karen Tumulty. When Nancy died in 2016, obituaries praised her wifely devotion to ‘Ronnie’, her fierce stewardship of him after he got Alzheimer’s and her principled stands on family values and drugs.

But in The Triumph of Nancy Reagan, which is by no means a hatchet job, we hear about her more controlling and neurotic side, particularly during the Reagans’ eight-year stint at the White House. The couple were undeniably close, but at times in an almost co-dependent way: she called him ‘Ronnie’, he called her ‘Mommie’, which seems vaguely creepy, and woe betide anyone who got in her husband’s way.


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