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TCM Greatest Classic Legends - Ronald Reagan

by Ed Tapper
Contributor
Monday Nov 4, 2013
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Giving up acting for politics, Ronald Reagan went on to become a US president, and one of the most important men of his age. Ironically, in his key Hollywood films, Reagan seldom received star billing, performing mostly in ensemble with, or playing second fiddle to, stars of greater magnitude. This is the case with the four movies selected by Turner for its new DVD compilation, "TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Ronald Reagan." Befitting a former President, they reflect some aspect of the American experience. All are presented in nice picture quality and contain trailers and varied short subjects as special features.

A hearty slice of Americana, "King’s Row," concerns the lives and loves of Parris and Drake, two close friends in a rural US town in the 1890’s. As the introverted Parris, Robert Cummings has the chief role; though Reagan gives one of his finest screen performances as the feisty Drake. Radiant Ann Sheridan and Betty Field are among the women in their lives in this lushly mounted Warner Brothers soaper. Although the acting is excellent all-around, Korngold’s spectacular musical score is the standout.

"Knut Rockne All American" is one of two sports biopics included in the new set. Not only does Pat O’Brien play the title role, but also Reagan, as a college football hero, is only in the film a few minutes before his character coughs, which, in an old Hollywood movie, means that they will be dead within five minutes. O’Brien’s deadpan acting, the maudlin plot, mundane script, and lackluster supporting cast make this entry pure torture for all but the most fanatical football fans.

...in his key Hollywood films, Reagan seldom received star billing, performing mostly in ensemble with, or playing second fiddle to, stars of greater magnitude.

Somewhat better is "The Winning Team," with Reagan as baseball great Grover Cleveland Alexander. Doris Day received top billing as his long suffering wife, who sees him through the personal problems that checkered his illustrious career. The film culminates in the 1926 World Series, when the St. Louis Cardinals prevailed in a tie-breaking game. Fortunately for Bostonians, history did not repeat itself.

The sleeper, and absolute best of the lot is "Storm Warning." Ginger Rogers stars as a model who visits her newlywed, kid sister (Doris Day) in a small Southern town, only to find that her new brother-in-law (Steve Cochran) is a key member of the local Ku Klux Klan. Reagan shines as a crusading prosecutor in pursuit of the Klan. Influenced by film noir and Italian Neo-Realism , this nightmarish thriller still packs a potent punch.

Though hardly a actor of the highest order, Ronald Reagan distinguished himself in roles well-suited to his temperament. TCM’s new collection offers a reasonable sampling of his cinematic output.

TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Ronald Reagan
DVD
$19.99
www.TCM.com

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