When Ronald Reagan Reassured Hollywood He Wasn't Going Into Politics

Photofest
Host Ronald Reagan in a promo photo for the CBS series 'General Electric Theater,' which ran from 1953-1962

A future president writes a Hollywood Reporter column in 1955 tamping down suggestions he seek political office.

Decades before he made his way to the White House in 1980, Ronald Reagan had been fielding suggestions from backers that he should seek political office. In November 1955, however, the actor, who was then the host of CBS' General Electric Theatre, sought to tamp down these expectations, writing in The Hollywood Reporter that "rest assured that I will never again run for Mayor or anything but head man in my own household." Reagan's original column, titled "TV Helps Me in the Movies," is below.

I have for the past months been doubling — in brass — combining television and motion picture chores. This manifold job has taught me one thing for sure: never again will I allow myself to get into a position where I must make a choice between a seat in Congress and a comfortable position in the arms of my leading lady. 

Actors are citizens and should exert those rights by speaking their minds, but the actor's first duty is to his profession. Hence, you can rest assured that I will never again run for Mayor or anything but head man in my own household. 

You may remember a few seasons back when I was Honorary Mayor of Thousand Oaks [a San Fernando Valley community] and also a candidate for Mayor of Hollywood. It was then that someone seriously approached me with the suggestion that I run for Congress. 

That proved to be the last straw!

I realized then that I was becoming a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the two characters were competing to control me. I selected the Jekyll character — an actor without self-competition. This presented a chance to appear in RKO's Cattle Queen of Montana opposite Barbara Stanwyck. All this plus my regular weekly stint on the General Electric Theatre for television. In addition to my roles of host and program supervisor, I have had a number of acting assignments in offbeat roles for this series that would gladden the heart of any actor.

Now I am getting the biggest chance of my career. My General Electric Theatre bosses have permitted me to produce Seeds of Hate for their series. It's an exciting challenge and I'll have a chance to blame only myself if it doesn't pan out. At least I won't be able to do what many producers are prone to do — blame the cast if the picture fails to pan out. I started right out by signing a top name to star in this attraction.

I am a firm believer in the star system, but I also think that Hollywood should never let the stream run dry by failing to create constantly new stables of stars. The movie industry always has banked on personalities to make money. We must keep replenishing these star rosters with new talent all the time/ I think the success of TV is due in large measure to the stars already created by that medium.

Frankly, only television is doing its part right now to keep the star tradition alive. 

There is no real competition between TV and movies, as some people believe. Actually, since I launched my television career, I have done more feature film work than at any time in my entire career; and, if you will pardon my pride, my pay has been boosted. 

Another thing I enjoy about TV is the opportunity it affords me to get away from Hollywood, travel around the country and meet the people. Much as the movies used to send their stars out on tour, I no make coast-to-coast [trips] for my TV sponsor. In this manner I can keep in constant touch with the public and in that way better understand their moods, their likes and dislikes.