How THR Founder Billy Wilkerson Played Cupid to the Reagans

The Hollywood Reporter
How THR Founder Billy Wilkerson Played Cupid to the Reagans
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How THR Founder Billy Wilkerson Played Cupid to the Reagans

This story first appeared in the November 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Perhaps the strangest by-product of The Hollywood Reporter founder Billy Wilkerson's anti-communism campaign was the right-wing-meet-cute story of Nancy Davis and Ronald Reagan.

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On Oct. 28, 1949, Wilkerson erroneously named the 28-year-old actress as a communist sympathizer when he published a list of those who had signed an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to toss out the convictions of screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and John Howard Lawson. Distraught, Davis sought the counsel of director Mervyn LeRoy, who contacted his friend Reagan, then head of the Screen Actors Guild.

According to LeRoy's 1974 autobiography, Take One, the future 40th U.S. president soon dialed her up, asking if they might have dinner to discuss her concerns.

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"My first thought when I opened the door was, 'This is wonderful,' " Nancy later recalled. "He looks as good in person as he does on the screen!" They married in March 1952.

 

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