Forgotten Classics: James Dean & Ronald Reagan

Senior Editor
04.21.10 10 Comments

Few people today know that before Ronald Reagan won the Cold War by arm wrestling Mikhail Gorbechev and personally conquered Granada on horseback (as I learned in this history book I bought in Texas), he was an actor.  That’s right, he delivered lines on cue and faked emotions on command like a trained monkey.  How this could possibly have prepared him for a career in politics is anyone’s guess.  In any case, in 1954, he starred in this long lost episode of General Electric Theater, “The Dark, Dark Hours,” opposite up and comer James Dean, who I embarrassingly learned last week is not the sausage guy.  Writes The Atlantic‘s John Moroney:

No one has seen this episode in the decades since; the kinescope has been locked away, until now. My friend Wayne Federman, a writer for NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, unearthed the broadcast, condensing it from its original 23 minutes (without commercials) into the six-minute version you see below. (Federman is planning a retrospective of Reagan’s television career for next year’s Reagan centennial.) [via HuffPo]

The above video is a condensed, six-minute version of the 23-minute original.  James Dean plays a dangerous, jazz-lovin’ hepcat who brings his wounded buddy into Dr. Reagan’s house to get him fixed up at gun point.  But he’s all threats and jive talk and finger snaps, and soon it all goes to pieces.  He wasn’t a bad kid, he just got seduced by the beat of that rambunctious, negro jungle music and it got him all mixed up inside.  But in doing, he taught as all a valuable lesson.  Things were so much simpler then.

-Thanks, Erswi

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