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General Electric Theater Host Ronald Reagan Rejects Script as Sponsors are “gun shy”
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I’m sorry to have to return the script. Our sponsors are very ‘gun shy’ to coin a pun. They lean away from Westerns in general....

RONALD REAGAN. Autograph Letter Signed, to “Howard,” Pacific Palisades, California, [July 1961]. 1 p., 8¼ x 11 in.

Inventory #24514       Price: $1,500

Complete Transcript

RONALD REAGAN

PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA

Dear Howard

            It was good to hear from you except that I’m sorry to have to return the script. Our sponsors are very “gun shy” to coin a pun. They lean away from Westerns in general although they have grudgingly conceded “perhaps we can do one – but it must not be too Western.”

            Your story is of course within the format of “Wagon Train.” We did one 2 seasons back in which I played a Wagon master and they feel we shouldn’t buck “Wagon train” in it’s own ball park.

            I’m sure sorry.

                                                                        Best Regards

                                                                        Ronnie

[Docketing in top margin:] Recd / July 31, 1961

Historical Background

Ronald Reagan hosted the General Electric Theater television program from September 1954 to 1962. The show, which aired on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m., was an anthology series; each episode was an adaptation of a novel, short story, play, film, or magazine fiction.  Many actors and actresses appeared in episodes of the show, and it made Ronald Reagan more famous, wealthy, and improved his communication skills.

In addition to hosting more than 200 episodes of General Electric Theater, Reagan acted in 35 of them.  During Season 7, Reagan played Capt. Whitney in “The Castaway,” which aired in October 1958.  In the story, Capt. Whitney’s offer to Indians to trade a girl for some horses backfires and results in an Indian attack.

The recipient of this letter was likely either Howard Estabrook (1884-1978), an actor, film director and producer, and screenwriter, who had written the script for Cattle Queen of Montana, in which Ronald Reagan starred in 1954, or Howard Hawks (1896-1977), a film director, producer, and screenwriter, who directed and/or produced such classics as Bringing Up Baby (1938), Sergeant York (1941), Red River (1948), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and Rio Bravo (1959). Hawks was also a distant cousin of Nancy Davis Reagan.

In September 1963, in one of his final acting roles, Reagan appeared in an episode of Wagon Train as Capt. Paul Winters in “The Fort Pierce Story.”

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was born in Illinois and graduated from Eureka College in 1932. After working as a sports announcer, he moved to Hollywood in 1937.  Twice president of the Screen Actors Guild, he worked in the motion picture industry and in television. A lifelong Democrat, he became a conservative and switched to the Republican Party in 1962.  In 1966, he won election as governor of California over two-term incumbent Pat Brown and served in that office from 1967 to 1975. Late in 1966, he sold 236 acres of his Yearling Row ranch to Twentieth Century-Fox Studios to help pay debts from his campaign, but he continued keep horses at and makes short visits to the ranch. As governor, he opposed the idea of the welfare state and favored less government regulation of the economy. Despite an unsuccessful attempt to recall him in 1968, Reagan was reelected in 1970 for a second term.  He did not seek reelection in 1974, but went on in 1976 to seek the Presidency. He narrowly lost the Republican nomination to incumbent Gerald Ford, but went on to win in 1980 to become the 40th President of the United States (1981-1989).

Condition

Water stain over lower half of the letter, but does not affect the text.


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