The Reagans at the movies …
Did you know President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan watched famous ‘80s flicks like “Back to the Future” and “9 to 5”?
Author Mark Weinberg chatted with Glenn today about his new book, “Movie Nights with the Reagans: A Memoir,” and described the Reagans’ reaction to the Michael J. Fox hit.
“Ronald Reagan, the actor?”
Glenn played the famous scene from “Back to the Future” when Marty McFly tries to tell Doc Brown that he’s from 1985. Doc asks who’s president in the future, and Marty replies, “Ronald Reagan.”
The touchy moment in that scene wasn’t necessarily that President Reagan was mentioned – it was when Doc named Jane Wyman, who was Reagan’s first wife.
“You could hear the oxygen go out of the room because that was a name that just wasn’t mentioned,” Weinberg said. “We didn’t quite know what to say.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: You know, just want to read a good book. I’m reading a couple of books right now that make my head hurt. I tweeted last night, don’t — don’t just read Jordan Peterson’s Book, The 12 Rules to Live By. I read it, and now I’m listening to the audio version. You can tell he’s crying at parts of it. And it’s — it says so much about him. I have so much more respect for him. I’ve read the book. Listen to it. And it takes on a whole different deeper meaning.
But I’m reading that and I’m reading another one about the enlightenment. And I just — you ever just want to curl up with a good book and just feel good? There is a new book out by Mark Weinberg. The name of the book is Movie Nights With the Reagans. Here’s a guy who worked with the Reagans, all the way through the White House years and then beyond. And would go to Camp David on the weekends and watch movies. Now they’re all classic movies. And learned a lot about the Reagans and life. And has put it in a new book, Movie Nights With the Reagans.
Mark, welcome to the program. How are you?
MARK: I’m good. How are you?
GLENN: Very good. So when you were Going to Camp David — first of all, what was it like to be — I mean, I don’t know if you would classify yourself as a friend because you’re probably too humble, but what was it like to be in the friend zone with the — with Ronald Reagan?
MARK: It was an honor to work for the Reagans. And it was a special treat to go with them to Camp David on weekends and watch movies. And this book brings that picture of them to the reader. It’s a picture that hadn’t been seen before. And I was very excited to share it with everybody.
GLENN: So tell me about — tell me about the most memorable. Because you go through — and it’s such a great way to read this book. You go through the movies that you saw with them. So every chapter is a different movie. HEP 9:00 to 5:00. Oh, God. Book two, Raiders of the Lost Ark. On Golden Pond. Chariots of Fire. Top Gun. Untouchables.
So what did you learn in each of these? And what are your favorite memories?
MARK: Well, the most important memory, I guess, is how important movies were to the Reagans. You know, I point out in this book, the movie business is where they came from. Where Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan met. And their lives began together. And it formed the basis of everything in their adult life essentially.
And taught him some very valuable skills about how to lead the nation. And I think the book is a general reminder of the kindness of Ronald Reagan and his love for movies. I think there’s a nostalgia now for him, even on the left, for people who didn’t agree with him. Because he had a way of appreciating what unified us. And in the 1980s, movies were one of those things. There were some amazingly important and impactful and entertaining films of the ’80s and how the Reagans reacted to them, was something I was very privileged to see and very excited to share with people.
GLENN: So let’s talk about the reaction to some. For instance, you say that War Games may have influenced Ronald Reagan on his nuclear policy. Tell me about that.
MARK: I remember watching War Games. And what I remember most about it is that usually after the movies, it — Camp David in their lodge, Aspen Lodge, there would be a very robust discussion of the movie, what people thought, and how the movie was made. And the president and Mrs. Reagan would share stories, many of which are in this book, about behind the scenes of Hollywood and regales.
After War Games, it was oddly silent. It was what I would call a sobering movie. Because it introduced the possibility that by accident, there could be a nuclear war.
And, as you know, Ronald Reagan was unalterably committed to keeping the world safe and free from that threat. And I think this really made him — made him think. Now, movies didn’t form policy for him. But it certainly was one that made him think. And that silence in aspen was very uncharacteristic. If you go through and read about the rest of the movies, as you know, you’ll read that there’s a lot of fun and interesting stories that they share and laughs and so forth. But this one was different.
GLENN: So there was one other place that you say in the book, was oddly silent. And it was after this line in Back to the Future listen.
VOICE: Tell me, Future Boy, who is president of the United States in 1985?
VOICE: Ronald Reagan.
VOICE: Ronald Reagan? The actor. Then who is vice president? Jerry Lewis?
VOICE: I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady!
VOICE: Well, wait. Doc.
VOICE: And Jack HEP Betty is Secretary of the Treasury.
VOICE: You got to listen to me.
GLENN: Okay. Stop.
I think this is — this is such a funny scene. And you describe this as, you know, the laughter was there, until “I suppose the First Lady is Jane Wyman.”
MARK: You could hear the oxygen go out of the room because that was a name that just wasn’t mentioned. And some of us exchanged worried glances. No one said anything.
You know, Mrs. Reagan clearly heard it. Movie ended. And it was a funny movie. The Reagans laughed through most of it. And we didn’t quite know what to say. But someone broke the silence by saying something about Jack Betty. Because he was a friend of the Reagans. And just had a nice conversation. It never came up again.
And I had an interview with Mrs. Reagan before she passed away. It was her last interview actually as far as I know at her home in Los Angeles. And we talked about the movies that we watched at Camp David. And she was very excited about the fact that I would share this story. Because this was a side of them that had never been written about. And it was so special to them, watching the movies. And I brought up what some of the favorite memories were.
And I brought that one back up. But did not mention the Wyman name. I also tell a story in this book, without giving it away, about the only other time I heard Jane Wyman’s name. And that was from Ronald Reagan’s own mouth.
GLENN: Let me — let me ask you about 9:00 to 5:00. You say 9:00 to 5:00 angered the Reagans and actually was the reason — or was one of the motivating reasons for such an active campaign with Nancy Reagan on Just Say No to Drugs.
MARK: Yes. You know, that was an almost favorite. And, in fact, it was the first movies in this surreal. And it was a very entertaining movie. Jane Fonda notwithstanding. It was a very entertaining movie. But what there was a three where the three women smoked marijuana. And that turned them off. And in reaching this book, I went back personal handwritten dairies and he wrote in there that that scene made him angry. That which was legal, marijuana was not. That might have been okay.
And Mrs. Reagan was bothered by it. And, in fact, in one of her speeches as part of the Just Say No campaign, even referred to it, that when you glamourize or glorify these bad habits, you’re not doing kids any favor. And I think it made them mad at Hollywood.
GLENN: So as I’m reading your book, there’s pictures in the middle of it. And there’s a picture of you on the tarmac. It’s such an amazing shot. You’re on the tarmac and marine one is behind you. The helicopter. and there is a wired desk telephone that had been taped down onto the tarmac. Brought out to you. And you’re on this rotary dial phone, on the tarmac.
Things were so radically different back then.
VOICE: They were different back then. There was no internet. There were no cable TV. we used something called typewriters. And one of the things I hope this book does is take people down that Memory Lane of the 80s, which I think was a wonderful time in American history.
GLENN: It does. It does.
MARK: But you’re right. It was different times.
GLENN: Before we ask the — Stu has a question. And if you’re a big Stu fan, you know what the question is going to be. Can you just describe — you’re at Camp David. This is a place that the last two presidents haven’t really liked. It’s very quiet and old school. Explain what the room was like and how these movies were shown.
MARK: The Reagans loved Camp David because they could just be themselves. They were just the Reagans. There was no press. There was no anything around. It was as close to normal as they could get in their circumstances. And that’s why she and he cherished it so much. That’s why she was so happy to talk to me about it. And that’s why I wanted to write it. their home at Camp David was a modest three-bedroom ranch style home called Aspen Lodge. It was in the living room of that home, while they sat on a couch. A screen came down from the ceiling. A projection room at the back of the dining area in that house. And a window through which the movies were shown, reel to reel like in a theater.
GLENN: The old days. The old days.
MARK: They loved Camp David because they could be private. They just liked to exhale together.
GLENN: So we have one minute, Stu.
STU: Since I was about nine years old, Mark, I was fully convinced that rocky four ended the Cold War. They actually did watch rocky four. What did they think of it?
MARK: He liked the fact that the American won.
MARK: You know, that you’ll go through this book, you’ll find that these pro-military ones are the ones that really appealed to him the most.
GLENN: Mark it is a refreshing break that you will really enjoy. Movie Nights With the Reagans. Available in bookstores everywhere.