Long before Ronald Reagan became an emblem of 1980s world politics he was a Senator of California, and an actor before that. Reagan’s early years are naturally shadowed by his later prominence, but thankfully British Pathe were there to capture Reagan’s formative years on film.
For example in this clip Ronald Reagan takes Patricia Neal to the Royal Command Film Performance in 1948 and meets the Queen. All of the women wear luscious fur coats, the men have their hair greased back. It’s useful to note the power that celebrity holds over American politics and the importance of building alliances with notable Hollywood figures.
Titled “Election Shocks” this British Pathe reel celebrates Ronald Reagan’s success in the 1966 election – “by a colossal million majority, the candidate is already spoken of as a Presidential candidate for next time”. This clip is also special as a historicak source in that it shows Edward Brooke laughing and waving as he is voted in to represent Massachusetts – “The first negro to win a seat there since the civil war”
Like Arnold Schwarzenegger today, Ronald Reagan became the Senator for California largely on the back of his celebrity and familiarity with the public. Whether this position will act as a middle ground too for Arnie between being an actor and a world leader remains to be seen. Reagan was clearly a presence amongst the American political ranks for a good couple of decades before his appointment as President. He is name-checked here in a video documenting the 1964 election. President Johnson makes a dramatic and enraged speech, and then the Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater makes a speech in a sold out Dodger’s Stadium. It’s interesting to learn that supporters bought tickets to hear Dodger talk.
You may be wondering which other famous figures were captured on camera by British Pathe before they reached the rocky heights of their career peak? To name a varied few – videos of George Orwell, David Dimbleby, Melanie Griffiths, and Arnold Schwarzenegger himself appear in the British Pathe archive.