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The 5 Most WTF Moments From Ronald Reagan's Filmography

Anyone unsure of how a reality TV star like Donald Trump could become president should consider the career of Ronald Reagan - who was born 106 years ago this week. Before becoming governor of California in 1967, Reagan starred in dozens of movies. And many of them had titles and plots that seem better suited for Troy McClure's resume. We're talking titles like 'The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse' (1938) and 'Tugboat Annie Sails Again' (1940).

And those aren't even some of his stranger features. Here are 5 WTF moments from Reagan's filmography.

1. 'Bedtime for Bonzo' (1951)

In this precursor to 90s chimp flicks like 'Dunston Checks In' and 'Ed', Reagan plays psychology professor Peter Boyd, whose reputation falls into disrepute when people learn that his father was a convict. So, of course, he tries to clear his reputation by adopting Bonzo the chimpanzee as his son so that he can teach it morality. That way he can prove that nurture rather than nature shapes a person's behavior. 

'Bedtime for Bonzo' is arguably Reagan's most influential film -- and that's no a good thing since artists later used it to mock him. Rockers like The Ramones referred to Reagan by this film in punk songs like 'My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)'.

And Nick Offerman's character in 'Fargo' took a stance against shaking Reagan's hand because of the movie.

2. 'The Dark, Dark Hours' (1954)

This instalment of the television series General Electric Theater teamed Reagan with James Dean. Yes, this happened.

The rising star played a young punk who takes an injured friend to the home of a local doctor (Reagan). Once inside, the punk pulls out a gun and forces the doctor to perform surgery. While Reagan's character struggles to remove a bullet from the friend, Dean drinks, blares raucous 50s jazz music and dances around the makeshift operating room. Seriously. 

'The Dark, Dark Hours' was considered lost for decades until a copy was discovered in 2010. Here are some highlights from the live broadcast.

3. 'Hell's Kitchen' (1939)

In this crime drama, Reagan teamed up with an ensemble of child actors known as The Dead End Kids (picture The Little Rascals, except the DEK's hijinks would probably end with a body floating in the Hudson River).

In 'Hell's Kitchen', Reagan tries to intervene when the adolescent inmates of a reform school revolt against their crooked superintendent and sentence him to death in a kangaroo court set up after they take over the reformatory. You could say the film is like 'The Shawshank Redemption' meets 'Lord of the Flies'.

4. 'The Girl From Jones Beach' (1949)

'The Girl from Jones Beach' is an insanely convoluted rom com. Basically, Reagan plays a magazine illustrator who made an ad featuring the most beautiful woman in the world. So everyone wants a chance to work with her. The only problem is that he made her up. She's a composite of 12 different women.

But instead of leaving things there, Reagan's character sets out to find a woman who captures the model's concocted beauty. And at one point, he ends up impersonating a Czech immigrant so that he can enrol in an ESL class and spy on the curves that the teacher hides beneath her modest attire.

Words can't describe just how pervy the movie is, so here's a sneak peak.

5. 'Swing Your Lady' (1938)

Reagan and Humphrey Bogart play second fiddle in 'Swing Your Lady', a cinematic vehicle to showcase the singing talents of The Weaver Brothers and Elviry, which was a vaudeville act that was like The Beatles of its day. At least that's what the trailer suggests by hyping them up so much for their debut film -- sorry, a "carnival of hillbilly hilarity" according to the ad. 

Banner image: Ronald and Nancy Reagan aboard a boat in California, 1964 (


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