The Reagans Host Old Hollywood & New “Royalty” at the White House

President Reagan talking to 1930s actors Cary Grant and Doug Fairbanks, Jr. in the White House Yellow Oval Room during a private dinner for Britain’s Prince Charles.

There seemed to be a time that, rather than go to Hollywood and take a tour bus through Beverly Hills hoping to glimpse one of the famous names of its Golden Era, one had a better chance of seeing them in Washington, D.C. That was when Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy were in the White House, during his presidency from 1981 to 1989.

Reagan may not have been one of the great stars of the 1930s. 1940s and 1950s, when he was an active member of the acting community, but even before he ran for Governor of California in 1966, his name and face were recognizable to most of the nation and certainly among the leading lights of “old Hollywood,” those stars who endured through the decades to work, often in the lead roles, despite their age. And certainly they counted Ronald and Nancy Reagan among their closest friends.

It wasn’t merely the the ranks of “old Hollywood” types like Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Jimmy Cagney, and Claudette Colbert who could be seen coming and going at the Reagan doings, but the next generation of Hollywood “royalty,” such as Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, and Meryl Streep who were chosen as guests to glitter up the state dinners, or came to the annual White House reception held at the time of the December Kennedy Center Honors.

Among the more interesting interactions are stories on this website involving Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis, and Nancy Reagan and Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck and Gary Coleman. One can also find a similar article of Eighties Sitcom Stars with the Reagans.

Here’s a glimpse of just a handful of them all parading to the Reagan White House of the Eighties.

March 19, 1985,  Gina Lollobrigida at State Dinner for President Raul Alfonsin of Argentina in entrance hall

March 19, 1985, Gina Lollobrigida at State Dinner for President Raul Alfonsin of Argentina in entrance hall.

Raquel Welch at state dinner for Singapore prime minister, October 8, 1985

Nancy Reagan with Raquel Welch at state dinner for Singapore’s prime minister, October 8, 1985.

Nancy Reagan talks to Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton after a White House screening of their film Reds.

Nancy Reagan talks to Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton after a White House screening of their film Reds.

Bob Hope at a state dinner for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, 1981.

Bob Hope at a state dinner for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, 1981.

The Reagans and Michael Jackson.

The Reagans and Michael Jackson.

Kirk and Anne Douglas with President Reagan.

Kirk and Anne Douglas with President Reagan.

Claudette Colbert at a private dinner for England's Princess Margaret, October 1, 1983.

Claudette Colbert at a private dinner for England’s Princess Margaret, October 1, 1983.

Elizabeth Taylor for a private dinner for Japan's crown prince, January 6, 1987

Elizabeth Taylor for a private dinner for Japan’s crown prince, January 6, 1987.

Jimmy Cagney welcomed to the White House for his last visit there, greeted by the Reagans in the Blue Room.

Jimmy Cagney welcomed to the White House for his last visit there, greeted by the Reagans in the Blue Room.

A young Drew Barrymore with Reagan, from a family long considered "Holllywood Royalty" going back to the Silent Era.

A young Drew Barrymore with Reagan, from a family long considered “Holllywood Royalty” going back to the Silent Era.

Meryl Streep greeted in the Blue Room during the traditional White House reception held at the time of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Meryl Streep greeted in the Blue Room during the traditional White House reception held at the time of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald thanked by President Reagan for performing at the White House.

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine and his wife with the Reagans.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn and her husband greeted by President Reagan upon their arrival in the Yellow Oval Room for a private 1981 dinner honoring Prince Charles.

Jimmy and Gloria Stewart.

Jimmy and Gloria Stewart had known the Reagans well for a long time in Hollywood and were frequent White House guests.

Sylvester Stallone

The Reagans with Sylvester “Rambo” Stallone and his girlfriend Brigitte Neilson.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg welcomed by the Reagans in the Blue Room.

Christopher Reeves and Frank Gifford and Reagan

Christopher Reeves and Frank Gifford with Reagan in the Diplomatic Reception Room.

Growing Pains (1985-1992) star Kirk Cameron and Webster (1983-1989) starr Emmanuel Lewis (with Phyllis Diller and Lucille Ball in the middle), at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina,  for Bob Hope Salute, May 10, 1987

Growing Pains (1985-1992) star Kirk Cameron and Webster (1983-1989) starr Emmanuel Lewis (with Phyllis Diller and Lucille Ball in the middle), at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, for Bob Hope Salute, May 10, 1987.

Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis.

Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis.

1/10/1984 Nancy Reagan with Dinah Shore and Burt Reynoldsat state dinner for Chinese premier, January 10, 1984

Nancy Reagan with Dinah Shore and Burt Reynolds at state dinner for Chinese premier, January 10, 1984.

Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson with the Reagans in May of 1984. A month later, he was diagnosed with AIDS, from which he died in October of 1985. His friendship with the Reagans prompted the first written acknowledgement and then response in a press conference from the President to AIDS.

President Reagan's birthday celebrated at the NBC-TV studio lot, in Hollywood with actors including Emmauel Lewis, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Edie Gormie and Steve Lawrence, among others.

President Reagan’s birthday celebrated at the NBC-TV studio lot, in Hollywood with actors including Emmauel Lewis, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Edie Gormie and Steve Lawrence, among others.

When the Reagans returned back west, home to California, they received just as warm a welcome to many thought of as being “old Hollywood” as they had given those individuals as White House guests. The apex of old Hollywood under Reagan’s reign came when the lights of the industry hosted a tribute to “Dutch” on an NBC lot in Burbank, and it proved to be the last gathering of so many names and faces familiar to those who came of age during the World War II generation. Here is that show in its entirety:

 


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6 replies »

  1. Carl: What a wonderful way to prepare for tonight’s Oscars. Looking back at old and budding Hollywood “Royalty” brought back many nostalgic times. Thanks to film preservation, we continue to capture the magical silver screen moments of those who have past on to the “Universal Hollywood”. Movies really do continue to be one of our greatest art forms. How fortunate we are to find old and new classics at Netflix, Hulu, TCM, DVDs and Openculture.com from Stanford University. Thanks for the trip down nostalgia lane via The Reagans hosting Old Hollywood & New “Royalty” at the White House. Namaste…….

    • Thanks. I was saving this article for the right time and figured tonight was as good as any. I like seeing the different generations blending here; think of it Drew Barrymore’s grandparents were contemporaries of Jimmy Cagney. Anyway, I appreciate your contributing such an enthusiastic response. Cheers.

  2. GREAT PIECE ABOUT BETTE DAVIS.THANKS.

  3. You are amazing! Where do you find this stuff? The Dutch Reagan show is such a gem.

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