IT'S ALL there, stored for posterity in the archives of the Library of Congress -- the early Hollywood days of "Ronnie" Reagan and "Janie" Wyman, Mr. and Mrs. All-American Boy-and-Girl-Next-Door movie stars as documented in the pages of the now mostly defunct movie fan mags of the 1940s.
Stacked away on Deck 10 are thousands of bound copies of magazines like Photoplay, Silver Screen and Movieland, which recorded the "glamorous" lives of the "stars." Indexing is almost nonexistent, and the value of the stories is questionable. But the Library keeps a large sampling anyway on the grounds that the material might one day prove valuable to scholars.
Maybe not now, but someday.
In these mags, we learn that President-elect Reagan's favorite color was green and his favorite flower was the eastern lilac. Also, he did not tell "risque" stories, was very near-sighted, ate radishes like peanuts, loved model ships, and slept in a big bed, wearing both the top and bottom of his pajamas.
"I'm a plain guy," he wrote in a by-lined story in the August 1942 issue of Photoplay ("How to Make Yourself Important"), "with a set of homespun features and no frills . . . I like to swim, hike and sleep (eight hours a night). I'm fairly good at every sport except tennis, which I just don't like. My favorite menu [sic] is steaks smothered with onions and strawberry shortcake.
"Mr. Norm is my alias," he continued in his modest self-appraisal: "I play bridge adequately, collect guns, always carry a penny as a good-luck charm, and knock wood when I make a boast or express a wish. I have a so-so convertible coupe which I drive myself. I'm interested in politics and governmental problems. My favorite books are 'Turnabout,' by Thorne Smith, 'Babbitt,' 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,' and the works of Pearl Buck, H. G. Wells, Damon Runyon, and Erich Remarque. I'm a fan of Bing Crosby [and] my favorite actress is my wife."
Which leads us to the first Mrs. Reagan, the somewhat mysterious Jane Wyman of today who, at the age of 66, is just as mum as Reagan about their eight years together in a marriage that ended 32 years ago. It started out as one of those Hollywood matches that fan mag editors dream -- and write -- about.
Ronnie, 29, and Jane, 26, were married Jan. 27, 1940, and the reception was held in the home of Hollywood gossip columnist Louella O. Parsons. It was the first marriage for Reagan, but Wyman had been married once before for less than a year to one Myron Futterman, a New Orleans dress manufacturer.
In discussing their early times together in the August 1941, issue of Silver Screen ("Making a Double Go of It"), Mary Jane Manners quoted "Janie": "Neither Ronnie nor I were stars. We were both featured players, making $500 a week. I wasn't a glamor queen, and he wasn't a matinee idol. We were just two kids trying to get the breaks in pictures. But look at Ronnie now. He's taken a scooter and gone leaps and bounds ahead of me. But I'm terribly proud of him -- all the same.
"I think it's perfectly silly that career and marriage can't mix. Everything we do, we do together. We both bought sports convertibles exactly alike. We took a penthouse apartment, furnishing it rather inexpensively, planning to save our money so that we could have a home of our own.
"I've always been the kind of girl that if there was anything I wanted, I'd go and buy it and think about whether I could really afford it afterward. But Ronnie won't go in debt.
"Instead of night clubbing," she added, "we've spent most of our free time looking for a lot -- looking at model homes." They saw the house they wanted in a Columbia movie (they went three and four times a week), got the plans and had a miniature made. "It became a regular plaything," said Janie.
Jane: "Ronnie and I are perfect counterparts for each other. I blow up and Ronnie just laughs at me. We've never had a quarrel because he's just too good-natured. I pop off and am over it in a minute. Then he makes me ashamed of myself because he's so understanding."
When she first met Ronnie, Jane called herself "a nite club girl. I just had to go dancing and dining at The Troc or The Grove or some nite spot every night to be happy." Ronnie asked if she ever swam or played golf. "He was perfectly amazed that I didn't have the slightest conception about either."
They started "dating" after making their first picture together ("Brother Rat," Warner Bros.) "Usually," said Jane, "his fraternity brothers would be along, too. Instead of having a date with him alone, I'd be with four boys." She learned to love sports -- football, polo matches, horseback riding, swimming and golf. "Playing outdoors all day," she continued, "makes you too tired for nite clubbing. When night comes, Ronnie and I have dinner, visit some friends, go to the movies and then early to bed."
Jane admitted to being "self-conscious. I have an inferiority complex, though I won't admit it even to myself. But Ronnie's so self-assured. He has such confidence."
Their first child, Maureen Elizabeth (they called her "Pizie Puss") was born on Jane's birthday, Jan. 14. "Oh, Ronnie," said Jane, "it took so long and it's still only a girl." But Ronnie wanted a girl. "It'll be fun having a miniature of my wife, the little girl she was before I knew her," he said.
In the January 1942 Photoplay and Movie Mirror, Ida Zeitlin wrote, ("Love Among the Reagans") that with "two lively females on his hands, Ronnie calls his home "The Ronald Reagan Home for Delinquent Girls." And, "nearing their second anniversary, they have yet to stage their first battle."
Explained Jane: "First, it's unnatural. Second, there's nothing I like better than a good fight and making up afterward. Everyone likes him. Few people like me." Zeitlin agreed: "He's equable, she's hot-tempered; he's instinctively friendly, she's had experiences which tend to make her distrustful."
Ronnie -- who called Janie "Nuts," "Monkeypuss" and "Little Miss Button Nose" -- said "A woman should be satisfied with the gleam in a man's eye. The gleam . . . should be more flattering than a lot of meaningless language."
By August 1942, Reagan was advising his fans how to make themselves "important."
"Love what you are doing with all your heart and soul, and believe what you are doing is important. Nor do I believe that you have to be a standout from your fellow men in order to make your mark in the world. Average will do it."
He added: "If, when you get a job, you don't believe you can get to the top in it, it's the wrong job. Acting is the one job I want to do. Put me in any other job and I'd eat humble pies by the dozen. In dramatics, I copped off most of the leads in most of the plays. In football I won three Varsity letters. And in politics I managed to corral a job that netted me about $250.
But after the war (Reagan was stationed in Burbank as a lieutenant and public relations man for the U.S. Army Air Corps because his poor eyesight prevented him from going overseas), something happened to the picturebook marriage.
Not considered "good copy" by the fan mags, "Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen" soon became the subjects of whispers at cocktail parties. ("Did you notice that Ronnie left the party an hour ahead of Jane???") Louella Parsons told Jane, "I want to write a story and settle all this talk once and for all."
Jane agreed: "Ronnie has the disposition of an angel. We haven't ever had a good old-fashioned family argument," she told Louella in the January, 1945, Photoplay ("This is the Truth About Jane and Ronnie"). "Believe me," said Jane, "I'm going to find out who has started all this talk and when I do . . . Can't gossips let us keep our happiness?"
In December 1946, Photoplay did a swimming pool layout ("We're the Ray-gans" ), and Jerry Asher wrote of them splashing in their pool and "Jane (tongue in cheek) saying to her philosophical husband: 'Go away, you bother me. Go get the world straightened out and then maybe I'll talk to you.' Rest assured, if it were up to Ronnie, he's the one man who could do it."
But the rumors became fact, and the Reagans, by 1947, were known as "Those Fightin' Reagans." In the February 1948, issue of Photoplay: "Three times before they have said goodbye," wrote Gladys Hall. "Is this the last round for Ronnie and his Jane?" Jane, on a trip alone to New York, made an off-the-cuff remark to a reporter when asked about her marriage. "We're through," she said. "We're finished, and it's all my fault."
Hall speculated "Is there some hangover from a past Ronnie does not share?
Some conflict, still unresolved, in Jane's memory? Certain it is, however, that Jane last autumn was visibly unhappy; was nervous; was irritable -- many times in public -- with Ronnie. But Ronnie was cajoling, always very easy with Jane, and very sweet. Always in there, trying.
"'Please remember,' he told us, 'that Jane went through a very bad time. You must believe me when I say that, less than six weeks before Jane left for New York, we were happy enough for her to tell me, 'I hope it can always be like this between us.' I hope so, too," Ronnie said, with an earnestness you could reach out and touch, "because I believe we belong together.'"
Reagan read Jane's remarks in the paper and was just as astonished, he said, as Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. "I am genuinely shocked," said Louella. Hedda was "stunned." They were openly sympathetic with Reagan, who, it appears, was always looked upon as being a sweet, sincere big lug of a guy.
In the April 1948, Photoplay, Parsons' -- who consistently reminds her readers that the Reagan-Wyman wedding reception was held in her home -- wrote "Last Call for Happiness: This is Ronald Reagan's Heart Speaking, With the Frankness that would be Given Only to an Old Friend."
Parsons could not conceal her feelings: "I know I didn't sound like a professional interviewer when I almost cried out, 'Ronnie -- what happened?'"
Ronnie: "Nothing -- and everything. I think Jane takes her work too seriously, for one thing . . . She is very intense -- but she's been a wonderful wife and unsure because of that very thing. The trouble is -- she hasn't learned to separate her work from her personal life. Right now Jane needs very much to have a fling and I intend to let her have it.
"She is sick and nervous and not herself," he said to Louella. "Jane says she loves me, but is no longer 'in love' with me and points out that this is a fine distinction. That, I don't believe. I think she is nervous, despondent and because of this feels our life together has become hum-drum."
Louella wrote that "I had asked Jane if she thought Ronnie's duties as president of the [Screen Actors] Guild had taken too much of his time. She said, 'Of couse not. Ronnie is magnificent in this big job and I'm very proud of him.'"
Louella fired the same question to Ronnie, who replied: "It might have had a little to do with it . . . Perhaps I should let someone else save the world and have saved my own home."
"My heart went out to him," Louella concluded. "He looked so boyish and so unhappy. He's trying to hard -- almost courting the wife he loves back to him. And now, it is that same so-deeply-in-love Janie who wants to pull away. It seems too hard to believe."
Hedda Hopper's column ("Trouble in Paradise") also favored Ronnie: "If this comes to a divorce," Ronnie said to Hedda, "I think I'll name 'Johnny Belinda' as correspondent" ("Johnny Belinda" was the movie that Jane had just finished; the one in which she portrayed a deaf-mute.)
Hedda called it "ambition," adding "I can't really believe it yet. I don't think Ronald Reagan does either. It caught him so flat-footed, so pathetically by surprise . . . I talked to Ronnie the day he read in the newspapers what Jane should have told her husband first, if she had anything like that to tell."
Ronnie said: "I love Jane and I know she loves me. I don't know what this is all about and I don't know any more than you do why Jane has done it. tFor my part I hope to live with her the rest of my life. Jane isn't herself now. She's worked too hard."
At that time the Reagans had two children: Maureen, 6, and a 2-year-old adopted son, Michael. Just before starting the demanding "Johnny Belinda" movie, for which she won the Academy Award as Best Actress, she had lost a daughter, who had been born three months premature. It was a time when Ronnie's movie career was fading, and Jane's was on the rise -- a complete reversal of the way it used to be.
"Ronnie being the sweet guy that he is," wrote Hedda, "understood and tried to help. He coaxed Jane out whenever he could to dine and dance her coiled-spring nerves away. But it didn't work. Jane couldn't forget herself or her part for a minute. She was sullen, rude and jittery, even to Ronnie. She couldn't touch a relaxing cocktail without letting it go to her head. Usually, Ronnie took her home early."
Once there was a spat outside the Beverly Club: "As Ronnie helped her into the car," reported Hedda, "she was talking loud and angrily. 'I've got along without you very well for six years and I certainly can get along without you now.'"
Ronnie could do no wrong in Hedda's view. He was "too nice, too sympathetic . . . always more relaxed and good-natured than his vivacious, volatile wife." But after World War II, his interest in acting diminished. "Ronnie could have been a brilliant lawyer or politician," she noted.
Hedda continued: "I can see where [Ronnie's] Heavenly disposition could boomerang on his happy home life. Women -- those contrary, mysterious creatures (look who's talking) -- just nturally need someone to tell 'em off now and then to keep them happy . . . Perversely, he was leaving himself wide open to trouble all the time by being just too darned nice!"
Hedda concluded by hoping, "with everyone who knows them, that by the time this is printed, the whole distressing episode is patched up. Jane is busy making up her muddled mind right now and Ronnie, as ever, is being understanding, sympathetic and sweet. I don't expect him ever to change. But hope with all my heart that Jane Wyman does.
"I hope she comes to her senses, gets well and sees things in the light of reality . . . One more such blow-up and she could lose for keeps the best husband a Hollywood girl ever had, Ronald Reagan."
At a court hearing, Wyman testified that Reagan spent too much time in film colony politics, which she found "uninteresting. I came to realize that we just didn't have enough in common to sustain our marriage." The divorce became final on July 18, 1949.
"I know I'm going to look like the heavy, divorcing the All-American boy," she said, while remaining on friendly terms with Ronnie.
In the November, 1949, issue of Motion Picture ("Stardom is a Straight Jacket"), Ronnie said, "I'm writing this because I've been criticized for not discussing the failure of my marriage, the reasons why Jane Wyman and I are divorcing -- in answer to that, I'd like to ask one question: Would you want to discuss anything so painfully personal if it happened to you?"
In the May, 1950, issue of Silver Screen ("Why Jane Won't Talk"), a gossip columnist said, "As far as Jane Wyman is concerned, as time goes by you'll be reading less and less about the private life of Jane Wyman, who said 'Not one of those stories about Ronnie and me even touched the truth. They were so unkind.'"