For, Friday, March 24, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t know why this seems timely but I stumbled across an old column I wrote for the Deseret News that I decided to place here. This was published in late 1980 under the headline: ‘If Reagan casts B-film stars in the Cabinet,’ before Ronald Reagan was elected the country’s 40th president. Maybe if we update the celebs named here and substitute ‘reality-TV star’ for ‘B-film star.’ …

A newspaper man never knows what will cross his desk, but anything can inspire a story — and I mean anything!

A pile of press material that made its way to the top of the heap on my desk recently, announced that Don DeFore would be one of Ronald Reagan’s California delegates to the Republican Convention in Detroit.

You may remember DeFore as the TV actor who played Shirley Booth’s boss on “Hazel” and “Ozzie and Harriet’s” neighbor Thorny.

You may remember Reagan as the star of such cinema classics as “Bedtime for Bonzo” and “The Cowboy from Brooklyn.”

At any rate, I began to wonder what might happen if Reagan won the presidency (if a peanut farmer can do it, so can a B-movie actor) and decided to cast his peers (other actors who never quite achieved upper-level stardom) in major Cabinet roles or ambassador bit parts, or even in cameo walk-ons, such as vice-president. …


Co-stars Don DeFore, left, and Ronald Reagan in a publicity shot for 'She's Working Her Way Through College' (1952).

His First Lady has already been selected, of course, but Nancy Davis Reagan is more than qualified for the job — after all, she survived a co-starring role with her husband in “Hellcats of the Navy.” Anyone who could come through a picture like that with a straight face can feign a smile for any foreign leader.

And for the same reason, just about any of Reagan’s peers and frequent co-stars should be able to handle the affairs of the nation.

Ralph Bellamy could be Secretary of State — we could use a former FDR that close to the commander-in-chief.

John Agar would do as Attorney General, though Reagan might want to hire Shirley Temple to show Agar how to do the job.

Van Johnson is perfectly suited for Secretary of Defense; he’s never lost a war on film.

Virginia Mayo could be Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (she’s been a nurse and a teacher, but I don’t think she’s ever been on welfare).

Bonzo the chimp could be Secretary of the Treasury. No one could balance the budget any worse than it’s being done now.

And Reagan could hire all sorts of special assistants: Rory Calhoun could be in charge of taming the West, John Payne could be in charge of taming Rory Calhoun, and Broderick Crawford could give them all diction lessons.

He could seek advice about today’s youth from Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk, and I’m sure he could find something for Evelyn Ankers, Eddie Bracken, Rosemary DeCamp, Vera Ralston and Maria Montez.


Many of the White House rooms might be renamed for those who have passed on: Sonny Tufts, Wayne Morris, Maria Ouspenskaya. …

At least we know there won’t be any screenings of movies to gain inspiration, such as happened when Nixon watched “Patton” before the bombing of Cambodia.

Reagan’s lived a lifetime of inspiration just in the titles of some of his own flicks:

— “The Last Outpost”

— “Nine Lives Are Not Enough”

— “Dark Victory”

— “Going Places”

— “Desperate Journey”

— “It’s a Great Feeling”

If those titles seem to describe Reagan’s travels from his first presidential try in 1976 to his latest, let’s just hope we aren’t being led into a situation described by the title with which he is most readily associated, that of his TV show:

— “Death Valley Days”