A glamorous leading man with The Common touch, a dedicated "Cold Warrior" who helped negotiate the most sweeping accords in history with the Soviet Union and a staunch proponent of smaller government, Ronald Reagan remains an enigma even to many of his closest advisors.
A fresh examination of the fascinating paradoxes surrounding the man, the myth and his legacy, Eugene Jarecki's insightful documentary REAGAN follows the 40th president's rise from small-town lifeguard to revered architect of the modern world. This textured study investigates how Reagan's homespun political vision fueled a seismic career, one whose reverberations still shape American life. Following its Jan. 23 debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, REAGAN makes its HBO debut MONDAY, FEB. 7 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), during the week of his 100th birthday.
Other HBO playdates: Feb. 11 (7:30 a.m., 7:00 p.m.), 16 (2:30 p.m., midnight), 21 (12:30 p.m.), 24 (6:00 p.m.) and 26 (3:45 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Feb. 9 (8:00 p.m., 4:05 a.m.) and 13 (5:00 p.m.)
Balancing the conflicting versions presented by colleagues, historians, supporters and family, while combining archival footage, never-before-seen interviews and the words of Reagan himself, Jarecki assembles a rich portrait of a contradictory figure who spun his movie stardom into politicAl Gold and became the leader of the free world.
Tracing his subject from small-town boyhood to heady Hollywood days, Jarecki discovers a man whose offhand amiability masked a steely resolve. When his acting career faltered after World War II, Reagan reinvented himself, first as president of the Screen Actors Guild, then as a pitchman for products ranging from cigarettes to laundry soap. He eventually landed the role that would send him down another path, as official television and corporate spokesperson for General Electric. Reagan's travel on behalf of the company to small towns around the nation provided him with a unique political education as he gave speeches and mingled with GE's workers. The one-time FDR enthusiast and supporter of the New Deal gradually abandoned his liberal roots for more conservative pastures.
By the 1960s, his transformation was complete. Standing beside archconservative Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee for president, Reagan became a charismatic voice for conservatism in America. As the civil unrest of the era exploded nationwide, Reagan rode the white, working-class backlash all the way to Sacramento and two terms as governor of California.
Reagan's willingness to allow the National Guard to confront demonstrating students with tear gas and attack dogs earned him a reputation as a tough traditionalist. The support and admiration of the so-called "silent majority" buoyed his unsuccessful campaigns for the presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976, and in 1980, he topped the GOP field to run against and beat incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
Once in office, Reagan proved more pragmatic than dogmatic. After campaigning for lower taxes, his administration raised taxes in six of the eight years of his presidency. Regardless, his charm and affability won the hearts of the American public, which overwhelmingly reelected him in 1984.