When you think of Ronald Reagan, you think of jellybeans, Nancy’s power suits, and self-satisfaction. You think of all the contemporary Republicans who miss him and what he seemed to represent, along with a sort of composure and telegenic presence that even Clinton couldn’t replicate. You think of trickle-down economics, Iran-Contra, and a political legacy so potent that criticizing him is in many circles still considered a moderate form of blasphemy.
What you might not think of is Reagan frolicking on the beach in white swim trunks, playing matchmaker for Bette Davis, or divorcing one of Hollywood’s sweethearts. But Reagan did all of those things — and others even [...]
Montgomery Clift had the most earnest of faces: big, pleading eyes, a set jaw, and a side part that reminds you of old pictures of your granddad. Onscreen and off, he was what the kids these days would call “an emo” and the least generous of your friends would call a “sad sack.” If he lived in the ‘90s, he would have been king of the heartfelt mixtape. Clift played the desperate, the drunken, and the deceived, and along with Brando and Dean, heralded a new direction in cinematic masculinity. But a car crash in the prime of his career left him in constant pain, and he drank himself [...]
Let’s talk straight: there was no cowboy handsomer than Gary Cooper. John Wayne had the sneer, and Gene Autry had the voice, but no one smoldered quite like Cooper. In his early films, he was glamour on a horse: his eyes lined, his face powdered, yet somehow right at home in the saddle — in part because unlike so many city-boys-turned-screen-cowboys, he grew up in Montana, one of the last veritable frontiers of the early 20th century. Over his 30 years in Hollywood, he would play variations on the cowboy — the cowboy goes to war, the cowboy goes to the city — but in each turn, he not only [...]
In the early '40s, Laurence Olivier had everything going for him: he was widely regarded as one of the two best actors to ever grace the British stage, his film career had been set aflame by startling performances in Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, and his gorgeous wife, Vivien Leigh, had just pulled off Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. He was also at the apex of his career as a stone-cold fox. And as half of the “first couple” of Britain, he was the closest that a born-and-raised Brit would get to bona fide Hollywood stardom. He and Leigh lived in flagrant sin, still married to other people, [...]